22 December 2004


Big Media Matt has some really clear thinking about the politics of personal risk.
In general, it's an excellent thing when people take risks. As Mads writes, the really valuable thing about becoming fairly well-off in America is less that it lets you buy a bunch of stuff than that it cushions you against risks. This lets you take risks, and with risks there tend to come rewards. This is true in a variety of areas from investing (where stocks give you higher payouts in the long run than alternatives, provided you can withstand the short-term turbulence), to career choices, and much, much more. This is something that, I think, the right broadly construed usually does a good job of understanding. One of the main sources of American dynamism is the willingness of people to shoulder risk.

Something that the right doesn't understand well at all is the difference people designing policy that let people take more risks and policies that simply make life riskier.

I recall reading a while ago that someone had written a book that was a comparative biography of the dozen biggest silicon moguls --- guys like Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison --- and all but one had been a trust fund kid. His observation was that it's a whole lot easier to boldly bet your future on starting a company, rather than going to work for one, when in the event of a failure you will still be able to pay the rent.

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