Sunday, September 13, 2015

How cronyism hurts entrepreneurship

It might be shocking to some people, but entrepreneurs don't just do it for the money (USNews)

Psychologists have found the intrinsic desire to master challenges, known as "mastery," to be an important human drive. Economics has emphasized the external or monetary rewards for business, typically to the exclusion of mastery.

The words of entrepreneurs provide evidence for mastery as a business motive. Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, has remarked, "To me, the real substance of life and work is the constant battle to excel." Cable television pioneer Ted Turner observed, "America is about competition and rising above that competition." Michael Bloomberg has said that, "Even today, after toiling for 30 years, I wake up looking forward to practicing my profession, creating something, competing against the best … receiving psychic compensation money can't buy."

And actions speak louder than words. Many members of the Forbes Richest Americans list work long hours, even though they already have more money than one could spend in several lifetimes. A 2013 profile noted that Bill Gates was looking forward to working more with product managers in the upcoming year. Serial entrepreneur Richard Branson has started over 200 businesses and never tires of the challenge of making a new venture succeed.

[...] Cronyism can reward favored entrepreneurs with profits, but not necessarily mastery. Many top athletes would not care to compete in a contest rigged in their own favor. Similarly, some entrepreneurs or businesses, who may be well-positioned to take on a new challenge, do not seek government favoritism. And others may choose not to compete when it's clear that their performance doesn't necessarily equal results in a rigged marketplace.

The extension of cronyism in an economy over time can affect the types of individuals who choose business as a career. Profits for entrepreneurs who successfully court favor with politicians may not satisfy those with a true competitive streak. Imagine a track meet where the organizers rig the races so that their favorites, and not the best runners, win. Such a meet will likely fail to attract the world's best competitors.

The effects on the quality of entrepreneurship could be devastating in the long-term. After mastery-seekers choose other pursuits, the remaining profit-seekers will likely have no qualms about seeking or benefitting from government favors. A vicious cycle of cronyism could ensue, as more favoritism results in a group of business leaders more willing to lobby, leading in turn to more favors.

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