It was not so long ago that standing in Helmand, an Afghan village elder looked me in the eyes and said, “You see these young Afghan men? They have no jobs or opportunities, help us solve that problem and we’ll have peace.”
I have worked in some of the most violent, crime-ridden, and corrupt cities on earth, including Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Lagos, Nigeria; and Helmand, Afghanistan, where I saw good intentions go to die. Repeated US government handouts, meant to alleviate suffering, instead perpetuated a culture of dependency and created patronage networks that enriched corrupt power brokers rather than incentivize hard work and job creation.
I started an organization to help the job creators working in these places because I believed it was the best way to create opportunity and prevent crime and violence. Over time, I began investing in these entrepreneurs, to give them even more resources to grow and hire faster. My organization, Alter, is an effort to use the best tools we have – capitalism and job creation – to further the objectives I sought for my neighbors: security, opportunity, and prosperity.
Wherever I went, I carried the torch of American exceptionalism – bringing the promise of a shining city on a hill all could admire and aspire to emulate. But while running my business here in Central Illinois, I’ve watched the state that I love ruined by the same political failings, dependency, and violence that I was trying to fix abroad. I’m a fifth generation Illinoisan committed to raising my kids and grandkids here. But it’s getting harder every day. Our taxes are so high with so little reward, corruption so ingrained, and crime so rampant that in the last decade, only West Virginia has lost more people. States like Florida and Texas beckon, with lower taxes, better safety, and more personal freedoms.