The Corner

Re: Re: Romney and Bain

Avik Roy made me smile with a couple of his observations about the Great Bain Battle yesterday, including that I find corporate restructuring “exploitative,” which is a word I never used in my post. In fact, I generally find venture capitalism and corporate M&A’s inherently amoral, which is as it should be.

But sometimes they are evil. I watched as a great company, Time Inc. (where I worked for more than fifteen years), was torn apart and effectively destroyed by stupidity, greed, and venality — first when it “merged” with Warner Communications in 1989 (chronicled by Connie Bruck in Master of the Game) and, even more disastrously, when Time Warner “merged” with AOL in one of the great (and eminently predictable) business disasters in history. The names of everybody involved deserve to live in infamy. Instead, they all made fortunes by trashing Henry Luce’s original vision. 

It’s like the famous line from Wall Street:

Bud Fox: Why do you need to wreck this company?

Gordon Gekko: Because it’s WRECKABLE, all right? 

Avik also says this of my notion that real wealth creators are, well, creative:

It’s implausible to me, at least, that Stephen King wrote books for any other reason than because he took pleasure in writing, and possibly because he dreamed of being a successful or famous writer: not because he cared about job creation. 

The emotions one feels while writing books (I’ve published a dozen, with another one on the way later this year) are many and varied, but “pleasurable” is usually not one of them. When you sit down to write that first novel, generally on spec and therefore at your own risk, you do it for one reason: because you hope to sell it — and if you eventually become successful or even famous, so much the better. Job creation is a byproduct of your success, which was founded on that initial creative undertaking.

The best explanation of why artists do what they do came from Enrico Caruso, Jr.. “I have often been asked,” wrote the younger Caruso, “‘Did your father sing for pleasure?’

No, my father sang for money. He sang for the pleasure of others, and although he enjoyed it, he got paid for it. . . . As far back as I can remember, I never heard him sing ‘socially,’ neither at family gatherings nor for himself.

In other words, don’t give it away: make ’em pay. Now that’s capitalism.

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