WEALTH IN THE 1990S
The central conflict in economics is between the inventions of entrepreneurs and the defenses of old wealth. Much of the entrepreneurial creativity of the late 1970s and early 1980s began bearing fruit in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Led by Bill Gates's Microsoft, exceeding General Motors in market capitalization, the result was the overthrow of much of the incumbent establishment of American business.
Perhaps the best record of this process of changing elites is the list of the 400 richest Americans that Forbes magazine began publishing in 1982. Many of the entrepreneurs of the real economy lurched up onto this new social register of wealth during the 1980s and rudely ousted a large majority of the previous elite.
Recognizing entrepreneurs as rivals in the wars of mind, the people we normally call intellectuals usually side with old money against new. Entrepreneurs are, in a sense, a competing class of intellectuals who have seen their ideas affirmed by the unimpeachable tests of the real economy. No professor of physics or finance needs to gain a more complex understanding of reality than the master of a semiconductor company or a bioengineering firm. No professor of social science needs a richer comprehension of his society than the entrepreneur of a shopping center or trucking firm. The notion that successful entrepreneurs are indeed the world's most fully tested and resourceful intellectuals is not much probed in the universities and on the small magazines, however. That these men of business uphold a morality more consistent and altruistic than the codes of the academy is a reality not even entertained.
Nonetheless, intellectuals sense that entrepreneurs are their