I attended a really intriguing talk by Zoltan Acs earlier this week where he discussed his latest research on American Capitalism. His basic thesis is that the US exhibits such high rates of entrepreneurship, innovation, and growth because of philanthropy.
Philanthropy in the US is much larger and intertwined in the US social and cultural institutions than other OECD countries. Zoltan argues that it is the mechanism of philanthropy that reconstitutes opportunity (via the wealth accumulated by US entrepreneurs) back through society. Philanthropists have used foundations (Ford, Gates, Rockefeller) and world leading universities (ie Duke, U of C, Stanford) to improve society and expand opportunity in a variety of directions.
In most other countries it is the government that takes accumulated wealth and decides where it goes. Or elites keep wealth and live behind big walls. Or in some cases it is a combination of both. The US system that Zoltan describes appears unique.
I find Zoltan’s ideas pretty compelling and it doesn’t hurt that they fit within the frameworks of American Exceptionalism that I am making use of for my dissertation.
(I am looking for any of Zoltan’s writings on the topic and will post when I find).