Discussing Europe (& Rabbits 🐰)

A conversation with Noah Smith about Europe, economic development, fragmentation, industrial policy, and many other things


🐰 Today, I’m pleased to share a new episode of Building Bridges in which I interview Noah Smith, an opinion columnist at Bloomberg and writer at Noahpinion, which I highly recommend subscribing to since it covers so many topics that resonate with this newsletter—from economic development to immigration to the current paradigm shift to industrial policy to economics in general.

My idea was to focus the conversation on Europe, and indeed Noah has many insights to share. One of them, which I find particularly compelling, is the idea of “optimal fragmentation”. There was a time, in the 19th century, when Europe actually benefited from being a fragmented continent. Britain, Germany and France were of roughly equal sizes; the world was the stage on which their rivalry played out; and the technology of the day made it so that each could grow their national industrial champions and claim to be part of the club of the more advanced countries.

  • Today, the situation in Europe is very different, however. The advanced technologies of the day (computing and networks) call for growing corporations whose scale far exceeds the size of any European market. And because they have realized fragmentation isn’t much of an advantage anymore, European countries have been trying to join forces under the umbrella of the European Union—alas encountering many frictions and obstacles along the way.

Here are the other topics I discussed with Noah:

  • The various places he’s lived, including Texas, Japan, New York, and the Bay Area—and what specifically attracted him to Japan, where he spent 5 years in total.

  • Industrial policy: what it is, why it is so difficult to design and implement during a paradigm shift, and how Europe has been performing on that front.

  • Texas and its (so far) failed attempts at catching up on Silicon Valley: it’s all about non-compete clauses, urban sprawling, and universities.

  • Where to look for inspiration: Noah shared his assessment of how various European countries are doing and what other regions in the world we should all study.

  • Finally, I made sure to ask Noah about his pet rabbits, and he shared the reasons why everyone should consider adopting their own—tl;dr, “they’re like clumsy, vegetarian cats”.

This podcast and the related article were originally published at Discussing Europe (& Rabbits 🐰) w/ Noah Smith. Deliveroo. Delaware. Defensibility. Software Digesting the World. as part of my newsletter European Straits (which is about the Entrepreneurial Age, viewed from Europe).


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  • Also Building Bridges is part of a network of Substack newsletters, which you may want to discover: there’s Laetitia Vitaud’s Laetitia@Work (about the future of work, with a feminist perspective), and my own European Straits (about the Entrepreneurial Age, viewed from Europe).

(Credit: Franz Liszt, Angelus ! Prière Aux Anges Gardiens—extrait du disque Miroirs de Jonas Vitaud, NoMadMusic.)