It's been five years since Steve Mariotti founded the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship to Handicapped and Disadvantaged Youth, with the goal of getting inner-city kids involved in various forms of productive enterprise. The experience, he told us recently, has made him an "unfortunate expert" on the obstacles these kids face. "Most people think the biggest obstacle is drugs. It's not. Do you realize that the margins on heroin and cocaine in the South Bronx are about half those of cosmetics, perfumes, and lingerie? Most kids we work with would much rather sell that stuff than drugs: they make more money, and they don't get themselves killed closing the deal. But government bureaucracy makes it virtually impossible for people without money to become part of the capitalist system -- to go out and meet some sort of consumer demand. They can't get the permits; they can't manage all the paperwork; they can't begin to navigate through the arcane tax rules on sole proprietorships. A person with resources gets a lawyer to handle those things, but inner-city kids don't have lawyers. So they go into the part of the market that's most accessible to them -- the hidden cash economy of drugs. I'll bet that in any major city it's easier to get on welfare than to set yourself up in a legitimate business."

"Have you heard about General Motors' latest factory rebate? You buy a car, and they give you a factory."

-- Jay Leno, on NBC's "Tonight Show"

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