2012-12-02ft.com

...whether you agree with his assertion or not, it does appear -- not least from the recent election campaign -- that modern American political rhetoric is peculiarly addicted to the presumption of permanent growth. Those early pioneers founded the country with an optimism that anything could be done, and had precious little sense of resource constraint: if you ran out of land in the east, you just moved west. Ever since then it has almost always been presumed that it is possible to make the economic pie expand, either through conquest, entrepreneurship, immigration -- or, more recently, innovation. This attitude is very different from the cultural vibe seen in a crowded country such as Japan, where there is an overwhelming sense of limitation and constrained resources. And that has a powerful secondary implication: precisely because the Japanese perceive resources as finite, they have developed extensive cultural mechanisms to divide up their economic pie in a manner that maintains social harmony. Sharing pain -- and gain -- is instinctive. In America, however, there has hitherto been less cultural imperative to develop ways to share constrained resources. If you think the economic pie will always grow, you do not need to worry as much about how to divide it up. Hence my fascination with Thiel's point.


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