The Great American Trap: Competition

Paypal founder shows that US instead needs 'creative monopolists'

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 24, 2012 12:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – Peter Thiel spent most of his life competing. He competed to get into Stanford, and then Stanford Law, and then to become a clerk for a federal judge. But it was when he lost a competition—to become a Supreme Court clerk—that Thiel became a real success, founding PayPal instead. Now he teaches a class in which he argues that competition is overrated, and that we should strive instead to be monopolists. And he's convinced David Brooks of the New York Times.

Thiel "isn't talking about the illegal eliminate-your-rivals kind" of monopoly, Brooks clarifies. "He’s talking about doing something so creative that you establish a distinct market, niche, and identity." Too often people mistake competition for capitalism—we "confuse what is hard for what is valuable." Our system encourages this, pushing kids through competitive schooling, and status funneling them into the most competitive jobs. What's really valuable is the creativity to break new ground. "Everybody worries about American competitiveness," Brooks laments. "That may be the wrong problem." Click for Brooks' full column.

Exterior view of PayPal/eBay offices in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 29, 2012.
Exterior view of PayPal/eBay offices in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 29, 2012.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
PayPal co-founder and former CEO Peter Thiel speaks at the National Press Club, October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC.
PayPal co-founder and former CEO Peter Thiel speaks at the National Press Club, October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)
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You have the option of picking up your equipment and inventing a different game. You don’t have to compete; you can invent. - David Brooks, arguing that
sports metaphors are a sign of
'competitive myopia'

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