05 October 2005

Impearls on Entrepreneurism and Its Enemies

Impearls is back to blogging more regularly in his trademark long and thoughtful essays with footnotes. His latest post bemoans the derision of all corporate entrepreneurism by too many on the political left.
It's been obvious and has disturbed me for some time the way in which supposed “liberals” demonize private enterprise and those institutional vehicles which comprise it — companies and corporations — as the veritable Princes of Darkness.
The whole essay is worth reading, but I'll cite just a couple of his supporting quotes.

Andrew Sullivan:
Thank God for the evil pharmaceutical companies. One day, when the history of this period is written, I have a feeling we will look back with astonishment as we recognize that advances in medical science, particularly pharmaceuticals, were arguably one of the most significant developments of this era. And yet the people who pioneered these breakthroughs were … demonized and attacked. Baffling and bizarre. I'm merely grateful the attacks haven't stopped the research progress. They've merely slowed it.
Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America:
On the left bank of the Ohio work is connected with the idea of slavery, but on the right with well-being and progress; on the one side it is degrading, but on the other honorable; on the left bank no white laborers are to be found, for they would be afraid of being like the slaves; for work people must rely on the Negroes; but one will never see a man of leisure on the right bank: the white man's intelligent activity is used for work of every sort. […]

The white man on the right bank, forced to live by his own endeavors, has made material well-being the main object of his existence; as he lives in a country offering inexhaustible resources to his industry and continual inducements to activity, his eagerness to possess things goes beyond the ordinary limits of human cupidity; tormented by a longing for wealth, he boldly follows every path to fortune that is open to him; he is equally prepared to turn into a sailor, pioneer, artisan, or cultivator, facing the labors or dangers of these various ways of life with even constancy; there is something wonderful in his resourcefulness and a sort of heroism in his greed for gain. [emphasis added –Imp.]
Virginia Postrel notes related ironies in a recent article in Forbes on Criminalizing Science.
U.S. scientists and their supporters tend to assume biomedical research is threatened by know-nothings on religious crusades. But as the Canadian law illustrates, the long-term threat to genetic research comes less from the religious right than from the secular left. Canada's law forbids all sorts of genetic manipulations, many of them currently theoretical. It's a crime, for instance, to alter inheritable genes.
Where do these truly evangelical beliefs of the secular left come from? Medieval agrarian repulsion at urban corruption (like the Moravian Brethren)? High-born disdain for the commoners who produced the surplus wealth that funded noble endeavors? A combination of both?

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