Jeremy Hunt’s latest wheeze, in his bid to become Britain’s new Prime Minister, is to refund university tuition fees for students who go on to become ‘entrepreneurs’. In fact he’s also making a big thing of his own early career as an ‘entrepreneur’, in order, clearly, to impress his elderly and moneyed Tory electorate. Wondering what his entrepreneurial activity actually consisted of, I looked him up. This is from Wikipedia:
‘After university Hunt worked for two years as a management consultant at OC&C Strategy Consultants, and then became an English language teacher in Japan.
‘On his return to Britain he tried his hand at a number of different entrepreneurial business ventures, with three failed start-ups including an attempt to export marmalade to Japan. In 1991, Hunt co-founded a public relations agency named Profile PR specialising in IT with Mike Elms, a childhood friend. Hunt and Elms later sold their interest in Profile PR to concentrate on directory publishing.’
Quite frankly, that doesn’t impress me, and doesn’t lead me to think that ‘entrepreneurship’ should be rewarded with special favours. Almost by definition, entrepreneurs don’t actually make things; and don’t serve the public directly, as do inventors, manufacturers, nurses, doctors, teachers (even university professors), and marmalade makers. What they do is to exploit the achievements of others, for their own profit. Letting them off their student fees is unnecessary at best – they’re likely to be able to afford the money themselves if they’re any good at entrepreneuring, as Hunt clearly wasn’t – and a grave insult to all those whose post-university contributions to the public good are arguably more direct and beneficial.
The definition of an ‘entrepreneur’ might also cause some difficulties. I’ve produced and sold (via publishers) several books and articles. Might that have qualified me as an entrepreneur, if – say – I had set myself up as a ‘company’? I’ve heard of others who have done this, for tax purposes.
Too much is made of ‘entrepreneurs’, and too little of the creators of what they market, and those who create social wealth. That could be one reason for Britain’s long industrial decline, since the 19th century, when entrepreneurs were more often represented – in literature, for example – as shysters and rogues.