An Economic Theory, Second Edition
Chapter 13: Social Mobility and the Entrepreneur
13.1 INTRODUCTION One of the main reasons why the entrepreneur has become a cultural hero of capitalism is that he is able to rise from humble origins to a position of power and status. His career reafﬁrms the ideal of an open society in which the underprivileged can achieve eminence on the basis of their personal merit alone. The personal qualities which are rewarded through entrepreneurship are imagination and foresight, and skill in organizing and delegating work. The object of this chapter is to show that this heroic vision of the entrepreneur is, to a large extent, unfounded. Although there are, in most generations and in most societies, some people from humble origins who ‘make it to the top’, there are no grounds – in theory or in practice – for supposing that the probability of making it to the top through entrepreneurship is very high. There are major economic and social barriers to entrepreneurship which someone with potentially superior judgment may well be unable to overcome. The signiﬁcance of entrepreneurship is not that it is an easy avenue of personal advancement, but that in comparison with other methods of personal advancement it may offer the best prospects to underprivileged people. In other words, an economically disadvantaged person who wishes to make it to the top may ﬁnd it easier to do so through entrepreneurship than through other means. This means that entrepreneurship is of relative importance in social mobility, even if the absolute degree of mobility it affords is...
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