Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato points out that important inventions tend to come from public financing aimed at the greater good - while noting that we should also look to ensure greater public returns on our collective investments:
Images of tech entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are continually thrown at us by politicians, economists, and the media. The message is that innovation is best left in the hands of these individuals and the wider private sector, and that the state—bureaucratic and sluggish—should keep out. A telling 2012 article in the Economist claimed that, to be innovative, governments must "stick to the basics" such as spending on infrastructure, education, and skills, leaving the rest to the revolutionary garage tinkerers.

Yet it is ideology, not evidence, that fuels this image. A quick look at the pioneering technologies of the past century points to the state, not the private sector, as the most decisive player in the game.
Whether an innovation will be a success is uncertain, and it can take longer than traditional banks or venture capitalists are willing to wait. In countries such as the United States, China, Singapore, and Denmark, the state has provided the kind of patient and long-term finance new technologies need to get off the ground. Investments of this kind have often been driven by big missions, from putting a human on the moon to solving climate change. This has required not only funding basic research—the typical "public good" that most economists admit needs state help—but applied research and seed funding too. ...
It is time for the state to get something back for its investments. How? First, this requires an admission that the state does more than just fix market failures—the usual way economists justify state spending. The state has shaped and created markets and, in doing so, taken on great risks. Second, we must ask where the reward is for such risk-taking and admit that it is no longer coming from the tax systems. Third, we must think creatively about how that reward can come back.
Recognizing the state as a lead risk-taker, and enabling it to reap a reward, will not only make the innovation system stronger, it will also spread the profits of growth more fairly. This will ensure that education, health, and transportation can benefit from state investments in innovation, instead of just the small number of people who see themselves as wealth creators, while relying increasingly on the courageous, entrepreneurial state.
- Gary Engler discusses the need for workers and unions to think bigger than the next battle. But Matt McClure reports on how the Cons are forcing wages (and ambitions) down by encouraging Alberta employers to import cheap, disposable labour.

- Jordan Press reports on the curious lack of a paper trail surrounding Mike Duffy's expense claim repayments to the Receiver General, while Greg Weston rightly expresses his disbelief that the Prime Minister's Office doesn't have so much as a phone message dealing with the scandal. Meanwhile, Thomas Mulcair highlights some of the scandals which are obvious on the surface - such as Stephen Harper's appointment of failed Con candidates who broke elections law to lifetime patronage positions.

- Finally, Dr. Dawg comments on the need to come to terms with Canada's past genocidal policies toward First Nations - including by calling them what they were rather than sanitizing the past.

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