Entrepreneurship and its Discontents
At bottom, Nnaemeka’s diagnosis is based on some shaky underpinnings. Her dim view of government will probably go over very well with her peers at Sloan, but is both subtly and egregiously unfounded. Egregiously because she seems to take the common view that American politicians are universally corrupt and uninterested in solving the problems of the underclass, when what really ails our politics is that one party – I’ll leave it to the reader to guess which – has managed to game our political institutions to thwart some mostly reasonable attempts to solve real social problems.
Subtly, because she falls into the corporate triumphalism that underlies all business schools. Government at all levels in the US is slow and lumbering for a whole host of reasons (inability to pay employees salaries comparable to what they’d make in the private sector chiefly among them) but one overlooked reason is that the government as an institution is old. This is not a problem inherent to government; rare is the corporation that’s been around several decades that isn’t running on horribly outdated processes with ossified management. (Any freshly minted Sloan MBAs jumping at the chance to work in the sexy mining, rail freight, or steel industries lately? I didn’t think so.)
But the real problem with Nnaemeka’s essay is that it misses the obvious solution for the sake of managerial grandstanding – again, a not uncommon pathology of modern managers. Poor white people don’t have enough money to pull themselves out of poverty? Rather than first brainstorm how to use technology to make their daily lives more efficient or marginally help them deal with their kids’ food allergies or whatever, you could, you know, give them more money. Fundamentally this kind of large-scale tide-rising is why we have governments to make economic policy, even if the political system is currently broken. It would be nice to see a manager acknowledge that once in a while.