Thursday, 16 June 2011

Entrepreneurs ?

History repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce:

 On a Wednesday night I'm usually out and manage to come home just in time to catch my family watching the last ten minutes of The Apprentice. This is actually  the optimum duration to see a summary of the week's  farcical cock-ups and then witness the ritual culling of one of the disgusting talentless and avaricious moral vacuums that comprise this years' 'hopefuls'.

Lord Sugar is usually fed with some well-scripted humiliating put-downs for these wannabes - and in the process reinforces his own  brand positioning as the 'peoples' entrepreneur' - the same persona carefully nurtured  by the previous Labour government. His folksy message is an insidious one -  business people are just like the rest of  us and business is good for all of us -  'entrepreneurship' is the best hope of the common man.

But much as I detest the show it does serve some purpose  as a  metaphor for everything that is wrong with capitalism. And this week Lord Sugar came out with something that unconsciously revealed  the bankruptcy and degeneracy of our age: 'I've never met an engineer who made it as a businessman'.

Back in the day - when Marx himself grudgingly allowed capitalism the credit for having developed mankind's resources - 'entrepreneurship' did mean something: Richard Arkwright, James Watt, Richard Trevithick, Henry Bessemer, Isambard Kingdom Brunell may well all have been heartless bastards who didn't give a toss about the human suffering that was the price of progress and profit - but  they did  make their money by invention and manufacture. And in doing so undeniably transformed our material world along the way.  

They didn't do it like Lord Sugar  by  knocking out inferior copies of other people's products sourced from cheap components,  or  by property speculation, or  by making profits from supplying the needs of a starved public sector. But then you don't need to be an engineer for that -  just a parasitic modern day 'entrepreneur'.

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