Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 19, 2019

in Complexity & Emergence, Creative destruction, Growth, Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen

… is from page 18 of the late Stanford University economist Nathan Rosenberg’s 1994 book, Exploring the Black Box: Technology, Economics, and History:

[T]he ability to achieve the commercial exploitation of new scientific knowledge is heavily dependent upon social capabilities that are remote from the realm of science. These capabilities involve skills in organization, management, and marketing in addition to those of a technological sort.

DBx: Yes. And this ability to achieve the commercial exploitation of new scientific knowledge is heavily dependent also upon – as Deirdre McCloskey explains – people’s attitudes toward market-tested innovation, creative destruction, and progress.

Economic growth – while it is made possible by, and itself makes possible, countless impressive mechanical and technological feats – is not itself a mechanical, technological feat. Sustained economic growth cannot be engineered as can successful missions to the moon. The economic, legal, and social institutions required for there to be sustained growth are many, indescribably intricate and complex, and largely unseen (and, hence, unappreciated). To observe with one’s senses, statistics, and measuring instruments a successful economy, or even just a successful firm within a successful economy, is to observe only the surface of economic and social reality. A vast, deep ocean of complex attitudes and margins of adjustments swirls beneath.

Among the many, typically unappreciated implications of this reality is this: even if people in country B manage to acquire, by whatever means, all of the intellectual property belonging to the people of economically successful country A, the people of country B do not thereby gain any sure means of successfully ‘growing’ their economy.


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