12.17.2011

Letters to Congress: Innovation


Here is my semi-annual letter to my nationally elected officials, this time on the topic of innovation.

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Dear Sir:

In the eyes of many of your constituents, capitalism is not only on trial but has been found guilty. And yet I argue that it remains the most powerful tool we have for solving many of today's biggest challenges. And so I urge you not to take the steps necessary, while guiding capitalist forces, to not squelch them, and in doing so to squelch the innovative spirit that has made our country so great and so prosperous.

The numbers are sobering: we are creating 100,000 fewer start-ups per year now versus the period from 1985 to 2005. The possible suspects are many - slack demand, soaring health care costs, plummeting housing prices to use as collateral - and I do not mean to suggest that the public sector holds all the levers. However, at the very least the government should strive to do no harm, and to not fear the disruptive nature of capitalism.

With great progress comes the loss of many jobs and even of entire industries, which I realize is hard to swallow at a time of high unemployment, and hard to bear when you are judged by the job numbers of the jurisdiction you represent. But churn is an essential part of our great American economic story. We want entrepreneurs out there disrupting old ways of doing things and offering new things in new ways. For from that destruction comes great advances, with gains for all.

A completely free market is no solution. Government has a role to play. But in playing that role, let it consider how it can stimulate and not discourage the risk-taking, innovation, and even disruption that is characteristic of our nation. Please be mindful to encourage and not discourage entrepreneurship. It is part of what has made us great as a country, and I hope it will be part of what keeps us great.

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