Saturday, January 21, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
"Joseph Nye, the professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government, made an interesting point. He noted that a rising China has 1.3 billion citizens. But America at its best has 7 billion in that it draws on the world's talents, as its corporations and colleges demonstrate. Nye in general is skeptical of the "declinists."
Monday, January 2, 2012
In “The Genius of One Percenters is their Amazing Command of the Obvious”, Forbes columnist Jim Powell makes a makes a pretty strong case that what’s made the super rich, well, super rich, is their ability to discover the obvious. Says Powell (qoting a Hungarian Nobel laureate) ““Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”
Of course he’s right, but the businessmen Powell cites- Sam Walton, Ray Kroc, Fred Smith (FedEx), among others- had more than a grasp on the obvious. They were also terrific entrepreneurs!
As we consider ways to create what Paul Romer called “the unique set of institutions”1 necessary to support innovation, fostering entrepreneurship must be foremost in our minds. Creating institutions, programs, mindsets, values, moral examples, and more to support this most critical skill should be a key component of the Opportunity State.
To fully appreciate the need for an “Opportunity State" you must first understand “New Growth Theory”, also known as “Endogenous Growth Theory” (i.e. growth from within an organism… in the case the economy.) Way back in 2001 Reason Magazine did an interview of Paul Romer, the key architect and cheerleader of NGT. At the time, the libertarian mag described Romber as “The Post-Scarcity Prophet.” Here’s a snip of their interview:
reason: In terms of real per capita income, Americans today are seven times richer than they were in 1900. How did that happen?
Consider some of the technological changes in our lives since this interview: blogs, Ebay, Twitter, Facebook, Ipads, tablets, apps, texting, Groupon, Google, Amazon.com, etc, etc. These are just a few of the platforms that have changed our lives, created billions in new wealth, and in each instance created new commercial tools and opportunities for millions.
The premise behind New Growth Theory is that technological innovations are virtually limitless with the proper support. Another snip:
reason: What do you see as the necessary preconditions for technological progress and economic growth?
I’ll doubtless return to this great article many times in the coming months, but let me stop here. In summary, the economic theory that undergirds my notion of the Opportunity State, that is, a state that relentlessly prepares its citizenry with the tools that give them economic opportunity, is New Growth Theory. We can grow our economy exponentially from withn (primarily… outside factors will stay play a role; think energy for example) given the right set of institutions. For me, the notion of an Opportunity State (as opposed to the Welfare State) allows policy makers and theorists to create a framework for policies that will ultimately create the “unique set of institutions” that Romer believes are necessary.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
"On the question of absolute rather than relative American decline, the U.S. faces serious problems in areas like debt, secondary education and political gridlock. But solutions exist. Among the possible negative futures are ones in which the U.S. overreacts to terrorist attacks by closing inwards and thus cuts itself off from the strength that it obtains from openness.
But there are answers to major American problems that preoccupy us today, such as long-term debt (see the recommendations of recent deficit commissions) and political gridlock (for example, changes in redistricting procedures to reduce gerrymandering). Such solutions may remain forever out of reach, but it is important to distinguish situations where there are no solutions from those that could in principle be solved."1.
He's right, but what are solutions? It seems that statesmen and pundits alike are struggling to find the right metaphor... The most effective construct. I submit that the Opportunity State is part of that answer.
Doing these things required rational, open-minded leadership, exercised for the most part by people genuinely committed to the public good and operating in an atmosphere of mutual trust in which a degree of self-sacrifice was expected from many. Will it take another world crisis to revive this spirit? We may find out in the year to come."
Note focus on higher ed!