It’s shame that when one tycoon misbehaves, the entire group is tarred.
When one big shot imposes a haircut on his bondholders, well, of course, everyone says they all do that.
Let’s face it, our tycoons are not all that bad. Some of them are better than others.
Not a few are exemplary examples of the kind of innovative, job-creating entrepreneurs so beloved of American Republicans.
When they’re lined up against their peers in America, Europe, Russia or China, Israeli tycoons actually compare favorably.
Here are four good reasons not to loathe them:
There are good tycoons: In this age of overextended capitalists − the ones who went on merry romps around the world picking up overpriced real estate and trophy assets to come home and impose debt resettlements on the pension funds of widows and orphans − let’s not forget the other kind of tycoon.
Even high-tech entrepreneurs, who have lately come in for a scolding for failing to develop big and sustainable businesses, make their money by innovation and drive.
These tycoons are the ones who are a credit to their class.
They are self-made: Our tycoons constitute a class, not a caste. For every Idan Ofer and Shari Arison, there is a Yitzhak Tshuva, Lev Leviev and Ilan Ben-Dov, all of whom worked their way into tycoon-dom.
None of them − as is typical in America these days − made their fortunes trading their own or other people’s money in the financial markets.
The tycoon class is not closed and the tycoons themselves exhibit little sense of entitlement, except vis-a-vis bondholders looking to be repaid.
That doesn’t necessarily make our tycoons the kind of people whom you’d want to spend a quiet evening with, and a lot of them used the fortunes they made from their early industriousness to find a pyramid and milk it, but they have to be given credit where it’s due.
Their personal behavior: By international standards, our tycoons are gentlemen (and in a very few instance, ladies). Unlike their Russian counterparts, they don’t go in for teams of rough bodyguards or become entangled with paid assassins.
Unlike their American peers, they do not spend fortunes buying public opinion for bizarro political causes a la the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson.
They don’t buy foreign sports teams or marquee properties (except for an occasional Plaza Hotel) to massage their egos. Few of then have trophy wives.
Some engage in eccentric behavior, such as consulting x-ray rabbis or showing an odd affinity for oriental religions, but these are mild personal eccentricities.
In spite of all the many accusations of conflicts of interest and of frittering away the public’s savings, none of the tycoons have been accused of criminal acts.
Money has evaporated, but the public knows where it went − in bad investments, not into Swiss bank accounts.
Indeed, our tycoons’ personal behavior is so modest that they almost never present good press except when they are negotiating debt settlements.
Their businesses’ structure: Pyramids, the business organization of choice for many of our most infamous tycoons, have been unfairly maligned by the press and by government committees.