America: A Talent Magnet!

Edward O. Thorp, one of history’s great investors, has lived a fascinating life! While nearing the end of his amazing, and instructive, autobiography A Man For All Markets, I found myself pondering the heightened nationalist sentiment that (recent French election notwithstanding) seems to be gaining traction throughout the developed world.

Here’s what got me thinking:     emphasis mine…

Though there were endowed chairs on the campus, math had none. By creating one, we could attract a star and raise the department to a still-higher level. We stated our objectives as (1) to support the research of an individual mathematician of exceptional talent; and (2) using an unusual investment and distribution policy, to cause the principal to increase through compound growth so that the chair eventually becomes one of the most richly endowed in the world, thereby attracting extraordinary mathematical talent to UCI.

We specify that there is to be neither preference given nor discrimination against any candidate on the basis of his or her race, religion, national origin, gender, or beliefs, and that mathematical merit and future potential, as well as the will and ability to implement them, be the criteria for selection.

While he and his wife’s passion for equal opportunity becomes evident throughout the book — and was I suspect the chief driver behind the non-discrimination specification of the chair they sponsor for University of California Irvine — I also suspect that the Thorp’s are keenly aware that limiting the talent search to a mere 4% of the world’s population (the case if the candidate pool were restricted to only Americans) would lessen their chances of attracting a star and raising the department to a still-higher level.

There’s just something about America that attracts star talent. Which is why great companies, the likes of Kraft, Pfizer, Intel, Google, Tesla, AT&T, Yahoo and Ebay — which happen to have been founded by immigrants or their children — call it their home. In fact, that’s the story for some 40% of Fortune 500 Companies.

I won’t bother trying to add up the number of American workers, the amount of Federal, state and local revenue generated, and the benefits to you and me as consumers that result from America’s magnetism — you get the point…

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