Reader Mail: April 2011
Socialism, Ja or No?
Our special report on Norway ["Ja, Socialism," February], the socialist Northern European country in which taxes are sky high but entrepreneurs are thriving, sparked a contentious online debate. The story, by Inc. senior writer Max Chafkin, garnered more than 250 comments on Inc.com, along with more than 6,000 Likes on Facebook.
Many readers questioned the premise of the story. "Max Chafkin is a champagne socialist," wrote Alan Coman, a financial analyst at Ned Davis Research in Sarasota, Florida. "He wants to prove that marginal taxes don't matter, but there are multiple ways to refute his argument, including the fact that Norway is rich because it has immense oil reserves for a small population. This is Inc., not The Nation or Pravda." Gasper J. Graziano, president of Gramac Engineering in Evergreen, Colorado, wrote, "This supposed Nirvana is a bogus assumption and would not work in the real world, except for those who believe that the state should supply everything." Joe Kennedy, founder of Ajaks Home and Office Maintenance in Salem, New York, said he disagreed with many of the article's conclusions but appreciated the fact that it gave him ideas to ponder. "It would appear there is a strong bond between the author and the socialist model," he wrote. "Entrepreneurs are, by definition, capitalists. The term socialist entrepreneur is an oxymoron."
Some entrepreneurs defended the story. "As a career entrepreneur who has started three businesses, I can tell you that taxes have never been a factor in whether or not to start a business," wrote Rathi Niyogi, CEO of CriticalTool in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "Starting a business is about understanding one's market, estimating start-up funds, and measuring risk. Norway seems to do a great job reducing the level of risk by making sure you won't starve or lose health care if things don't work out." Lars Holkestad Værland, owner of Kvennhuslia Gård, a farm in Vegårshei, Norway, expressed a similar sentiment. "Good article, except for the fish jokes and polar bear bullshit," Værland wrote. "Norway does spend a lot (too much) on welfare and other public services, but it is worth it. If I [mess up] really bad at some point, my family and I will still have a place to sleep, food, clothes, and access to education. As far as I am concerned, that is the majority of the risk you take as an entrepreneur."
As for the impact of Norway's oil wealth, a number of readers pointed out, as did the story, that almost none of Norway's oil revenue is used to fund state programs. For example, from Tomas Kringen of Oslo: "As a Norwegian, I would like to refute the argument made by some commenters that oil makes any difference. Most of the oil revenues are invested overseas and very little is spent, as a rule, to prevent the economy from overheating."
Jeff Landeen, director of Epimatic, an IT consulting company in Toronto, was intrigued by our look at the relationship between entrepreneurship and taxes. "I am encouraged to see more rational discussion on these topics," Landeen wrote. "Please continue exploring them through engaging storytelling and sound reasoning!" Armando Gonzalez, an aerospace professional in Issaquah, Washington, worried that the story signified a shift to the left for Inc. "I'm desperately hoping Inc. continues publishing the evenhanded, apolitical articles that have kept me an avid fan for years," he wrote.
A Brilliant Mind
Leigh Buchanan's cover story about the insights gleaned from a study of highly accomplished entrepreneurs ["How Great Entrepreneurs Think," February] intrigued many readers. "I've always wanted to have my brain scanned, and now I know what to look for," wrote Sara Camp, a quality assurance Web tester at Red Nova Labs in Westwood Hills, Kansas. "This is an absolute MUST READ article," wrote Mike Green, chief information officer at Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative in Cleveland. "Conventional wisdom is that minority business owners face different challenges. I would love to see a comparable effort focused on studying successful minority entrepreneurs." Jud Hennington, managing director of Redsky Ventures in Birmingham, Alabama, questioned the validity of the study. "This is a fascinating piece," he wrote. "But what conclusions can we reach based on a study of participants self-selected from a pool of 245 candidates that met Saras Sarasvathy's subjective criteria? Is it reasonable to expect that in the bright light of extraordinary success, a group that volunteered to champion their success can provide the correct answer, however sincere their beliefs may be?"
Readers had a mixed reaction to our story about social media master Gary Vaynerchuk [The Way I Work, February]. "This is the first article about Gary I've read, and it gave me a totally different opinion of him. I'm shocked at how efficient he is," wrote Tim Biden, owner of Village Ads in Los Angeles. "Gary's line about giving a shit having an enormous return yield was awesome," added Michael Martine, owner of Remarkablogger in Montpelier, Vermont.
But Benjamin Hebert, operations manager at GiftCardRescue.com in Baltimore, was unimpressed. "How can you build an exit strategy from Day One when your business plan is going to change a hundred times due to market forces before you even show a sign of revenue?" Hebert wrote. "Planning to exit isn't building a company."
Meporter.com, a mobile app company featured in "On the Lookout for the Next Twitter" in the March issue, announced after the article went to press that it was pulling out of the South by Southwest festival.
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