David Frum

05.03.12

Judges and Teachers are also Wealth Producers

Edward Conard is correct of course that risk and innovation are indispensable to social progress. That claim resounds very powerfully when the innovation in question is the BlackBerry or Google. But the no-document loan was also an innovation. It made many people very rich. How much did it contribute to social progress?

And what of his converse claim, that non-risk-takers and non-innovators are not contributing to social progress, merely hitching a ride on progress generated by the Edward Conards of the world?

Edward Conard's business relies on many important institutions: courts of law for example. In many countries, judges take bribes. In the United States, they almost never do. Honest judges—don't they contribute something to social progress? The officials at the SEC who enforce accurate disclosures by the companies Conard might want to invest in? I could multiply examples. The point is that successful societies are made successful by institutions governed by values other than profit-maximization—and served by people who do things other than business.