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A Terrible Thing to Waste

Thought Leader: Private: Paul Romer
September 11, 2019
Source: Link

By Jack Rosenthal (original source NY Times)

“Just after Barack Obama’s election in November, Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, made this memorable statement to an interviewer: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” The underlying insight is wise. In a sprawling, contentious democracy, competing interests suspend their antagonisms only when they have to confront an alarming common threat. The thought struck a universal chord and has since been attributed to Emanuel many times.

But there’s a problem: Authorship. Emanuel did not claim to be coining an epigram, only to be describing a moment of opportunity. Nevertheless, he was unwittingly echoing something that the Stanford economist Paul Romer said in November 2004 at a venture-capitalist meeting in California. Referring to the increasing competition that America faces from rapidly rising education levels in other countries, Romer said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”’

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