Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

Riffing off Andrew Orlowski’s excellent piece about Mazzucato’s “Entrepreneurial State”.

Far from the British government supporting the technology that became the iPhone’s screen they killed it off through the usual bumbling incompetence.

11 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. Reminds me of something that happened to my company some years ago:

    We were asked to quote to develop and install almost identical systems one for a smallish private company and the other for an autonomous government outfit… In the time it took the private company to make its decision, get the system specced, installed, live, extended and upgraded into new areas of the business, the govt department, after sending personnel on numerous visits to our user sites (never less than ten of them turned up and they always had at least one-night’s stay in a decent hotel), had got as far as “arranging a meeting to discuss a meeting to formulate the memorandum of agreement”. They never got any further than that – they’d spent their budget on “feasibility studies”.

    I decided then and there that we’d never again waste our time trying to do business with any public body!

  2. From the Register article, this must be a cut-out & keep quote:

    “There are simply too many politicians and economists in the UK promoting stories and myths based on second-, third- or even fourth-hand experience of the world, because they only ever talk to other members of this ‘elite’,” Fentem opined. “It seems to me that every economist has a ‘product’ that is evaluated in terms of not how it explains or predicts real events, but how it will shape their media profile.”

  3. As an American philosopher noted – it’s strange that people believe that they can’t afford hospitals, doctors and nurses, but do believe that they can afford hospitals, doctors, nurses and a huge state bureaucracy sitting on top of it all.

    And as for the State seeding innovation, a quick look at aviation history quickly dispels that notion. Airplanes are useless toys, then they’re not, then a low wing monoplane is rubbish – how can it out manouever a biplane? Then jet engines! don’t be stupid where’s the propellor? And the State’s final innovation – aircraft carriers but no aircraft to put on them. Innovation, certainly, but perhaps not the sort we need…

  4. I hate to say it but there are plenty of counter examples which show she’s right.
    The ASI may wet its knickers over the pin factory but the inspiration for it was the Portsmouth Dockyard, which introduced specialisation, the production line, etc.
    More recently, the microwave oven, the internet, etc.

  5. It’s not as if the internet was invented by the government in its current form and then handed over to the private sector to use. The internet as we know it is based on lots of software, hardware and infrastructure inventions and innovations. Some of the inventions (but little of the innovations) had some public sector funding or other involvement but far from all of it. Most of the government stuff was intended for other things than it was actually used for.

  6. The ASI may wet its knickers over the pin factory but the inspiration for it was the Portsmouth Dockyard, which introduced specialisation, the production line, etc.

    Smith actually plagiarised it from the French Encyclopedie anyway.

  7. bloke in france,

    The internet? Well, yes, that was invented by Cerf and Kahn with US Department of Defence money.

    But Cerf and Kahn’s work was based on work that happened at Xerox PARC into computer networking. At the same time that TCP/IP was being developed, so was X.25. IBM had their SNA networking. Xerox had their XNS architecture. If TCP/IP hadn’t been developed we would still have had something very similar to what we have today. Minitel was doing a similar job to the internet in France on X.25, Compuserve was initially on X.25.

  8. Tim Almond
    And Raytheon wasn’t funded by the defence department? They invented several cooking appliances, improved washing machines, etc. But they are not in the business of making washing machines, they are a defence contractor, now making drones, later to be used by amazon.com (ho! ho!)

    I don’t think it helps the ASI to pretend that default mode is ploughshares are turned into swords.

  9. Surely the better point is that Mazzucato’s argument is circular, among other things: the entrepreneurial state she extolls, if it does what she says it does, gets the money to do it from those of us who remain nominally private.

    Anyway, it’s all a bit irrelevant in circumstances where the state, not being a corporation, is deemed to own anything and private property as a concept has been all but eliminated: arguments like La Mazzucato’s are merely the coup de grace.

  10. The hardest part of innovation is translating nifty incremental changes into something that makes money. Governments have often sponsored nifty new stuff. For example in the late 70s the BBC financed the first relational database (for tracking licenses) only to let it drop; meanwhile Oracle’s founders built and took to market a relational product that used technology funded by the CIA. And the ARM RISC processor that’s in almost all smartphones was originally built for the Acorn computer that the government subsidised through mandated purchase by thousands of schools. What Oracle and ARM Holdings did was turn nifty new stuff into riches and only desperate men and women working in small companies do that.

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