Difference in risk-taking cultures: Europe and US

From her book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success, Megan McArdle wrote:

Europe, in short, treats entrepreneurial risk-taking like farming: success is a result of hard work and good planning, so if you fail, it’s because you did something wrong. America, by contrast, treats it like foraging: results are highly uncertain and always driven by luck, so if you fail, it’s a healthy sign that you were trying hard. And to an extent, these expectations are self-fulfilling…

Her point is, this difference in risk-taking culture leads to more risk-taking in the U.S. and less in Europe.

The result is that in the U.S. we get more good stuff from it, albeit with more failure.

This view also shapes policy. McArdles continues:

When it comes to poor people, the positions are reversed. Europeans treat poverty, unemployment, and so forth as mostly a matter of luck. They respond by generously sharing community resources, taxing those who are working to give lavishly to those who are not. Americans are more likely to treat those people as the authors of their own fate. The primary focus is on making sure that people contribute their fair share.

Yet, it seems the U.S. has been moving more toward European values in this sense, with the detriment also being self-fulfilling.



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