None of this argues for government keeping its nose out of the business of innovation, it makes the case for it taking a leading role – for leveraging its unique position to address these obvious market failures. Only governments had the long view and available cash to fund things like supercolliders, deep space programs and – oh yeah – the development of the Internet.
The tragedy is the United States has defunded many such ambitious research efforts in recent years, amid a climate of deficit paranoia, antitax rhetoric and general government bashing – sometimes by the very people who made fortunes off its creations.
It’s not enough to just release better products each year. If the United States is to remain at the forefront of research and technology, innovation needs to be a national priority. That means funding the scientists and engineers working on the cool technologies of twenty years from now, not cutting spending and hoping that Bay Area execs will take some time off from figuring out how to profit from you posting pictures of your cat in order to go cure cancer.
You’d think the people profiting off of the Internet would get that.