Yet what's different these days is that the balances of European society are already upset. The Internet, growing use of English, and investment by American and Asian companies have radically altered Europe's cultural landscape. Then there is the European Union itself. The last generation grew up expecting to work always and forever in the country where they were born, be it Germany or France or Italy. But thanks to the transnational nature of the EU, business school students graduate into a Europe without professional frontiers, and increasingly without cultural frontiers.
"The younger generation in Europe has a very different view" of how to conduct business, says Daniel Muzyka, a former professor of entrepreneurship and associate dean at INSEAD, one of the top business schools in Europe. They want the same level of freedom in business that they know elsewhere in their life, he says. "The institutions will have to bend."
The question, of course, is how far must these institutions bend, and to what end. European elites tend to envisage their ideal entrepreneur as an enlightened amalgam of Bill Gates and Michael Dell and Jeff Bezos, young and brilliant visionaries who revolutionized an entire sector of the global economy. In capitals across the Continent, the goal these days is therefore to cobble together the right mix of policies to enable some young European to build another Microsoft or Amazon. In practice, this usually comes down to a sprinkling of subsidies - in Denmark, state-supported tech incubators even include housing allowances - combined with gentle pokes at too-rigid labor laws and bankers whose fists are too tight.
Some governments have made real advances, however. Germany recently cut its tax rates dramatically. Austria has finally decriminalized insolvency. Meanwhile, heretofore "national" private sector associations are merging into more powerful Pan-European groupings. Late last year, for instance, three associations for startup companies merged to create a group called GrowthPlus, to support "growth-oriented" firms.