Praising Irrational Exuberance
"Does a flourishing economy depend on delusion?" Virginia Postrel says the overly optimistic attitude of entrepreneurs is essential for a continually productive economy.
"The odds of any given venture succeeding are, of course, low. But it’s rational to invest $1 million in a business that will fail nine out of ten times, as long as the tenth time will earn least $10 million. Nye is talking about irrational bets: investing $1 million on a one in 50 shot of $10 million. An entrepreneurial culture encourages those crazy bets as well, and a few startups get lucky. We should, [economic historian John] Nye suggests, think of 'the entrepreneur as the valiant, but overoptimistic investor rather than the heroic seer.' Entrepreneurship is not, in this view, a rational risk calculation. It is, as critics of capitalism sometimes charge, a bit like gambling."
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