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January 11, 2008

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Paul Krugman, (echoing Jeremy Rifkin)  says Europe is the comeback continent (ht: Alison Kemper) . He's got a point. It's big, it's well managed, it not pissing away money on futile wars, it's got its fiscal house in order.  Here are some reactions.

  • Still lots of Mancur Olson style institutional sclerosis there.  Would you really, deep down, bet on European innovation and entrepreneurship beating Silicon Valley anytime soon?
  • Europe has had its day.  Way back when it won its races. It's stayed in shape and does well for its age, but it can't run at the front of the pack anymore.  Hard to imagine Europe defining the frontier of new technology, new business models, new innovation. But it can define a great quality of life.
  • If I were betting on continents - or should I say parts of the world - my money is on Asia.  And if I include the western part of North America in that (San Fran, LA, Seattle and Vancouver) it's a no-brainer.  The 21st century points east.
  • The countries of the future: Australia, Canada, Sweden, and of course China and India (at a different level). The USA too, if it can somehow get its act back together. Sure America will never recapture its zenith, but it will remain the place for innovation and entrepreneurship - at least until the effects of the current global talent shift set in. I'd put that at a generation or so.
  • At the end of the day, I wouldn't be betting on continents or even countries at all. Not in this spiky world. I'd bet on mega-regions. Europe has some good ones, Asia has a bunch, including some that are growing mighty fast.  North America retains the most.  Unless some sort of major round of institutional changes occur at the global scale, this spikiness will grow a lot worse. 
  • Twenty years out - if I had to put my own hard cash on the table - I'd bet on Asia's mega-regions and the North American megas that face Asia, but not Europe.


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» Countries of the Future - Latin America? from Ben Casnocha: The Blog
Richard Florida, who I like and respect a great deal, says: The countries of the future: Australia, Canada, Sweden, and of course China and India (at a different level). The USA too, if it can somehow get its act back [Read More]



It's funny how Europe gets such a bad rap -- even a pro-Europe article like this one has a misperception or two. It uses France in 1997 as a example of slow technology uptake (1% Internet adoption) but misses the Minitel system that had been in French homes since the early 80s. Minitel carried $750 million in e-commerce in 1997; no wonder they weren't rushing to connect to Yahoo and AltaVista.

And one area that tends to fly under the radar for high-tech stuff is Russia and Eastern Europe. I know there are a lot of good geopolitcal reasons to bet against them, but people often forget the depth of talent and experience in the former Soviet Union. Eastern Europe seems to be picking up some of the software business that everyone assumes will go to India.


Richard, I'm curious - where does your above scenario leave Toronto?


Michael Wells

Sweden is of course, technically, part of Europe -- along with Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway -- all listed in the top 10 of the Global Creativity Index in Flight.

Maybe Europe is divided into small countries North of the 60th Parallel and others? Is it about the cold weather? Is it because most of them didn't have colonies, so had to be entrepreneurial? Is it the Social Democratic model, so they don't have to worry about basics and can concentrate on creativity? Do blondes have more fun?

And once again you leave Portland out of the West Coast cities, we're starting to feel like chopped liver out here. But I would agree about the Pacific Rim countries.

Digressing a bit about Asia, great article in the Times today about driving in India -- certainly an exercise in creativity.


Scott - My guess is Toronto and its larger mega-region will be one of North America's better performers over the next 20 years. My sense is that it will continue to grow and perhaps become the eastern part of North America's second most important city and mega-region, behind only NY and the Bos-Wash corridor. I do think it ill eclipse even Chicago in time. And I also think it may well become the world's leading model for balanced economic prosperity - creative, inclusive and sustainable as I like to say. That said, in general I believe that the center of economic gravity will shift toward the West Coast (Vancouver and Cascadia as well as LA and the Bay Area) and the Pacific more generally. Toronto and its mega may be a bit to North America as Sweden is to Europe, if I'm not stretching that point too much.


Canada is definitely up and coming....For example, B.C. is a like Mendocino or Marin county in California. It is often described as Switzerland-by-the Sea. One odd difference is that everyone seems to be old. In fact in the regional art magazines most of the featured artists are over 40, with many over 65! A great place for boomers, but too expensive for those just starting out. If I was 25 again I would consider spending time in Dubai, Austrailia, or someplace in the developing world..


Coming from Europe (Sweden) - how can I not post a note in relation to this? To me the great advantage of North America is the language and the rather equal social security system (or even the lack of it) for labor mobility. Europe may look integrated on a map (especially with the European Union), but the transaction costs involved when interacting with another European country are huge. I have friends living in Malmo close to Copenhagen. Even with a bridge now connecting the two cities, they still don't look for jobs on the other side of the boarder since (1) the social security system is very different,e g parental leave in Sweden is 365 more or less fully paid days for each child, in Denmark it's about three month, (2) even if we understand, in this case, Danish, it takes a lot to be able to practice another language in a work-related situation. I'd admit that European people on average are quite skilled when it comes to languages, but still it is a huge difference between knowing it well enough to have a conversation with somebody and actually use it when you have a qualified job.

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