The Decline of the Innovation State is Killing Us

The latest relief bill contains another $320 billion in small business relief and $25 billion for testing. Finally, we get some serious money to actually fight the virus. But as Paul Romer pointed out on twitter, this is less than half of what we spend on soft drinks!!! (Spending on soft drinks is about $65 billion annually). Soda is nice but it is not going to save lives and restart the economy. Despite monumental efforts by BARDA and CEPI we are also not investing enough in capacity for vaccine production so that if and when when a vaccine is available we can roll it out quickly to everyone (an issue I am working on).

The failure to spend on actually fighting the virus with science is mind boggling. It’s a stunning example of our inability to build. By the way, note that this failure has nothing to do with Ezra Klein’s explanation of our failure to build, the filibuster. Are we more politically divided about PCR tests than we are about unemployment insurance? I don’t think so yet we spend on the latter but not the former. The rot is deeper. A failure of imagination and boldness which is an embarrassment to the country that put a man on the moon.

In Launching the Innovation Renaissance I said the US was a welfare/warfare state and no longer an innovation state. The share of R&D in the Federal Budget, for example, has diminished from about 12% at its height in the NASA years to an all time low of about 3% in recent years. We are great at spending on welfare and warfare but all that spending has crowded out spending on innovation and now that is killing us.


Talk about a disconnect. The stock market is only down 16% off highs while 26 million lost their jobs. The selfless sacrifice of the livelihoods of the youth done to keep whole their parent's retirement accounts. We are once again mortgaging the future to pay for the past.

Don’t paint with too broad a stroke. You don’t know how the market is viewing this “unemployment” data.

I can 100% assure you that everyone on The Street loves the lock downs.

You might remember my cousin, Baghdad Bob.

The problem is NOT the decline in R&D expenditures but rather the increase in the budget and taxes.

Blindsided again!

It was more because the politicized, dysfunctional CDC, FDA, NIH, et al misspent resources 'righteously' fighting obesity, racism, the NRA.

When superforecasters are weathermen and the left is grabbing for straws, the true victims are construction workers.

What higher taxes? Deficits have never been higher than under conservative governments. Reagan proved deficits not only don't matter, but gain favor with conservatives in business and help the GOP gain and retain power. Trump has proved the GOP is willing to run unlimited deficits to buy power.

And why do you want consumers to spend much less?

Which business are you in that you are complaining your customer are paying too much for food, too much for entertainment, too much for housing, too much for transportation, too much for heat, cooling, and light?

How will all the businesses dependent on SS, SNAP, plus government funded health care grow profits if that revenue goes away?

The stock market is connected to the future, not the present. Nobody was here complaining about the disconnect when the market lost 37% while the latest reported unemployment rate was the best in modern history.

Bingo, +5 i.p.

Likely the machines got shut off, and people are making decisions. If there isn't panic selling to cover positions, the changes are going to be settled.

I'm pleased that there is an island of rationality somewhere.

"Likely the machines got shut off, and people are making decisions"

Likely somebody has no clue about what they are saying.

A little confused as to the conflation between FEDERAL expenditures, and consumer expenditures. Why arent you counting private R&D in these comparisons


Fairly sure it does not include CMS reimbursements for testing (with no copay) , the nearly 100,000 tests the VA has administered, nor DOD’s in-house testing program.

And note too that the WHO threw some cold water on the test fetishists stating “ There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”


Nor does it include state spending, not that the millions that governors like Hogan have blown on tests will do much good. After all CDC guidance states:

“Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Here is some information that might help you make decisions about seeking medical care or testing.

Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care. They may not need to be tested.
There is no treatment specifically approved for people who have COVID-19.
CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians.

Clinicians should work with their state and local health departments to coordinate testing through public health laboratories, or work with clinical or commercial laboratories.“

And the WHO warns that there is no evidence yet that antibodies can prevent a second infection.

Nor does the $25 billion include the reimbursements CMS (Medicare and Medicaid) have paid for testing (with copays waived), the in-house testing program at DOD, or the more than 80,000 tests the Veterans Administration has processed.

CNTRL + F + "patent" = 0 hits. AlexT is part of the problem...

You may be spot on with this one Ray.

We need longer drug patent length and better patent enforcement across the world, this will incentive more research.

Let property and the free market work.

@Reason - yes, and a "bill of rights" akin to what's done in copyright is due for patentees, keep in mind the blue laser guy (Nakamura) and the PCD guy (Mullis), both Nobel Prize winners, got almost nothing from their employers (the former sued and won a judgement, rather shockingly, in Japan, which is usually pro-employer); there should be an automatic prize from government for such pioneer inventors, regardless of what their employment contract says.

As for Etalon d'Silomar's point, it's good, I would favor no examination (again, as done in copyright) for 'improvement' type patents. If you want examination you must pay a lot of money and get a team expert opinion, not the quick few hours search and opinion as given these days worldwide for patents, due to bureaucratic inertia. Also make patent lawsuits cheaper and faster (subsidized by the government).

Patents are the literal opposite of free markets. You can argue for the legitimacy of patents all you want, just don't include them with "free markets."

? Most people consider property rights to be a central tenant of free markets.

And we need to restrict drug patents to real improvements, not slight reworks.

Setting aside a host of definitional and theoretical problems with this idea.... remember, the patent on the "slight rework" only covers the slight rework i.e., almost nothing. Everyone can still practice the previous 'real improvement.'

Because of course the problem we're facing is too many companies making too many tests right? Or, oh wait, wasn't it restrictions on who could make the tests that's killing people.... You're a self parody ray.

I very much agree in general, the United States should be more committed to public research and development. And private research development. I think there's nothing wrong with having both, and some race conditions here. If public research gets there first, it becomes public knowledge. If private research gets there first it becomes intellectual property. It's a mistake to think everything should be one or the other.

(I spent most of my career doing private r&d, while benefiting from public r&d.)

That said, I am more inclined to think that the current crisis is creating dynamism both in and out of government. Go to Google news and search 3D printing. Etc.

We're just impatient, so all that is happening doesn't seem enough. But I'm afraid the efforts are more likely fully staffed and funded right now, and we are more limited by the nature of the problem and the disease.

In a worst case scenario we won't have tremendous treatment, we won't have a vaccine, and we won't even have natural immunity.

And that case we will see lasting changes to society, and the way everything is done from elementary education through to research, production, and delivery.

I just did the search myself and found something really neat

Any thoughts on the best way to funnel public research dollars through universities? What sort of incentives could we provide to ensure that R&D was actually being done? Is there also a way to research at non-elite institutions? I would like to see more environmental research being done by colleges and universities. Especially if they could focus on local conditions and impacts of human activity.

Years ago I read some essays extrolling "small science." The idea was that you get more giving a bunch of state college professors $40k, than spending billions on a supercollider.

I don't know if it's true, but the idea is still appeals to me. Make sure every science and engineering professor has a little money for research.

Maybe make the money more automatic with the position, and cut down time on grant writing.

If we used enhanced scholarships for students in STEM classes (I.e. pay cost of tuition plus additional money that could be used for research on a per student basis) do you think that would be politically feasible? Do we have a culture that would demand matching funds to other departments? Would we able to limit the program so economics departments can’t get any?

This is where my opinions form kind of a straddle. Leftists would hate me because I'm so harsh. Conservatives would hate me because I'm so lavish.

I say give the state schools so much money that they can charge just $500 tuition for productive majors. That's high enough to keep out the slackers, and low enough for everyone serious.

And drop unproductive majors.

Judge a productive major by some cutoff for mid-career earnings.

Anyone who really wants to major in fine art can do that, but they'll have to find a private school they can afford.

We already have a surplus of STEM graduates. The job market just isn't innovative enough to absorb them. In the second link, look at the disparity between life science jobs and life science graduates. If they were all employed we'd solve this crisis in a pinch.

First, note that my comment was more fine grained that "STEM." Slappy asked about STEM and I answered with a "degree" granularity.

Now, the first article claims: "All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more."

I ask you, if engineers were really overproduced by "100 percent or 200 percent more" would they at the same time have the highest starting salaries?

And BS on the Atlantic claim that those are niche majors. Every one of those top 10 is a generalist, in an engineering sense.

The second link seems to just agree with me that STEM isn't a useful grouping ..


A lot of my colleagues have been engineers from top schools.

Not one of them ever had an engineering job.

Two things can be true at once:

"Sales, marketing, management, and business and financial analysis appear in the top ten most popular outcomes for almost all degrees–including Engineering and IT."

But if you look at the chart, more of engineering and IT majors stay within their field, using that good old human capital, in STEM jobs.

Sales, marketing, management is the most popular destination, but it's populated by fewer STEM than it is everybody else.

There’s a major for IT? What a world.

Apparently 75% of engineering degree holders do not work in engineering. So this is obviously signaling for 75% of engineers. They’re not doing engineering at all! In any way!

We don’t even need 75% of the engineers we have. Which is probably why their salaries are so low.

Was 75% at that link? It doesn't match the graphic.

And I think that they are grouping a number of things under IT there, as they are with engineering etc.

Note that this passage was talking about 25% of total graduates ending up in STEM (by their definition) and not 25% of the STEM starting group:

"54% of all the graduates we analyzed went into these core business roles. 25% went into STEM jobs, and 21% went into soft-skill jobs."

I mean, woe to anyone with a top-10 degree who can't get a job.

But they can probably get a job. Maybe they need a job-search mentor, but they can get a job.

"In praise of Small (and Cheap) Science" at Scientific American

Poking around a bit, some people judge small or large science by the size of collaborative teams, rather than funding.

I prefer the funding view, especially because the internet does lower the cost of large team coordination.

Klein's explanation is vetocracy. The filibuster is just one example. I disagree with Klein about this and have my own explanation that I won't share here, but I will point out that the relief bills (both the original and the supplemental) came out of the Senate and have McConnell's finger prints all over them. McConnell's primary concern is averting an economic calamity that would risk the Republicans' control of the Senate and the White House. McConnell is just trying to get past election day. If McConnell believed the pandemic itself created a greater risk of losing control, he'd have designed a relief bill heavy on funding for a vaccine. Occam's razor. I will give credit to McConnell for his transparency. I recall 15-20 years ago McConnell expressing that if it were up to him, the debt owed by the U.S. government for the almost $3 trillion the government borrowed (or is it stole?) from the social security trust fund would be forgiven. And he repeated this on numerous occasions.

Rayward yet another wild screed. You had a few good posts recently, but are back to normal.

We saw yesterday that some people were not ready to accept the WHOs caution about lack of COVID-19 immunity, but experimentally put it at 50% confidence, and run it as a thought experiment.

If it were possibly true how would it change your view of the future?

It might change your readiness to spend public monies on research.

It is a possibility to consider, even if it is far from a certainty at this point.

The WHO also said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission, so why does it matter if I have antibodies or not?

the way to eventually determine if peeps have immunity is to find out what the presence of antibodies means

60’s R&D spending on NASA was defense-driven—we wouldn’t have spent that kind of money otherwise. It wasn’t R&D along the lines of what you’re arguing for. We’ve been a warfare state since WWII...

Also why isn’t the warfare spending considered R&D? The new technology in weapons doesn’t come from magic.

This here internet was an ARPA project.

Right. So that’s why I was wondering if the R&D Alex is talking about included military tech. It would be a strange omission that’s most likely ideological.

>This here internet was an ARPA project.

Well, that's an utter lie.

Might as well say the International Space Station started as a Thomas Edison project.

Go back to school.

Don't worry, hun. The Trump virus will cull him soon.

I thought we had coronavirus, whats the Trump virus?

>> 60’s R&D spending on NASA was defense-driven

Yes, and almost all gov R&D spending is defense driven. The highway system was built so the military could across the country effectively. GPS was invented so that the military could better target. CDMA was invented so the military could keep wireless discussions secret. The inernet was invented so that the military could have a redundant means of communication if the phone lines went down. Countless drugs were invented so the military could stop troops dying in the field. Countless surgical techniques and therapies were invented to keep people alive in the field.

The industrial policy of the US is simple: If it might have a defense application, fund it.

Maybe you missed Klein’s point or maybe you are over-simplifying it. The difference between funding for unemployment insurance and funding for PCR tests (at the level we now need it) in your example is that the former existed pre-polarization and the latter didn’t. His argument still stands...the political system in its current construct is incapable of innovation and bold thinking and focuses on either preserving the status quo or killing the other side’s ideas.

It is also a little rich to decry short-termism and the inability to invest for the future when the point of this blog appears to be to promote economic and fiscal policies that reduce both the incentive and capacity to innovate in both the private and public sectors.

Politicos like de Blasio would put a special tax on Diet Coke and Marlboros that could be used to finance vaccine development. Of course some of that, maybe a lot, would go to the bureaucrats administering it, like those running the state and national lotteries, which have drastically changed the world of education and the environment for the better.

"we are also not investing enough in capacity for vaccine production so that if and when a vaccine is available "

Key words are "if and when". A vaccine is not guaranteed. That would explain the reluctance to bet the farm on a miracle cure.

I will point out what Tabarrok is too kind to point out. As the outlays for things like R&D and defense and the space program declined in percentage terms, the outlays for entitlements in percentage terms went through the roof. It didn't have to be that way. No, I don't mean that the rise in spending for entitlements (social security and Medicare) is bad policy, I mean that given the choice between maintaining spending on R&D and defense and the space program and tax cuts for the wealthy, the choice was made for tax cuts for the wealthy.

It's not only the federal government that isn't investing, neither is American business. Well, American business is investing in financial assets but not in productive capital (including R&D). Let's give credit where credit is due.

Exhibit A: The hundreds of billions of stock buy-backs by private companies. Executives cant think of any new growth opportunities to invest in, so the only way for them to keep their jobs is to juice the EPS numbers.

I don't follow this. A vaccine is far from guaranteed. As for testing, there's >70 companies that have pending fda approval and tests are ~6 each on the high end from a manufacturer. On the high end we need 1.8 billion in cash to produce tests for the entire US population.

I find this interpretation hilariously blinkered. You have an entire political party, half the political spectrum, completely dedicated to all aspects of the governments ability to function, and you blame the lack of federal spending on... welfare programs? Ok, I've got it.

Oops... that should be *crippling* all aspects of government...

I agree the Democratic party is more interested in granting money back to donors and politicizing every possible agency to stamp out dissent, but the other half is working towards better government

Every day I worry about lack of innovation. So when you find a way to complain about women in general in a post, you make me feel like I am a part of the problem! I hope in the future I can keep any possible gender thoughts to myself as I write, so those thought won't come across as a slap in the face to which ever gender happens to read my posts.

Umm Alex wasn’t complaining about women. The off handed comment was directed at those like James above who only view life through the lens of the oppressed/oppressor matrix. There are people in power who actually believe that because a woman wasnt on Apollo, the entire moon landing can be disregarded.

Becky, I agree.

Alex, I would recommend removing that counterproductive line from your post.

The purpose of your essay is to focus us on innovation. But in your effort to avoid distractions, that line itself becomes the distraction. And a very strong one at that -- it may be the main thing some readers take away from this essay, unfortunately, and not in the way you want.

I took Chris's advice and removed that comment as distracting.

oh canada
that's why ur part of the problem.
"distracting" is another silly & poorly defined postmodernbuzzword
used to censor ideas& speech

Grow up, Mycroft. People are allowed to make their case any way they wish. You're saying Alex has been censored here?

grow your own self up
didn't say the canadian is not allowed to make his case any way he wishes. he originally appeared to be make the case that postmodern p.c. language&affectations distract from innovation.
if it is part of his argument its purty funny to hear it diagnosed as a
distraction from his argument!
the word "distraction" as used is a wimpy p.c. euphemism in a field that
overfilled with them.

It seems you are a a part of the problem.

"And if your first thought was ‘why we didn’t put a woman on the moon?’ you are part of the problem." Indeedy-ho. This must be a Tab post.

As I predicted just two days ago, the MR Whining About Testing will flow seamlessly into MR Whining About Vaccines.

It's important to just keep the whining going -- be careful to NEVER mention that this whole thing is shaping up to be a slightly-worse-than-average flu season!

Boy, would you look dopey if that news ever got out!

Yes, this is even dawning on “I’m Governor and you’re not” Cuomo.

BTW, CDC budget around $7B and they failed miserably. 50-200 tests a day!

"It's important to just keep the whining going -- be careful to NEVER mention that this whole thing is shaping up to be a slightly-worse-than-average flu season!"

Apparently, the disinfectant magic bullet faiked (as the chloroquine one before that) and MAGA types are changing the narrative again. Even Trump had to admit the situation is serious and tey to deny his previous denialism.

IPA sez "slightly worse than average flu season". So we can all ignore him from now on.

Alex, once again, who is the “we” in your post? How do you know how much “we” are spending on testing or vaccine production capacity? You are using “US government” and “US economy” interchangeably,
And what is it with the decline of the innovation state? When was the US government ever an innovation state, with the possible exception of NASA in its earlier days?
For an MR economist, your posts these days show an astonishing lack of confidence in market dynamics.

I’m impressed by how patiently and graciously you point out his (typical) utter stupidity.

HOw does Tyler think R&D funding is going to work in a time of total identity politics. Political leaders do not care what is being done just as long as a certain percentage of the spending goes to groups with the correct attributes.

In the articles about the failure the build, the effects of identity politics and being a litigious society were skipped.

My own guess is that it might be wise to cut substantially government spending on research, including university research. Let the scientific labour released work for firms - including perhaps their own.

The job of government science would then be to fill gaps caused by governments valuing something more highly than the market does - such as vaccine research, perhaps.

As for the detail of funding, perhaps the "let a thousand flowers bloom" approach would be better than the present system which favours codgers who have built a metaphorical moat about their own research areas. I also favour distributing some university research grants by lottery.

(And if your first thought was ‘why didn’t we put a woman on the moon?’. You are part of the problem.)

This is the bravest thing you've ever stated on the blog and it took a global pandemic to get it out of you. You are part of the problem.

"Finally, we get some serious money to actually fight the virus"

Trillions of Fiat Dollars created by the Federal Reserve are NOT serious money.

Such massive U.S. currency debasement has a certain catastrophic end game -- that most of us here will live to see.

Not only that but much of that money was misspent on things like bailing out Ruth's Chris Steakhouse or Autonation. The government fails to spend properly that which it prints.

We have some control over public investing. However the groups insisting that government be kept small probably will work against spending on research. They will point out that some of this might be wasted, which is true. However, a lot will be successful. Look at all the stuff DARPA gave us.

On the private side is where it really worries me. You would think that there would already be adequate incentive for them to invest ie money. Yet it isn't happening. I suspect t has something to do with consolidation of our businesses, concentration on finance and a lot of stuff I just dont know, but you would think this would be much more important to businesses than it appears to be.


Libertarians get their peckers hard for science and R&D but they don't realize that their dumb policies reward extremely unoriginal, uninnovative bean counters. In the battle of science and technology R&D versus the bankers, hedge funds, private equity, and other financiers, guess who wins? The soft central planning of finance apparatchiks, that's who.

I don't get your point. Can you elaborate on how dumb libertarian policies are to blame for rewarding bean counters? It seems a total non sequitur. And then if you can explain that, can you explain how that contributed to a shift in government spending priorities from R&D to welfare?

Spending more on Research & Development would save more lives in the future, but what is killing Americans now is not the slow pace of vaccine development but the failure to properly implement century old public health measures. It's not a decline in innovation that's causing the COVID-19 death toll to mount up, it's an inability to perform the most basic function of the government, which is to protect American lives. It's is simply negligent of US government to spend $600 billion+ on "Defense" while leaving the nation so defenseless against such a likely threat as a pandemic.

I hope the United States can turn this around and improve its competence.

Please tell me that you are using discretionary non-defense spending as the denominator.

Simple increase in public R&D will not save the problem. Making public R&D efficient and relaxing regulations to enable efficient private R&D is the solution. Talking about public R&D, do you know that NASA spent almost 50 billion on Space Launch System(SLS) and Orion over the past 16 years? SLS will fly in 2022 at best (after 11-18 years of development) and is comparable to Falcon Heavy, developed for 700 million. Orion is useless, since it is even unable to go to low Moon orbit. So this is simple waste of 50 billion of public R&D.

It is not that simple.

Here's an interesting book on government's investment in science innovation. Scientocracy edited by Pat Michaels and Terrence Kealey.

Perceived credit risk weighted bank capital requirements that favour the sovereign and the safer present over the riskier future is “A failure of imagination and boldness which is an embarrassment to the country that put a man on the moon” and violates its constitution

Alex, I would strongly recommend removing the culture war dig. It will accomplish the opposite of what you want to accomplish.

The purpose of your essay is to focus us on innovation. But in your effort to avoid distractions, that line itself becomes the distraction. And a very strong one at that -- it may be the main thing some readers take away from this essay, unfortunately, and not in the way you want.

Audience filters are useful, sometimes.

the silly postmodern maoists/intersectionalists who tell people what they should say, write and think are a bigly part of the problem.
geez. david babbling brooks claims giving your own kids music lessons
causes "inequality"

Prejudice exists, and intersectionality is a useful concept.

Intersectionality explains why a fat, dumb, white person has a hard time.

What is the postmodern intersectionalists poorly defined & trendy buzzword for "why a fat dumb white person has a hard time"
Mebbe white fragility?

What I was trying to highlight was that prejudice exists, and it isn't *limited* to racial lines.

It's useful to understand that when real prejudice shows up, it can be against anyone. For reals, no need for postmodernists, nor fragile males(*) to confirm it.

* - I hope you see what I did there.

mebbe you should mansplain explain (without using postmodern buzzwords) what you think you did

Okay. Fragility is another thing that exists, but it can also become a blinding prejudice. Just like "explaining."

Mycroft should stop posting so other voices can be centered.

"other voices can be centered"
+1 postmodern
you gotta a silly buzz phrase for ever occasion

Look at the people comfortable with stating their hatred of "bicyclists in spandex." It's a corner case intersectionality, but there it is.

This example might have a little extra zing among "feminists who hate bicyclists" ;-)

Anyway the root idea of Intersectionality is that we "are" more than one thing, and separately we might be judged "as" more than one thing. That ties to the prejudice we experience in any given moment.

"we "are" more than one thing, and separately we might be judged "as" more than one thing. That ties to the prejudice we experience in any given moment."

sounds like intersectionality is a cult not an academic discipline

I'd think it's accessible to anyone with a little human experience.

Ever been with a group? Ever seen that group react to someone new based on external cues to prejudice?

"we are more than one thing"
there is another unoriginal intersectional observation

This isn’t what intersectionality means.

What I'm saying extends and generalizes the Wikipedia version, but just slightly.

It's ironic, because some people would like a more narrow definition one way or the other. Either to especially highlight their specific group injury. Or to paint it as all the bad stuff.

that's not ironic
that's circular reasoning

The irony is that the people redefining "intersectionality" to mean "all the bad stuff" don't recognize their own word games.

The thing is this is a classic anonymous take; centrist Boomer trying to understand things the activist left does in charitable terms that make sense as some sort of recognizable, conventional wisdom common sense and which welcomes them as somehow potential participants in a cultural conversation. (And for which doing they'd probably chide him for his trouble to remember his place as an old white male ally who should remain seen but not heard).

"Intersectionality" is not "Multiple factors can affect your life", a fairly banal insight.

It is, mostly, "Specific representational and activist groups and quotas ought to exist for the intersection of particular protected classes, and those should exclude people who are not from those specific particular intersections".

It's the sort of idea where there should be a separate black feminist movement, and black female set of quotas and carve-outs, to cover the intersection of those protected classes.

This together with the idea that each separate victim classification is an amplifier of another (so that the person who is black, female, gay experiences more oppression somehow than is experienced by 3 persons who are each of those separately).

Here is the key passage from Wikipedia:

"While the theory began as an exploration of the oppression of women of color within society, today the analysis has expanded to include many more aspects of social identity."

That's true, right? Everyone who suffers any prejudice does so because there is a negative stereotype for a social identity. Be that nerd, jock, or whatever.

"It's the sort of idea where there should be a separate black feminist movement, and black female set of quotas and carve-outs, to cover the intersection of those protected classes."

There might or might not be a true person who fits that *stereotype* but the existence of said person doesn't make their view true.

"That's true, right? Everyone who suffers any prejudice does so because there is a negative stereotype for a social identity. Be that nerd, jock, or whatever."
no that's not true its another greasy postmodern non sequitar.
many times people suffer prejudice because of their
annoying behavior not their "identity"/phenotype

That's not prejudice, sorry. Prejudice is specifically pre- and based on generalized stereotypes rather than specific individual behavior.

and lemme guess
only postmodern intersectionalists have the authority to distinguish
between prejudice and behavior!

The key differentiation, for anyone, is whether the judgement is individual or group. I could say "economists are nerds who don't understand the real world," and that would be a group I make, possibly based on a few examples, but if I applied it to the next economist in the door, that would be prejudice. I should get to know the guy.

that's a false dichotomy
postmodern intersectionalists make their bones by constantly diagnosing prejudice in both individuals and groups

It's right there in the word, Mycroft. PRE-judging someone before you even see how they behave. Like assuming what all leftists think, or all blacks, or all Trump voters.

more circular reasoning
it is mostly the postmodern intersectionalists who doing the prejudging
of everthing individuals, groups, institutions, ideas, foods, hairstyles, clothes, books, movies, music lessons, etc

Just because you type it doesn't make it true.

another non sequitar
without the prejudging there is not much left to the already unserious field of postmodern intersectionality

"This together with the idea that each separate victim classification is an amplifier of another (so that the person who is black, female, gay experiences more oppression somehow than is experienced by 3 persons who are each of those separately)."

I'm kind of boggled that you have trouble with this one. Consider the case of Deke (Ethan Suplee) and Danny (Michael Ray Bower) in the movie Evolution.

Why were they a (sad and prejudiced) comedic foil? Both fat and stupid.

I don't think you're understanding "additive" vs "super linear" here. Someone can be positioned in a movie as a comedic foil because they're anorexic and neurotically intellectual. That does not mean it is many times worse to be both anorexic and neurotically intellectual together than either, separately.

Point is, you're trying to normalize this - in a way that the people who talk about it probably wouldn't want or appreciate! ("Stop helping!" they'd say) - as essentially a sort of conventional wisdom here. Not the case. The people who are part of that dialogue do not see it as simply conventional wisdom in the way you are describing it, and that is not their political agenda.

From Wikipedia:

"Psychological studies have shown that the effect of multiplying "oppressed" identities is not necessarily additive, but rather interactive in complex ways. For instance, black gay men may be more positively evaluated than black heterosexual men, because the "feminine" aspects of gay stereotypes temper the hypermasculine and aggressive aspect of black stereotypes."

I take this to imply that additive is the starting point, and "not necessarily" is the modifier.

"Super linear" does not appear.

psychology is a field where most of the studies don't reproduce
psychological studies might at best suggest (not show )stuff.

If you are uncomfortable with the gay part, substitute "athlete" and maybe that it "channels" the "hypermasculine and aggressive aspect of black stereotypes."

The underlying issue is a belief that scientific (and economic!) progress is exogenous to policy

If we are going to spend on a medical moonshot, the focus should be on better treatments for deadly auto-immune disorders. A vaccine is speculative and specific to this virus. Treating death by cytokine storm would save lives during this pandemic and in many more to come.

Two Comments:

1. It appears that NASA has taken the “why not a woman on the Moon” lesson to heart, because the agency is approaching gender parity among active astronauts (

2. There are sound reasons for thinking that greater inclusivity and diversity in the workplace will boost innovation, and that existing social structures are restraints on talent.

This is an important part of the Tara Reade/Joe Biden story (my essay here: And my view is informed by Mckinsey’s work on this subject:

“Similarly, research supports that diverse and inclusive teams tend
to be more creative and innovative than homogenous groups. Diverse teams bring different experiences, perspectives, and approaches to bear on solving complex, non-routine problems. Diverse
teams are also better able to target and distinctively serve diverse customer markets, such as women, ethnic minority, and LGBTQ+ communities which command an increasing share of consumer wealth and which could represent untapped markets
for some companies.“

> Diverse teams bring different experiences, perspectives, and approaches to bear on solving complex, non-routine problems.

Yes, but where is the diversity if every decision point informed by life experience results in the two groups having the exact same belief and response? In other words, today's coastal big companies are more of a monoculture than ever before in spite of having more "diversity" than ever before.

Our colleges are more diverse than ever, and yet, you have fewer voices advocating free markets than ever before. How does that happen?

What good is diversity if the thing you make diverse still makes the exact same decisions? If A and B deliver the exact same product output, the you are measuring diversity wrong.

Diversity is achieved when the output from one group is diametrically opposite another group.

For example, 20 years ago, you had automotive engineers that believed gas could by made increasingly efficient and it's pollution could be reduced another order of magnitude. And you had other engineers that believed you'd have to eliminate the internal combustion engine to make the gains required and electric was the next horse to ride.

Those are two incredibly diverse mindsets. And great achievement comes from those teams competing and cooperating and intermingling.

In no case can we ever imagine that black engineers or chinese engineers raised in America would make decisions based purely on their hairtype. And yet, that is what diveristy is anymore. Pick an immutable characteristic, and then decide if we only had more "X" then things would be better.

And then everyone stands around and agrees that a black person and a white person, both who agree 100% on the top 100 social issues facing us, are very diverse in their thoughts. Because of DNA and DNA alone.

Public health crises notwithstanding, we are the world leader in private sector innovation. Give me that any day over federal government trying to drive innovation forward

The way to increase federal R&D is to gamify it for the Two Tribes. Always *pair* R&D, so half is Red and half is Blue.

Want to work on "climate"? Dept of Energy grants $100 million of Dem research (perhaps on solar cells) and $100 million on Repub research (perhaps on Gen IV nuclear).

Want to work on math education? Dep't of Ed gives $50 million for Dem research (perhaps new teacher training) and $50 million on Repub research (perhaps new online tools for home use).

Set it up so Political Twitter can constantly "keep score" - like Sports Twitter.

> The failure to spend on actually fighting the virus with science is mind boggling.

When the emergency comes, that isn't the time to spend. Yes, some spending needs to be done. But you'll get a much better ROI if you have slow and steady spending in peace time rather than insane spending in war time.

Universities don't contribute much to the state of R&D. if you take the type of research happening in universities and put it in front of an engineer at the forefront of their field it's underwhelming. Why? Because large engineering projects these days are a thousand people strong. There's not a university around that can compete on that scale.

Now, there are occasionally some very interesting breakthroughs. Most interesting recently was a super-low-cost means of sticking a persons face on the body of the another person (aka deep fake). That was an area where one developer substantially moved the state of the art beyond what all the big public and private research labs were doing.

Bitcoin was another.

The best example of how poorly the public R&D has functioned relative to private R&D is automotive batteries. Steve Levine's book "The Powerhouse" chronicles the public/private partnership between US top labs and US carmakers to make the next battery. In the end, after hundreds of pages of faux intrigue between university professors, GM managers and various lab managers at Argonne, Los Alamos, Fermi, etc, we learn in the final few pages that Tesla working with Panasonic have managed to kick the ever-loving-shit out of the US brain trust in every metric that matters: cost per watt deliver, cost per kwh, gravimetric and volumetric efficiency, etc.

There are already enormous prizes out there for inventors. If you invent a better battery than Panasonics 21700 NCA, you will be a billionaire many times over. If you create a coronavirus vaccine, ditto.

The issue isn't funding.

Isn't it the private sector's job to innovate?

I guess they were too busy doing bonuses and buybackls

"We are great at spending on welfare and warfare but all that spending has crowded out spending on innovation and now that is killing us."

Ok, paying for food, crowds out paying for housing.
Paying for housing crowds out paying for food, transportation.
Paying for housing and food crowds out paying for entertainment.
Paying for entertainment crowds out paying for heat and light.

After all, GDP is capped for a nation because paying workers to produce more GDP cuts the money to pay to buy GDP dollar for dollar.

This is the core of reaganomics, what HW Bush called voodoo economics, what I call free lunch economics.

All the focus is on cutting costs to increase GDP because the less you pay for GDP (the cost to consumers) is the only way to grow GDP faster.

Ie, when $50 trillion in GDP only costs $5 trillion, the sooner the US gets to a $100 trillion GDP economy.

Hint, economies are zero sum. You can't pay for $50 trillion in GDP without paying the cost of $50 trillion for that GDP.

If you look at the innovation problem as a series of substeps that are all in series, you may see where the lack of innovation problem actually is and it is not the science step. The first step in innovation is having the scientific understanding correct and in today's world where scientific knowledge is growing at an exponential rate this is seldom a limiting step and everyone has access to the scientific knowledge of the world.

The second step is to understand the massive amount of scientific knowledge that requires "standing on the shoulder of giants" to see the tree of knowledge with a whole lot of nonsense and dead leaves in the way. Using that knowledge base allowed people like Dr. Lowell Wood to exceed T. Edison's record on the number of patents in a relatively short time using what is in his creative head. The concept is simple, dream up lots of ideas then rapidly eliminate all that are impossible.

Now you have an idea and want to make it into something in reality so the next step becomes a startup and financings. In today's world with VC and AI (angle investors) funding and management help this is also possible and reasonably easy.

The next step of obtaining required permissions from the bureaucratic state and relevant stakeholders who all have veto power and their own selfish interests is the rate controlling step. If the FDA approval is required, many AI and VC investors drop out independent of the potential of the innovation. If the EPA is involved and the WWF or Sierra Club are not supportive, the innovation is dead. Federal, state, and local political jurisdictions all have veto power over anything really innovative dealing with the world of atoms and it is in their self-interest to increase their power and grow as institutions.

With the permission step being the slowest step in innovation we don't see any innovation in the economic sense (real economic impacts) except in the permissionless area of our economy. This is why software type innovation is going strong while other types of innovation have become impossible in this country.

Imagine having an innovation on how to grow fish in the ocean so you don't have to just hunt them. A lot of people have and this business area is growing around the world (double-digit rates) in every country except the US which has the larges ocean economic zone of any country.

As Alex points out the decline in Federal R & D research is a huge part of why innovation has declined but why did funding for Federal R & D research decline? Because of anti-science sentiment and distrust of government by conservatives and libertarians. Much research is a public good that private enterprise will not undertake. For example research into the nutritional and diet causes of obesity and disease won't be undertaken by pharmaceutical or packaged food companies as there is no way to make money off it. Similarly for research on the health consequences of pollution.

Bayer could not repeat 70% of the top 100 cited biomedical paper's results. Amgen couldn't repeat 90% of the top 100 cited genetics paper's results. A group of social psychologists couldn't replicate 70% of the top 100 social psychology paper results. Academic research is garbage. We need to take it out, not add to the steaming, stinking pile.

Soda is nice? What is precisely nice about soda?

Sugar acts as a chronic toxin, especially in the quantities that it is currently being consumed in the West. Diabetes mellitus 2nd type, as well as massive obesity, were much rarer before 1975. Metabolic diseases are not civilizational diseases. They are results of chronic glut of sugar in our food chain.

We are precisely where our forefathers were with regard to smoking and lung cancer. The cases of lung cancer started growing around 1930 and peaked around 1985. The curve of metabolic syndrome is strikingly similar. But we have science at our disposal that they did not have.

If Covid killed half as many people as soft drinks do, there would be a full lockdown.

US per capita consumption of soft drinks peaked in 1998. The level of soda consumed today is a tiny fraction of what was consumed in the 80's, and likely smaller than what was consumed in the 70's.

soda is not the only food or drink item that contains excess sugar.

In my field it is different. The evermore demanding regulation is pressing companies to improve to meet newer standards. The impossible environmental regulation have generated improved measuring equipment, and improved computer process control and treatment methods. It is not market demand that is motivating investments but the imperative of complying with the regulations and permits.

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