Many Americans—and even more Europeans—employ a pre-modern ideal when judging the market economy. According to this ideal, individuals enter occupational niches, perform specified tasks, and receive appropriate material and reputational rewards via society's structures. Sociologically, it is a clockwork view of the economy: One does not take a job to make money; rather, a person does his job and society arranges to have money and other rewards flow back to him.
BOOK REVIEW: Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown and Company. 320 pp., $27.99 Begin with the title. An “outlier,” in statistics, is an observation so far outside the general range of one’s data as to indicate a possible source of distortion. Thus, if I may draw on Steve Sailer’s critique of Outliers, when you send out your research department to discover the average net worth of college dropouts, and they come back with a figure in the hundreds of millions, you do not roll out a program for selling yachts to that demographic group. You ask if they happened to interview someone named Bill Gates. In that data set, Gates is an outlier, and his economic condition doesn’t tell you much about the typical wealth of people lacking bachelor’s degrees.
An inquiry into fraud (or indeed into direct physical coercion) must begin with an inquiry into rights. For neither fraud nor coercion can be distinguished perceptually from legitimate activities. An assault and an old-fashioned, bare-knuckled boxing match look much the same. But the former is coercion and the latter not because, in the latter case, there exist prior agreements between the parties. Likewise, the pattern of deceit that goes into a con and the pattern of deceit that goes into a surprise party look much the same.
Early in her novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents us with a scene aboard a train that is entering Philadelphia. “An office building appeared, close to the tracks. The big neon sign on its roof lighted the interiors of the coaches as they went by. It said: Rearden Steel. A passenger, who was . . .
Among the world's great novelists, Ayn Rand stands almost alone in providing stirring portraits of entrepreneurs, industrialists, and bankers. But given the way modern journalists depict those who control and organize capital, her fictional creations appear to have few real-life counterparts. And so it is no wonder that when Objectivists think of a financier, they are more likely to mean Midas Mulligan than Michael Milken. Yet Milken was the greatest financier of his age—the 1970s and 1980s—and nearly comparable to J.P. Morgan at the turn of the last century. Who is Michael Milken? What did he do? How did he do it? Why did he do it? Why was he destroyed? Anyone seeking to understand America's capitalist economy, and its anti-capitalist culture, must discover the answers to those questions. Ad astra per aspera Born on the Fourth of July, 1946, Michael Milken grew up in Encino, California, enjoying a pleasant middle-class childhood. He was extremely bright, with a prodigious memory, and a competitive spirit. In high school, Milken threw himself into everything: student council, basketball, track, Boys' League, debate tournaments, Pep club, and other activities. He was voted "most spirited" and "friendliest" class member in the class of 1964. His high school sweetheart, Lori Ann Hackel, later became his wife. After graduating from high school, Milken attended the University of California at Berkeley as a business major. Despite Berkeley's infamous reputation as the center of the...


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