WHAT AMERICANS DO BEST, CONT'D
An economist friend writes in response to my post below:
I believe it was Stravinsky who said that "Lesser artists borrow, great ones steal."
As [Joel] Mokyr pointed out in The Lever of Riches, technologically successful economies were happy to borrow the best ideas regardless of their source.
To the extent that the US is the least obsessed with protecting ideas in culture, science, and industry, we will continue to produce the goods with the highest economic returns that are also among the most difficult to copy whether in research, movies, music, or software.
To the extent that we close up or another country succeeds in replicating the US intellectual melting pot, we will decline. Otherwise we will continue to lead.
I agree--plus I'm happy to take any opportunity to plug Joel Mokyr's work. His Gifts of Athena: The Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy is also a great book. (Here's my NYT column on it.)