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If there weren’t some competition between governments, the overreach would be dramatically worse than what we’ve seen. A lot of state governments would like to dramatically increase taxes and increase regulations on businesses, rather than reform their bad ways. But they’re under extraordinary pressure because people may just choose to leave.

 

Education is a bubble in a classic sense. To call something a bubble, it must be overpriced and there must be an intense belief in it. Housing was a classic bubble, as were tech stocks in the ’90s, because they were both very overvalued, but there was an incredibly widespread belief that almost could not be questioned — you had to own a house in 2005, and you had to be in an equity-market index fund in 1999.

[…]

When parents have invested enormous amounts of money in their kids’ education, to find their kids coming back to live with them — well, that was not what they bargained for. So the crazy bubble in education is at a point where it is very close to unraveling.

[…]

Paradoxically, education has become a way to avoid thinking about your future. Instead of thinking about your future, you go to school and defer thinking about your life.

 

The Left-versus-Right debate tends to be that the Left argues that the expectations were off because of ruthless lenders who sold a bill of goods to people and pushed all this debt on people, and that it was basically the problem of the creditors. The Right tends to argue that it was a problem with the borrowers, and people were sort of crazy in borrowing all this money. In the Left narrative, it starts with Reagan in the ’80s, when finance became more important. The Right narrative starts in the ’60s when people became more self-indulgent and began to live beyond their means.
My orthogonal take is that the whole thing happened because there was not enough technological innovation. It was not really the fault of the borrowers or the lenders; the problem was that everybody had tremendous expectations that the country was going to be a much wealthier place in 2010 than it was in 1995, and in fact there’s been a lot less progress. The future is fundamentally about technology in an advanced country — it’s about technological progress. So a credit crisis happens when the technological progress is not as good as people expected. That’s not the standard account of the last decades, but that’s the way I would outline it.

 

Income or wealth inequality is a somewhat different problem. I think it’s probably not right to blame technology or finance of any of the industries that are doing well in the U.S. It’s better to think why a lot of people are not seeing as much progress as they’d like. And that loops in all sorts of things, from the failure of the education system to the lack of technological innovation, to the closing of the frontier.
One of the factors that equalized things in the 19th century was that people could move out to the frontier. Now, the geographic frontier has been closed — outerspace is too far away, cyberspace is not quite real, the oceans may still be not quite there. Then there’s the technological frontier; there are some things there, but it’s more limited. So if you wanted to reduce income inequality in a non-confiscatory way, or in a non-redistributionist way, it has to involve opening up a new frontier.

 

The idea that societies are less tolerant than people think, that there are truths that cannot be told and people have to disguise what they say. The problem of political correctness is a much deeper and more pervasive problem than is generally believed in the optimistic liberal understanding of the world. Properly understood, the problem of political correctness is our greatest problem — the problem of how people can think in a way that is independent of the mob.

 

Desta entrevista a Peter Thiel, libertário, co-fundador do PayPal, investidor que permitiu ao Facebook tornar-se um fenómeno global, co-produtor do filme "Thank You For Smoking", membro do Grupo de Bilderberg, defensor da ideia de criar novas nações em ilhas artificiais instaladas em águas internacionais. Como seria de esperar, algumas ideias são polémicas mas talvez por isso mesmo valha a pena reflectir sobre elas.

 

(Com um agradecimento a Lucklucky pela sugestão.)

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2 comentários

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De Teresa Ribeiro a 21.10.2011 às 12:06

Só agora li o teu destaque, ainda fui à fonte espreitar a entrevista. Interessantíssimo. Este não pensa em rebanho e já tem no currículo quanto baste para concluirmos que vale a pena ponderar no que diz. Já acertou várias vezes.
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De José António Abreu a 21.10.2011 às 14:57

Achei especialmente interessante o ponto sobre a educação. Pode não agradar às pessoas para quem a educação é muito mais do que uma preparação para ganhar dinheiro (o que é verdade) mas há de facto uma tendência para a ver como solução miraculosa para os problemas económicos, passando por cima do facto de que, pelo menos nos moldes em que existe, não está a resultar.

Na questão do crescimento, parece-me impossível que exista permanenetemente capacidade de desenvolvimento tecnológico, ou novas "fronteiras", para suportar as expectativas de crescimento económico (e, logo, o do endividamento) em espaços tão amplos como os EUA ou a Europa. Alguns países podem consegui-lo (a Suiça surge-me como um bom exemplo, tal como alguns membros da UE) mas a concorrência baseada em factores que não se podem acompanhar (salários baixos, direitos sociais quase inexistentes, etc.) e de países com um nível tecnológico cada vez mais próximo torna muito complicado consegui-lo.

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