A few weeks ago, despite its substantial girth, I added the new Kaufmann Foundation volume, Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times to the black hole that is my reading list. The reason for my excitement was the extra-ordinary group of volume editors. David Landes is a pioneer in entrepreneurship and development, having written the highly-regarded The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Joel Moykr is the author of a classic in the economic history of technology, The Lever of Riches. And William Baumol has written the seminal article on productive and unproductive entrepreneurship, as well as The Free Market Innovation Machine. Those of you embroiled in our burgeoning I&E curriculum will certainly hear from these gentlemen.
So, with these three pulling together a volume on entrepreneurship for the Kaufmann Foundation, this seemed like a can’t-miss deal.
But, according to Reuven Brenner, it missed.
It doesn’t take much time for him to find fault, either. He starts out:
Carl Schramm, who wrote the Foreword to this book, and who, through the Kauffman Foundation, paid for it, states clearly that the book is about “entrepreneurship” as people — entrepreneurs in particular — understand the term: Someone who creates a business that, in some respects, differs from existing ones.
Yet, just two pages later, William Baumol writes in his Preface that the book is about both “redistributive” and “productive” entrepreneurship, the former covering warfare, crime, bribes, lobbying — any innovative ideas. Since this covers just about everything from Napoleon and his Code to Robin Hood, and from Muhammad, the merchant and one of the very few of Heavens’ intermediaries on this Earth to 35,000 registered lobbyists in Washington — it is little wonder that most of the 18 chapters, written by 18 different academics are all over the map, and provide little illumination on Schramm’s targeted subject matter.
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