The Corner

The one and only.

A Master of the Universe and a Forty-Year Old Book


One of the founders of PayPal, a principal investor in Facebook, the president of Clarium Capital, and one of Forbes’s 400 richest Americans, Peter Thiel is what Tom Wolfe would have termed a master of the universe.  What do Peter Thiel and I discuss this week on Uncommon Knowledge?  At his suggestion—I repeat, at his suggestion—a 40-year old book first published in France.

An enormous bestseller, Le Defi Americain, published in this country as The American Challenge, argued that American economic growth would prove unstoppable and overwhelming.  By the year 2000, the author, Jean-Jaques Servan-Schreiber argued, the United States would have become so rich that it would have “only four work days a week of seven hours per day [and] the year will be comporised of 39 work weeks and 13 weeks of vacation.”

Why did Peter Thiel wish to discuss this book?  Because it has now been proven so utterly in error.

Servan-Schreiber predicted this exponential growth in technology.  The very difficult problem is that there has been less growth than people thought there was going to be.  Even with globalization, even with the computer revolution, even with the Internet revolution, it somehow hasn’t added up.  If you had had this exponential growth, the United States would have been much further ahead of the rest of the world.  Instead the United States has to compete more with the rest of the world.

On Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Thiel, master of the universe—and what ails us.


Sign up for free NR e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review