Acting Entrepreneurially and Acting Academically

by Don Boudreaux on August 14, 2015

in Hubris and humility

A Typical Entrepreneur: Someone who, spotting exploitable profit opportunities – that is, spotting currently existing but exploitable failures of the market to operate as productively as possible – puts his or her own money where his or her mouth is to take productive and voluntary actions that make the market operate better than before.  No force is employed, and the ultimate test of the entrepreneur’s belief about the market is the actual voluntary choices of the various parties that the entrepreneur engages with in exchange.  If the entrepreneur’s belief is correct, he or she reaps the largest single chunk of gains, although the bulk of the gains are spread out and shared by countless consumers and input suppliers.  If the entrepreneur’s belief is incorrect, he or she suffers losses, and simultaneously opens up to other entrepreneurs profit opportunities to correct his or her error.

An All-Too-Typical Academic: Someone who, unduly impressed by his or her own academic studies and methods, concludes that the market does not work in reality as well as his or her academic studies and ruminations suggest that it should work.  This academic, however, is both too incompetent and too cowardly to act in the real world by staking something of his or her own.  He or she instead wishes to convince people with guns – government officials – to force other people to take his or her findings seriously.  Such use of force saves the real-world incompetent and cowardly academic from having to take personally responsible actions himself or herself in support of his or her academic proposition.  He or she fancies that because he or she, along with other similar credential-counting academics, are mightily impressed by papers published in referred journals that the rest of the world should be equally impressed by such publications even when the implications of such published works are disproved by the everyday actions of people acting in reality with their own money at stake.  (The arrogance and tunnel-vision of the academic is breath-taking, and his or her conception of the range of relevant knowledge is greatly distorted.)  This academic is a champion of cheap talk.  Unfortunately, politicians and government officials are impressed with much cheap talk, for it assists them in spending other people’s money and risking other people’s livelihoods.  If the academic’s policy proposals are implemented but he or she is wrong, then countless innocent people are forced to suffer the ill consequences of the academic’s errors, with no ill consequences concentrated on the mistaken academic.  The academic doesn’t care, because the academic can point to published research that the academic insists is the great repository of all the best knowledge.  The all-too-typical academic, in short, is officious, craven, and unwise, and deserves to be ignored.


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