Are Europeans less innovative than Americans since WW2?

Nov 2014
382
ph
#1
Have Western Europeans basically lost their creative mojo since 1945? I mean if you look at it, Americans are more individualistic than say, French, Swedes, or Germans, who have a more hive like mentality, and thus are more creative. Or maybe European, as evidence by their long vacations, are lazier and thus less creative than than workaholic Americans? I mean Silicon Valley started in California, rather than the Rhineland, Britanny, or the Ruhr. And it can be argued that the most talented Europeans immigrated to America in the 19th century, and the ones to could not hack it in America's individualistic culture were left in Europe or returned back to the old country. Also maybe it could be argued that this divergence was seen as early as 1914, when the US had a higher per capita GDP than all the other European great powers like the UK, France, or Germany.
 
Aug 2010
16,055
Welsh Marches
#2
"And it can be argued that the most talented Europeans immigrated to America in the 19th century, and the ones to could not hack it in America's individualistic culture were left in Europe or returned back to the old country."

That is just ridiculous, not much more than 8 million a year at the most per decade, and these were all the most talented Europeans, leaving the dross behind! And were Americans much more individualistic than Europeans anyhow? And what innovation is envisaged? Just commercial innovation and growth of GDP?

Actually I agree that Europe has lost much of its creative power since 1945 and is sinking all too much into comfortable mediocrity, becoming a museum culture at its best, and that a loss of individualism is a factor in that, but that has partly also come about as a result of 'Amercanization' and the introduction of the commercial mass culture that the USA is so good at propagating through the world, at the expense of much more sophisticated traditional cultures. So if one is comparing Europe to the USA, the USA could be an example for Europe in some ways but it is also a problem and warning for Europe. From a European perspective American individualism is not all good, moreover, we find nothing to admire in American public health provison, gun culture, high prison populations etc. The present fractured politics of the USA and the spread of unpleasant forms left wing intolerance there also suggest that old-fashioned individualism is none too secure even there. All in all, merely following the American path would not be a good idea at all for Europe, it has to settle its problems in accordance with its own best traditions.
 
Mar 2018
724
UK
#3
Are we really sure that Europeans are less creative than Americans? I would tend to agree but it needs to be based on firmer footings. In terms of scientific papers or artworks produced per year per capita, Western Europe (UK+Iberia+France+Germany+Italy+the countries in between) are ahead of the US I believe. In number of start ups (and their valuations) they are surely lagging however. Before trying to think of reasons why the US is more creative than Europe, we should first make sure that it actually is more creative, and by what metrics. It would also depend on whether you are looking at people born in the US/Europe, or those who are work there: there is more immigration of highly successful people to the US than to Europe.

But if we accept the premise of the OP, a lot of the reasons given are plainly false. Taking holidays isn't laziness, it's just common sense that you work better when you can rest - productivity is higher in Germany and even France than the US (again, by some metrics). I'm not sure you can say the US is more individualistic either - union membership is higher in the US than in much of Europe.

The appearance of higher creativity in the US than in Europe has probably little to do with what the average european or american does. I'd guess that the bigger difference is that there is a larger tail of Americans willing to take high risks however. Maybe 1% of Americans are willing to throw away a comfortable middle class life to risk everything in a startup, while only 0.5% of Europeans would do this (pulling numbers completely out of a hat here). This is something that could potentially be tested by comparing at the bankruptcy rate in both continents, and the total rate of startups. If the Americans were more creative, then surely a higher fraction of their start ups would succeed. If they are just bigger risk takers, a similar fraction would succeed, but out of a much higher base rate.

Again, this is only for creative in a narrow business sense. Trying to quantify this for science or art or anything else seems very difficult.
 
Likes: Linschoten
Aug 2010
16,055
Welsh Marches
#4
I don't think that Europe is actually less creative than the USA in the artistic and literary sphere and in humane scholarship (science is rather different because it can be 'industrialized' in a different way in academia, but there is not shortage of scientists of high originality in Europe either). It is just that Europe started off from an exceedingly high base, just think of the extraordinary flowering of painting, literature and music alone between 1770 and 1935), and compare that to what has happened since 1945, European culture has passed form a classical to a Byzantine phase. But that is hardly because Europeans lack qualities that Americans possess, or because America has taken over the torch in that regard.
 
Dec 2014
410
Wales
#5
Firstly I, like Olleus. would like to see some evidence of this. There's no question that America, with it's far greater wealth since WW2, has been better at converting good ideas into profitable schemes, but that isn't an indication of greater intelligence. If anything the 'Brain Drain' of talent has been greatest since WW2 rather than prior to it. Many of these 'American' innovations have been by Europeans in American companies and universities, which have tended to offer much better opportunities for R+D exploitation.

Secondly Europe is hardly bereft of intelligence - Hadron Collider for example - it's just that intelligence doesn't make the money or get the publicity it does in America.

Here's an interesting piece that shows how America's dominance in Nobel prizes is exclusively post WW2 phenomena, and it's only post 1970 that it's greatly drawn ahead. Note this is only Nobel prizes, and hardly covers the vast range of papers etc. written, not to mention the 5:1 population advantage America has over the UK for instance:

://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11926364/Nobel-Prize-winners-Which-country-has-the-most-Nobel-laureates.html
 
Nov 2014
382
ph
#6
What are Europeans better or at least competive in hardware, while Americans are better in software? Like say Facebook, Google, or Apple, Vs. Nokia, Airbus, and Brietling?
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,870
#7
Have Western Europeans basically lost their creative mojo since 1945? I mean if you look at it, Americans are more individualistic than say, French, Swedes, or Germans, who have a more hive like mentality, and thus are more creative. Or maybe European, as evidence by their long vacations, are lazier and thus less creative than than workaholic Americans? I mean Silicon Valley started in California, rather than the Rhineland, Britanny, or the Ruhr. And it can be argued that the most talented Europeans immigrated to America in the 19th century, and the ones to could not hack it in America's individualistic culture were left in Europe or returned back to the old country. Also maybe it could be argued that this divergence was seen as early as 1914, when the US had a higher per capita GDP than all the other European great powers like the UK, France, or Germany.

You CAN make these arguments. But they seem WAAAYYY to simplistic to be taken very seriously,.

With Europe bombed to the craphouse they were not exactly starting the post war world on some sort of even playing field. Britian had some very good early computer work. But they chose to destory it all and deny it ever existsed.

Are innovators hardworking? Maybe only lazy people are really creative, hard workers just do the job they are questioning tje job.
Are innovators individualists? Maybe innovation works better in collaborative sharing environment,

The US post war boom was massive buyt the key ingredient was Brot9ioan was bankrupt almost by teh war and teh rest of Eruope teh aforementioned bombing. With teh US booming and had oddles of cash, innovative risky projects were much more likely to get funded in the USA.
 
Aug 2010
16,055
Welsh Marches
#8
I do think the America shows greater entrepreneurial spirit associated with technical innovation, it is no accident that the recent techonological revolution (perhaps the most importan since the invention of printing) was centred there rather than Europe; and it is also true that there has been a marked decrease in creative originality in general in Europe since the last war; but these are different phenomena that have to be explained in different ways.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2014
410
Wales
#9
What are Europeans better or at least competive in hardware, while Americans are better in software? Like say Facebook, Google, or Apple, Vs. Nokia, Airbus, and Brietling?
Software has less to do with being 'better' and more to do with 'popular'. As a search engine is Google really better than it's competitors? It might look a bit better but in the end they all find results. What about Facebook? You can make the finest software in the world, but if your market doesn't want it then it's useless, and market is driven by.....marketing naturally. The biggest market (at least for the early decades of computers) was America. Market successfully in America and your software will dominate. Once your software dominates in America you can produce it cheaper and the World is quite literally your market.

Hardware is a different matter. Here product really does matter - no matter how much marketing you do, if your product sucks people will look elsewhere.