Books that aren’t business manuals
Here’s a New York Times article about several business and political people who’ve cited Ayn Rand’s work as influential, mostly The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but have managed to find themselves in trouble of one kind or another.
Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick is featured and a few members of the Trump Administration, including Trump, are mentioned as devotees. What’s weird is that Atlas, for example, isn’t so much Kicking Ass at Business for Dummies as it is a philosophic tome filled with cartoony heroes and villains:
“Rand’s entrepreneur is the Promethean hero of capitalism,” said Lawrence E. Cahoone, professor of philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross, whose lecture on Rand is part of his Great Courses series, “The Modern Political Tradition.” “But she never really explores how a dynamic entrepreneur actually runs a business.”
“She was a script and fiction writer,” he continued. “She was motivated by an intense hatred of communism, and she put those things together very effectively. She can be very inspirational, especially to entrepreneurs. But she was by no means an economist. I don’t think her work can be used as a business manual.”
To be fair, no one gets inspired by economics. They get inspired by art! They get inspired by thinkers! Rand did a lot of thinking and writing, but not any business or economics stuff. It would seem that some people have conflated her philosophy and the nuts and bolts of running a business. This includes Kalanick, who is the main punching bag in this article:
Yaron Brook, executive chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute and a former finance professor at Santa Clara University, who teaches seminars on business leadership and ethics from an Objectivist perspective, said, “Few business people have actually read her essays and philosophy and studied her in depth.” Mr. Brook said that while Mr. Kalanick “was obviously talented and energetic and a visionary, he took superficial inspiration from her ideas and used her philosophy to justify his obnoxiousness.”
Right. It’s like if Elon Musk’s inspiration for going to Mars was Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Sure, that’s a great story that helps us realize that life is exciting and full of wonder. But that balloon isn’t getting us to the cosmos.
Celebrity tax trouble
Speaking of art, here’s a Justice Department press release announcing charges against Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, and it includes this wonderful quote from U.S. Attorney Joon Kim:
For years, Earl Simmons, the recording artist and performer known as DMX, made millions from his chart-topping songs, concert performances and television shows. But while raking in millions from his songs, including his 2003 hit ‘X Gon’ Give it to Ya,’ DMX didn’t give any of it to the IRS.
Ah, yes. Nothing satisfies quite like bureaucrats playing off a movie or a song to quip about someone evading “this basic obligation of citizenship.” The quote continues with this amusing tale:
DMX allegedly went out of his way to evade taxes, including by avoiding personal bank accounts, setting up accounts in other’s names and paying personal expenses largely in cash. He even allegedly refused to tape the television show ‘Celebrity Couples Therapy’ until a properly issued check he was issued was reissued without withholding any taxes.
We’re all thinking the same thing, right? DMX barked at an accountant until he wrote a check for the gross amount. Yep, just wanted to make sure. Simmons faces 14 charges, with the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.
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