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Free Minds & Free Markets

Why Society Hates Entrepreneurs

American culture is fickle about wealth makers.

We're fickle about entrepreneurs, at least if they actually become successful. Whether or not they add value to society is beside the point.

When they're handsome and charismatic entrepreneurs are "innovators" and "game changers." They get invited to sex parties in Davos. If they're homely or awkward, they are merely wealthy drivers of inequality, and thus, evil.

That's because our culture simultaneously hates rich people but loves celebrities. When entrepreneurs manage to become celebrities, they are exempted from socialist tirades. I made this diagram to help:

Richard Branson epitomizes this. His charisma is so potent it could derail a train. He amassed a fortune in the music industry (cool) and airlines (fun) and was prescient enough to name both companies "Virgin" which reminds us of sex. When a photo once surfaced of Branson windsurfing with a topless model, our collective reaction was "What a fun dude!"

Had Mark Zuckerberg done that we would have said: "What a jerk! Here we are hard at work while that plutocrat cavorts with models." This is because we believe Mark Zuckerberg to be a dork, whereas Richard Branson is an Aryan shampoo ad come to life.

None of this collective ire is rooted in anything substantial. Zuckerberg helps millions of Americans skip their high school reunions by using his free online service to see our old classmates fall to pieces and blimp up remotely. It used to be when we got bored at work and wanted to zone out we'd take smoke breaks. Now we can just dawdle on Facebook and avoid the cancer. I'm perfectly fine having Zuckerberg make billions from this great idea, but lots of folks resent him.

I'm also glad we've come around to acknowledging the good in Bill Gates, but that's a new development. Back in the 1990s, when Microsoft was propelling mankind forward in some kind of new Industrial Revolution, the media portrayed Gates as the boss of an ominous multinational conglomerate.

What changed? Did we come around to appreciating his technological contribution to Planet Earth? Did we notice his subsequent philanthropy projects that make the United Nations look like a high school prom committee?

No. Steve Jobs died.

If you recall, prior to his death Steve Jobs was way, way cooler than Bill Gates. Both revolutionized computers and made them available to the average consumer. But Jobs beat out Gates because he had:

  • A cool turtleneck
  • Stylish glasses
  • Designer stubble

However brilliant, Gates can't pull off a chic turtleneck. America just couldn't warm up to him until Jobs kicked the bucket. Only then did Gates become the Silicon Valley icon. Why was Jobs so much more deserving of borderline religious adulation? Because he was a celebrity.

The next time one of your friends pops off about thieving Wall Street traders and evil hedge fund managers, politely ask him if he'd grab a pitchfork and go looking for Warren Buffet. Pay attention to the mental gymnastics. What, attack the Prophet of Omaha? He's cute. He says the right things. He might be the old guy from "Up!".

Many Americans do not view wealth as something created by individuals, but as a naturally occurring, spontaneously generated resource unfairly hoarded by capitalists. Successful entrepreneurs are dark forces in this worldview, because they took so much more, presumably from other people.

But you don't build a prosperous society demonizing success. Doling out exemptions based on celebrity is evidence of a shallow culture. We revere George Clooney and not Jeff Bezos, but who is going to make sure you get your best deal and the free shipping? George has never once been known to beam entire libraries into a Kindle.

What we should value most as a society, of course, is people who write pithy political satire with a pro-liberty slant. But we should also revere men and women who push technology forward, make goods cheaper, services faster, create jobs, and invent things like fidget spinners. The staples of modern life, from smart phones to Netflix, come into existence because of entrepreneurs.

Maybe we'll get to a point where the people who add value to society are our celebrities. Until then, I'm going to go kite surfing with naked models as often as I can. When success comes, I'll be ready for it.

Photo Credit: UN FCCC / Flickr

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  • Crusty Juggler > You||

    But Jobs beat out Gates because he had:

    Jeans without a belt and white New Balance sneakers?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    This article is trying to say Gates isn't cool when this video exists:

    Fuckin' Gangster

  • Jimothy||

    What do you have to say about that, Wesley Snipes?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Many Americans do not view wealth as something created by individuals, but as a naturally occurring, spontaneously generated resource unfairly hoarded by capitalists.

    I consider it a slice of pie that should have been mine if not for those fat cats down on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley. And don't you tell me what criteria I get to use to judge our betters. Thanks to me using their products, they have all my information. And thanks to paparazzi, I have all of theirs. Let the judging begin!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The problem is that any time delves into yours and mine information they always get too sad to continue reading.

  • gaoxiaen||

    The funny thing is that entrepreneurs work for the people that buy their products. Imagine growing and preparing your own food, building your own car and house, or even making your own pencil.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Gppi-O3a8

  • UserFriendly||

    The funny thing is that entrepreneurs work for the people that buy their products.

    LOL Yeah, now tell me how I fire Amazon and Walmart after they have used their size and scale to eliminate all small businesses that used to exist and sell things at the corner store.

  • Jimothy||

    Call me when Amazon and Walmart have eliminated all small businesses. Not just those that used to exist, but those that will get started to replace those that go out of business.

  • OM Nullum gratuitum prandium||

    [...] you don't build a prosperous society demonizing success.


    No, but what you do build is a society where the mediocre and the feeble-minded can find comfort in demonizing success which, allegedly, exists due to unbridled greed or pure luck, while extolling mediocrity as a morally superior position in comparison. This is why the Soviet Union was full of drunks.

  • freedomlover||

    This is why the Soviet Union was is full of drunks.

    FIFY

  • ||

    we should also revere men and women who push technology forward, make goods cheaper, services faster, create jobs, and invent things like fidget spinners

    Yeah, fuck those people. They will never be as valuable as the Kardashians.

  • OM Nullum gratuitum prandium||

    Many Americans do not view wealth as something created by individuals, but as a naturally occurring, spontaneously generated resource unfairly hoarded by capitalists.


    We have to thank the Socialists of old and the Marxians (who orbit planet Marx) that followed them; but not only do Marxians believe that fallacy but also Trumpistas who yell "Dem Immigruntz Takum Er Jebz!" and cry about too many Americans not finding jobs, as if these were a limited resource like unobtainium. El Trumpo's whole economic vision is framed around the same "fixed pie" fallacy. V.P. Pence famously quipped "the free market has been sorting it out and America's been losing."

  • John C. Randolph||

    NO, Andrew. Jobs beat out Gates because his products weren't shitty knock-offs.

    -jcr

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Man, both companies were just robbing ideas from Xerox.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Apple licensed Xerox's technology, and Xerox got to be a pre-IPO investor in Apple. Try again.

    -jcr

  • Sevo||

    I hope Xerox didn't sell at the wrong time.
    I did.

  • Robert||

    Apple licensed Gates's product too.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    NO, Andrew. Jobs beat out Gates because his products weren't shitty knock-offs.

    Right. Jobs' products were decently-built, extremely expensive knock-offs.

  • Bra Ket||

    Important distinction though. Every blue screen of death costs Gates another notch.

  • freedomlover||

    Job's was a poser. He stole Wozniak's work.

  • SparktheRevolt||

    "his products weren't shitty knock-offs" aka Overpriced faux-design art for yuppies? Pray tell what did he create first? He sure as shit didn't create the first mp3 player, or the first smartphone, or the first personal computer, etc. etc.

  • End Child Unemployment||

    I like this new guy. I wonder if Reason staff actually listened to the commentariat (what little remains of it) regarding equivocating, "to be sures", and excessive cosmo sensitivities.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Gates is not, and never will be a silicon valley icon. For one thing, he never worked here. For another, he made his money by stealing code from real engineers. He fucked over Gary Kildall, and then he pulled the same shit a couple more times and got away with it.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Once again The Simpsons is closer to the truth.

  • Ariki||

    Why do fan boys always get so but hurt when someone calls out their hero over some pointless shit? Is there some new outrage phone app or something?

    Jobs, Gates, Google, Branson, Musk, Zuck are all guilty of appropriating other peoples ideas and adding their twist to them. It is, you know, how the human race has progressed from pointy sticks to nuclear weapons, wooden logs to Bugatti Veyrons and fur skins to fucken bikinis.

    I like defence, fast cars, and tits, so what the hell are you so upset about?

  • freedomlover||

    Yeah. Certainly you've heard of the Romans? Little short guys who were really good at copying other people's ideas and making them work really, really well for their own empire building?

  • hello.||

    Ask Wozniak what a brilliant programmer Jobs is. Microsoft no more fucked anybody over than any other software developer at the time. Shove your idiotic hagiography up your ill informed revisionist asshole.

  • ||

    I believe we can all agree that the real problem here is the homosexual agenda.

  • ||

    I'm glad you said it.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Lotto winners also exempt. Turns out not doing a damn thing is the most honorable way to get money.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Being good looking or pretty gets you double exemption.

  • ||

    Being good looking and left wing gets you a triple exemption and a Russell Brand award.

  • Threedoor||

    Herpes is an award?

  • ||

    We got the clap, you got the clap....

  • freedomlover||

    Clooney. What did he ever do?

    In his own words:

    "I didn't live my life in the right way for politics, you know … I fucked too many chicks and did too many drugs and that's the truth." Making it clear he would not be following in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan, Clooney added if he were to stand for election his campaign slogan would be frank: "I drank the bong water."

    But I'll bet 50% of American women would vote for him as pres.

  • esteve7||

    Listening to my prog friend the other day, it was so pathetic. Literally he was whining like a little child on "I hate rich people so much." As if you need to blame others for your own failures in life.

    Like you can't fucking grasp reality or what makes people really successful. Keep worshiping the SJW cult and you will be miserable your entire life.

  • Ariki||

    Next time ask him if he would Musk blow a load on his face.
    The proggies love that rich bastard because vision, or morals, or unicorn fart dreams, or some such.
    I don't fucken know.
    The man spouts bullshit and the progs just throw tax money at him. Tis ridiculous.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The article kind of reminds me of an old SNL skit where the ugly guys couldn't even say hi to a girl without them calling him a creeper perv, but when an actual creeper perv who was good looking made all these crud insulting remarks to the same women they were practically pulling their panties off for them.

  • Warren||

    Oh fuck off. Apple innovated, MicroSoft stole other peoples ideas.

  • NEET||

    They all stole shit from each other like the Chinese do today. Once a upon a time MS was small enough that they could "innovate" and keep up with the times. But as they become larger and more bureaucratic, they started shitting themselves and played catch-up. Apple was able to capitalize on the trends and market the holy fuck out of themselves. And now they're a cult. Fuck both of them though, proprietary botnet pieces of shit. I wish I could 100% ditch Windows, but I need muh h-games and VNs.

  • ||

    No human should be worshipped.

  • esteve7||

    MSFT bailed out apple in the 90s, they wouldn't be a company today if not for them. I remember them owning the most % of apple as they legally could

  • hello.||

    Like when Paul Allen and Bill Gates wrote Altair BASIC from scratch on an emulator, right you fucking moron? Spout more made up bullshit you read in a checkstand tabloid.

  • Warren||

    Altair BASIC? Are you serious? Ha ha ha ha
    Okay, good job Gates. You changed dozens of peoples lives with that.

  • hello.||

    Only the beginning of the modern home computing era. But that doesn't count as innovation because you're too fucking stupid and historically illiterate to have ever heard of it. I guess that pales in comparison to Apple selling $15,000 walled gardens to government schools until they found themselves in bankruptcy and then started selling shitty Chinese MP3 players that were invented 10 years earlier. Keep displaying your historical illiteracy you total fucking moron.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Except that Apple had/has a closed architecture, while Windows was open. Thus lots of technologies (cpu's, motherboards,gpu's, advance serial buses that were not proprietary, etc.) were developed on the Windows side like a giant laboratory. Those things would have developed much more slowly - if at all? - under the closed Apple environment. Programming tools such as modern IDE's flourished in the wide open Windows environment while Apple generally lagged in programming tools/languages. Even today it is much cheaper to build a mini-super computer with an SLI arrangement of nVidia 1080s on the open architecture that Windows supported. Linux OSs will also install on these machines but not Apples OS.

  • mtrueman||

    "But we should also revere men and women who push technology forward, make goods cheaper, services faster, create jobs, and invent things like fidget spinners."

    We do, by and large, it's the bankers we hate.

  • MarkLastname||

    Which isn't really any more rational. Absent capital provided by bank loans (or investments) much of that technology would never be developed.

    Society seems to suffer from anterograde amnesia when it comes to recognizing the reality that credit markets do in fact serve a purpose; otherwise they wouldn't exist.

  • Texasmotiv||

    Ok ok, but can we all agree to hate lawyers?

  • mtrueman||

    Trump, Obama etc share your admiration for banker's abilities at redistributing wealth. Their administrations are full of them.

  • MarkLastname||

    I didn't say I admired them; I said they provide a necessary service, no less or more admirable than a grocery store owner who runs his business to turn a profit. But of course, if you'd like, we can bring back usury laws and enjoy a nice long economic contraction while every company in the country struggles to liquidate assets fast enough to cover short term costs.

    I suppose you're one of those halfwits who think lending and charging interest is inherently predatory, and kneecapping big banks is great for the little guy. I suppose you also might be dumb enough to believe executing potato sellers in the middle of a famine is a great way to jump start the food supply.

  • ||

    "They get invited to sex parties in Davos."

    Am I missing something here, Ed? Maybe you can, you know, expand on this a little?

  • Jason Bayz||

    The basic point of this essay is correct: people(i.e. normies) hate the rich, unless they are sexy, unless they say the right things and have the right persona.

    But I see this double standard among libertarians, with many eager to denigrate highly paid athletes or actors while praising the tech industry moguls. And the people they praise just happen to be more similar to them. Coincidence detected!

    Much of libertarianism, not the whole thing, but a significant chunk of it, is just identity politics for nerds. Sure, nerds aren't an officially protected/oppressor class in the way racial, gender, or sexual orientation groups are, but they are an identity nonetheless. I'm not saying there is anything essentially wrong with identity politics*, but the familiar pattern ensures, facts get distorted in the prism of identity. Inconvenient truths get excluded, like the fact that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook. Without Facebook, presumably we'd have no social network to waste time on, never mind there were many others before Facebook. And identarian politics leads people to assume that just because people share your identity, that they must have your best interests at heart. He's one of us! Sure he is, but does that mean he cares about you? Nah, he's going to try to import foreign H-1Bs to reduce your wages so that the amount of "wealth he creates" goes up.

  • Jason Bayz||

    To be sure, I regard the tech moguls as having created more wealth than the celebrities, but it's insignificant in comparison to the actual wealth they own. Why? Because we have a winner take all economy. Just compare executive compensation in America to that of Europe and Japan. European and Japanese companies do no worse than American ones with executives who make a fraction of the income. Why can't American companies import that European or Japanese talent? It's obvious, because the Davos class enjoys barriers to entry, those things you guys ability-signal by claiming you don't need.

    *Nor nerdom, of which I self-identify.

  • MarkLastname||

    Why would the "Davos class" be peculiar to the US?

    It's worth noting that the US has experienced higher economic growth on average than the EU (and even more so than Japan) in the past couple decades, so it would appear US performance is not merely equivalent to that of Europe.

    Also, there is considerable empirical evidence, much as it may contradict conventional wisdom, that executive compensation is closely related to executive productivity.

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w4704

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w12365

  • hello.||

    You're as dumb as the author of this shit pile of an article. He's playing the white knight for tech moguls that are already revered by all the right people and who are totalitarian socialists doing everything in their power to destroy libertarianism and the capitalism that made them their wealth. And you're arguing against him because you think the totalitarian socialists doing everything in their power to destroy libertarianism are actually libertarians running some kind of libertarian cabal.

  • hello.||

    Yeah, Mark Zuckerberg just can't get a sucker's break in life. Lived a life of privilege, went to Harvard, started a me-too social network, dropped out, became exorbitantly wealthy, is worshipped by every brain dead know-nothing millennial like the author and now uses his billions to make sure that nobody else ever gets the same opportunities.

    Or Bezos the Wall Street mogul who parlayed a me-too online retailer that has never posted a profit into a new career as a propaganda purveyor.

    You're no better than the retards who reflexively hate entrepreneurs. You reflexively hero worship this caricature of entrepreneurship represented by a handful of big name tech industry ultra-left wing activists who use all of their wealth to destroy everything you pretend to stand for and care about.

  • Stevecsd||

    Amazon has been posting profits since quarter 2 of 2015. Several of them very large profits.

  • Bra Ket||

    Not to be "that guy" and all, but Branson is an unattractive man who hides his poor genetic-lottery-results as best he can behind long hair and a big beard. But he's in the music industry and has cool hobbies.

    While Zuckerberg is A. a computer programmer, B. Jewish (stereotyped as dorks, admit it), and C. younger than you. He had no chance.

  • Robert||

    There's also the phenomenon of "famous for being famous". It started before writing. Who are you going to talk about? Someone they've already heard of. It self-accelerates.

    Works for infamy, too.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I see two patterns that feed into this. The first is what Tom Wolfe (in HOOKING UP) describes as the 'sweaty little colonial' mindset, that has would be intellectuals looking to Europe. And in Europe the men who drove the Industrial Revolution are reviled by the Socialists (whose inadequacy the expose) and despised by the remnents of the Aristocracy (who they largely replaced in terms of wealth). So the Industrial Revolution is nearly always 'viewed with alarm', and never mind that long before the factory workers were semi-literate, malnourished slobs living in urban squalor, their parents were illiterate starving slobs dying in rural squalor.

    The secong has to do with the estate tax. Build anything of any size, and you will have to go public with it when the founder dies, to pay the estate taxes. Which guarantees that no matter what a nice guy the original owner may have been, before too long the company's attitudes will be being shaped by a succession of BMA assholes.

  • zazoo||

    Hi, what does 'BMA' stand for ?

  • Mark22||

    But Jobs beat out Gates because he [developed computers that were far more user friendly]

    FTFY

  • SparktheRevolt||

    aka marketed to morons.

  • BankHank||

    What an asinine premise, based entirely on the author's feelings about what other Americans like and don't like.

    (Why is it that people always seem to generalize/imagine the country as being controlled by their ideological opponents?)

    America has a long and proud tradition of applauding and often mythologizing entrepreneurs. Those that come from humble beginnings and were therefore forced to take actual risks tend to attract more admiration than those like Trump, who was never at risk of going hungry.

    Those entrepreneurs who are seen, accurately or not, as having integrity and/or a vision of a better country/world (like, say, Musk, Buffet, Jobs, and Gates), tend to be more popular among the press and the public than those that are viewed as borderline nihilists or merely after maximizing profit, like Zuckerberg or Peter Theil, e.g. It's not that hard to understand, unless you think like Peter Theil.

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