Brooks says there’s “temerity at the top.”
So instead, he focuses on an entrepreneur, Elon Musk, who emigrated from South Africa to Canada, then to the United States.
“He dropped out of a graduate physics program at Stanford to help start an Internet map and directory company called Zip2, which was sold to Compaq for more than $300 million,” Brooks reports. “He took his share of that money and helped create PayPal, serving for a time as its chief executive. When that was sold, he poured his share of his money into SpaceX, a space exploration company; Tesla, an electric car company; SolarCity, a solar power company; and Everdream, a data-center software firm.”
The point Brooks makes is something Alexis de Tocqueville wrote more than two centuries ago: “Boldness of enterprise is the foremost cause of [America’s] rapid progress, its strength and its greatness.”
We’ve lost sight of that. We’ve lost our boldness of enterprise.
“Today, grandiosity is out of style,” Brooks says. “We’ve just been through a financial crisis fueled by people who got too big for their britches. We’ve got an online and media culture that specializes in ridiculing grand people. Caution rules. The number of jobs created by business start-ups under President Obama is much lower than under the three previous presidents. The World Economic Forum ranks the competitiveness of nations, and the U.S. has lost ground in each of the last four years.”
No, the new jobs will have to come from new businesses, from those bold entrepreneurial efforts.
“Most of all, there has to be a culture that gives two cheers to grandiosity,” Brooks says. “Government can influence growth, but it’s people like Musk who create it. Stories like his are worth repeating because maybe some reader will think: What grand transformational process do I want to be a part of? If Musk pinioned his life to the Internet, electric cars and interplanetary travel, what are my projects? A few ridiculously ambitious people can change an economy more than any president.”
Neither presidential candidate is offering a bold, clear vision for a brighter future.
That’s their fault.
But it’s not really up to them to make that brighter future happen. It’s up to us.