In response to an FT book review by Ed Luce on 17th February 2016, entitled ‘Dreaming small: how America lost it’s taste for risk’
This is a thought-provoking article with some interesting points. That doesn’t come across in my response. I have picked on a couple of ‘elite blindspots’ for criticism, but to be fair to Mr Luce and the author of the book he is reviewing – there is more to both than my following criticisms.
“Walk into any start-up company in America and you will likely see an almost identical decor: the walls will have been dutifully stripped of paint; the workplace will be littered with the same multicoloured pouffes; and most of its denizens will be wearing a variation on the casual hipster uniform” - Edward Luce
Wrong. Walk into any start up company in Silicon Valley or the haunts where your average ‘sheltered life’ journalist hangs out…and maybe this description will be accurate. Go anywhere on the rest of the continent and you will see something rather different – people starting out on their own, in a spare room or a garage, on the back of a reputation for doing good work for larger businesses, funding themselves from savings (remember those) and maybe a small bank loan if they can get one. You won’t find a multi-coloured pouffe, a skinny latte with Madagascar cinnamon, or a venture capitalist within a thousand miles. Neither will you find a Washington journalist, unless he’s taking a few pics of the plebs prior to an election.
“The once lavish budgets companies devoted to research and development are now spent on legal compliance and human resources. Corporate income is no longer invested in future growth. Earnings are instead returned to shareholders through dividends or share buybacks”
Absolutely right. Why? Red tape and monetary policy hasn’t done a lot for the entrepreneurialism or productivity of large companies either.
America hasn’t lost its appetite for risk. America has been wrapped up in red tape, tortured with zero interest rates, and lied to by its politicians for decades; politicians who have fooled too many people into thinking that their best interests are served by never-ending foreign interventions and unfunded ‘welfare’ programmes. That risk appetite, expressed in the US better than anywhere, will be re-kindled if and when…the American people, and indeed the rest of the ‘developed world’…wakes up to the reality that the majority of our politicians, economists and bureaucrats, couldn’t run a lemonade stand, let alone create ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. If we want things to get better, we’re going to have to do a better job of holding our governments to account for what they can do, and getting their tentacles off what they can’t.