Who made your job – a government, or an entrepreneur? We ignore the difference at our peril
Rich people generally don’t get a lot of sympathy. We drive past their magnificent houses, get passed by their Bentleys, and see them slurping free liquor on the plane as we schlep by them on our way to the cheap seats. They look and smell like money, and when we look down at our own grubby t shirts (that might just be me), the last thought that comes to mind is “I need to cut that dandy some slack.”
Being a considerable distance from that elite group (though I am likely closer than the average global citizen), I can confirm that the view of the wealthy from the lower economic rungs is often not one of admiration. And that is extremely unfortunate.
Not that that is a universal declaration of admiration for anyone wealthy. It is worthwhile to sort out the images we get bombarded with, and to learn to better sub-classify them. A trust-fund brat driving around in a Lamborghini is, on the face of such circumstantial evidence, more likely to be worthy of the scorn that hard-working poor people tend to administer.
But there are other types of wealth, or paths to wealth, and for those we should all be very grateful indeed.
The wealthy can and do start new businesses, and run them successfully – and few realized how hard that really is. On top of that, many wealthy people got that way by taking one of the hardest routes – entrepreneurship.
For most entrepreneurs, there is no safety net. They can and do pour their life savings and all their time into getting a business off the ground. Many fail, and many of these who fail get up and try again. And for these people, we owe pretty much everything, here in our comfortable society.
That might sound like hyperbole but it isn’t. We might think big companies provide the goods we demand, and they often do, but big companies have bought out thousands of smaller companies that were formed by entrepreneurs. Big companies often step in once the really hard work has been done – the tinkering, the testing, the grind of marketing, the grind of fundraising.
And once those big companies buy out the small ones, and make those entrepreneurs fabulously rich, those go-getters often go out and do it again, because that’s what they like to do.
And when they do, they hire people. Many people. Small businesses create an enormous number of jobs, and create a dynamic and vibrant economy.
Here in the petroleum sector, it has been a privilege to work with dozens of such people, ones who, as the common refrain goes, “couldn’t spend all that they have.” That is true; they likely couldn’t, or they wouldn’t. They might enjoy their money, but are often not the flashy-wealth types that tend to annoy hard working commoners.
Canada is at a crossroads now, where an entire generation of petroleum entrepreneurs – not just producers, but those who founded trucking companies, or seismic companies, or welding shops, or you name it – are now facing an uncertain future as the world is starting to act as though it can rapidly get away from fossil fuels. These entrepreneurs are finding their businesses destroyed, and not just in the price-cyclical fashion of days gone by, but in the modern way where teenagers can conjure up crowds of uninformed and passionate supporters who have been convinced of the need to destroy our fuel systems.
These entrepreneurs may just decide to pack their bags and go away, because, as keen observers rightly note, “they have more than they can ever spend.” But our country will be a ruined landscape if these people are driven underground, if they choose to sit in big houses and keep their money under mattresses.
Some of course will invest in new technology and other industries, and that’s good for everyone. But a great many may not want to put their money back into such an unstable system, where panicked influencers are demanding change at an impossible rate.
Which brings us back to the question of who created your job and how. Artificial industries are being created by panicked policy, such as in Saskatchewan. The overwhelming desire to go green led the provincial utility to put in place a program that heavily-incented home solar installations, up to a certain cap. The lucrative terms led to a mini-boom, which is coming to an end as the utility hit the cap, and realized that further growth of the scheme could cost it $54 million per year. So the utility reworked the credit, cutting it in half. Outraged solar entrepreneurs filled the news with howls of outrage as their businesses face decimation, but the sad reality is the whole situation is yet another example of government policy distorting the landscape. Solar power may be competitive cost wise for a few hours a day, but from a systems perspective, adding more solar power (without as-yet-unavailable battery technology) simply means that utilities need to finance two systems.
There exists across the nation various individuals that love to start businesses, love to run businesses, and have the wherewithal to do so. A side effect of this passion and financial ability is the enormous boon that their creations provide to our society. But they only come out to play under certain conditions. Our leaders need to understand this. There appears to be scant hope of such enlightenment when one listens to, say, one of the recent leaders’ debates. Hope isn’t a strategy, but it is all we have now until sanity returns to our economy; that is, when we stop acting as though we’re in a panic and start acting as though we’re adults.
We need better energy discussions! For a balanced analysis that offends almost all parties (and therefore does something right), pick up a copy of “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” available at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. You will be eternally grateful you did.