Entrepreneurial Fantasies

I happen to believe that the private sector is kept alive by the public sector. In fact, I’m not really sure what the private sector is for. I could probably keep a whole blog writing about examples of the public sector and public money putting up the resources needed to keep otherwise doomed business models alive.

One such program is entrepreneurialism. The idea seems appealing and sound, at least if you are saturated by the necessary propaganda. In it’s blatant form it is this: there exists a cast of chosen people, people with magical powers that we are to be awestruck by. They are the creators of jobs and necessary catalysts of the economy.

I used to work at a University that was involved a specific example of this program. Publicly funded. In it was a strong emphasis on entrepreneurialism. I was always a bit unsure of what my opinion of it was. On first inspection it seemed like a sound idea. Encourage people to start up businesses. Businesses employ people. That’s good. Since then I have seen a kind of culture of self reinforcement. Almost as if the entrepreneurs buy into their own propaganda. Buy into their own image of inflated importance. This is fairly understandable. People want to justify their own actions.

My initial objection was the tacit implication that everyone should want to be an entrepreneur. There was disproportionate, and indiscriminate, emphasis placed on setting up businesses. I objected to this idea because not everyone can set up a business. Firstly because not everyone has the skill set, and secondly because the last time everyone set up a business was the middle ages. But at the time I put it down to just trying to get people involved.

Since then my opinion of this program, and other’s like it, has become quite negative. I’ve seen the image of the entrepreneur begin to form. I’ve even interacted with quite a lot of entrepreneurs. I have had first hand experience with what is expected of the entrepreneurs. This is what I think is happening:

The image of the entrepreneur satisfies two objectives:

1) If you want to be a tyrant and don’t want people to object, get them to want to be tyrants too.

2) It reinforces the idea that capitalism is the answer to all of our prayers.

The UK is a polyarchy, run by a small set of people. They run huge firms. They are the titans of the entrepreneurs. If we are all trained to want to be entrepreneurs, then we have no way to object to their actions. We will be of no threat to the system that supports their power because we want to exploit that system ourselves.

Entrepreneurs are trained to take the corporate structure as a fundamental truth. If you want to create a successful business (given their narrow definition of successful) your game plan has to be to seek venture capital investment. You will have to sell your venture, in part, to some larger entrepreneur. I think this provides a mechanism by which the big players can pollinate their portfolio with new business models, without having to take the risk of putting up the grass-roots finance. Such finance is risky. Most businesses fail within a year. The public pays for this then the venture capitalists buy into the ones that survive long enough.

Meanwhile the entrepreneurs continue to sell us the saviour image.

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2 comments
  1. The backbone of all nations are the entrepreneurs, and yes they should be given the special status treatment.

    Those who are not entrepreneurs are either employed by entrepreneurs, are in public jobs financed by direct or indirect taxation on entrepreneurs or are unemployed and enjoying welfare paid for by taxing entrepreneurs. At the centre of the universe is a entrepreneur smiling down upon us.

    • Like I said, the last time everyone was an entrepreneur it was called the middle ages. Entrepreneurs can only facilitate economies by getting everyone else to do the vast majority of the work (while taking a vastly disproportionate cut of the control). So in a real sense they facilitate nothing much. That’s not to say I think they’re useless. Entrepreneurialism is just one of many skill sets.

      Even if an entrepreneur worked 60 hours a week for a decade to make huge company they would have contributed a tiny fraction of the actual effort yet take a big cut of the capital (and have totalitarian control) or would have sold a big share to someone else who got rich doing the same thing and did even less.

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