Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Population Boon

I did a phone interview last week with Josh Landis from CBS News Sunday on the topic of the world at 7 billion. Josh and his "The Fast Draw" partner Mitch Butler drew from the interview in putting together a nice short segment (2:18) that aired today:

More people solve more problems: a core theme of The Coming Prosperity.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I come to bury industrial policy, not to praise it (pt II—Rodrik)

[continuing from previous post "I come to bury industrial policy, not to praise it (pt I)"]

... Now on to Dani Rodrik's contribution to the 2010 The Economist debate concerning industrial policy. Rodrik's role was to argue against the following motion:
"This house believes that industrial policy always fails." 
Rodrik begins his argument by pointing out—correctly—that there is, in a technical sense, no way he can lose. "... always fails"? Give me a break. How could an idea tried repeatedly over the period of decades in much of the world have "always" failed? All that's required to win the debate is to find a single success. I pointed out one in my previous post. So he's won the debate before he even gets started.

But then, unfortunately for his case, Rodrik goes further.

I come to bury industrial policy, not to praise it (pt I—Lerner)

A recent  renewal of public discussion regarding the virtues of industrial policy, juxtaposed against the ongoing Solyndra spectacle, prompted me the other day to revisit an Economist debate from last year between Josh Lerner and Dani Rodrik. The debate was on the following motion:
"This house believes that industrial policy always fails." 
Lerner, whose expertise is mostly in rich country (US & Europe) innovation policy, argued for the motion; Rodrik, a development economist, argued against.

This Lerner-Rodrik debate is worth revisiting for two reasons. First, Lerner and Rodrik are exceptional intellects with imposing publication records, debating an important topic. Second—most entertainingly for me as the guy in the bleacher seats—they both manage to be wrong, in spite of having ostensibly staked out opposing positions.

Let's start with Lerner.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You Get What You Celebrate

Carl Schramm has a post on titled "Remembering Steve Jobs By Celebrating The Life He Lived":
Here’s what President Obama said in January 2009 to the million people on the National Mall who gathered to celebrate his inauguration: “It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things—some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor—who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.” Steve Jobs, whose loss we mourn, was one such risk-taker, doer, and maker of things. His life represents the best of what America has to offer. 
Entrepreneurship and innovation are at the heart of our national narrative. We owe it to Steve Jobs—and to the thousands of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs whose daily efforts are keeping America not only in the game, but on the frontier of global progress—to put the celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation at center stage in the nation’s capital. Not just on inauguration day, but  every day. 
Here is a proposal: Why not bring the excitement of entrepreneurship and innovation to the National Mall and share it with the more than 30 million people from around the United States, and the world, who visit there every year? We’re not talking about a hands-on science center. We are talking about an Apple-worthy festival of design and ingenuity. A mind-blowing food court of the imagination. A permanent celebration of the living spirit of America’s greatest entrepreneurs and innovators, open and available to all... (more here)
As I recently posted on this opportunity myself, you'll know that I agree with Carl. This isn't just a building. Its an opportunity to make a national statement of historic proportions.

For consumers the rule may be, "you get what you pay for." For nations, it's ultimately "you get what you celebrate."

Who decides? The Secretary of the Smithsonian, who in turn is accountable to the Smithsonian's Board of Regents and the members of the Committee on House Administration. Just FYI. More to follow.