WE’RE BACK SITTING IN that little cafe in Tel Aviv, conversing with master entrepreneur Yossi Vardi.
“This is a whole country in motion,” Vardi is telling us. We’ve seen it in action, so we know what he means. And we’ve seen the same principles at work in many other settings—in garages and labs in Silicon Valley, in collaborative incubators like Geekdom, in still-growing companies like Rackspace, and even among the high-powered, life-or-death teams shaped by the Navy SEALs. It’s the spirit of mission, innovation, and achievement that animates Israel—a tiny country that lives in a very rough neighborhood on the global map, one where falling behind and ceding your leadership to others is not an option.
This little nation has one big thing going for it: abundant entrepreneurial anxiety. Israel has mobilized itself into an entrepreneurial and innovation powerhouse as a sheer matter of survival.
But what about the original start-up nation? Are our choices here in the United States so different?
Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, offers a pretty stark answer to that question in his 2011 book The Coming Jobs War. He points out that as the unmatched economic leader since World War II, our nation not only has military authority, it has the moral authority to lead the world away from the worst regimes and toward democratic rights, to promote a better world. But, he says, “if the United States allows China or ...