One Thing Biden and Trump Seem to Agree On: We Need to Focus on Innovation
On Wednesday at noon Eastern, Future Tense will host an hourlong online discussion about the relationship between the U.S. government, national security, and private industry. For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.
When in 1791 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton presented his plan to Congress to develop a U.S. manufacturing sector, he kick-started a debate about the role of the federal government in industrial policy that has run consistently through the history of the republic. In recent years, though, despite the examples of industrial policy enthusiasts like Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the prevailing political climate—driven by the Tea Party’s influence on congressional Republicans—has been to largely reject the idea that government should “interfere” with the free market at all. In practice, the federal government has continued a wide range of measures that support industry, especially in the defense sector. Nevertheless, such has been the political climate that even the Obama administration’s investments to promote recovery from the 2008 financial crisis (especially under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) became the fodder for bitter partisan controversy, with 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan declaring during the campaign that “the big problems we have today … [is] … [p]icking winners and losers in the economy through spending, through tax breaks, through regulations does not work.” As a result, not only has there been a lack of public discussion, beyond a small group of academic and think tankers, about how the U.S. should run its industrial strategy, but there has been even less effort to optimize the federal government’s ability to do that.