The history of free enterprise and capitalism is an amazing story. Debates about the merits of the free market aside, the rise and fall of a host of business empires is an engaging tale. Part of this saga includes the different kinds of business models that have emerged and the degree of success they have experienced. If business models were characters in an ongoing drama, a few of them would stand out at various times as leading the cast. Cottage industries, mass production factories and franchise development all captured the spotlight at various times.
Early Business in Free Enterprise
Sole proprietors are likely the first-ever form of commerce to develop. It is easy to imagine that even in prehistoric times early humans developed the necessary mechanisms of trading and bartering. The rise of civilization spawned a new era in which specialization in production further refined these systems. Even in today’s internet-centric business environment, it is fascinating to witness individuals leveraging technology to hawk their wares all over the globe.
Industrial Revolution in Free Enterprise
The famously pivotal role of Henry Ford’s early mass production innovations fueled unprecedented growth and the rapid rise of living standards. Taking some of those techniques into the food chain birthed legendary franchise enterprises in fast food commerce. Factories became a huge force in business that has survived and today, and produce a seemingly unending variety of goods.
Modern Times in Free Enterprise
A new synergy entered the scene when the tiny electronic transistor was invented. The age of technology is perhaps the most dramatic example of massive changes in business. Computerized automation joined forces with mass production to launch a new paradigm in commerce. Robotic factories began the trend of reducing human labor inputs to the system. The mixed results of that marriage continue to play out in the marketplace today.
Speculation about the future of free enterprise ranges from dystopian to utopian visions. While some prognosticators forecast massive unemployment and even science fiction fueled machine domination, others see a golden age of unlimited resources and freedoms. Whatever may come to pass the drama of business remains a fascinating story.