The uproar that arose after Dolly Parton rewrote the lyrics to “9 to 5” for a Squarespace Super Bowl commercial revealed a problem with the English language: A worker is no longer a worker.
As she sang in celebration of entrepreneurs:
Working 5 to 9
you’ve got passion and a vision
‘Cause it’s hustlin’ time
a whole new way to makе a livin’
Gonna change your life
do something that givеs it meaning …
Some criticized it, saying it celebrated an “empty promise” of capitalism, as if people aiming to establish their own businesses were “workers” who needed to be protected from powerful corporations. Others grasped that there is more nuance in our economy than ever before and that, perhaps, Parton was on to something.
In fact, her updated lyrics represent a shift in the primacy between capital and labor in the 40 years since she penned the original. Gone is the idea that getting ahead is only a “rich man’s game … puttin’ money in his wallet.” Workers today have a different potential than they did in 1980 when she first sang:
There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?
It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it,
And you spend your life
Puttin’ money in his wallet.
There are abusive corporations, and we do need a better social safety net so that people aren’t at the mercy of the doctrine of shareholder primacy, but that truth disguises a more complicated reality. The divide between capital and labor increasingly looks like an anachronism, a throwback to the language and illusory simplicity of another time. Yet still, the media persists in pushing this false dichotomy; this mistaken idea that labor and capital are two separate and oppositional forces in our economy. Perhaps doing so is human nature.
Or perhaps it simply sells more newspapers or generates more clicks. The media certainly thrives on conflict (real or imaginary) and, along with human nature to try to group things into black and white, the continued framing of our economy as somehow consisting of individual actors who exist solely on one side of the capital/labor line makes for easier narratives.
The truth of this aspect of our economy, as with most things, exists in the gray areas. In the nuance and the movement between groups. The U.S. economy has always been uniquely entrepreneurial, from the discovery of the “new land” to the formation of our government to the expansion of our country and eventually its industrialization. Entrepreneurs have long led the way. Today, nearly 60 million people are entrepreneurial in some way.
The vast majority inhabit the frontlines of the economy. They are freelancers or the late-night business starters that Parton sang about. They are freelancing on the side to earn money to support some other dream, or are stitching together lives for themselves by being their own boss. They’re driving Ubers, delivering meals for GrubHub and selling their crafts on Etsy. Never have more people had more access to expand their horizons through pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams than right now. And they exist in the world of technology, where a single person at a kitchen table has the same power to bring an innovation to market as giant corporations did four decades ago.
Victor Hwang, CEO of Right to Start and a former vice president of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation, described the capital-versus-labor debate as “the biggest false narrative out there. It’s an artificial narrative that we’ve created: employer versus employee; big versus small; corporation versus worker. All are false narratives and contribute to the incorrect notion that the most important fight in our economy exists between these supposedly oppositional forces.”
But our economic and government funding debates are framed, often by the media, around the idea of capitalism versus socialism, corporations versus workers. That increasingly divisive conversation has some of the hallmarks of a deliberately engineered division, like the ones over climate change or gun rights. Right-wing groups with an interest in freezing the government into inaction figured out how to divide the country into two groups and get them fighting.
Why don’t we have universal health care, parental leave, working infrastructure — all things that would, not incidentally, boost entrepreneurship and small business? We’ve been too busy fighting about a socialist takeover and the evils of capitalism.
The conflict thrives in part because we don’t have the right language to describe what’s happening now: “These debates should be viewed as part of a larger discussion,” Hwang said. “We should be striving to encourage highly innovative people and companies. What are the categories we need to develop? How do you classify someone’s role in the economy?”
What we need as an economy is a system that empowers more people to be producers and entrepreneurs. To solve problems and look for opportunities to create change in their communities. Instead, we’ve built a system that supports incumbents; that thrives on the status quo; that stifles innovation and uses the tactics of division to do so. It’s a tension that stems from our neoliberal worldview that achieved an almost consensus in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Beyond just arguing that free markets and open trade make it easier and better to do business (which we generally agree with), it also implied that the only thing that mattered in our economy was making big companies bigger (while, perhaps, allowing for the occasional upstart — but only those that had the potential to grow quickly and become big companies themselves). Lost was the value of smaller businesses, operating in the in-between spaces in our economy. We don’t even effectively measure their impact.
Wanting to know how the “economy” is doing, we look no further than the fate of the 500 largest publicly traded companies (the S&P 500) or the 30 massive businesses that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average. No wonder people across Main Streets are scratching their heads as pundits describe the economy as thriving by citing the continued rise of the Dow when they can see the millions of small businesses closing all around them.
In our book, “The New Builders,” we describe entrepreneurs as “builders.” Builder is a word with Old English roots in the ideas “to be, exist, grow,” according to the Online Dictionary of Etymology. In a century where change is the lingua franca, builders own the value of their own labor as a mechanism to build independence and, eventually, capital.
We often forget that the majority of these builders — the small business owners of America — create opportunities with the most limited resources. According to the Kauffman Foundation, 83% of businesses are formed without the help of either bank financing or venture capital. Yet small businesses are responsible for nearly 40% of U.S. GDP and nearly half of employment. Perhaps that’s why International Economy publisher David Smick termed them “the great equalizer” in his book of the same name.
Technology has fundamentally changed the landscape for businesses of all sizes and has the potential to enable a resurgence of our small business economy. Rather than pushing a false narrative that individuals need to choose between being a part of the labor or capital economies, we should be encouraging fluidity between the two. The more capital ownership we encourage — through savings, investment in their own businesses, and by allowing more and more people to become investors of all kinds — the more we drive wealth creation and open economic activity for generations to come.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of The International Economy Magazine.
Elon Musk’s X Slapped With Trademark Lawsuit From Social Media Ad Agency
That ad agency, X Social Media, sued X. Corp in Florida on Monday, arguing that consumers are likely to to confused their ad services with the Elon Musk
The complaint, which was first reported by Bloomberg Law, states that X Social Media, LLC “has continuously used the X Social Media Mark in commerce since at least early 2016,” and that the Elon Musk-owned company was aware of X Social Media’s pre-existing rights to the trademark its brand overhaul.
In the filing, X Social Media — an advertising agency service geared towards law firms — claims that it has invested over $400 million in advertising, $2 million of which was dedicated to brand awareness, and that X. Corp’s name change will be “financially and strategically harmful” to the Florida-based agency.
“In a short time, X Corp. has wielded its social media clout, marketing resources, and overall national notoriety to dominate consumer perception of its ‘X’ mark,” the complaint states.
It is seeking an order that would block X Corp. from continuing to use the X name and requested an unspecified amount of money damages.
Elsewhere on Monday, Musk was also sued for libel after falsely claiming Ben Brody, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Riverside, California, was a government agent posing as a neo-Nazi. The lawsuit accused the billionaire of making “reckless false statements” and “promotion of disinformation,” and seeks $1 million in damages.
Texas firm Farrar & Ball attorney Mark Bankston, Brody’s legal counsel, wrote in an X post that Brody and his family were doxxed as a result of the conspiracy theory Musk promoted on his site, and had to flee their home during “weeks of terror.” Brody, he wrote, has a reputation now “catastrophically damaged” by the wealthiest man on the planet and has suffered mental anguish “at the crucial moment when he exits college and enters his career path.”
Despite his lawyers being informed of Brody’s defamation claim in August, Bankston has said that Musk declined to either retract his unfounded accusation or apologize for it.
Sources – James Harden, seeking trade, not at 76ers media day
CAMDEN, N.J. — It took nearly four minutes Monday morning for Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to say James Harden‘s name. But, after rattling off the names of several other players and speaking confidently about the team’s chances to contend this season, Morey turned to the matter of Harden’s absence from media day.
“I want to address James Harden,” Morey said, sitting on a dais next to coach Nick Nurse, both wearing matching blue blazers to kick off the interviews. “He’s not here today. He continues to seek a trade, and we’re working with his representation to resolve that in the best way for the 76ers and, hopefully, all parties.”
Harden’s decision not to come Monday was the latest push in a summer full of them to fulfill his desire to be dealt to the LA Clippers. But although the two teams have talked recently, there’s been no traction on a deal, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Sixers’ asking price remains high, and the Clippers don’t seem inclined to bid against themselves in a marketplace that is cool to unloading significant trade assets for Harden, sources told Wojnarowski.
As a result, Harden is still a member of the 76ers — and the franchise clearly would love for him to return and help in what the 76ers still believe is a group good enough to compete for a championship, even in the wake of the moves the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics made to get Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday, respectively, over the past few days.
“Who said they surpassed us?” reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid responded to a reporter. “We still gotta go out there and compete. You can do whatever you want off the court, but you still gotta go out there and put the ball in the hoop.
“I believe that any team that I’m on, we always gonna have a chance. Just need to be a little bit lucky. Just need to stay healthy — be healthy and stay healthy — and, you know, as a team, just come together.”
Harden exercised his $35.6 million contract option for the season in June with hopes of the Sixers trading him before camp, but Morey has shown a willingness to wait out Harden and try to get him reinvested in the team.
To that end, the message over and over again from the 76ers was that they hope they can get Harden to come back and take part alongside them. Harden on Friday was paid the 25% of his contract that he was scheduled to receive by Sunday, sources said, after already having received the 25% payment he was scheduled to receive on July 1.
It remains unclear when, or if, Harden is going to rejoin the team, which is flying to Fort Collins on Monday afternoon before holding training camp at Colorado State University for the next several days.
Morey, when asked if Harden would be fined for missing Monday, said the team would “treat James like every other player on the roster as required by the CBA.”
In a call with league and union officials during the NBA’s investigation into the comments, Harden insisted he would be fulfilling his contractual obligations with the Sixers should he remain without a trade, sources said.
Morey, who has previously had a close relationship with Harden going back to when he acquired him as the general manage of the Houston Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, admitted this summer was difficult for him given how it’s all played out in the public sphere.
“I would say it was hard,” Morey said. “I think there are many people who worked with him for some time, but I’ve been right there with anyone else.
“Look, I think he’s a heck of a basketball player. I like him as a person. It was hard, I think, that he felt like that was the right course of action for him at that point. What else can I say? I think he’s a tremendous player that will help us if he chooses to be here. And, right now, that’s not where he wants to be.”
Morey did, however, push back on Harden’s assertion that he is a liar.
“I don’t think I have to interpret it,” Morey said. “He said what he meant. I think that was well reported on.
“I haven’t responded to that because I think it falls flat on its face. In 20 years of working in the league, always followed through on everything. Every top agent knows that. Everyone in the league knows. You can’t operate in this job without that. So, you know, privately I’ve appreciated all the key people in the league reaching out to me and knowing obviously that’s not true. But like I said before, obviously it was disappointing that he chose to handle it that way.”
Now, Philadelphia begins preparations for training camp — its first under Nurse, who replaced Doc Rivers earlier this summer — unsure of when — or if — its star point guard will join them. To that end, Nurse said he and the team will be preparing for both possibilities and will address them as things unfold.
“For me, it’s, it’s obviously we’ve kind of got Plan A, Plan B, right? We’ve gotta get the team ready regardless. We’re expecting him to show up.
“He shows up? We go. If he doesn’t? We go. There’s two ways to look at it. And we proceed and we really get to work in building our foundation of what we want to do, getting all our principles in, all the things that we want to do, and play the style of play we want to play regardless.”
Perhaps the best summation of the situation, however, came from Harden’s longtime friend and teammate P.J. Tucker, who was asked whether he thought Harden would be back anytime soon.
“That ain’t for me to answer,” Tucker said with a laugh and a shake of his head. “I have no idea.
“I hope they figure it out soon. But if not, it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.”
James Harden skips 76ers media day to take trade demand to next level – SB Nation
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