Cover image for Building wealth : the new rules for individuals, companies, and nations in a knowledge-based economy
Building wealth : the new rules for individuals, companies, and nations in a knowledge-based economy
Thurow, Lester C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 301 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HC110.S3 T47 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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As we stand on the brink of the new millennium, MIT economist Lester Thurow addresses the critical issue of wealth creation. The result is an essential road map for how individuals, companies, and nations can and must build wealth in a knowledge-based global economy.

There is no doubt that we are in the middle of a transition to a knowledge-based economy; breakthrough technologies in microelectronics, biotechnology, new materials, telecommunications, robotics, and computers are fundamentally changing the game of creating wealth. Thanks to the impact of these technologies, new industries (software, gene therapy) are growing explosively and existing industries (banking, retail) are being transformed beyond recognition.

Out of these transformations, a new global economy is emerging to replace existing national economies. Almost alone, the American economy seems to be enjoying a period of unprecedented growth. Is this growth sustainable? Is global integration a boon or a threat to this trend? Will the forces that sparked the Asian meltdown--a crisis that is meticulously evaluated in these pages--provoke a more persistent era of stagnation or worse? Should global integration be slowed? Can it be slowed? What lies ahead in the near future?

What skills are needed to succeed in this new economy? What new rules must apply to the creation and protection of new ideas? How are environmental problems such as global warming going to affect wealth creation? How can marketable wealth be rising at ever-faster rates while productivity growth is slowing? How can nations create a social system in which the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish without also creating income and wealth inequalities that threaten the system?

In the groundbreaking final chapters of Building Wealth, Professor Thurow turns his attention to the three current major economic sectors of the world: America, East Asia, and Europe. He provides a trenchant analysis of each as a significant competitor in the coming decades, and predicts the likely outcome of the complex forces that are presently shaping global society.

Author Notes

Lester C. Thurow is the Lemelson Professor of Management and Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught since 1968. From 1987 through 1993 he was dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management. His previous books include The Zero-Sum Society, Head to Head, and The Future of Capitalism--all New York Times bestsellers.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Thurow, an economics professor at MIT and former head of the Sloan School of Management there, is also an author who is successful at packaging ideas and selling books. He is still probably best known for The Zero Sum Society (1980) and for his columns in Newsweek, but his most recent title was The Future of Capitalism (1996). There he used the geologic concept of tectonic plates as a metaphor to demonstrate that today's economic forces are grinding up against each other and creating convulsive change. Now his analogy is the pyramid, a symbol of durability and strength. Thurow argues that the Japanese, Europeans, Americans, and Third World nations each lack at least some of the essentials necessary to build the "wealth pyramid" in the new knowledge-based economy. Each layer of the pyramid must be in place before the next can be built. At the foundation is social organization. Then come--in order--entrepreneurial skills, breakthrough-generating knowledge, skills and tools that can be used to exploit knowledge, and natural and environmental resources. Market wealth is the apex of Thurow's pyramid. Thurow marshals a wide array of facts, arguments, and examples to illustrate and bolster his case. He also has a penchant for making provocative statements that seem to invite controversy and attention; for example, he spends as much time explaining the economic arguments for plowing snow versus spreading salt as he does substantiating his assertion that Japan's current economic woes are the equivalent of America's Great Depression. --David Rouse

Library Journal Review

The rules of global economy from MIT economist Thurow. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A best-selling author and prominent MIT economist, Thurow treads lightly in a prolix sea of world economic problems, updated to include those emerging from a third industrial revolution, a knowledge-based economy of global proportions where rapid succession of ideas currently reigns as the source of wealth. To obtain the fullest benefits from this new wealth creation, Thurow recommends important changes in social organization; a fostering of entrepreneurial skills; sustaining the right mix of chaos and order in society to facilitate idea creation; harmonizing opposing economic and environmental programs; and keeping pace with ever-changing skill needs, especially at primary, secondary, and college levels. Generally, the means of securing these goals are insufficiently elucidated. Thurow acknowledges that now is the best of all times in America but cannot refrain from citing the mantra of some critics concerning a decline in wages since 1973 (though total worker earnings rose), a decline in national productivity growth (which lately has been rising), and a loss of jobs from downsizing (though unemployment rates are at historic lows). Finally, the book is marred by extensive references to footnotes whose contents can be obtained only by contacting the addresses provided by the author. Nevertheless, Thurow discusses many economic problems admirably and in a sprightly, jargon-free style. Academic and professional collections. H. I. Liebling; Lafayette College



The Economic Landscape Two hundred years ago, at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution brought eight thousand years of agricultural wealth creation to an end. Agricultural activities, which had been the sole economic activity for 98 percent of the population in the eighteenth century, were the sole source of income for less than 2 percent of the American population by the end of the twentieth century. By providing a source of energy much bigger than either animals or humans could provide, the steam engine opened up opportunities to do things previously impossible. Leonardo da Vinci could imagine all kinds of brilliant mechanical devices, but all of them remained on paper, unbuilt, because he could not imagine an engine to power them. With the advent of the steam engine, much of what he could only imagine quickly became reality. A hundred years later, at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, electrification and the invention of systematic industrial research and development created what economic historians know as the second industrial revolution. Night literally became day. New industries emerged - the telephone, movies, aluminum - and old industries were transformed (steam railroads went underground to become subways). Not left to chance, technological frontiers moved outward much more rapidly than they had in the past. Local economies died and new national economies emerged. It took Americans and the rest of the world the first half of the twentieth century to learn how to make these national economies work. Antitrust laws had to be invented to control the monopolistic tendencies of the new national corporations. Companies only too quickly learned that there was more money to be made from combining into monopolies and restricting output than from expanding output. Standard Oil was broken up in 1911. For the first time a national currency was needed. The Federal Reserve Board was established in 1913. A central bank had not been necessary in the first three centuries of the American experience. It took the searing experiences of the Great Depression to teach Americans that unfettered financial markets can implode and bring whole economies down with them. In response, government regulations were imposed to eliminate the weaknesses (insider trading, phony bookkeeping) that had been revealed in the structure of finance. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came into existence. The Great Depression proved that banks could not be allowed to default on their depositors if prosperity was to be assured. Depositor's insurance was invented. World War II taught America that big technological breakthroughs were possible (radar, the atomic bomb) if governments financed basic advances in science. Industrial R&D could be made much more productive. New products could roll out the door faster than Americans ever thought possible. After World War II Americans assumed that capitalism would spontaneously combust in Europe and Japan. It did not happen. Three years after the war was over, Americans woke up in 1948 to find that Europe and Japan were not recovering. There was a real danger that Europe and Japan might abandon capitalism for communism. It took massive aid, the Marshall Plan, to get capitalism going again. Americans had no choice but to pay attention to the economic health of the rest of the world if they wished to be healthy themselves. Today a third industrial revolution is under way. Microelectronics, computers, telecommunications, designer materials, robotics, and biotechnology are transforming all facets of life - what we do and how we do it. Biotechnology is changing the characteristics of life itself Genetic diseases do not have to be accepted. New plants and animals with different characteristics are being bat. What comes first, the Internet that permits the faster and cheaper flow of information or the new materials such as fiber optics that permit the Internet to exist? What really changes is not the information that we have about what we might wish to buy, but the way we buy the everyday necessities of life - and what we buy. Physical stores go out of business; electronic stores come into business. In both we buy clothes sewn from Lycra and Kevlar rather than cotton. Microelectronics make possible the lasers that power the trunk lines of the telecommunications industry, but those same lasers allow eye surgery that will make glasses an unneeded remnant of a past age. In medicine, microsurgery is a revolution all by itself Larger robots are revolutionizing production of almost everything else. Computers on a chip are changing how our car engines and suspensions work. The laser in the CD player in the trunk of the car is changing the nature and quality of the music to which we listen. In this third industrial revolution, technologies are changing so rapidly that no one knows where future profits will be made. The CEO of the old AT&T decided to split off its research laboratories (Bell Labs) and its hardware manufacturing arm (Western Electric) into a new company called Lucent. As the CEO of the old AT&T he could have made himself CEO of the new AT&T or the new Lucent. He got it wrong. He made himself CEO of the new AT&T. The new Lucent quickly became more profitable and acquired a market capitalization one-third bigger than that of the new AT&T.THe CEO of the old AT&T couldn't even plan his own career - and he's not dumb.THe same confusion and chaos about where success is to be found exist almost everywhere in our economy.Great profits are being made, but where they are to be made is changing very rapidly. (Continues...) Excerpted from Building Wealth by Lester Thurow Copyright (c) 2003 by Lester Thurow Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prologuep. xi
Part 1 Exploring a Knowledge-Based Economy
Chapter 1 The Economic Landscapep. 3
Chapter 2 The Glittering Eye at the Top of the Wealth Pyramidp. 13
Chapter 3 Finding (and Losing) the Treasures of the Wealth Pyramidp. 23
Part 2 The Archaeology of a Wealth Pyramid
Chapter 4 Social Organizationp. 49
Chapter 5 Entrepreneurial Skillsp. 82
Chapter 6 Creating Knowledgep. 99
Chapter 7 Skillsp. 130
Chapter 8 Toolsp. 149
Chapter 9 Natural and Environmental Resourcesp. 175
Part 3 Treasure Hunters within the Wealth Pyramid
Chapter 10 Marketable Wealthp. 197
Chapter 11 Missing Treasuresp. 210
Part 4 The Builders
Chapter 12 Managing the Tensions of Wealth Creationp. 223
Chapter 13 Building a Wealth Pyramidp. 239
Epilogue A Salute to the Buildersp. 281
Indexp. 289