Scene and Heard: Give thanks to entrepreneurial risk-takers

With Thanksgiving gabble just a gobble away, it’s time to give ample thanks to those who really count.

Everybody counts, of course, in this silly modern society that pays obeisance to self-esteem. But those who really count, besides our loved ones, are risk-takers. Venerate entrepreneurs, for a day, for more. Credit the general idea for such a day to Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

“Let’s call it a National Entrepreneur Day,” said Taleb, former options trader and well-known author now a scholar associated with New York University. Taleb touted his idea at midyear, but let’s expropriate it to declare Thanksgiving a day to celebrate those who take business risks and, in the process, either become economic rainmakers or momentary failures.

Taleb’s writing delves into risky decision-making under opaque conditions. Opacity in this context is metaphorical, meaning obscure or without clarity. Not summer beach reading, Taleb’s tomes are tough but disciplined looks into markets and life. Opacity means decision making concerns options, in markets and life, which Taleb praises.

“Optionality makes things work and grow,” said Taleb, floating a trial balloon regarding his entrepreneurial day while visiting the United Kingdom. “The UK and the US have a fantastic history of risk-taking, in trial and error, without shame in failing and starting again. We need to recover that spirit.”

Taleb, known for lambasting mega-bankers and big shots, was talking of human-scale entrepreneurs like those who frequent Carson City — restaurant owners, taxi drivers, owners of light-manufacturing concerns and others who put skin in the game. So thank your barber, small-shop owner or local artisan for laying his or her skills and monetary investments on the line.

They strive in a dicey economy sometimes manipulated elsewhere, but that’s eventually purified by failures both atop and at the bottom of the market. Joseph Schumpeter, an economist, called it creative destruction.

“Economic progress, in capitalist society, means turmoil,” Schumpeter once said. But now matters may be moving from the creative destruction phase to creative rejuvenation.

Evidence? A Tuesday Nevada Appeal article reported statewide taxable sales were up 9 percent in September, topping the $4 billion mark, and 6 percent in Carson City that same month to more than $66 million. A month proves nothing, but several months can seem like a trend and help tomorrow’s entrepreneurs contemplate a leap of faith today.

Give thanks whenever they do.


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