Monday, September 08, 2008

Friedman Says -- Innovation Policy Please

"What I found missing in both conventions was a sense of priorities. Both Barack Obama and John McCain offered a list of good things they plan to do as president, but, since you can’t do everything, where’s the focus going to be?

That focus needs to be on strengthening our capacity for innovation — our most important competitive advantage. If we can’t remain the most innovative country in the world, we are not going to have $1 billion to toss at either the country Georgia or the state of Georgia.

While we still have enormous innovative energy bubbling up from the American people, it is not being supported and nurtured as needed in today’s supercompetitive world. Right now, we feel like a country in a very slow decline — in infrastructure, basic research and education — just slow enough to lull us into thinking that we have all the time and money to play around in Tbilisi, Georgia, more than Atlanta, Georgia."

Both candidates are now talking about "change" as a center point in their campaigns. It seems to me they don't want to be too explicit about the changes they would like to see happen. Still Senator McCain seems to be saying that he specifically wants to change the way Congress is corrupt with respect to earmarks. I would like to see the corrupt practice of earmarking ended.

Senator Obama's "change" most often seems to me just about changing the political party that claims the occupant of the White House. And, when Senator Obama talks about possible changes in policy, then I start to get a bit concerned because of the issue discussed in my last post. You see, I agree with Friedman that it would be good if the policies of the next President were good for innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States. Unfortunately, in my view, the very liberal policies Senator Obama has voted for in the past tend to be the sorts of policies that reduce innovation and entrepreneurship over time.

Instead of turning to Washington and government policies for change, perhaps we would do well to realize that change happens all the time in our lives and in our system of political economy. Sometimes the change is not so good, but most often the economic changes in a system of political economy like ours have been, over time, good for our standard of living. Over time, the changes that have allowed us all to enjoy greater prosperity are the changes that follow from innovation and entrepreneurship. And, of course, the innovation and entrepreneurship flow from the private sector and capitalism, not from the interventionist public policies of Congress and the Presidency. Senator McCain may understand this. Senator Obama's past suggests he likely does not understand this.

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