The entrepreneur is at the top of the social class today. The word brings to mind all of the inventors and geniuses of the past and present. A genius like Steve Jobs, who gave us the gift of the smartphone.
Today, you can’t go anywhere without seeing one in somebody’s hands. Elon Musk is another name that should ring a bell or two. He is the businessman at the heart of Tesla. His company is predicted to change the world very soon.
If he can get us an affordable electric car, the way cars are made will be revolutionized forever. Then, we have Bill Gates, who gave us Microsoft.
The way we work, socialize, and play games were all influenced by Bill Gates. Other names that come to mind are Henry Ford, John Rockefeller, Carnegie, Buffett; there are just too many to name.
The entrepreneur is someone who produces stuff. Entrepreneurs help build up economies and produce things that are supposed to make people’s lives better.
For the most part, this is all true. However, what if I told you that this wasn’t always the case. What if I said that for almost 5,000 years of civilization, entrepreneurs were at the bottom barrel of the social hierarchy.
Yes, it’s true. People never glamorized the entrepreneur like they are today in the media. But why was this the case?
The Entrepreneur Through History
Throughout history, the entrepreneur has been most well known as a merchant. Merchants were basically people who looked to sell and hustle either their products or services. The ancient business person was just a trader and a freelancer.
They would use ships to navigate the sea and trade products with local people. The freelancers would have some type of skill that made them employable.
So if you were a good sculptor, a politician or an aristocrat would hire you to sculpt something. In ancient Egypt, the merchant was somewhere in the middle of the social class. They were still pretty important, but nowhere near the scribes, priests, or the pharaohs.
However, in Ancient Greece and Rome, the merchant was less important. They had a much lower social status even though some of them were wealthy.
The businessperson’s role in these societies varied, yet, they were never at the top of the social heirarchy.
The Entrepreneur In Ancient China
Where we really start seeing the merchant’s reputation hit rock bottom is in China. Ancient China was a complex society. The top of the social class was the emperor and the government officials.
In the middle were the farmers and even the peasants. At the very bottom were the merchants and the traders. In Ancient China, the merchant wasn’t somebody who produced any value.
Instead, society viewed them as greedy business people. The Chinese perceived the merchants as not benefiting the community as a whole. The ancient Chinese had a group mentality. In Ancient China, the majority would always be more important than the individual.
This mentality is at the core of Eastern thought. Its main influence was from the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Confucious is the main reason why people in the east think so differently from the west.
The Farmer VS The Merchant
I mentioned before that the farmer was higher in the social class than the merchants. You would think that this would be the other way around, but it isn’t. Farmers were seen as way more important than merchants in society.
The reason? Well, it’s because they supplied the food. Without farmers, the people would starve. That’s why they were so important.
Their efforts were more important to society as a whole. Furthermore, during the Covid-19 pandemic, this made me think about the same thing. The food that supplied people in the supermarket had to come from somewhere right?
Today, the farmer is in a neutral class. Nobody really farms anymore so they aren’t really in the spotlight. Yet, when during a pandemic, the farmer is keeping you fed, and the merchant, A.K.A, the entrepreneur, is getting richer by the minute; it causes you to scratch your head.
Maybe the ancient Chinese were right.
The Entrepreneur Today
Now, obviously, the world has changed a lot since the old days. Technology has made farming a lot easier, and we don’t have the same food shortage problems as we use to.
However, with the growing wealth gap going on right now, it makes you rethink the situation. Of course, entrepreneurs still add a ton of value to society. Without them, we wouldn’t have the amazing technologies available to us today.
I wouldn’t be able to publish this article on Google without the hard work of the entrepreneur.
But still, are they the only people who produce things? People back then were definitely on to something. But they didn’t live in a time to see the prosperity that business can bring.
Today, China, Japan, and other countries have embraced the entrepreneur as the top of society.
To conclude, it’s just something to think about. It’s not bad to praise the entrepreneur for their hard work and contribution to society. But I just feel like in the process we’ve neglected everybody else.
We shouldn’t always follow what the media likes to glorify. It’s okay to question things and realize that the world has changed more in the past 200 years than it did in 5,000.