Progress Studies

Source: AIER, Aug 2019

My work has argued that nations that are open to risk-taking, trial-and-error experimentation, and technological dynamism (i.e., “permissionless innovation”) are more likely to enjoy sustained economic growth and prosperity than those rooted in precautionary principle thinking and policies (i.e., prior restraints on innovative activities).

Collison and Cowen suggest that “there can be ecosystems that are better at generating progress than others, perhaps by orders of magnitude. But what do they have in common? Just how productive can a cultural ecosystem be?” Beyond gaining a better understanding of how innovation ecosystems work, they also want to nurture them. “Can we deliberately engineer the conditions most hospitable to this kind of advancement or effectively tweak the systems that surround us today?” they ask.

Mokyr has argued that technological innovation and economic progress can be viewed as “a fragile and vulnerable plant, whose flourishing is not only dependent on the appropriate surroundings and climate, but whose life is almost always short. It is highly sensitive to the social and economic environment and can easily be arrested by relatively small external changes.” McCloskey’s work has shown that cultural attitudes, social norms, and political pronouncements have had a profound and underappreciated influence on opportunities for entrepreneurialism, innovation, and long-term economic growth

Many scholars have surveyed the elements that contribute to a successful innovation culture and their lists typically include:

  • trust in the individual / openness to individual achievements;
  • positive attitudes towards competition and wealth-creation (especially religious openness toward commercial activity and profit-making);
  • support for hard work, timeliness, and efficiency;
  • willingness to take risks and accept change (including failure);
  • a long-term outlook;
  • openness to new information / tolerance of alternative viewpoints;
  • freedom of movement and travel for individuals and organizations (including flexible immigration and worker mobility policies);
  • positive attitudes towards science and development;
  • advanced education systems;
  • support for property rights and contracts;
  • reasonable regulations and taxes;
  • impartial administration of justice and the respect for the rule of law; and,
  • stable government institutions and transfers of power.

 

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