Barry Ritholtz has an iconoclastic take on entrepreneurs and job creation:
BI is a digital media property. The print industry (aka dead trees) has been fighting a losing battle versus online competition for years. The print news industry itself is shrinking, while the online industry is growing — but online’s gains are not nearly as large as offline’s losses.
Those 75 jobs Henry mentioned? Twenty-five years ago, they would have been 250 jobs at various newspapers and magazines. Writers, copy editors, artists, printers (Humans, not HPs), etc. The enormous gains in productivity allow far fewer people to do the work formerly employing far more people. This is the inevitable path of technology. Ever since the first human sharpened a stick to hunt, that curve has been the accomplishment of more production with fewer people.
What entrepreneurs actually do is facilitate moving workers from one firm to another — from the less productive business model to the more productive one — as they battle it out in the marketplace.
(Note: It sounds from Ritholtz’s piece that Blodget is claiming that BI created jobs, but Blodget actually does not claim this. The original piece is here)
I do think that in some cases entrepreneurs create economic opportunity where none existed before – this would especially seem to be the case in the “shadow economy” that thrives in squatter settlements all over the world. But many enterprises now are in the business of destroying jobs through technology. Many more jobs now exist for computer programmers. I benefit from the IT revolution as a journalist in that I rather doubt there would be nearly as many people employed as technology journalists otherwise. But the companies that employ these people, the companies that I cover, are upending entire industries, such as legal services and travel agencies.
In the past we could assume the luddite fallacy was indeed a fallacy. However, reading Race Against the Machine or Slate’s Robot Invasion series it appears that concept may soon need to be renamed the luddite principle.
It doesn’t matter when you were born, we’re all a part of generation sell now. But are we about to turn a corner?