A Free-Market Perspective on Manufacturing, R&D

By March 25, 2010General, Innovation

Worthwhile column in The Washington Times from Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the free-market-oriented Competitive Enterprise Institute, “More government means less manufacturing“:

The need to deregulate this economy shouts at us: It’s on fire and Rollerblading naked through the Capitol, but Congress doesn’t seem to see it. Basically, you don’t need to tell the grass to grow; you just take the rock off of it.

One big rock on a growing American economy is politically driven research and development (R&D).

Federal science fosters too many conflicts: over public access to data; over the merits of basic versus applied research, government versus industry science; over assignment of intellectual property; and more. For another, politics has trouble balancing trade-offs: When to subsidize nanotechnology? Or biotech? Or fuel cells and the hydrogen economy? Or robotics? Or bioengineered gills so we can live in the oceans? Congress can’t fund them all.

Meanwhile, the science not created by the political reassignment of taxpayer resources remains unseen. It wasn’t the power of tax and dispense that made the United States leapfrog the world’s economies in 100 years.

Crews is skeptical of the America Competes Act, which the National Association of Manufacturers supports.

It’s a useful point of view to consider and serves as a counterpoint to the testimony at last week’s hearing by the House Science Committee, “Science Agencies Can Help Manufacturers Innovate to Remain Competitive, Committee Hears.” The verb “to help” sometimes serves as a euphemism for “to subsidize.”

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