The purpose of this paper is to present and compare alternative theoretical frameworks for understanding entrepreneurship policy: targeted interventions to increase venture creation and/or performance. The authors contrast the Standard view of the state as a coherent entity willing and able to rectify market failures with an Individualistic view that treats policymakers as self-interested individuals with limited knowledge.
The authors draw on the perspective of “politics as exchange” to provide a taxonomy of assumptions about knowledge and incentives of both entrepreneurship policymakers and market participants. The authors position extant literature in relation to this taxonomy, and assess the implications of alternative assumptions.
The rationale for entrepreneurship policy intervention is strong under the Standard view but becomes considerably more tenuous in the Individualistic view. The authors raise several conceptual challenges to the Standard view, highlighting inconsistencies between this view and the fundamental elements of the entrepreneurial market process such as uncertainty, dispersed knowledge and self-interest.
Entrepreneurship policy research is often applied; hence, the theoretical rationale for intervention can be overlooked. The authors make the implicit assumptions of these rationales explicit, showing how the adoption of “realistic” assumptions offers a robust toolkit to evaluate entrepreneurship policy.
While the authors agree with entrepreneurship policy interventionists that an “entrepreneurial society” is conducive to economic development, this framework suggests that targeted efforts to promote entrepreneurship may be inconsistent with that goal.
The Individualistic view draws on the rich traditions of public choice and the entrepreneurial market process to highlight the intended and unintended consequences of entrepreneurship policy.
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