Are presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and WeWork founder Adam Neumann the same person? I mean, they have different hairstyles and all, but their philosophies are more alike than not.
They both claim, falsely, to be capitalists. Ms. Warren told the New England Council last year, “I am a capitalist to my bones.” She then told CNBC, “I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets.” It was almost as if she didn’t believe it herself. Then came the caveat: “But only fair markets, markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all, it’s about the powerful get all of it. And that’s what’s gone wrong in America.” She clearly doesn’t understand capitalism.
Neither does Mr. Neumann, who said of WeWork, “We are making a capitalist kibbutz.” Talk about mixed metaphors. In Israel, a kibbutz is often defined as “a collective community, traditionally based in agriculture.” WeWork’s prospectus for its initial public offering mentioned the word “community” 150 times. Yet one little secret of kibbutzim is that many of them hired outsiders to do menial jobs that the “community” wouldn’t do, similar to migrant workers on U.S. farms. A capitalist kibbutz is a plain old farm, much like a WeWork building is plain old shared office space. Big deal.
Ms. Warren wants to reshape capitalism, while Mr. Neumann wants to “revolutionize your workspace.” Meanwhile, the Vision Fund, with capital from SoftBank and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has thrown good money after bad, writing off $9.2 billion in its quest toward this WeWork revolution. The same mismatch between communitarian vision and market realities would doom Ms. Warren’s economic reshaping.
But Neumann has made out like a bandit, and Warren hopes to do the same. Socialism always fails, but socialist leaders often profit.