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Innovation Decline

Feeling smug about our innovation compared to the Chinese?  Don’t:

In short, the United States does not have a tech sector. It has mature consumer businesses operating under the technology label. They walk like mature consumer businesses, quack like mature consumer businesses, and fly like mature consumer businesses. They are run by patent lawyers rather than engineers.

Israel, with seven million people, did a better job than the United States in a critical field of advanced military technology. That should have prompted hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth. In 1957, after all, the mighty Soviet Union got the jump on America by sending Sputnik into orbit, and the US responded with an all-out mobilization of resources. Today, Israeli engineers beat the Pentagon from a standing start two years ago, and we read it in the jump page of the Wall Street Journal account.

The decline of the US is by no means inevitable. But its first stage is already underway. Unless the United States manages to create the sense of national purpose it had when Sputnik went up, it may become irreversible. The notion that America can somehow punish China through trade sanctions is silly. The only way to keep ahead of China is to innovate. By any other means, resistance is futile.

The attractive thing to do, especially if you’re a government, is to try to mimic what the Chinese are doing, to harness government power to invest in new technologies.  That’s roughly what we did during WWII, channeling vast amounts of wealth into innovation and production that we needed to compete with the fascists, who had been doing that for a while.  That may work for the duration and objectives of a war, but is unlikely to be a long-term strategy for economic competitiveness.

Fortunately, Colorado will be doing its part, not turning its tech innovation sector into another crony capitalist arm of the government.  Oh, wait…

Posted in SciTech.