Visionary AND Rent Seeker

Barry Ritholtz has a post today about Elon Musk, referencing another post.  It seems that the business activities of Musk have been identified as rent-seeking, to small and large degrees.  The original author finds it upsetting that Musk’s enthusiastic backers identify him as a visionary of new technologies while in fact he is often a rent seeker (while citing Rockefeller as a more postive example of a visionary???  Maybe visionary in monopoly building).  Ritholtz finds this thought provoking.

Why can’t he be both?  If he is primarily a capitalist, then surely he recognizes that the largest rewards are currently being accumulated by rent seekers.  But if he is also a visionary, then he can produce to his vision, too.

Barry, go down the hall and ask Josh Brown if he is an insightful writer on the financial world as he sees it, or is he just trying to get as many clicks and page views as possible?  I mean, this is a guy who writes truly wonderful posts on optimism as a basis for financial planning, and then tweets photos of Kim Kardashian.  I don’t see these things as mutually exclusive.  (just annoying).

I guess as much as I hate rent seeking, I can’t blame someone who does it.  Especially if he is already working in a field where it is endemic.  Really, today, it is nearly impossible to compete against rent seekers without participating in it yourself to some degree.  The blame falls on those who make rent seeking possible.

For instance, here in Erie, PA, we have a development in the beginning stages for a hotel by the lakefront.  All private.  Then last week, the county council voted to approve a loan guarantee for a hotel project right next to that one, which will be owned by the Erie County Convention Center Authority.  So they can get cheaper loans.  Oh, and it will be off the tax rolls.

People aren’t either heroic visionaries or immoral rent seekers.  They’re just people.  So they can be both.


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