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Our Blithe Belief in Automatic Progress


Today on Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Thiel, entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, and devout believer in free markets.  Devout?  Well, not so devout that he won’t explain what the markets have gotten wrong.

People were too optimistic about automatic, relentless growth in this country.  An alternate history of the U.S. would be that Communism and Fascism sent a lot of really talented people to the U.S. [as refugees] who contributed to our enormous boom.  We made a big mistake to assume this was just going to happen automatically—that you don’t need a rigorous education system or a society that encourages people to do this [pursue technical knowledge and take commercial risks].

The markets assumed housing prices would always go up.  That is probably true in a world where you have massive growth.  When you don’t have growth, it’s not true.  And you can’t have growth if there’s no progress on the technology front.

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