July 02, 2010

Beyond composting toilets

The linked article by Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, is one of the smarter things I've ever read on how the USA could (but does not) create jobs in high-tech fields (h/t Willy). To summarize inadequately (because the essay is far clearer and more thorough than any summary I can present), America's irrational addiction to Free Market Fundamentalism puts us at a decisive disadvantage in "scaling up" high tech industries such as photovoltaics, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries, all of which are being manufactured overseas (particularly in China) at ratios of 10:1 versus American production. Other countries, lacking our free market purity (and obsession with wars), invest government money in priority projects, rather than leaving the whole thing to "garage" startups, the fantasy approach advocated by New York Times columnists and other American "intellectual" leaders. This allows rapid scaling up of important industries so they produce jobs, and also establish the "high tech ecology" which permits other advances in related fields.

Alas, in the USA we listen to people like Thomas Friedman, who doesn't know anything about anything (including how to write) and to Paul Krugman, who writes the same, identical column twice a week, advocating more "stimulus" without ever specifying (a) how much or (b) where the money should be invested. It's not surprising; neither one of these guys knows anything about how business or high-tech is really done. Mr. Grove does. I suppose it's an advantage of a place like the PRC that they are not so dazzled by Celebrity Thinkers who lack all substance but are high profile nonetheless, like most things in this country. I doubt that Barack Obama, given his background, knows anything about how to actually prioritize and build business in the high-tech and alternative energy fields. He would rather chase the 50 al Qaeda members hiding in Waziristan than bring photovoltaics back to America. And note to Tom Friedman: I don't think you really should fantasize anymore about "cleaning China's clock" in the alternative energy field. Not while they're busy mopping the floor with us.

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