THERE’s an old theory that as an organism develops, it progresses through the same evolutionary stages traveled by its ancestors. Traditionally, economic development has worked in a similar way. When a country first shifts from agrarian poverty to industrialization, it tends to start out in light manufacturing, especially textiles. Later it masters more complex manufactured products, and finally it progresses to inventing its own cutting-edge technology. Thus, each country’s development tends to look a bit that of nations that already went through the process.
WHY AREN’T PEOPLE starting more start-ups? That might seem like a weird question to ask, in an age when Silicon Valley ventures are hot commodities and money and talent is flooding into machine learning companies. But in fact, Americans don’t start businesses like they used to.