The Media Has Turned Entrepreneurship Into A Jerry Springer Show

Daniel Drew,  2/19/2015


As Jim Clifton recently reported, the United States is no longer the global leader in startup activity. We are now in 12th place. For the first time in 35 years, more American businesses are closing than opening. For the media, American entrepreneurship is just a joke, something that is relegated to popular entertainment television shows that are rapidly degenerating into Jerry Springer shouting matches.

Mark Burnett, CEO of United Artists Media Group, is the primary driver behind this trend. He is the man behind The Apprentice and Shark Tank, the latest rounds of not so realistic reality TV. On Shark Tank, desperate entrepreneurs must bow down at business moguls’ thrones of capitalism and plead for investments at exploitative terms. The sharks, particularly Kevin O’Leary, relish the opportunity to yell insults at the entrepreneurs, including gems such as “colorful cockroaches.” How did the Jerry Springer format infect another format of television? Is this what America is really all about?

Shark Tank is a tale of the American Dream, the belief in economic mobility. But is this reality? As reported by The New York Times, you are more likely to go from rags to riches if you live in Britain or Denmark. Only 8% of American men at the bottom fifth of society rose to the top fifth – and being at the top fifth doesn’t mean you’re some kind of uber-rich individual. We’re not even talking about true riches here. It’s just a more comfortable life. And the number is still a mere 8%. In Britain, the number is 12%. In Denmark, it’s 14%.

The fact that Britain now has more economic mobility than the United States is, quite possibly, one of the largest ironies of modern American history. The whole point of the American Revolution was to break away from the tyrannies of the British aristocracy. Now, just a few hundred years later, the United States has its own aristocracy – and plenty of tyranny to go along with it.

When told that the world’s 85 richest people had the same wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion, O’Leary said, “It’s fantastic. And this is a great thing because it inspires everybody to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people.’” His co-host was stunned, and she said, “Really?” O’Leary replied, “I celebrate capitalism.”

O’Leary thinks he is celebrating capitalism, but he is so incredibly off target; he is actually celebrating aristocracy – not capitalism. Aristocracy is the ruling by a small, privileged class. In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, a novel about the clash of new money, aristocratic wealth, and the relentless pursuit of misdirected ideals. Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, referred to a particular phenomenon as The Great Gatsby Curve. More wealth inequality is correlated with less economic mobility.

An aristocratic capitalism is not the kind of capitalism the founders had in mind. The original American capitalism actually involved a sense of fairness and equality. But now these concepts are blackballed by the modern day robber barons as “socialist.”

The founders were not fans of the degrading wage slave system that prevails in the United States today. In 1792, Congress decided to subsidize the cod fishing industry that had been harmed by the British Navy. Rather than funnel the money through the wealthy ship owners, they recommended giving a majority of the funds to the fishermen. These fishermen were called “sharesmen” because they earned a portion of the profits according to a profit-sharing agreement. Owners who paid a fixed wage were not eligible for the subsidy. The founders did not want to promote an economic system where the average worker was not compensated fairly.

In the original American capitalism, everyone would be a capitalist, free to partner with whomever he pleased, and able to receive fair compensation for his work. Wage slavery and aristocratic wealth inequality were not part of the game plan – despite what Kevin O’Leary might tell you.

A closer look at Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary shows how these sharks stacked the deck against the common man.

This article is a summary of Shark Tank Shattered: The Myth of The American Dream.