Executive Director of Strategic Advocacy and Advisor to the Chief Policy Officer
Senior Manager, Communications and Strategy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
January 25, 2024
The American free enterprise system is a powerhouse of innovation, driven by people in business who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and improving countless lives along the way. Business teams are responsible for life-saving medicines, the creation of cell phones, connecting the world to the internet, groundbreaking clean energy solutions, and so much more.
From transportation to online shopping to the environment, business leaders work tirelessly to find new solutions and make things smarter and easier for all of us. Let’s take a closer look at 20 examples of how these business teams are making a difference every day.
In 1950, the global average life expectancy was around 45 years. As of 2023, it has surged to over 73 years, driven by the people working in health care who have made advancements in medicine and nutrition.
Doctors, nurses, researchers, and those working in healthcare businesses have played a pivotal role in breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and telemedicine.
1) Breakthrough pharmaceuticals: Employees at pharmaceutical companies are at the forefront of developing life-saving drugs and treatments for various diseases.
These innovations are improving patient outcomes, prolonging lives, and enhancing the quality of life for individuals facing complex medical conditions.
2) Cutting-edge technology: Tech workers are revolutionizing medical devices, introducing cutting-edge technologies that enable more accurate diagnoses, personalized treatment plans, and minimally invasive procedures.
3) Integration of telemedicine services: Technology has enabled telemedicine to transform healthcare delivery, allowing individuals to access medical consultations, monitor health conditions remotely, and receive timely care, particularly in underserved or remote areas.
In 1977, just 25 percent of Americans had taken a flight that year, and only 63 percent had flown in their lifetime. In 2022, 44 percent of Americans flew commercially, and almost 90 percent had taken a commercial flight in their lifetime.
A new era of convenience and accessibility in transportation and travel is creating a seamless, user-centric, and safer transportation experience.
4) Travel booking services: Airlines and travel agencies are leveraging technology to streamline booking processes, improve in-flight experiences, and provide real-time updates, making air travel more accessible and user-friendly.
5) Ride-hailing services: Uber and Lyft have revolutionized urban mobility, providing a reliable and on-demand alternative to traditional taxis. Commuters now have the flexibility to request rides at their convenience, eliminating the hassles associated with waiting for public transportation or finding parking.
6) Car-sharing: Car-sharing platforms such as Zipcar give individuals the freedom to use vehicles when needed without the responsibilities of ownership.
7) Vehicle safety technologies: Car manufacturers are investing in vehicular safety technologies, driving a decline in accident rates and enhancing overall road safety.
8) Mapping technology: Advancements in navigation and mapping technologies are making travel more efficient, reducing the stress associated with getting lost and optimizing routes for time and fuel efficiency.
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Internet and Phone Connectivity
Driven by free enterprise, a wide range of goods and services are now more affordable and accessible for individuals—none more impactful than widespread internet access and mobile phone technology.
The competitive nature of free markets drives better efficiency and lower prices as companies strive to attract customers. Internet and phone connectivity is now more accessible to a broader population, enhancing the standard of living for individuals across socioeconomic backgrounds.
The average price for voice calls in 1980 was about $2.17 for a five-minute call from New York to Los Angeles during weekdays and $0.87 during nights and weekends. In contrast, the average price for voice calls in 2023 is between $10 and $30 per user per month for a hosted VoIP system that allows unlimited nationwide calling.
9) Phone calls: Innovations like VoIP systems made phone calls much cheaper and more convenient than traditional phone service, especially for long-distance and international calls.
In 1990, only about 3 million people worldwide had access to the internet. In 2023, over 4.9 billion people, more than 60% of the global population, were connected online.
10) Internet Usage: Internet access profoundly enriches the lives of individuals by providing opportunities for information access, education, and connectivity—and streamlining services across every industry.
11) Social networking: Social networking platforms and online communities connect people globally, fostering communication and community building.
There are more mobile phones than people in the world. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there were more than 8.58 billion mobile subscriptions in use worldwide in 2022, compared to a global population of 7.95 billion halfway through the year.
12) Mobile phones: Mobile phones have become indispensable tools that empower individuals by enhancing communication, providing access to the internet and news, and contributing to increased efficiency in various aspects of life.
13) Mobile apps: The proliferation of mobile apps has streamlined tasks, from banking and shopping to navigating new places and accessing telemedicine services.
Eight in 10 employers offer upskilling resources to their employees.
Human Resources teams have made significant strides in enhancing the workplace for employees through a variety of initiatives and practices. There is now broader recognition that employee satisfaction and engagement contribute to overall business success.
14) Employee well-being: Many companies now offer comprehensive health and wellness programs, mental health support, and flexible work arrangements to promote a healthier work-life balance.
Offering generous time-off policies and paid leave to support employees ensures a healthy work-life balance.
Flexible scheduling and family-friendly policies contribute to a more accommodating workplace, acknowledging the diverse needs of employees.
15) Remote work options: Companies have played a crucial role in developing remote work tech platforms that enable provide greater flexibility for employees.
Video conferencing tools, collaboration software, and cloud computing have become essential for the modern workforce.
16) Professional development: Offering mentorship programs and continuous learning initiatives is becoming more prevalent to empower employees to advance in their careers.
E-commerce and Online Shopping
In 1995, online shopping was a novelty, with only a handful of retailers offering digital storefronts. Now, e-commerce is a trillion-dollar industry, reshaping the retail landscape.
Tech innovations, driven by people working in e-commerce and mobile applications, have revolutionized the way people access goods and services.
17) Online shopping: Online marketplaces and delivery apps enable individuals to shop for a wide range of products from the comfort of their homes, with the added convenience of doorstep delivery.
This not only saves consumers time but also provides greater access to diverse products from around the world.
18) Delivery services: Quick delivery service for everything from groceries to meals to pet supplies has improved convenience, accessibility, and efficiency across many aspects of daily life.
Environment and Planet
Green tech emerged decades ago. Today, there are teams of people in thousands of companies working on issues from carbon capture to food system innovation.
Companies are making significant contributions to environmental sustainability and providing cleaner forms of energy to drive U.S. economic competitiveness.
19) Green tech: Many businesses are investing in non-emitting energy sources, energy-efficient technologies, and eco-friendly production processes to reduce their environmental footprint.
20) Clean energy solutions: Scientists, engineers, and other employees at energy companies are driving advancements in nuclear power, energy storage, hydrogen applications, and renewable energy solutions, playing a crucial role in transitioning towards a more low-carbon economy.
The competitive nature of free enterprise has led to increased efficiency in resource utilization.
Companies strive to minimize waste, optimize supply chains, and adopt circular economy principles, promoting a more sustainable approach to production and consumption.
At its core, free enterprise is not merely an economic system but a dynamic force that fosters creativity, encourages entrepreneurship, and propels societies toward progress. The principles of supply and demand, private ownership, and open competition have fueled unparalleled advancements in technology, healthcare, and global connectivity.
This model has empowered individuals to turn ideas into thriving businesses, sparking innovation that addresses societal challenges and enhances the overall quality of life. From the remarkable growth of startups to the transformative impact of multinational corporations, the story of free enterprise is one of people, resilience, adaptability, and the continual pursuit of improvement. Free enterprise—and the teams of people that work it—is a cornerstone in the narrative of human progress.
About the authors
Jenna Shrove is the Executive Director of Strategic Advocacy and Advisor to the Chief Policy Officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Lindsay is a senior manager on the communications and strategy team. She previously worked as a writer and editor at U.S. News and World Report.