Putting the Liberal Arts to Work

Economics and business professor plans to combine the liberal arts curriculum with applied research to provide information for entrepreneurs.

After a trip to the nation’s capital promoting his latest book and touting the benefits of less government regulation on business, Professor David Newton prepares to trans-form Westmont’s economics and business department into a leader of entrepreneurial research. He plans to launch a Center for Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Enterprise (E3) with the slogan, “The liberal arts at work.”

Newton intends to locate the center in downtown Santa Barbara, where it would host ongoing college initiatives such as the business plan competitions and the SEED venture capital forum. “Holding these events in Santa Barbara would create a more interactive relationship with the business community,” he says. “It’s a way the liberal arts could mesh perfectly with applied faculty-student research to benefit the economy.”

Economics and business juniors would apply to spend a semester of their senior year at E3 taking 13 units and doing a practicum and applied research. The first initiative would be the Westmont Small Business Barometer, a monthly index of business and investment activity from more than 1,000 entrepreneurs nationwide in 20 industries.

“We would be the pulse of national entrepreneurial activity in hiring, buying new equipment, expanding facilities and spending on research and development,” says Newton, a frequent guest on CNN and contributor to Entrepreneur magazine, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. “We could have a great interdisciplinary approach to education, true to our liberal arts mission, while integrating and synthesizing high-level, applied research to answer questions and provide support for private-sector markets.”

E3 would produce the first nationwide venture forum index to measure about 150 forums that feature entrepreneurs presenting business plans to potential funders. “We would survey these forums, talk to venture capital firms and monitor and analyze what kinds of start-ups are getting funded, how much capital is being raised and how investment deals are structured,” he says.

About 80 colleges and universities also host similar venture forums and business plan competitions. Over time, Newton plans to collect data from more than a hundred such forums. “We would learn what industries are being addressed in business plans, how much money is being requested and how many are getting funded,” he says. “This could revolutionize how people think about a liberal arts college. We’re not a business school. We don’t have an MBA program. But we would synthesize applied research with an interdisciplinary perspective and broadcast it worldwide.”

Newton envisions E3 as a publishing house for business faculty at Westmont and other schools. “We could fast-track great manuscripts and get them into the hands of a large national audience faster than traditional publishers,” he says. “We could have timely topics selling at Amazon within 30 days of a manuscript’s completion.”

Newton, in his 22nd year at Westmont, recently published, “Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It.” He and co-author Andrew Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Inc., have spoken on CNN, Fox News and talk radio and at Young America’s Foundation, the Reagan Ranch Center, King’s College in New York City, chambers of commerce and venture forums.

The authors took copies of the book to four speaking engagements in Washington, D.C., May 10-11. After headlining events for congressional staff, the media and a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club, they spoke at a public forum at the Heritage Foundation. At several events, Newton and Puzder fielded questions from the audience about what kinds of programs the U.S. government can put in place to help create jobs. “These questions illustrate a huge gap in philosophies of job creation,” Newton says. “We don’t need more programs. We need government to cut taxes, reduce regulation and stop imposing so many restrictions on business opportunities.

“Private businesses will invest when they believe they can make a profit and take advantage of a new market. Then they’ll improve infrastructure, modernize equipment, spend money on research and development and hire additional workers.”

Newton says the book and forums focus on timeless, classical tenets of the U.S. private enterprise system. “The political climate in Washington makes it difficult for politicians to see beyond their diametrically opposed philosophies,” he says. “They view job creation as something that happens in Washington or Sacramento.”

Newton points out that many politicians have never worked in the private sector. “They don’t know what revenue is,” he says. “They’ve never been responsible for profit and loss or a payroll. They’ve never understood how to introduce a new product, much less what to do if revenue drops. They’re so engrained in their government mentality they forget that all the money they’re spending is either borrowed or funded by taxes on individuals and businesses. Career politicians don’t really understand how the private sector works.”

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