Most American politicians are known for being lawyers or members of the United States military. However, not all political figures have their roots in these fields. Some of the most successful politicians in American history were those who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps to accomplish what they believed in.
Here are just five political figures that started out as entrepreneurs, whether starting a business of their own or becoming political entrepreneurs.
Davy Crockett was a Congressman who served during the time of President Andrew Jackson, but is also famous for his entrepreneurial writing exploits. He served once in 1827, but was not well known until after his first term ended when he then decided to take boosting his political reputation into his own hands. His entrepreneurial spirit gave way to his book, The Life and Adventures of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee, which made him a nation-wide political figure and helped him win another seat in Congress.
While Upton Sinclair is more commonly thought of as a novelist than as a political figure, his fierce socialist beliefs were the inspiration and fuel behind his novels. Six publishers rejected his most famous book, The Jungle, before he decided to take the financial risk to publish it himself. The Jungle was the reason the Pure Food and Drugs Act and the Meat Inspection Act were passed.
While Sinclair’s hope that the novel would inspire more people to become socialists was not realized, it did improve the workplace for thousands – perhaps even millions – of middle-class industrial workers.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott
Elizabeth Stanton was the wife of a lawyer and a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. When she and her friend Lucretia Mott attended a meeting and were not allowed to speak simply because they were women, they were furious. Together they organized the Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 and started the American Equal Rights Association with Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone eighteen years later. Their political entrepreneurship was the start of the women’s rights movement.
Michael Bloomberg started as an investment banker at Salomon Brothers. When the company was bought out in 1981, Bloomberg was fired with a $10 million severance package. He then started his own company, Innovative Market Systems, renamed Bloomberg L.P. six years later. This entrepreneurial spirit eventually made him the 11th richest man in the United States. He is currently the mayor of New York City, declining a salary and accepting only $1 per year from the city.
Abe Lincoln is perhaps one of the most well known presidents in American history. Lincoln was responsible for changing the entire Southern way of life, but he came from lowly beginnings. He worked for a village store in Illinois, but when that store went out of business in 1832 he and a partner opened up their own store. This first entrepreneurial attempt failed, with the small town store lasting less than a year.
Lincoln didn’t give up, however, and after getting his degree in law and practicing with a partner for a while, he started his own practice in 1844, sixteen years before becoming president. For those sixteen years, Lincoln practiced law on his own, earning the name “Honest Abe”, while being actively involved in politics for most of that time. He was also somewhat of a political entrepreneur, assisting in setting up Illinois’ new Republican Party in addition to his presidential contribution to ending slavery.
About the Author: William Stevens in a blogger who writes in the field of politics and public policy. This article was written to explain the importance of the study of this area with a Master of Public Policy Online