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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Doesn't Understand What Capitalists Do

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The third weekend of November, as usual, saw the crowning of a champion in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series — the Camping World Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, and the Monster Energy Cup Series. The 2018 Xfinity Series champion went to Tyler Reddick, driver of the #9 Camaro, after a dominating performance at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This was the third championship in five seasons for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team, JR Motorsports. Following this victory, Earnhardt Jr. offered a look into how he felt while on the championship stage with the race team on his podcast “The Dale Jr Download,” a feeling that seems to be par for the course when it comes to the opinion on the role of the capitalist.

When you’re the owner … you’re standing on the pit box … and I’m thinking, "man, I’m not even the guy here." The guy is Dave [the crew chief], the guy is Tyler [Reddick], the pit crew. And it gets you thinking about how small you are in this whole thing. When you go up on stage for the celebration, and you look around, pretty much everyone on that stage has done more to get this here, to make this happen than you did. I own it, [but] I don’t turn a wrench. I don’t weld a part together. I don’t call the strategy. I don’t turn the wheel. I don’t bolt the tires on. I don’t jack up the car. I don’t paint the body. I don’t do sh*t, but stand there and go, "yep! Good job! We did it!"

This type of mindset seems to run through the general population without even a second thought. Thanks to Marx, the idea that the capitalist serves no real purpose lives deep within a lot of us. It is the workers that do everything — the capitalists simply sit in their office and take credit. But capitalist entrepreneurs, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., serve an incredibly important function in the market economy.

Given that we live in a world of uncertainty, there is always a choice to be made. And wrapped up in each decision is the possibility of profit or loss. Given the discussion at hand, while gift-giving, consuming, and general action can technically be classified as entrepreneurial, we will focus just on productive decisions. In the realm of the market economy, the most fitting description of an entrepreneur is one who decides to take on uncertainty, invest their savings, and pursue consumer satiation. The unknown future is what makes this function praxeological, not technological. It is not known ahead of time whether the project will render a profit or a loss, and that is the gamble the entrepreneur takes. Through the saving function of the capitalist that occurs by a restriction of present consumption, the entrepreneur is sustained throughout the production process. But another interpersonal dynamic is taking place. By choosing to be a worker instead of an entrepreneur, one is choosing a path with less uncertainty. Workers get paid at a regular interval throughout the entire production process; they do not have to wait until completion like the entrepreneur. The burden is placed completely on the entrepreneur. This more certain life for the worker comes from the burden on the owner. Without the capitalist, there would be no business for which to work. This is the important role of capitalist entrepreneurs. They bear uncertainty in an attempt to push the market closer to the underlying equilibrium, and through this process also allow opportunities of less uncertainty for people to take. These jobs are wholly dependent, however, on capitalist saving and entrepreneurial actions.

While it may seem to many that the capitalist provides no benefit to the market, such an analysis completely ignores uncertainty and the importance of saving. While it may be true that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not driving the car, calling the strategy, or turning a wrench, without Earnhardt Jr. taking on the function of the entrepreneur, there would be no car to drive, no strategy to call, no wrench to turn. So, don’t feel awkward, Dale, you did more than anyone else to win that championship. While Tyler Reddick may have driven the car, without you bearing uncertainty in the creation and sustainment of JR Motorsports, there would have been nothing to celebrate on November 17th.

Antón Chamberlin is an economics major at Loyola University New Orleans.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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