Far be it from me to quibble with anyone who wants to invest half a billion dollars in a philanthropic venture, particularly one geared toward supporting entrepreneurs and providing entrepreneurial training for children from kindergarten through grade 12. That's precisely what Ewing M. Kauffman plans to do with his new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and more power to him. He certainly knows entrepreneurship, having founded and built Marion Laboratories, the Kansas City-based pharmaceutical company that merged with Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals in 1990.
So I am perplexed about why Kauffman's center seems so reluctant to support for-profits that have the same worthy mission -- as if profit might taint their efforts. That notion persists in some quarters, despite the growing number of socially committed entrepreneurs starting businesses not because they want to get rich but because they seek the discipline and credibility that come from operating profitably in a competitive market. Still, you'd think a center for business education would be the last place to find people who regard profit as unsavory. To see the potential social benefits of profit, after all, they need look no further than the source of their funds.* * *