EntSoc - Enterprising Persons: The Sociopathology of...

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Enterprising Persons: The Sociopathology of Entrepreneurs and Professional Criminals Robert Desman Abstract The term “enterprising persons” is used here to distinguish a class of individuals who may or may not be “classic entrepreneurs,” but who fit a specific profile generally associated with entrepreneurship. Identifying the “entrepreneurs” among them is the first challenge in the discussion. The second challenge is to explore a long-held argument that “to understand the psychology of the entrepreneur it is necessary to study the juvenile delinquent.” The findings reported here suggest the backgrounds associated with entrepreneurs are found among very few juvenile delinquents. The professional criminal may prove to be a better analog. Their backgrounds, motivations, and tendencies are remarkably similar to those of the entrepreneur. U.S. census data show entrepreneurial and professional criminal activity to lag economic cycles in exactly the same pattern and OECD “self employment” trends behave similarly. Why some enterprising persons pursue crime while others choose conventional paths is the question addressed here and one that warrants further investigation. Enterprising Persons The classic definition of an entrepreneur is a person who “assumes risk for the sake of profit.” Classical economics suggests that profits are the wages for assuming risk. Can all risk takers and profit makers, therefore, be concluded to be entrepreneurs? Were this so, there would be no substantial difference among conventional wage earners, entrepreneurs, and anyone else. Common sense dictates there are differences, however, and those differences encompass considerably more than the extremes to which the person may go to make a profit. One helpful way to gain insight into the issue is to consider enterprising and non-
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enterprising persons. Enterprising, here, is defined as “demonstrating energy, initiative, and a willingness to undertake new ventures.” Enterprising persons (enterprisers) are active risk takers. They proactively pursue opportunity with energy, initiative, and willingness in order to achieve some desired outcome in spite of inherent risks. Their goals tend to focus on enhancing their lives as opposed to maintaining them. Non-enterprising persons (non-enterprisers) are more passive in their approach toward risk. They tend to react to risks encountered or foisted upon them. Their behavior is directed toward minimizing the potential negative impact of a specific risk. The contrast here is not really one of risk-takers versus risk-avoiders so much as it is one of risk-aggressors (because of the implied benefits) and risk-accommodators (because risk is unavoidable). Non-enterprising persons are not risk-averse nor do they ignore opportunities to improve their welfare. They dream their dreams and aspire to prosperity just as the enterprising person. Where they differ is, non-enterprisers approach risk more cautiously and defensively
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EntSoc - Enterprising Persons: The Sociopathology of...

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