The faith of entrepreneurs is contagious. Americans have developed an unquestioning faith in the virtue of people who start businesses. Today we venerate entrepreneurs. We worship them. Or maybe we just have a crush on them. We spare them the criticism and skepticism we heap on other vocations.
There are less worthy vessels for our ardor. It is mildly heartening to know we’re still capable of admiration at a time when our confidence in most professions and institutions is so low.
But it’s gotten out of hand, this glorification of entrepreneurs and startups. It’s myth-making. Other worthy vocations are getting cheated (not journalists, by the way and for the record).
Who gets more of our love than entrepreneurs?
The archetypal new era entrepreneurs were the twin lords of tech, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They had compelling stories: outsiders, dropouts, incredible focus and brilliance, inventors, not just businessmen. They weren’t the establishment.
They paved the way for our glorification of classic entrepreneurs but also for a new class of financial celebrity — the wizard of hedge funds and private equity.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wall Street was stained. When Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good” in the 1987 movie Wall Street, it was evil. Gates and Jobs came to represent a different narrative. They flipped “greed is good” into a virtue in a way Ayn Rand’s disciples never could.
The entrepreneurial knight created not only new things but new ways of doing things — and of thinking. The entrepreneur was a builder, creator, disruptor and do-gooder.