Friday, September 21, 2012


Today David Brooks swoons over Elon Musk:
For those who don't read the financial press or the gossip blogs, Musk is a 41-year-old entrepreneur who grew up in South Africa....

He dropped out of a graduate physics program at Stanford to help start an Internet map and directory company called Zip2, which was sold to Compaq for more than $300 million.

He took his share of that money and helped create PayPal, serving for a time as its chief executive. When that was sold, he poured his share of his money into SpaceX, a space exploration company; Tesla, an electric car company; SolarCity, a solar power company; and Everdream, a data-center software firm.

SpaceX is the first private company to send a rocket into space. Already profitable, it has a long line of orders to take things into space. Tesla is selling its second model for about $55,000 each. Musk decided to revolutionize three industries all at once and is sort of doing it. His net worth is estimated to be about $2 billion....
If you think this story has a moral, congratulations -- you know your Brooks:
Musk is grandiose: a grand lifestyle, grand riches, grand vision and grand verbiage....

Today, grandiosity is out of style....

Caution rules. The number of jobs created by business start-ups under President Obama is much lower than under the three previous presidents. The World Economic Forum ranks the competitiveness of nations, and the U.S. has lost ground in each of the last four years.

But, if growth is ever going to rebound, the U.S. will need a grandiosity rebound and the policies that encourage rich people with brass: immigration policies that attract people like Musk, tax rates that encourage risk and government policies that boost them along....
Now, I would argue that the decrease in entrepreneurialism (and grandiosity) has something to do with, y'know, being in a massive, multi-year near-depression, the kind of thing the last three presidents didn't experience. But hey, that's just me.

However, if Brooks is right, and we need tax policies to encourage grandiosity so that we can regain the status we had under the last three presidents, wouldn't that suggest that we should vote for the presidential candidate who wants the tax policies we actually had under one of the last three presidents -- you know, the guy we had two presidents ago, the guy with all the girlfriends? Shouldn't we vote for Obama and his Clintonesque tax ideas rather than Romney, the guy who wants taxes to drop to unprecedented, untested lows?

Brooks continues:
Most of all, there has to be a culture that gives two cheers to grandiosity. Government can influence growth, but it's people like Musk who create it.
But isn't the whole point of grandiosity that you don't really give a damn what other people think? Isn't grandiosity pretty much all in the grandiose person's own head? If our society is so soul-suppressing and grandiosity-destroying, why is Elon Musk continue to dream up new projects?
Musk also told Businessweek about two other project designs he is working on. The first is something called the Hyperloop, a tube capable of taking people from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in 30 minutes. The second is a vertical lift-off supersonic passenger jet that would surpass Boeing. He also hopes to open up a space colony on Mars within 10 or 15 years.
Why isn't his spirit being crushed?

Could it be that there aren't thousands of Elon Musks enjoying success in America right now not because they don't exist, or because they don't feel grandiose enough under Obama, but because they're there isn't enough demand for what they're selling? Could it be that what really suppresses economic vitality is, um, the economy?


Victor said...

One more reason to make sure Obama gets reelected, and Obamacare gets implemented:
Lower cost health care!

We little people will need Obamacare, so that we don't get the top 1% sick, and ruin their productivity with our germs and diseases.

I just hope that under Obamacare, with all of the rich, grandiose people, that Chapstick is covered under the plan.
We'll also need it, from all the asses the rest of us are being asked to kiss.

Greg said...

because they're there isn't enough demand for what they're selling?

In the Herman Cain "Blame Yourself" mindset, there's always potential demand, you just gotta be willing to go the extra mile. What that extra mile looks like, exactly, is what should give a decent people pause.

I think of David Mamet's/Alec Baldwin's line in "Glengarry Glen Ross": "Guy don't walk on the lot, lest he wants to buy." That's the mindset of creating demand in a Herman Cain world: Make that guy do what he supposedly wants to do, by any means one can get away with. That kind of mindset means there's sufficient demand, recession or no -- as long as any fool can be parted with his money.

Yastreblyansky said...

And PayPal was a typical Clinton-era tech bubble development, wasn't it? One thing I keep forgetting is that it wasn't all bubble by any means--plenty of the money it made is still around.