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Mon Jan 23, 2012, 03:47 PM

Conservative Fantasies About the Miracles of the Market


Published on Monday, January 23, 2012 by Common Dreams
Conservative Fantasies About the Miracles of the Market

by Robert Jensen


A central doctrine of evangelicals for the “free market” is its capacity for innovation: New ideas, new technologies, new gadgets -- all flow not from governments but from individuals and businesses allowed to flourish in the market, we are told.

That’s the claim made in a recent op/ed in our local paper by policy analyst Josiah Neeley of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Austin. His conclusion: “Throughout history, technological advances have been driven by private investment, not by government fiat. There is no reason to expect that to change anytime soon.” http://www.statesman.com/opinion/cheap-energy-comes-when-market-rules-2105711.html

As is often the case in faith-based systems, reconciling doctrine to the facts of history can be tricky. When I read Neeley’s piece, I immediately thought of the long list of modern technological innovations that came directly from government-directed and -financed projects, most notably containerization, satellites, computers, and the Internet. The initial research-and-development for all these projects so central to the modern economy came from the government, often through the military, long before they were commercially viable. It’s true that individuals and businesses often used those innovations to create products and services for the market, but without the foundational research funded by government, none of those products and services could exist.

So I called Neeley and asked what innovations he had in mind when he wrote his piece. In an email response he cited Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. Fair enough -- they were independent entrepreneurs, working in the late 19th and early 20th century. But their work came decades after the U.S. Army had provided the primary funding to make interchangeable parts possible, a transformative moment in the history of industrialization. In the “good old days,” government also got involved. ...........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/23-7



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Mon Jan 23, 2012, 03:48 PM

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