Opinions and Editorials

May. 26, 2021

Washington Post: Subsidizing America’s Most Important Product: Innovation by George Will

To increase society’s supply of pickles, increase monetary demand for them. Increasing the supply of America’s most important product — innovation — is more complicated. It involves money that fertilizes a culture that nurtures talented individuals.

Solving the complexities of this is one purpose of the Endless Frontier Act (EFA), which aims to disburse $100 billion over five years for the purpose of finding and supporting those who will shape the future of science. This is, inevitably, a process of a few spectacular hits among many misses.

The EFA is a perhaps unintentional homage to one source of American dynamism, immigration, because it implicitly embraces an insight of an immigrant from Austria, the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who in 1932 came to Harvard. His theory was that the principal drivers of social dynamism are not workers (as Marx thought) or various impersonal economic forces (as many economists thought) but innovators — inventors of new things and companies. Thomas Edison, working in his Menlo Park, N.J., “invention factory” — he eventually held 1,093 patents — was one. Others include Henry Ford, Thomas Watson, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.