What Are the Functions of the Entrepreneur?

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From an economists point of view entrepreneurship is best considered as a function. The entrepreneur is what the entrepreneur does. Entrepreneurship was first described in economic terms by Cantillon (1755) who defined the components of trade but the term was accorded prominence by Say (1803). The modern theory of the entrepreneur is primarily concerned with the primary characteristic of the search for or the discovery of knowledge. The entrepreneur uses this knowledge in reallocating resources, where it is argued that the qualities of shrewdness and deviousness enter, to his own advantaged. The very nature of entrepreneurship, that is doing something new and remote making it unpredictable, makes it impossible to give a precise and universally acceptable characterisation of it. Consequently there is a diversity of opinion regarding its function and definition.

The neo classical theory of the firm, entrepreneurial activity is analogous to a fixed factor endowment because it sets a limit to the efficient size of the firm. The static and passive role of the entrepreneur in the neo-classical theory reflects the theory's emphasis on perfect information, which trivializes management and decisions making, and on perfect markets, which do all the coordination that is necessary and leave nothing for the entrepreneur. The classical and the neo-classical tradition both concerned primarily with the establishment of natural or equilibrium prices. It is the French classical tradition that the origin of the idea that profit is an income different from received capital and that it goes to the entrepreneur.

The Cantillion's entrepreneur, whether an undertaker, a land owner, or a craftsman is seen as an in between, a speculator who assumes the risk of buying goods, at one price and attempt to sell them for a profit, either in their original states or as new products. Thus as Kirzner (1973) would out it this act of entrepreneurship consists of ‘realising the existence of market value that has hitherto been overlooked'. The unique characteristic of Cantillion's entrepreneur is foresight and the confidence to operate under condition of uncertainty and he it is argued successfully associates risk and uncertainty with the administrative decision making process of entrepreneurs.

J. B. Say built on the ideas of Cantillon and places the entrepreneur in a much more specialised and detailed role. He insisted that profit was a quite separate category of income from interest, and it was this that established the major distinction between the English and the French Classical economists. He regards the entrepreneur as a rare phenomenon who is able to coordinate and combine the factors of production and his entrepreneur is portrayed as being almost a specialist at accommodating the unexpected and overcoming problems and should have " judgement, perseverance and a knowledge of the world as well of business." Say was concerned that the large number of qualities and characteristics an entrepreneur possessed had to be exhibited simultaneously to be successful. However Say, like Cantillon, did not emphasis risk but initially viewed profit as a wage accruing to the organiser of production. Thus it is clear that the activities of entrepreneurs were basically bound up with those of the market process and without their actions the market process could never change but as the conditions of demand and supply are dynamic it would therefore eventually fall apart. Thus the consideration of the entrepreneur was to consider the role of the entrepreneur in the adjustment process, as they were conveyors of the market process in conditions of disequilibrium.

According to Schumpeter (1934), who is from the Austrian school, entrepreneurs are the prime movers in economic development, and their function is to innovate or carry out new combinations. Five types of innovation are distinguished: the introduction of a new good or an improvement in the quality of...
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