Monevator: I don’t think a net worth goal is the way to go either, but a lot of people put stock in a number (it’s an easy concept for a lot of people who are new to personal finance). Personally I’m going for exactly what you mentioned – the crossover point where my investments are earning me more money in passive income than my day job. That is when I will feel financially free.
Essentially the same thing happened in China with clocks: one emperor's decision abolished clocks over China. China was also on the verge of building powerful water-powered machinery before the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but the emperor said "Stop," and so that was the end of the water-powered machinery in China. In contrast, in Europe there were princes who said no to electric lighting, or to printing, or to guns. And, yes, in certain principalities for a while printing was suppressed. But because Europe in the Renaissance was divided among 2,000 principalities, it was never the case that there was one idiot in command of all Europe who could abolish a whole technology. Inventors had lots of chances, there was always competition between different states, and when one state tried something out that proved valuable, the other states saw the opportunity and adopted it. So the real question is, why was China chronically unified, and why was Europe chronically disunified? Why is Europe disunified to this day?
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