The flowers of entrepreneurship bloom in the strangest places. Kirznerian entrepreneurs attending the rain-soaked Taylor Swift concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, determined there would be a market for the rain which had fallen near the pop diva.
The New York Post reported, “Some entrepreneurial fans are capitalizing on and trying to flog [rain] online for $250.” This $250 price is the ten dollar bill analogy Israel Kirzner stressed, as described by Murray Rothbard, when relating how the entrepreneur is a person who, “upon seeing a $10 bill in front of his nose, is alert to the existence of the money and leaps to grab it. The alert man will grab the $10 note rapidly; the less alert man will take longer to see his opportunity and to take advantage of it.”
To that point, it would take a Swiftie to know Swifties and their individual demand curves. Upon seeing pictures of the collected moisture, one person commented, “I know a weed container when I see one lol.” I can hear Rothbard responding, “So what, they dumped their pot in a dry place and used what they had to collect the rain. Bravo!” In print, he wrote in his book Economic Thought before Adam Smith, “It is the function of the businessman, the ‘undertaker,’ the entrepreneur, to meet and bear that uncertainty by investing, paying expenses, and then hoping for a profitable return.”
Another online commenter (obviously not an Austrian) left the entrepreneur completely out of the process: “When the stoners and the Swifties unite.” Yes, but it was entrepreneurship that brought the two worlds together. It didn’t happen magically by itself. It took both forethought and quick action.
While many are snickering at all this, we should be reminded, “No dullness and clumsiness on the part of the masses can stop the pioneers of improvement,” wrote Ludwig von Mises. “There is no need for them to win the approval of inert people beforehand. They are free to embark upon their projects even if everyone else laughs at them.”
“Jealous I didn’t come up with this scam first,” one user commented on an Instagram post showing a screenshot of the optimistic seller. Selling water honestly harvested from a Swift concert to willing Swifties certainly would not be a “scam.” However, fraudsters might collect rain at another place and time and peddle the liquid as having fallen ever so close to the drenched Ms. Swift on the night of the concert. But real entrepreneurship is in no way a fraud.
The rain-catching entrepreneurs seem to neatly fall in the Kirzner mold. Rothbard goes on to write:
Kirzner’s entrepreneur is a curious formulation. He need not, apparently, risk anything. He is a free-floating wraith, disembodied from real objects. He does not, and need not, possess any assets. All he needs to earn profits is a faculty of alertness to profit opportunities. Since he need not risk any capital assets to meet the chancy fate of uncertainty, he cannot suffer any losses.
Of course, the Kirznerian Swifties may have lost some of their cannabis stash while collecting the rain, and there were no guarantees their ventures would be successful. Losses were possible. It was Rothbard’s view that Kirzner developed his theory of entrepreneurial alertness in reaction to the opposite deviation from main-line Misesianism introduced into the Austrian arena by Ludwig M. Lachmann.
Lachmann maintained not only that uncertainty is pervasive on the market but also that we cannot even say that the market contains a tendency toward equilibrium, a tendency fueled by the profit-and-loss signals of the market. Rothbard wrote,
To Lachmann, expectations and therefore actions on the market are random, rather than responsive to market signals. It is one thing to say, with Mises and his followers, and in contrast to the neoclassical economists, that equilibrium does not and can never exist on the market. It is quite another thing to say that the market does not even harbor equilibrating tendencies.
On one night at Gillette Stadium, it was raining entrepreneurship. We should all be thankful.