THE REAL ECONOMY
J. R. Simplot, who arrived in a covered wagon on the old frontier and grew up to clear the sagebrush along the Snake and launch a business empire into the Great Depression, and made a bet of some $20 million in his seventies on a semiconductor start-up . . . what difference does he make?
It is an old and popular story of rags to riches, but it bears little on the real problems of America, or so it would seem to sophisticated men. Indeed, around the faculty clubs and Washington consultancies, the romance of individual wealth seems merely an obstacle to understanding the vast collective problems of the world economy. At best, according to academic observers, what they call the "entrepreneurial myth" can serve as a ballad for the bad times ahead: an anecdote to divert the gullible from their growing personal impotence in a bureaucratic scene of shortages and shared efforts, where we can no longer thrive on the primitive machismo of "cowboy capitalists."
The real economy, according to the best analysts, consists of colliding multinational corporations, national industrial policies, and macroeconomic tides that overwhelm the simple energies and enthusiasms of individual entrepreneurs. These broader trends and developments, economists believe, plunged the United States during the late 1970s and early 1980s into a grave crisis of sinking productivity, marked by actual net decline in output per man-hour, and put the United States well behind European and Asian rivals in industrial prowess and prospects. Long-run energy scarcity assured a rising burden of resource prices. Ever more insidious and intractable problems of pollution would require steadily increasing diversion of scarce capital to