Robert Guest : The Power of AMerica to Attract Talent

Challenging Conversations: Robert Guest

Robert Guest writes the Lexington column in the Economist. “I’m going to talk,” he says, “about America and why I think it is uniquely positioned to be not merely the current superpower but the next superpower. I’m going to focus on one very narrow aspect of this. America’s greatest strength, in my view, is that people want to live here. That’s something that the people who already do live here take for granted” — maybe because we haven’t visited the other countries of the world and seen how much they suck? We assume that people want to live here for reasons having to do with money, and that’s an important part of it, “but that’s only half of it.” One can earn reasonable amount of money in a lot of places. “The other part of the equation has to do with freedom.”

photo by Kris KrügBy freedom he means not only the absence of coercion, “but the availability of choices. The fantastic number of different lifestyles and niches you can find in America.”

Challenging Conversations: Robert Guest

He’s interviewed a lot of immigrants to ask about the non-economic reasons why they came here. He has three stories to tell us. The first is a Korean man named Joshua Levy, a fundamentalist Baptist, who came here to attend seminary in Kentucky. He moved to Virginia, got a job, got married. He’s surrounded by Korean restaurants, can attend a fundamentalist Baptist church where sermons are in Korean — “and at the same time he can enjoy all the advantages of an American suburban lifestyle.” A nice house, big back yard, good schools.