Conservative Business Icons' "Self-Made" Claims Challenged

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Conservative Business Icons' "Self-Made" Claims Challenged

Authors of New Book Debunk Myth of Self-Made Success

WASHINGTON - In a new book released this month, United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth urge a more honest national dialogue about what makes wealth and success possible, and in doing so, a healthier debate about the public policy choices before us.

The Self-Made Myth—And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed, by United for a Fair Economy executive director Brian Miller and Responsible Wealth project director Mike Lapham, exposes the false claim that business success is solely the result of the heroic effort of a single individual. The authors contend that, among other supports, businesses are built atop public structures and services established and maintained by taxpayers’ collective investments made through government. As such, those who have benefitted the most from those public supports owe something back to the society that made them possible.

“Debunking the self-made myth is critical, particularly during an election year where taxes and the role of government are center-stage,” says Brian Miller. “We wrote this book because how we view wealth creation and individual success shapes our choices on policies, including taxes, regulations, public investments in schools and infrastructure, CEO pay, and more.”

Since the Reagan presidency, those involved in the broader conservative movement have based their anti-tax efforts on the notion that wealth is derived from the superior efforts of “job creators.” This frame fuels an anti-government and anti-tax narrative that the authors say is counter-productive to the kinds of investments we need to make to get our nation’s economy back on track.

“Members of Responsible Wealth, including some of the business owners profiled in our book, understand that there’s a lot more working in their favor than smarts, creativity or hard work,” says Mike Lapham. “They believe they owe a chunk of their good fortune to government investments in education, research, infrastructure and a regulatory system that have created a fertile business environment.”

The co-authors of The Self-Made Myth add that social relations can also provide an economic boost. “We hear these icons of business success—Donald Trump, Ross Perot, and the Koch brothers, for example—tout themselves as ‘self-made,’” said Miller. “But their failure to acknowledge the role of luck, privilege and even government is misleading and dishonest.”

The Self-Made Myth book tour launched last week, fittingly at a public institution of learning, the Boston Public Library. Miller and Lapham will be joined in select cities by individuals profiled in the book. Learn more at www.selfmademyth.org.

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United for a Fair Economy is a non-partisan organization that helps people of all races, ethnicities and classes work to reduce economic inequality.

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