Rich guy sees pitchforks ahead

Eric Garland Transition Economics 5 Comments

nick-hanauerIn Politico Magazine, a publication whose quality is pleasantly surprising me, there is a rather astonishing OpEd from one of Amazon’s original investors, Nick Hanauer. It seems that he is being briefed on some of the same economic indicators as I, and is drawing similar conclusions.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust.

Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

Actual pitchforks? Heavens no, Abigail May, we’ve sold the American People AR-15s for far too long for those tired farm implements to see any use. But the agrarian-revolt metaphor shall hold. There is a wave of new and disappointing indicators just starting to crest, the basic theme of which is, “Oops, sorry, there was no recovery.” Instead of cauterizing the wounds of the first decade of this century, we refused to let any nominal asset values fall, lest the zillionaires with less vision and integrity as Mr. Hanauer feel uncomfortable about having made a bad bet. We let suburbanites think their starter castle think it held its value rather than figure out a serious economic strategy for our nation.

And when people realize that the hard work still remains on the horizon, I doubt, like Mr. Hanauer, that they will maintain their faith in existing hierarchy and authority.