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April 08th 2014 print

Steve Kates

The Enemies Of Those Who Create

The shrieking, howling, shout-you-down left likes to present itself as motivated only by the yearning to right injustice and make life more fair for all. 'Fair', especially, for second-raters whose instinct is to smash what they could never build themselves

apesBeing on the left is in part a fashion statement for our elites so it’s interesting to see how this is coming back to bite amongst the techno geeks in San Francisco. This really is a story about the cultural mayhem overtaking the US, where once upon a time achievement was actually admired. Kevin Rose has been a successful funder of start-ups, so now he finds that anti-tech protesters are telling his neighbors that he’s  “ a parasite”. Here’s the leaflet being distributed outside his home:

ape letter

Kevin is, of course, amongst the one percent — the point-one percent — but that is the nature of achievement. It brings its rewards, and if he is going to be drinking coffee someone else will have to serve it to him. What Kevin Rose does is demonstrate most definitively that some people are actually better at things, smarter, more gifted, harder-working. Others are less so of each, and possibly all of these, and therefore do not receive the material and social rewards that seem to accrue to Kevin.

Envy, resentment, dissatisfaction all accrue instead, and  those sentiments represent the majority of Obama’s constituency. You can tell those people all you like that their own good fortune relative to every past civilisation is a result of the efforts of Kevin Rose and those like him but they could not care less. They wish only to destroy not what they cannot have themselves, but what they cannot be themselves. It is an existential recognition that others are better than them and, therefore, the promise of fairness and equality is exposed, so far as they are concerned, in all its emptiness. These are people of the deepest hatreds. Nothing can be done to make those hatreds go away.

And as for the material rewards of success, it is likely we don’t know the half of it. This article on Mike Judge, a pillar of the Silicon Valley establishment, who worked his way up through hard work, endeavour mixed with an inordinate amount of genius, shows what extraordinary rewards there are for success. The article begins:

The Goolybib party is well under way, and you can smell the self-congratulatory excess. The company, which says it “disrupts digital media” to “make the world a better place,” has just been purchased by Google for $200 million, and its co-founders are celebrating their good fortune with an extravagant bash in a sleek modern mansion. The place is packed with signifiers of contemporary success: reflecting pools, floor-to-ceiling windows, white leather sofas. Venture capitalists work the crowd, chatting up billionaires. Guys in hoodies are slurping liquid shrimp from test tubes (it’s a Wylie Dufresne concoction, $200 a quart). A dozen twentysomething dudes play Battlefield 4 on an ultrathin 55-inch flatscreen. Kid Rock gyrates in a fog-machine cloud atop an elaborately lit stage in the backyard.

Someone has got to mix and serve the liquid shrimps in those test tubes if these others are to drink $200 a quart concoctions. Such is the unfairness of life. But beneath it all, there is the creative will that underpins the entrepreneurial drive and talents that set those who make it apart from those who don’t, mixed of course, with a heavy dose of luck. Judge was the inventor of Beavis and Butthead and much else. His life was the farthest thing imaginable from having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. It is instead about the genius and insight that allowed someone who was just no one at all to make himself into what he is today. The final paragraphs of an article you should read in full:

Judge himself has become something of a start-up CEO. But Judge does it his way. His indie production company, Ternion Pictures, which he co-founded with Altschuler and Krinsky, runs lean. When Judge made Extract for a modest $8 million—one-fifth the budget of a typical Hollywood comedy—he raised private financing so he could retain more control.

“I started out making these little cartoons, working on my own, and suddenly I’m in charge of 60 people,” Judge says. “I don’t like telling people what to do. But I do really like building something and making it work.”

Judge likes to build and make things work. Others, as Kevin Rose has discovered, like only to destroy.

Steve Kates teaches economics at RMIT University. His most recent book is Free Market Economics: an Introduction for the General Reader