Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wanted: Leading Edge Technologies to Drive Investment

The U.S. has not yet recovered from the collapse of the IT and Internet driven investment boom. While the housing bubble was able to mask weakness in non-structural investment for a period of years during the aughties, that time is over with.

Innovation at the moment is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and businesses are finding increased investments in equipment and technology unwarranted given the benefits they bring in productivity.

On a personal consumption level this also makes sense. Everyone 'had' to have Windows 95 when it came out. Windows 7 might be a good thing to have, but there's no need rush in buying it unless it comes with a new computer.

These type of graphs are synonymous with flat private sector employment, such as existed in the aughties. Capitalism is very much dependent on private investment to lead growth, and non-structures investment is probably the most dynamic within an economy.

As a high wage capitalist country, the U.S. continually needs to find new technologies which increase productivity and encourage private investment. I suspect this is going to eventually require massive government support in research and development. I'm not sure the culture is ready for that and the political system surely isn't.

Incidentally, sections of the clean energy industry, such as solar panels or wind turbines, seem to be on the verge of market glut now that China has entered the game full bore. In general, that is the problem for private companies investing in R&D now. The information age makes copycatting much easier, which decreases the time in which a company can benefit from any technology innovations they may achieve. Their monopoly power quickly becomes a supply glut as other firms rush in.

The U.S. military does have such cutting edge technologies, particularly within equipment designed for their satellite systems. But those will not be brought into the marketplace anytime soon. National security, and all.

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