Entrepreneurs are universally celebrated, but what if modern day entrepreneurship is creating ventures that do more harm than good? A piece this week in Harvard Business Review reminds us of this point by citing the work of William Baumol, who passed away last month.
Of Baumol’s many contributions to economics, the most famous is cost disease, which explains why high-productivity industries raise costs and therefore prices in low-productivity industries. The insight is particularly relevant now, as economic activity has shifted into low-productivity services like health care and education, where price increases are devouring public and household budgets, and whose continued low productivity has weighed down U.S. productivity growth overall. But there’s a lesser-known idea of Baumol’s that is equally relevant today and that may help explain America’s productivity slump. Baumol’s writing raises the possibility that U.S. productivity is low because would-be entrepreneurs are focused on the wrong kind of work.