Democracy & Technology Blog Demonizing successful entrepreneurs

Speaking of Tim Wu, in a recent New York Times interview the author of The Master Switch says he thinks capitalism “by its nature, is about conflict, and ultimately the life and death of firms.” He adds that some entrepreneurs are not motivated by money or comfort. Instead, they

are motivated by power, and the information industries offer possibilities unavailable to people who sell orange juice or rubber boots, a power over people’s minds.

Wu is referring to men like Steve Jobs of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, one or both of whom he deems an “information emperor.”
To argue that Jobs and Zuckerberg crave power over people’s minds is almost to equate them with some of the fictional villains in James Bond or Austin Powers films. And that sort of requires an over-active imagination.
There are infinitely easier paths to power. Write a book, for example; then give a speech, write another book, run for president at the height of an unpopular war, conceal your ideology, promise everything to everyone, receive campaign contributions and win!
Or choose some other political office. The recipe is the same. Make promises, receive campaign contributions, get elected and thereby achieve celebrity status and power. Politicians are like entrepreneurs insofar as to succeed they must invent winning coalitions. But they are also like managers inasmuch as they are merely going through the same motions as their competitors, only trying to do it better: More endorsements, more lawn signs, more appearances, more earned media, more commercials, etc. Not to be pejorative, but politics confers power on people who excel in the game of monkey-see, monkey-do.
If power is what Jobs and Zuckerberg crave, and they don’t want to run for office themselves — let’s be frank — they could use their enormous wealth to buy (er, I know that sounds bad — how about sponsor?) some politicians. But neither have shown much interest in either alternative, have they?
hile politics is about pandering to conventional wisdom, entrepreneurs succeed — as George Gilder wrote in Spirit of Enterprise

not by leaving it to the experts but by creating new expertise, not by knowing what the experts know but by learning what they think is beneath them.

The problem isn’t that we have Jobs and Zuckerberg, the problem is we don’t have more people like them.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.