Peter Smith

Publications, Lectures and Other Stuff

Innovation and the Role of Government

3 useful recent articles on innovation:

1. An article in NYRB by Jeff Madrick, ‘Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All’. it reviews 2 books: The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths by Mariana Mazzucato, and Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy: Markets, Speculation and the State by William H. Janeway.

The basic argument is that contrary to a popular recent myth government spending has historically played a major role in technological innovation, has generally been successful, and has been far more willing to take risks than privately-funded research. Many examples are cited, including the internet and research into new drugs. It is noted that whilst private research is also of great value, some of it piggy-backs on existing government-funded research.  .

The article, dated 24 April 2014, is here:


2. An article in Slate by Peter H. Schuck, ‘The Top 12 Government Programs Ever: What did they get right that so many others don’t?’.This is related to his book Why Government Fails So Often: And How it Can Do Better, and asks which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? He cites various programmes which he judges successful, and opines that the following are common characteristics:

-i. That they eliminate barriers to opportunity (e.g. racial barriers; outdated immigration policies).

-ii. That they strengthen work incentives.

-iii. That they give resources to those positioned to exploit them (e.g. the Homestead and Morrill Acts).

-iv. That they simplify rules and administration

-v. That they fulfill basic moral imperatives (e.g. the GI Bill).

-vi. That they go ‘where markets fear to tread’ (e.g. many infrastructure projects; the National Science Foundation).

The whole article, dated 21 April 2014, is here:


3. A BBC article by Stephen Evans, ’10 inventions that owe their success to World War One’, dated 13 April 2014. It can be found here:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on April 23, 2014 by in The World Today and tagged , , , .
%d bloggers like this: