Smith Soc Featured Member
Questions and Answers with Adam Smith Society Members.
Patrick Elyas | Penn Wharton Chapter ('18) | San Francisco Professional Chapter
Patrick is currently working for a late-stage venture capital fund in Menlo Park after graduating earlier this year from the JD/MBA program at Wharton, where he was a member of the Adam Smith Society for two years. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA to parents who immigrated from Egypt. Patrick attended an all-boys Catholic high school before enrolling in the Huntsman Program at the University of Pennsylvania to indulge his dual interests in global business and public policy. He continued to indulge these often converging interests as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. based in their Dubai office, working on public sector and banking engagements across the Middle East. After spending his third-year at McKinsey in a secondment for an education reform organization in the U.S., Patrick returned to Penn for my JD/MBA without a real plan for what to do next (though he's quite happy with where he ended up). Patrick looks forward to staying connected to the Adam Smith Society and attending professional chapter events in the San Francisco area.
You mentioned that you find the discourse cultivated by the Adam Smith Society refreshing. What do you think are some sources of, or reasons for, the current political polarization in the U.S.?
One of the main reasons for the current political polarization in the U.S. is that the threshold for becoming a news source has diminished so greatly that all you need at this point is a rudimentary website or social media handle. These sites obviously have no editorial integrity. But the competition for clicks drives conventional or mainstream news sources to sacrifice objectivity and accuracy to sensationalize stories to drive traffic. People are living in an information echo chamber where they are almost never exposed to news that hasn’t first passed through their ideological filter—or when they do, they dismiss it outright. The anonymity afforded by the Internet enables people to express more radical views without fear of any social stigma, so those views get normalized. Most important, the rise of identity politics and populism has made politics increasingly tribal. I don't think that your political affiliation should be a core part of your identity.
What type of problems did you try to solve when working on public-sector and banking issues in Dubai? How has your international professional experience influenced your views on business and public policy?
One of the more interesting problems I worked on in the Middle East was solving the underemployment problem in the Gulf, where locals in some countries are disincentivized to work, thanks to generous welfare programs; and those who do want to work are often under-skilled, compared with cheaper, expatriate workers. Interestingly, this problem is increasingly applicable to the U.S. as well. My international work experience helped me appreciate aspects of life in the U.S. that I had previously taken for granted and that I hope our political system will continue to preserve (personal and economic freedom, open-mindedness, world-class universities, meritocracy, professional competence). Of course, I also have a better understanding of areas where other countries consistently outperform the U.S. (infrastructure is one).
What has been your favorite Smith Soc experience or moment so far?
My favorite Smith Soc experience was the Entrepreneurship, Culture, and Politics trek in Laguna Beach this past February. It was a privilege to discuss relevant political and cultural topics with a group of such interesting, intellectually curious people from a variety of backgrounds. Obviously, it didn't hurt that we were on one of the nicest beaches in California and had great food and drinks.