World Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship
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World Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship

Edited by Léo-Paul Dana

This comprehensive reference work, written by some of the most eminent academics in the field, contains entries on numerous aspects of entrepreneurship.
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Chapter 6: Economics and Entrepreneurship

William J. Baumol


William J. Baumol Economists first began writing on the subject of entrepreneurship in the eighteenth century. The entrepreneur is most often defined to be an individual who founds and organizes a new business firm, though both narrower and broader interpretations have been employed, with significant implications (see below). The term is often ascribed to the Anglo-Irish writer, Richard Cantillon (1730), though any contemporary copy of his book, which was written in English, has survived only in French translation that he may or may not have carried out himself. The manuscript was lost in the fire set by a servant who first robbed and murdered the author. Before that, and for a considerable time after his death, the terms in usage in the English literature were ‘adventurer’ (as in merchant adventurer) or ‘undertaker’ (a direct translation of the French term or its German counterpart: unternehmer). The place of this topic in the economic literature is curious. There is widespread acknowledgement of its importance, notably for economic growth, accompanied by its virtual absence from the writings of most economists for more than half a century. Many textbooks write of four ‘factors of production’: labour, land, capital and entrepreneurship, and provide at least one chapter for each of the first three, while the fourth, often acknowledged as the leader of the activities of the others, is confined to a few brief remarks or even nothing beyond its initial listing. This has begun to change. There is now a rich empirical literature on topics...

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