In the 1800s the Industrial Revolution came to Europe. It destroyed the old order which was based on monarchy, religion, and feudalism. It replaced it with an new system based on rationalism, science, and capitalism. The Nineteenth Century belonged to Europe.
During the European Century industry was created and advanced, the great cities were built, museums, universities and other repositories of knowledge were established, empires were acquired.
After WW I , Europe was in shambles and its people were traumatized. They were ready to trade the rough and tumble existence of pre-WW I life for serenity and security. They embraced the warm fuzzy comfort found in the arms of the nanny state that offered them peace, security, and surety in exchange for their abilities to create, think, innovate, and pursue person freedom and accumulate wealth. Bureaucracies were established to make and enforce rules that took the place of individual decision and imagination. Creativity was stifled by rules. Life was well ordered, and the order came from government decree.
The creative destruction of capitalism was replaced by the job security and the stifling work place laws of socialism. Irresponsible politicians began to spend their countries into bankruptcy to buy votes. Ever higher taxes began to kill the incentive to work. And overly generous social programs caused many to conclude it was easier to live as a ward of the state than it was to produce anything.
After WW I the locus of dynamic civilization shifted to America where innovation, capitalism, and hard work were still still celebrated and rewarded. The good life which was attained by the most successful Americans was considered something to be admired and emulated, not despised. This time saw the founding of great corporations, the rise of the best universities on the planet, while we attained the highest standard of living in the world. We witnessed the “brain drain” where the best minds on the planet were drawn to America where they could exercise their genius and be rewarded for its fruits.
But starting in the 1930s and accelerating in the 1960s, American turned down the road taken by Europe.
In American today equality of outcome is fast becoming more important that equality of opportunity. Stupidity, laziness and irresponsibility are being rewarded at the expense of those who practice the opposite traits. This can only lead to more of the former and less of the later. The poor are considered noble and oppressed. The rich and successful are seen as oppressors and cheats. Political correctness has replaced rationality.
A good example of what is happening in American today can be found in the pharmaceutical industry. It costs millions to discover, test and produce a new drug. Then it has to be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. The FDA requires even more millions to be spent to pass their tests and meet their standards. The approval, if it ever is grated, might take years. During this lengthy process many people who may have benefited from the drug might die. Once approved, it might be discovered that a tiny percentage of patients who use the drug might have adverse reactions. The bottom feeding lawyers fill the TV airwaves looking for these people for their class action law suits, thus adding millions more to the cost of producing the drug, while making the manufacturers ever more reluctant to introduce new products. How can this be anything but harmful for future drug development?
Once within the welcoming caress of the nanny state people find it’s not necessary to learn to work, be responsible, or care for themselves. Those responsibilities fall to others. Hard work and idleness are rewarded more or less equally. Success and failure are viewed as equal outcomes, and usually occur through luck of the draw rather than personal behavior.
Just as Europe voluntarily ceded its world dominance to America, America now seems intent to give up its dominance to China as it sinks into the the warm, squishy bosom of the nanny state which gives much in return for little. Social justice is replacing social Darwinism. Coddling the under achievers has become more important than nurturing the achievers. As time passes these trends are accelerating. Soon America will join the rapidly failing European civilization.
Today the locus of creativity has shifted to Asia, especially China. Just as the parallels between Europe and America are not exact, the parallels between America and China are not exact. But in general terms, China has become the Europe of the 1800s or the America of the early 1900s.
In today’s China everyone is fighting to make their mark, to make their fortune, and to enjoy the unfettered good life. Playing it safe is less important than taking a chance to reap the possible rewards. Shortly before his death, Steve Jobs noted it was now easier to do business in China than in America, and he was correct. China has decided it wants to be friendly and welcoming to business.
Does China have problems? Of course there many problems, and some are severe. Foremost is the crushing bureaucracy that is already in place. However, few of its rules and regulations are regularly obeyed or enforced. Another thing is the single party system with no meaningful elections. This can lead to unchecked expansion of government power.
But in China the human dynamo of creativity, rewards for hard work, and the many benefits of unrestricted avarice have yet to be extinguished.