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The Self-Made Myth

Book Description

• Exposes the damage to our political discourse and policy choices caused by the myth of the “self-made man” • Offers testimony from a variety of business leaders about the full range of contributions to their success • Spells out actions we must take to lay the foundation for a renewed prosperity in America We’re often told that wealthy and successful people are heroic visionaries who achieved their positions entirely on their own. The Self-Made Myth challenges the by-your-own-bootstraps narrative enshrined in American tradition, and beloved by antigovernment activists, to offer a more realistic, but no less inspiring, view of the sources of success. While honoring the importance of hard work, creativity, and leadership, it highlights several crucial, often unrecognized factors, with a particular emphasis on the ways government and society help individuals: public education, research and development grants, social services, roads and highways, laws and regulations that establish a stable business environment, and many more. Miller and Lapham explore the historic roots of the self-made myth and reveal the societal damage it continues to cause. They present profiles of business leaders who, in their own words, identify the kinds of support and assistance that were crucial to their success, including Warren Buffett, Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s, New Belgium Brewery’s Kim Jordan, and philanthropist, filmmaker, and heiress Abigail Disney. They also disprove the arguments of individuals such as Donald Trump and Ross Perot who have helped perpetuate their own self-made success myths. How we view the creation of wealth and individual success shapes our choices on taxes, regulations, public investments in schools and vital infrastructure, the legitimacy of extravagant CEO pay, and more. The Self-Made Myth acknowledges and celebrates the truth of society’s contribution. It takes a village to raise a business—it’s time to recognize that fact.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Foreword
  7. Foreword
  8. Preface
  9. Introduction Public Policy and the Success Narrative
    1. The Self-Made Myth
    2. Implications of the Self-Made Myth and the Anti-government Narrative It Supports
    3. The Built-Together Reality
    4. Implications of the Built-Together Reality and the Public Investment Imperative It Supports
    5. Digging Deeper
  10. Chapter 1 The Self-Made Myth
    1. Origins of the Self-Made Myth
    2. Modern Myth and the Titans of Industry
    3. Fueling an Anti-government Narrative
  11. Chapter 2 Busting the Myth
    1. Making the Invisible Visible
    2. Donald Trump: FHA Housing, Imminent Domain, and Bank Bailouts
    3. H. Ross Perot Sr.: Medicare, Medicaid, and the Right Connections
      1. Reality Check: Social Mobility and the Rags-to-Riches Story
    4. Koch Brothers: Money, Power, and Public Subsidies
    5. Summary: Cleaning the Slate
  12. Chapter 3 The Built-Together Reality of Individual Success
    1. Roots of the Built-Together Reality
    2. Role of Individual Effort and Leadership
    3. Unequal Opportunities and Historical Timing
    4. Society’s Contributions to Individual Success
  13. Chapter 4 Stories of Success and the Common Good
    1. About the Profiles
    2. Jerry Fiddler: Public Support for Education Helped Get Me Where I Am
    3. Glynn Lloyd: Transportation and Food Safety Regulations Help My Business
      1. Reality Check: Highways and Transportation
    4. Thelma Kidd: Taxes Are Just the Price of Doing Business
    5. Warren Buffett: This Society Disproportionately Values What I Do Well
    6. Martin Rothenberg: My Success Was Paid For by Others
      1. Reality Check: Higher Education and Individual Success
    7. Kim Jordan: The Idea of a Self-Made Person Is a Stretch
    8. Anirvan Chatterjee: Leaving the Ladder Down behind Him
      1. Reality Check: Building the Internet
    9. Peter Barnes: Wealth Comes out of the Commons
    10. Amy Domini: Regulation Makes My Industry Possible
      1. Reality Check: Government Regulation in Finance
    11. Nikhil Arora: It Takes a Village to Raise a Business
    12. Ben Cohen: Holding the Business in Trust for the Community
    13. Gun Denhart: Healthy Communities Support Healthy Businesses
      1. Reality Check: Technical Innovation, Research, and Development
    14. Abigail Disney: Government Creates a Fertile Ground for Business
    15. Jim Sherblom: Regulation Makes It a Fair and Open Game
  14. Chapter 5 Policy Implications and the Public Investment Imperative
    1. Shifting Perspectives and the Built-Together Reality
    2. A Note on the Role of Government
    3. Tax Policies for the Built-Together Reality
    4. Investing in America and Paying It Forward
    5. Ensuring That the Framework of the Economy Is Fair
  15. Conclusion A Call to Action
    1. Using Your Voice
    2. Responsible Wealth in Action
  16. Notes
  17. Acknowledgments
  18. Index
  19. About the Authors
    1. Brian Miller
    2. Mike Lapham
  20. About Responsible Wealth
  21. About United for a Fair Economy