In Support of the One Percent

There is an interesting NYT piece by Adam Davidson on Edward Conard, former Bain partner and author of a forthcoming book entitled Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong. Here is one excerpt from a fascinating article:

A central problem with the U.S. economy, he [Conard] told me, is finding a way to get more people to look for solutions despite these terrible odds of success. Conard’s solution is simple. Society benefits if the successful risk takers get a lot of money. For proof, he looks to the market. At a nearby table we saw three young people with plaid shirts and floppy hair. For all we know, they may have been plotting the next generation’s Twitter, but Conard felt sure they were merely lounging on the sidelines. “What are they doing, sitting here, having a coffee at 2:30?” he asked. “I’m sure those guys are college-educated.” Conard, who occasionally flashed a mean streak during our talks, started calling the group “art-history majors,” his derisive term for pretty much anyone who was lucky enough to be born with the talent and opportunity to join the risk-taking, innovation-hunting mechanism but who chose instead a less competitive life. In Conard’s mind, this includes, surprisingly, people like lawyers, who opt for stable professions that don’t maximize their wealth-creating potential. He said the only way to persuade these “art-history majors” to join the fiercely competitive economic mechanism is to tempt them with extraordinary payoffs.

Conard seems to minimize the importance of transfer-seeking behavior in shaping the economy–a point that is nicely developed by Davidson. Any reactions?

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