Are Tiger Moms Bad for the Economy?

Amy Chua's paean to strict parenting in the Wall Street Journal caused an uproar among upper-middle class mothers. But maybe we should calm down and praise the fact that Americans are the scatter-brained, undisciplined, renegade lot that we are. After all, Ray Fishman writes, Facebook and Microsoft were formed by college dropouts, not doctoral students. The ideas that define American innovation can't be squeezed out of the straitjacket Amy Chua uses to bind her children.

In short: Leave the discipline to the naturally disciplined. America is, and will always be, about chaotic creation:

Precision-minded societies--like Germany, Japan, and, increasingly, China--have a relative advantage in churning out identical copies of well-engineered products. They produce armies of well-trained technicians and scientists well-suited to O-ring design and production.

By contrast, the U.S. contributes to the global economy goods that require a few talented people and their bright ideas--we excel in areas like software design, drug development, and financial services, which we trade to the Germans, Japanese, and Chinese for automobiles and computer chips.

This point was picked up by Larry Summers--hardly known as lackadaisical in personality or parenting style--who pointed out in a debate with Chua at Davos that if Karen Zuckerberg and Mary Gates had been tiger moms, they never would have let young Mark or Bill leave Harvard to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, and we might not have Facebook or Microsoft (though America would probably have two more very competent dentists or lawyers).

Read the full story at Slate.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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