Synopses & Reviews
America can’t more forward if we don’t have a clear understanding of how wealth is actually produced. How we view the creation of wealth and individual success shapes our choices on taxes, public investments in schools and vital infrastructure, regulations, the legitimacy of extravagant CEO pay, and more.
This book challenges the by-bootstraps-alone narrative beloved by anti-government conservatives to offer a more holistic view of the success of America’s business leaders and entrepreneurs. While acknowledging the importance of hard work, creativity, and leadership, it highlights several crucial, often unrecognized factors, with a particular emphasis on the ways government and society support and assists individuals: public education, research and development grants, social services, roads and highways, laws and regulations that establish a stable business environment, and many more. Miller and Lapham explore the historic roots of the self-made myth and offer profiles of business leaders who, in their own words, identify the kinds of government support and assistance that were crucial to their success. They also disprove the arguments of individuals like Donald Trump who have tried to perpetuate their own self-made myths of their success.
“This book challenges a central myth that underlies today’s antigovernment rhetoric: that an individual’s success is the result of gumption and hard work alone. Miller and Lapham clearly show that personal success is closely tied to the supports society provides. Must reading for all who want to get our nation back on track.”
—Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor; Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; and author of Aftershock
“Miller and Lapham debunk the self-made myth that has been bought and sold by the corporate media. I urge anyone who cares about forging a more just and fair economy to buy this book and take its smart ideas to heart.”
—Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation
“After decades of disingenuous bashing of community and our common interests, this book serves as a reality check, reminding us that no one can survive without the contributions of the rest of us.”
—Carol Moseley Braun, former US Senator
The Self-Made Myth exposes the false claim that business success is the result of heroic individual effort with little or no outside help. Brian Miller and Mike Lapham bust the myth and present profiles of business leaders who recognize the public investments and supports that made their success possible—including Warren Buffett, Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerrys, New Belgium Brewing CEO Kim Jordan, and others. The book also thoroughly demolishes the claims of supposedly self-made individuals such as Donald Trump and Ross Perot. How we view the creation of wealth and individual success is critical because it shapes our choices on taxes, regulation, public investments in schools and infrastructure, CEO pay, and more. It takes a village to raise a business—its time to recognize that fact.
About the Author
Brian Miller has served as executive director of United for a Fair Economy (UFE) since 2009, drawing on nearly 20 years of experience as a community organizer, coalition leader, media spokesperson, writer, researcher, and nonprofit director.
Mike Lapham is the project director and co-founder of UFEs Responsible Wealth project, a network of over 700 business leaders and wealthy individuals. In addition to directing the program, Lapham is also a member, having inherited stock in his familys paper mill in upstate New York.
United for a Fair Economy (UFE) is a national organization that works to foster a more broadly shared prosperity. In addition to UFE's key role in the recent tax debates, UFE has a range of programs that seek to shape public dialogue and support social movements for economic fairness. Responsible Wealth is a project of UFE that brings together 700 business leaders, high-wealth, and high-income individuals to speak out against their narrow financial self-interest and in favor of progressive tax policies and corporate accountability.
Foreword Author Bill Gates Sr. worked for many years as a successful attorney in Seattle, Washington, and is the father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates III. He has been an active leader in both the national and Washington State debates around progressive tax policies. Foreword Author Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and is co-author, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. In 1995 he co-founded United for a Fair Economy.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Re-examining and Retelling The Self-Made Myth
Part 1 – The Self-Made Myth
Origins of the Self-Made Myth.
Modern Myth and the Titans of Industry
Consequences of Accepting the Myth
Part 2 – Reclaiming the Narrative of Individual Success
Other Factors that Contribute to Individual Wealth and Success
About the Profiles
Part 3– Busting the Myth
Making the Invisible Visible
More individual profiles
Part 4 – Conclusion / Moving Forward
A New Narrative of Wealth Creation
Implications for the Role of Government
Implication for Public Policy Debates of Our Time.
Getting Involved: Using Your Voice