Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato writes about the creative state - and the need to accept that a strategy designed to fund the economy that doesn't yet exist will necessarily need to include some projects which don't turn out as planned:
Like any other investor, the state will not always succeed. In fact, failure is more likely, because government agencies often invest in the areas of highest uncertainty, where private capital is reluctant to enter. This means that public organizations must be capable of taking chances and learning from trial and error. 

If failure is an unavoidable part of the innovation game, and if government is crucial for innovation, society must be more tolerant of “government failure.” But the reality is that when government fails, there is public outcry – and silence when it succeeds. 
Private venture capitalists cover their losses from failed investments with their profits from those that succeed; but government programs are rarely set up to generate significant returns. While some argue that the government’s return comes through taxes, the current tax system is not working, owing not only to loopholes, but also to rate reductions. When NASA was founded, the top marginal tax rate was over 90%. And capital gains tax has fallen by more than 50% since the 1980s. 

In order to build support for public investment in higher-risk innovation, perhaps taxpayers should receive a more direct return, by channeling profits into a public innovation fund to finance the next wave of technologies. When investments are in upstream basic research, the spillover effect across industries and sectors is sometimes enough of a social reward. But other cases might require creating alternative incentives. 

For example, some of the profits from the government’s investment in Tesla could have been recovered through shares (or royalties), and used to cover the losses from its investment in Solyndra. Repayment of public loans to business could be made contingent on income, as student loans often are. And the prices of drugs that are developed largely with NIH funding could be capped, so that the taxpayer does not pay twice. 

One thing is clear: the current approach suffers from serious shortcomings, largely because it socializes the risks and privatizes the rewards. This is hurting not only future innovation opportunities, but also the government’s ability to communicate its role to the public. Acknowledging the role that the state has played – and should continue to play – in shaping innovation enables us to begin debating the most important question: What are the new visionary public investments needed to drive future economic growth?
- Meanwhile, Kevin Carmichael points out that the Cons' small thinking is dooming Canada to economic mediocrity at best. PressProgress notes that the Cons once again seem to be focusing their sole efforts on tax trinkets for those who need them least. And Armine Yalnizyan offers some suggestions to fix the inequality and revenue loss which we can expect from the Cons' out-of-control tax free savings accounts.

- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression examine C-51 by the numbers, and find that nothing much about the Cons' terror spin adds up. And even business leaders are joining in to decry the Cons' plan to end privacy and data integrity.

- Anders Lustgarten discusses how callous disregard for the lives of people in developing countries generally is reflected in the needless deaths of refugees. And Ethel Tungohan follows up on the need for more fair refugee policies from a Canadian perspective.

- Finally, David Dayen notes that the TPP is just the latest deal to lock in corporate profits at the expense of human interests.

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