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National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus

In response to the rise of “populism,” members of the Washington establishment have adopted a reassuring way to frame the ques­tion of America’s proper relationship to the world. As they see it, Americans are divided into two camps—open or closed, globalist or nationalist, interventionist or protectionist. In this framing, the closed, nationalist, and protectionist camp…

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Financing Advanced Manufacturing: Why VCs Aren’t the Answer

In 2013, a group of MIT researchers published a study examining the business trajectory of 150 start-up firms that grew out of technology developed at the university. These were production-related “hardware” firms that actually manufactured things. The firms were able to attract early stage venture capital (VC) funding. They were also able to find the…

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Automation Anxiety in an Age of Stagnation

A cursory glance at Google Trends reveals that interest in robot­ics and automation was far less intense throughout the last decade than interest in proposed solutions to the problems that these tech­nologies are supposedly creating, especially universal basic in­come (UBI). Automation—the process of applying technology and organ­ization to do more with less, with robotics being…

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Peter Thiel, Rachel Carson, and Regulatory Double Standards

Buried in the middle of a two-hour debate in 2014 on religion and modernity is a thought-provoking observation by Peter Thiel regarding technology and the modern economy. Instead of praising Silicon Valley for its tremendous digital inventiveness, Thiel criticized the technological advances of the last fifty years…

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Patent Reforms to Encourage Innovation and Competition

The original justification for patents and copyrights was to secure the moral right of holders to determine the use of their creations. For some time now, however, patents have been justified in terms of their economic utility. According to this view, market exclusivity is necessary for motivating inventors and investors to put time and money…

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The American Way of Innovation and Its Deficiencies

Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook are the world’s largest companies by market capitalization. The United States is also, by many measures, the leader in university research in basic science. From this perspective, American innovation seems alive and well. But it’s a different story when it comes to actually making things.…

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Revitalizing the Rust Belt

Large swaths of Pennsylvania, New York, and the Midwest have stagnated for decades, resulting in unrecovered job losses nearing 60 percent in some parts of the region since the 1950s. Meanwhile, the languishing U.S. Rust Belt serves as an instrument of blame in a divisive political climate. While solutions remain elusive, the region continues to…

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Edison’s Legacy: Industrial Laboratories and Innovation

Between 1999 and 2016, the U.S. share of global high technology exports dropped from 18 percent to 7 percent. From one of the world’s leading technology product exporters prior to 2000, the United States has become a net importer since then, and the deficit keeps growing. During this period…

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A Path Out of the Trade and Savings Trap

Except in Africa and South Asia, the world’s population is aging rapidly. Between 2010 and 2050 the proportion of Americans over 65 will nearly double assuming constant fertility and immigration. By 2034 the Social Security Trust Funds will be depleted. By that time there will be two Americans over 65 for every five Americans of…

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