Some time ago ScottsdaleTrails reader MK introduced me to the term “political entrepreneur.” It has been so long that my one-man-band publishing model has lost track of the journalistic article to which he was referring (remind me, MK, and I’ll post it as an update “comment).
However, the recent coverage I’ve give to the financial dealings of the Scottsdale Unified School District led me to think about it again. I find several definitions of the term on Wikipedia, but the one that fits the context of that earlier conversation and the SUSD issues is:
A businessman who seeks to gain profit through subsidies, protectionism, government contracts, or other such favorable arrangements with government(s) through political influence…
Wikipedia goes on to quote Thomas DiLorenzo (How Capitalism Saved America):
A political entrepreneur succeeds primarily by influencing government to subsidize his business or industry, or to enact legislation or regulation that harms his competitors…[the] market entrepreneur succeeds financially by selling a newer, better, or less expensive product on the free market without any government subsidies, direct or indirect.
Real estate developers (zoning concessions, amended/relaxed development standards, infill incentives) and the liquor industry (conditional use permits) in Scottsdale have been the primary example of this type of political entrepreneur. Clearly school districts are not immune. Recent concerns about the majority of funding for the SUSD maintenance and operations budget override coming from construction companies bear witness.
There’s another class of political entrepreneur, whose members make money from the political process via lobbying, advertising, and public relations.
And there’s a lot of overlap between these two classes. Jason Rose (who does campaign PR for many politicians including Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane) has also managed to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies for his rugby and polo matches.
These concepts are nothing new. They’ve been around ever since we first had “government.” But I thought it would be helpful to share the term, so as to help us get a handle on the distinction between real producers who add to our economy versus those who don’t.