Sharks & capitalism are cool
FOR SEVERAL years, Philadelphia and a number of other cities have decided to choose one book a year and ask citizens to read it and discuss it. This is good, but it's a bit limited to just adults. My idea is for everyone, including kids, to watch a TV show on Friday nights at 9 on ABC.
The show is "Shark Tank." I think it is not only entertaining, but also an important show to watch with your kids.
The show dominates Friday nights. It's the top show on in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic on Friday night. That's right: young people watching a reality show in which wannabe entrepreneurs try to convince five billionaires (or investors worth hundreds of millions) to invest in their dream and product or service.
As Lee Habeeb, writing in National Review, says in a recent review: "It's the show that every capitalist should watch. And tell his friends to watch, especially those who don't like capitalism. Because it makes capitalism cool."
It's my firm belief that kids in Philadelphia don't get enough people telling them, teaching them or illustrating to them that capitalism is cool. My last column detailed how Philadelphia City Council just passed a resolution calling upon the Philadelphia public schools to use the history book by Howard Zinn, a Marxist and hater of capitalism. How many kids have any access to entrepreneurs and small-business owners?
Habeeb makes the further point that "Shark Tank" "makes capital cool, too. Cool to want. Cool to have. And cool to invest in others. Because that's what the dreamers on the set of 'Shark Tank' want: capital. Capital is oxygen to aspiring entrepreneurs. Most Americans just don't know it."
Imagine watching a show that taps into the impulse that we had as kids to open a lemonade stand, get items from parents to do a garage sale, make some money by shoveling snow or cutting lawns. Imagine a show of wide-eyed inventors of products that make our lives easier and more convenient. Isn't that really what capitalism is all about?
This past Friday's show was typical of the lessons to be learned. The show featured a woman with a tremendous bread pudding who was rejected for lack of a sound business plan. Also rejected was the creator of Belly Buds, a device that attaches to a pregnant woman's belly to play music and other sounds to the baby. The device was too similar to other products.
However, the sharks funded the creator of Paparazzi Proposals, a service that aids guys in photographing and preparing them for proposing marriage. The interaction with all three guests was entertaining and educated viewers on business plans, the marketplace, expanding a business, math and selling skills.
Shouldn't kids be soaking these things up? There is nothing wrong with having some capitalism in the classroom. It can educate and inspire kids. Equally important, it helps them to develop real-world business skills that they can apply when they graduate. Perhaps they will work in business . . . or maybe start their own business.
The sharks, in talking with the people pitching their idea, often talk about how they got started and succeeded. Kids should hear about the success of Mark Cuban and Kevin O'Leary, probably the two most prominent sharks. They often talk of the need of not taking "no" as an answer as a key to success. They also talk about the need to get and refine the proper skill set in whatever arena your passion takes you.
I, too, often feel that young adults are not getting some of these experiences because there is almost a war going on against kids taking unpaid internships. I think this is very misguided. Internships are a great way to pick up real-life skills and maybe, more importantly, network toward getting into a field. It used to be called paying your dues.
So, "Shark Tank" is entertaining, educational and a great family show. Habeeb makes the point that the show's greatest value is that capitalism is the star of the show. Capitalism is still a star in much of America. It still is the DNA of much of the American dream. It demonstrates that the free-enterprise system, when fueled by innovation and hard work, can work.
Sadly, much of Philadelphia seems to be ignorant of these facts or, in the case of City Council, hostile toward them. I'd like us to start to reaffirm ideas that there is a tremendous satisfaction in being able to grow a business and hire people. That satisfaction is much different from government taking more and more tax money to hire people who produce little or nothing that is beneficial.
So, "Shark Tank" is a reality-show commercial for capitalism, warts and all. Many of the contestants don't find an investor and some get told that they don't even have a sustainable business.
The bottom line is that you and your kids will probably learn more in the 60 minutes of "Shark Tank" than you'll learn anywhere else. Do we have a deal?
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard weekdays on WPHT 1210-AM radio from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Dom at domgiordano.com.