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January 09, 2013



In one sense Johnson is wrong to claim that cowardice reduces entrepreneurship. By definition, the latter requires passive participants as well as active agents, followers as well as leaders. If we were all thrusting and ambitious, we would be like a society of peacocks without any hens.

I'd also question your suggestion that societies that value martial values stay poor. Medieval Japan was no more martial, and no less supportive of commerce and art, than Renaissance Italy; while late 19th century Germany enjoyed faster economic growth than more pacific nations while under Prussian militarism.

Even further back, it's worth bearing in mind that large-scale wars and loss of life were the product of settled, agrarian communities. Hunter-gatherers tended to have more frequent but less bloody conflicts, hence the cultural significance of single combat and the mythologising of small-scale brawls into heroic battles. An excess of martial values didn't do the Roman economy any harm.

Tim Bassett

I'm not so sure about the role cowardice played in the formation of the US, many of the settlers who went to America were running away from Europe rather than setting out to explore are New World


It may seem churlish, but I think we should question more often exactly what difference Luke Johnson's particular brand on entrepreneurialism has contributed to the economy.

He showed great talent taking a pizza chain from nowhere to a national giant. But are the marginal gains from slightly better pizza (as his chain rose, so another national chain fell) really the stuff our economic future is made of?

I mention Luke because he's in the media promoting his views, but I think the wider distinction holds, between value capture and value creation. Entrepreunerialism is important in all sorts of ways, but it is no guarantee of TFP improvement.

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