I must have a career (a) not dependent on the benevolence of the taxpayer but (b) where Andrei Tarkovsky nevertheless commands great importance. This may demand the strategy now known as “backwards entrepreneurship.” In interview with something called Daily Brink, Jesse Thorn, my Fearless Leader at Maximumfun.org, defined it thus:
Would you call yourself an entrepreneur?
I’m a “backwards entrepreneur.” My entrepreneurship stands from trying to find a way to eat while I do things that I like.
(Paul Graham variation: “to make some original contribution to the world, and in the process not to starve.”)
Backward though it may be, only this form of entrepreneurship calls to me. No, scratch that — only this form of entrepreneurship makes sense to me. I can envision someone figuring out which business model stands the greatest chance of making money — of attracting whichever customer base seems the largest or spendiest — in the same way I can envision squaring the circle. You can think about it, but surely... surely nobody can actually do it?
Often, when I get on this jag — it happens with increasing frequency — friends wonder aloud if I’ve turned downright anti-capitalist. Nonsense! I’ve long assumed it obvious to everyone that, as far as my political sense runs, it runs only toward capitalism — possibly as far as shameless capitalism. I would live in no society but a capitalist society, not least due to capitalism’s tolerance for non-capitalists. Try living as a communist under capitalism; now try living as a capitalist under communism. See which works out better.
My capitalism takes the form of the Catholicism dear to so many members of the modern Anglosphere: deep in one of the lesser chambers of my heart of hearts, I buy it. Yet I totally lack the wherewithal to practice it with anything close to rigor and, what’s more, find the whole affair dispiritingly wanting in aesthetic taste. I’ll turn this over to (past Marketplace of Ideas guest) Alain de Botton, from his book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work:
It was in the eighteenth century that economists and political theorists first became aware of the paradoxes and triumphs of commercial societies, which place trade, luxury and private fortunes at their centre whilst paying only lip-service to the pursuit of higher goals. [ … ] Their self-indulgence has consistently appalled a share of their most high-minded and morally ambitious members, who have railed against consumerism and instead honoured beauty and nature, art and fellowship. [But] it is the high-minded countries that have let their members starve, whereas the self-centred and the childish ones have, off the back of their doughnuts and six thousand varieties of ice cream, had the resources to invest in maternity wards and cranial scanning machines.