Several commentators locate the problem in politics (I linked to this excellent essay
at the time), but Greer sees a broader challenge: the decline of a builder culture. Americans, he says, have lost the habit of making things happen and now see “get[ting] management to take our side” as the best lever for making progress. He draws a contrast with China, where the “anarchic” economic reforms of the last 30 years forced a culture of (often chaotic) building.
How, though, do you get a culture of builders without anarchy? For Greer, people need to be exposed to ambitious building (His notes on why the US response to the 1918 flu pandemic was more effective than the response this year are particularly interesting in this respect). Above all, it’s necessary to change the status of building - and not be too concerned that this means some will be low quality:
To consistently create brilliant poets, you need a society awash in mediocre, even tawdry poetry
I’m sympathetic. Another reason, perhaps, that it seems absurd to panic that there might be too many entrepreneurs