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September 24, 2003

Joesph Stiglitz is a Very Distinguished Economist who should be accorded a lot of respect. And even if he weren't, the press can misquote people. Those things conceded, Wired quotes Professor Stiglitz as follows:

"The majority of innovation comes from public investment. Where did the Internet come from? The government. Radar? Jet engines? Publicly funded."

Yup, it's a little-known fact that the innovations of John Deere, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Bessemer, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Charles Kettering, the Wright brothers, Willis Carrier, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton were all made possible by government money.


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Perhaps he should have said high-tech innovation, or even innovation today. Much of it does happen in universities, public laboratories, or defense contracts, because the basic research requires so much money with very little in immediate return. Some private companies *used* to extensively fund great pure research - Bell Labs, for one - but like Edison's factory they no longer exist.

Tim Worstall

Jet Engines? That was Frank Whittle. Govt money came in after the idea was proved and after the patent granted. At least, that's what grandfather, who worked with him in the RAF, always said.

SDAD Smith

Re; Stigletz comments.The first jet engines were designed, built, and tested in the 1930s without government assistance, though WWII obviously brought them to fruition. Google "first jet engine."

As an economist, I like your website.

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