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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5533/fortune-cookie-economics/

Fortune Cookie Economics

August 28, 2006 by

I was astounded to see the essence of Austrian value theory and entrepreneurship summed up in four fortune I received in Chinese fortune cookies. Is this a consequence of growing market-driven success in China? Who knows, but now you can get Mengerian-Misesian-Rothbardian economics with your Moo Goo Gai Pan. FULL ARTICLE


romora edward August 28, 2006 at 7:46 am

The entrepreneur would be the one who in ” the Alchemist” books called as the shepherd who pursue his personal legends.
However in the real economy, the fortune of entrepreneur would trickle down to society where he run over the business.It could be in the form of the idea expansion (knowledge welfare) or money by elevating the purchasing power of surroundings . In the digital economy, this process is accelerating and contagious.

David August 28, 2006 at 8:13 am

The observation is a nice idea, but it seems to reach just a tad too far.

While I appreciate the particularly austrocentric wisdom in the first two and would have no quibble, the last two interpretations suffer from the same sort of imprecision that is to be found in any daily astrology column – a well-compiled column-writer will craft a paragraph for each sign that is so vague and general as to appear eerily applicable to the situation of anybody reading it. And I venture to suggest that you have fallen into the same sort of pattern with the last two here.

‘Dreams are extremely important. You cant do it unless you imagine it’ is hardly more than ordinary ‘motivational speak’ of the sort that HR departments tend to specialise in – that naturally enough is ripe for opening up in the manner that it was in the article – if, that is, you are reading it with entrepreneurship already uppermost in your mind. But that’s not ALL it means, the statement is about as wide as it could possibly be. Kid wanting to be a ballet dancer, say, or an astronaut. Or a sailing enthusiast wanting to do a solo circumnavigation. Or a million other things besides wanting to be a great businessman with the unfailing ability to foresee and supply what consumers will want tomorrow.

‘In prosperity, our frends know us; in adversity, we know our frends’

IN this case, the link between the bald statement and the interpretation made is very tenuous indeed – I ( and I suspect most others) don’t read the proverb as saying that success attracts people who will then emulate you. It’s intended meaning is that when you are successful, you inevitably attract some free riders ( who dont so much ‘emulate’ as ‘increase the weight on your coat-tails’), and if your success turns to failure, then you find out who your friends REALLY are… It’s a well-worn proverb that probably has an analogue in every language in the world, as reflected in the old blues song ‘Nobody knows you when you’re down and out’. Whatever this fortune is, it isn’t a focussed distillation of the virtues and nature of entrepreneurship.

N. Joseph Potts August 28, 2006 at 10:54 am

If China’s economy follows the lamentable path laid down before it by those of the US and Western Europe, we should before much longer begin to see two kinds of pernicious nonsense emerging in the fortunes: (a) that promoted by political entrepreneurs advocating taking from those who “have too much” to give to “those who have too little; and (b) quite as bad, the “truths” and measures put about by former entrepreneurs who, having made it big, are now erecting barriers to competition such as anti-trust laws and regulations in general.

Prosperity and socio-economic advancement are as delicate as they are precious. Its predators and destroyers are everywhere and always active and numerous.

Paul Marks August 28, 2006 at 10:55 am

We do not lose our friends in hard times because the people who “flee from us” were not friends in the first place – they were people who pretended friendship in order to share in our former prosperity (which is hardly the same thing as “being friends”).

We “know our friends” in hard times because they are the people who stand by us.

There are many things wrong with the thought of F.A. Hayek, but his stress that a person may fail in business (or in life generally) through no fault of the their own, is not wrong. A person may fail because of the hostile actions of other people, or because of simple bad luck.

To blame people for their own suffering is the very thing that the Book of Job was written to attack.

It is bad enough to suffer without some smug person calling out “loser” as if it were the same thing as “bad person”.

One can lose whilst still trying very hard, and without having any character flaw.

The claim that one “can be anything you really want to be” is largely bullshit (however much a “useful myth” it may be). To be something one must have the physical and/or mental ability to be that thing and also the resources (normally money) to achieve this goal.

Even if one has all these things one can still lose, either because of bad luck or because of the hostile actions of other people (and many people seek to harm others even if they make no material gain in so harming them – “why did he do that” or “why did they do that” has been thought by vast numbers of people since there have been people, the answer is “because they could”).

Of course none of the above is an excuse for statism to try and “help” the poor, but it is the truth and it should not be hidden.

For many people “life is a bitch and then you die” and that is just the way it is.

W Baker August 28, 2006 at 12:07 pm

“Is this a consequence of growing market-driven success in China?”

Do the Chinese even know what a fortune cookie is? I was under the impression that the fortune cookie, like most American/Chinese food, was created out West – California, etc. and is now produced in large, long established factory settings on the West and East Coasts – Wonton Food Services in New York is a big player. In fact, Wonton will do you up a custom message!

I’m not sure where they get their pithy prognostications, but they do pick a mean powerball number.

Peter August 28, 2006 at 7:31 pm

I don’t know if they’re an American invention, but wouldn’t be surprised – I lived in SEA for 10 years, and never saw a fortune cookie at real Chinese establishments.

F L Light August 28, 2006 at 7:37 pm

Put these two in cookies:

Unselfish deprivations of mankind
The Maoists prompted, in concern aligned.

Unselfish Maoists hated clarity
For self, forbidding mental rivalry.

F L Light August 28, 2006 at 8:03 pm


Unselfish deprivations of mankind
The Maoists prompted, in contempt aligned.

M E Hoffer August 28, 2006 at 9:14 pm

the wikipedia link:


seems that Chinese-American “Fortune Cookies” touched down in PROC in the early ’90′s. The 1990′s, that is.

George August 29, 2006 at 8:23 am

Beautiful article, especially in it’s brevity and simplicity. A couple of comments:

“Common Sense is not all that common.” Mark Twain (I think)

“Dreams are private myths.”

“Myths are public dreams”

— Joseph Campbell

So is it with the Keynesian economics endemic throughout the world. Mythology that enriches the few while it impoverishes the many. Inevitably the myths dissipate and the Austrian reality bears crushingly down …

Nero is tuning up his fiddle.

Tim Kern August 29, 2006 at 9:27 am

Though it’s probably not directly a result of Austrian thinking, I did once receive a fortune cookie that saved me all sorts of trouble. I was lunching with a new fellow employee. She was way beyond gorgeous, and that was all I could notice at the time. The fortune read, “Do not confuse temptation with opportunity.” Though it ruined my fantasy, it turned out to have been good advice.

John August 29, 2006 at 11:48 am

My friend had an excellent political fortune cookie fortune one time:

“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.”

Brian Nelson August 29, 2006 at 5:02 pm

Capitalism is such a misunderstood word. Even my dictionary does not properly explain it, it only says: the private ownership of business. Capitalism, in its truest sense requires a complete spontaneity of supply and demand which can only take place among free people and unhindered, unmanipulated markets. China does not qualify.

Paul Marks August 30, 2006 at 3:27 pm

I agree with Brian Nelson that China does not qualfy as a place where civil interaction is allowed without violent intervention – but of course (as Mr Nelson no doubt knows) the United States does not qualify as such a place either.

The United States has a credit bubble monetary-financial system, it has “entitlement programs” (what other nations call a Welfare State)whose cost is growing out of control, and it has a vast web of local, State and (especially) Federal regulations that undermine civil society.

Of course Britian is worse that the United States, but that does not alter the sad reality of America.

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