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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
The Great American Trap: Competition
Exterior view of PayPal/eBay offices in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 29, 2012.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(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.

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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. (Read more David Brooks stories.)

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