Why We Can’t Go Backward

Trump is locked into an outdated world view — and so are his followers — where white men reigned supreme, houses were heated with coal, Henry Ford made cars and all car parts right in the United States, and brown and black people and all women of any skin color knew their place. He’s trying hard to take the country back to those days.

Robert J. Samuelson, writing for the Washington Post, has a reassuring article on why it won’t work. I need all the hopeful reflection I can get these days, so loved this piece.

“For decades, promoting start-up firms through venture capital and other methods of business investment seemed a peculiarly American strength. It has nurtured countless tech firms, including titans such as Facebook, Google and Apple. Americans have been duly proud. It reinforced a sense of national exceptionalism, because other countries couldn’t easily duplicate it, if at all.

No more.

A new study shows that the United States’ capacity to foster high-tech firms is increasingly emulated abroad. The U.S. monopoly on entrepreneurship has been broken and almost certainly can’t be restored. American venture capitalists are investing in foreign start-ups, and foreign investors are pouring money into U.S. start-ups.

This adds a new layer to globalization. The know-how of creating new companies is spreading abroad. Earlier, manufacturing was globalized, as firms adopted worldwide supply chains. Portfolio investment — the buying and selling of stocks and bonds — was also globalized, as instant communication and new laws made it possible to shift funds rapidly between domestic and foreign stocks and bonds.

“The issue now is the competition for global talent,” says Ian Hathaway of the Center for American Entrepreneurship, a small advocacy group that sponsored the report. “For years, the U.S. had a huge transfer of wealth from foreigners who came here to start new firms. Now people [foreigners] don’t have to do that anymore. They have VC [venture-capital] markets in their own countries.”


Manufacturing went global. Portfolio investment went global. Now venture capital markets, entrepreneurship, and the search for talent have gone global as well.

Life goes forward, not back, and in that simple truth rests my hope for the future.

2 thoughts on “Why We Can’t Go Backward

  1. Indeed, Trump’s vision (if you can call it that) is of bygone days. They are gone. The paradigms have changed, and continue to do so. Racism, misogyny, chauvinism, isolationism, and fear are not hallmarks of a successful society. Remember the days of the Soviet Union? Notice any similarities?

  2. for Katie: I’m really taken aback at the nostalgia for a period that wasn’t all that great for too many Americans.

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