How many of you have an old Suzanne Somers ThighMaster hidden in the back of your closet? Maybe you do not, but all of us have some unused gadget that once seemed indispensable for our well-being.
Don’t be embarrassed by them. According to a May 16th New Yorker article and a new book, The Venturesome Economy, they are what made our country great and may be our salvation in the world’s financial disaster.
[I am finally straitening out my room and came across several old torn-out New Yorker articles. I write this blog for you, but also for myself to organize my thoughts and fix them in my memory. Without the blog, I would totally forget concepts like this.]
We are a nation of early-adapters and always have been. This, more than a unique natural inventiveness, has made us the most creative nation in history. American farmers always quickly took to new technology and their productivity became the envy of the world. American companies were the first to use electric power. In the 1950s and 1960s, they bought tens of thousands of mainframe computers when IBM expected to sell only a handful. When the P.C. was introduced, we all bought them with gusto.
Early automobiles were dangerous, pricey, and required frequent maintenance. (I still have a grease gun for the 12 points that needed to be greased.) But by 1920 Americans were buying them by the millions. Jet travel was expensive, but we found excuses to fly. We were the first in the world to buy air conditioners, vacuum cleaners and toasters, and proud of it.
New ideas are not unique to America, but the willingness of our consumers to take the risks of early adoption means new technologies can profit faster here than anywhere else. And the consumer does take risks; not all ideas work out, or work for long, as the old Thighmasters and Sony Walkmen in our closets prove.
China may steal our ideas, but they are only learning how to copy. We are the ones who will continue to supply the world with new ideas thanks to our venturesome consumers and their eagerness to try almost anything different.