What a Difference a Century Makes

John D. Rockefeller got rich by essentially creating the oil industry. True, he lied, cheated, and stole to do so, but he created an industry nevertheless.

Henry Ford got rich by inventing the assembly line for manufacturing cars—THEN he paid his workers the unconscionable rate of $5.00 per week so they could afford to buy Ford automobiles.

Thomas Edison got rich by inventing a practical light bulb, sound recording, motion pictures, and anything else that caught his fancy.

Michael Ovitz (Disney), Carly Sneed Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard), Stanley O’Neal (Merrill Lynch), and soon (probably) John Stumpf (Wells Fargo) all got rich—or richer—by being fired and collecting on golden parachutes, accumulated stock options, etc.

Economists are befuddled by the US economy, yet the biggest corporations hire people with a mechanism to reward them if they screw up. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say, “We’re hiring you to be our chief executive. As long as the company does well, you’ll be well paid. If you screw up, you’ll get your last paycheck up to the day you were fired, any unused vacation time, and not one thin dime more. After all, if we were idiotic enough to pay you for screwing up, would you even want to work for us unless you’re an idiot, too.

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