I do try to stay away from Polly Toynbee's CiF columns. I swear, they're so bad for my blood pressure. But her latest opus breaches the dikes of my self control:
Published this week, The Entrepreneurial State, by Professor Mariana Mazzucato of Sussex University, offers a forensic analysis of how the state is prime investor and creator of most great innovations.Oh, this will be good. Mariana Mazzucato hasn't had a meaningful job outside academe in her entire life. So what does she say?
Not only the internet but its technologies sprang from vast state investment (such as GPS and touch screens, biotech and nanotech), where the state took the risk but others took the profit; Apple and Google rode on the back of state research;My arse, Polly. Apple (and, let's be fair, Microsoft) took inspiration for their operating systems lock, stock and barrel from Xerox PARC. Last time I checked, Xerox was a privately owned company - that had the crown jewels of the desktop computing revolution and just gave them away, but hey. Google built on the success of search engines like Alta Vista, coming up with their PageRank algorithm independently while students at Stanford University, following an education at private schools. A claim that "the state" was involved in any significant degree in either Apple's or Google's success fails even the laugh test.
Perhaps Prof. Mazzucato should stick to economics, because even my economic blatherings have more accuracy than her ventures into matters technological. She asserts:
Thus, while entrepreneurial individuals like Steve Jobs are needed, their success is nearly impossible without their ability to ride the wave of State investments. And if Europe wants its own Googles, it needs more State action, not less.Hmm, it seems that Europe has much more State action than the USA in general and Silicon Valley in particular. So why are all the Googles, Yahoos, Microsofts etc. popping up in Silicon Valley rather than Europe? Anyone? Bueller?