Massachusetts progressives may dream of stopping climate change by subsidizing clean-energy companies like Evergreen Solar and promoting affordable housing by requiring developers to rent or sell some units at below-market rates. In Texas, George P. Mitchell did much to achieve both those ends in far different ways — by bringing natural gas out of the ground and building a new city. Mitchell died recently at age 94. But his life reminds us that entrepreneurs, when properly nudged and supported by public policy, provide our best chance of solving tough social problems.
Mitchell’s father was a Greek immigrant who ran a dry cleaning business in Galveston, and Mitchell inherited that enterprising streak. As a kid, he caught fish and sold them to Houston tourists who could claim those catches as their own. After graduating first in his class from Texas A&M and serving as an Army engineer in World War II, Mitchell started wildcatting.