“Western civilization has probably produced over 95% of all measurable creativity – of all time. That is what various statistics indicate. And this amazing creative dominance has been going on for the last 600 years – only fairly recently did nations like Japan, China and Korea join the party. This is a central observation, because over the very long term, it is not input of capital and labour that determine the fate of nations. Instead it is their ability or inability to mobilize creativity. But while Asian nations such as China are quickly getting this, are many western nations such as France now loosing it?

I raised that question in a speech given in Denmark in 2012, since many western nations for several decades had derived most if not all of their growth from issuing private and public debt – while they were losing much of their industry and seeing declining entrepreneurial activity. France, for instance, has run a fiscal deficit every year since 1974 and recently raised effective marginal taxes to close to 90 % (including income, consumption and wealth taxes), and now it seems the country cannot grow unless it borrows even more.

France is not alone, and this is dangerous, I said, particularly because many people seem unconcerned about it. It appears to me that while everyone talks about the long term sustainability of the environment, not many question the long term viability of Western civilisation in its current form. If it has become essentially static in many nations, is it then economically sustainable in the long term? Personally, I don’t think it is.

After the speech, a publisher from Gyldendal – Denmark’s biggest book publisher – came over to me and asked, if I would like to write a book for them about what I had just said. So I did, and it ended up taking me through a more complex journey than I had expected. For instance, as I wrote it I ran into questions like:

  • How come we Homo sapiens beat the Neanderthals?
  • Why do we have sausage dogs?
  • Why have 200 empires fallen?
  • Can the public sector become as creative as the private sector? – if so: how?
  • How come Argentina keeps falling and Singapore keeps rising?
  • Why have inflation-adjusted commodity prices fallen steadily for over 200 years?
  • Is there a «state cycle» similar to business cycles?
  • Why did the West rather than China or Islam conquer the world in the age of discovery?
  • Why did Uruk, Athen, Alexandria, Bagdad and Hangzhou stop being creative powerhouses?
  • Why was Hong Kong 17 times richer than China in 1980?
  • Why does creativity often explode after wars?
  • How come the British once ruled the seas – and not, for instance France, Spain, China or the Ottomans?
  • What is the real story of the disaster on Easter Island?
  • What kind of people start new companies?
  • Is creativity a question of money, institutions, public culture -or what?
  • Why are South Koreans 30 times richer than North Koreans?
  • Why was the «dark» medieval ages far more creative than the glorious Roman Empire?
  • How may the world look in year 2050? – In 2100? – Further out?
  • Are there limits to growth?

Covers and other Editions

This book has been published in international markets in several other languages and editions.