DECATUR — The first speaker in a newly launched series of discussions at Millikin University about science-related entrepreneurship left his audience on Thursday thinking about the distribution of wealth.
While others will argue that wealth needs to be spread more evenly, Thomas Donlan said the country’s history of economic inequality has led to the greatest gains. Donlan is the editorial page editor for Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly.
“Americans created wealth and with it income inequality, which is highly desirable,” Donlan said. “It sends the right messages.”
Donlan led off the Millikin Institute for Science Entrepreneurship speaker series, which focuses on how an increased emphasis on entrepreneurship can fuel economic growth and social well-being. The concept was developed with a student focus, said David Horn, associate professor of biology and one of the founders of the program.
The institute embodies the qualities Millikin has long been trying to instill in its students, interim President Patrick White said.
Horn is working with chemistry professor George Bennett and physics and astronomy associate professor Casey Watson with the aim of getting students to think about the future needs in their careers.
Students are preparing for jobs that currently do not exist as science-related fields become increasingly entrepreneurial, Horn said.
Donlan praised Millikin for its vision of entrepreneurship and performance learning.
“It’s a fascinating concept,” Donlan said. “Entrepreneurship is an art that uses economic freedom to advance social well-being.”
The ability to innovate is necessary, as entrepreneurs see solutions to somebody’s problem, Donlan said. Innovation, however, doesn’t always happen, he said.
“It’s like the weather,” Donlan said. “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.”
What people do with new technology is what Donlan said becomes important. The Model T automobile, for example, was an interesting machine that led to positive changes because of the way the technology was adopted, he said.
“What people could do with independent transportation was incredible,” Donlan said.
As innovations have led to increased prosperity, Donlan said the question has become who should have the wealth. The argument will continue, he said, because the system creates an unsatisfactory compromise.
“It’s always going to be something we fight over,” Donlan said. “If we ever stop fighting over it, either way, we’re probably cooked.”
The speaker series is scheduled to continue with Tim Lindsey slated for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Lower Richards Treat University Center. Lindsey is the global director of sustainable development for Caterpillar Inc.
Throughout the series, speakers will discuss particular aspects of their business and broader topics of interest.