Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Edmund Phelps's values-driven view of national prosperity

My weekly book post for s+b's blogs is about Edmund Phelps's new book:

What is the Wellspring of Innovation?

Every author I read these days seems convinced that innovation is the wellspring of national prosperity.
But what is the wellspring of innovation? That answer is not as clear-cut.

Everybody’s got their own prescription for innovation—an education system that emphasizes science and mathematics, regulation-free markets, more patent protection, less patent protection, you name it. So I was curious to read what Edmund Phelps, a Noble laureate in economics and a professor at Columbia University, had to say on the subject in his new book, Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change (Princeton University Press, 2013).

In the book, which is more akin to classical economic sociology than straight-up economics, Phelps examines how and why the national economies of England, France, Germany, and the United States pulled away from the rest of the world in the 1800s. He pegs the growth of these first modern economies to a new dynamism, which he defines as an “appetite and capacity for indigenous innovation.” This dynamism, he says, wasn’t the result of the “headline inventions” of the Industrial Revolution (such as spinning machines, locomotives, and iron mills); instead, the inventions were a result of the dynamism. And the source of the dynamism? Phelps says that it was the mass flourishing driven by societal values, such as individualism, curiosity, and creativity, which gave rise to a capitalistic economy...read the rest here

No comments: