What is more, the startups that contribute the most to economic growth tend to be those with the potential to turn into huge, dynamic national and global firms. In contrast, multiplying owner-operated lawn-mowing companies does nothing for American productivity or living standards.
As technology-intensive industries have grown more concentrated in the last century and a half, so has the need to pool and direct funds for investment, swelling the class of professional money managers—and providing windfall profits for those who happened to buy the right shares at the right time. In a modern industrial capitalist economy, a lazy, decadent billionaire—perhaps one who inherited his or her unearned wealth—can make more money on returns from investments in a short time than a virtuous yeoman can make in a lifetime of hard work.
While the National Guard will continue to have a role to play, today’s military requires skilled professionals, not amateurs. There can still be amateur politicians today—but their ignorance of today’s specialized government will put them at the mercy of knowledgeable staffs and K Street lobbyists. Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst has boasted that she knows how to cut pork in Washington because she grew up castrating hogs on the farm. But the days when the ideal American was an omnicompetent amateur who could butcher a calf, pass a law in the statehouse, wield a musket in the militia and hire the county drunk out of a sense of charity and put him to work mowing hay for his own good are long gone. That America was already dying when William Jennings Bryan rallied rural and small-town America for one last heroic protest against the emerging America of giant corporations, government bureaucracies, metropolitan foundations and research universities more than a century ago.