Science and Engineering in Global Economics

Posted on August 12, 2006  Comments (12)

The main point of The Global Race – Is America Still a Contender? by James Schultz is that the United States is too complacent: thinking its past success guarantees future success. I have stated that I believe the economic comparative advantage the USA has enjoyed due to science and technology leadership is almost certain to shrink and we should take steps to slow that decrease. Also see: Engineering Education and Innovation, The Future is Engineering, Engineers and the Economy and The Science Gap and the Economy.

From the article:

The hungry don’t dither, and neither do relatively lean economic adversaries. Worldwide, up-and-comers are integrating economic development with governmental practice, teaming eager, growing-wage, and increasingly skilled workforces with coordinated national policies. If laws get in the way, they are changed; if labor movements demand too much too quickly, they are quashed…


There are many reasons why taking action on these issues, as a country, are difficult. One is that it is difficult to judge what actions are effective – even looking at countries that do well it is very difficult to judge which actions they have taken deserve credit and which may actually be a negative factor.

My belief is that investing in science and engineering education is wise (in my view this provides the market with resources to use effectively for economic development). My belief is that maintaining a dynamic capital market is wise (and largely let the marketplace define economic decisions – though obviously I believe in supporting science and engineering education above the natural market, the strong positive externalities make it a wise societal investment). I also believe that improved management practices can make a huge difference, this post on our management blog discusses this point: The Dramatic Spread of Lean Thinking.

The rule of law is also very important. I do not believe it is an advantage to have a powerful central government that takes too direct a role in the economy. That government can be helpful in certain ways (like making science and technology a huge priority which will help). Some government are better at attempting this, such as Singapore, and for them it might be arguable what the final impact is but in general governments cannot successfully adopt this strategy. Quashing labor may seem like an advantage to some but it is not (even in the short run) and will not lead to a powerful economy (the same is true of lax environmental standards and other failures to regulate the market effectively – playing the role government should play).

In any event there are many countries that have a desire to gain economically and critically are taking the steps to make that happen: improving the rule of law, strengthening capital markets, investing in science and engineering education, supporting the development of a science and technology economy… And countries, like the United States, that have benefited from a huge comparative advantage with the rest of the world in these areas (and thus gained huge economic benefits) will have to focus on key economic factors or they will be surpassed by those countries that do.

12 Responses to “Science and Engineering in Global Economics”

  1. CuriousCat: Ranking Univiersities Worldwide
    April 3rd, 2007 @ 8:55 am

    […] And the various rankings should be a able to track shifts in the most influential institutions and relative country strength over time. How quickly those rankings track changes will vary depending on the measures used. I would imagine most will lag the “real” changes […]

  2. CuriousCat: Science Focus in New UK Government
    June 30th, 2007 @ 8:07 am

    “Mr Brown often warned as Chancellor that Britain needed a strong scientific base to punch above its weight in an increasingly competitive global market. By including innovation and science in the higher education brief for England the new prime minister is throwing his weight behind the sector for the long term…”

  3. CuriousCat: NIH Budget Shortfall
    August 19th, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

    “funding has failed to keep pace with inflation. NIH’s budget has hovered at around $28 billion, but once inflation is factored in, its purchasing power has fallen 13% over the past four years…”

  4. CuriousCat: Brain Drain Benefits to the USA Less Than They Could Be
    August 22nd, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

    It appears to me this is really saying the size of the brain drain, coming to the USA, is less than it could be (many brains that came are returning)…

  5. CuriousCat: Engineering Education Study Debate
    November 25th, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

    As I have said many times the economic future will be greatly influenced by science and engineering. Those countries that succeed in creating a positive economic climate for science and engineering development will find economic rewards those that fail to do so will suffer…

  6. CuriousCat: Better Higher Education Will Change Lives
    March 3rd, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

    “Whereas countries in the Middle East, and China itself, are going out of their way to woo foreign universities to set up campuses in their countries, India turns away the many academic suitors…”

  7. Engineering And... Duderstadt Urges Revolution in Engineering Education
    June 9th, 2008 @ 8:20 am

    “Duderstadt said the nation’s universities must be committed to ‘creating a new breed of engineer that is better able to respond to the incredible pace of intellectual change’ and to thrive in the modern global knowledge-based economy…”

  8. Curious Cat Engineering Blog » Promoting Science and Engineering
    October 22nd, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

    it’s crucial to get students to think “outside the box” and work in teams. “Our future doesn’t depend on producing more engineers than China. [We] need more innovators,”…

  9. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Billions for Science in Stimulus Bill
    January 19th, 2009 @ 11:47 am

    […] Science and Engineering in Global Economics – Engineering the Future Economy – The Future is Engineering – China and USA Basic Science Research […]

  10. Stand with Science – Late is Better than Never » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    December 1st, 2011 @ 4:03 am

    […] We have wasted hundreds of billions that could have been spent more wisely. I happen to think investing in science and engineering is important for a societies economic health. The problem the USA has is we have chosen to waste lots of money for decades, at some point you […]

  11. Science Serving Society – Speech Australian Minister for Innovation » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    January 10th, 2012 @ 4:43 am

    […] of Scientific Articles by Country – Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership – Science and Engineering in Global Economics – Aussies Look to Finnish Innovation Model – Invest in Science for a Strong Economy […]

  12. Silicon Valley Shows Power of Global Science and Technology Workforce » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    December 1st, 2013 @ 9:45 pm

    […] foreigners the last 15 years Silicon Valley continues to prosper due to the talents of a pool of global science and engineering talent. Other countries continue to fumble the opportunity provided by the USA’s policies (largely a […]

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