Government Is A Premier Entrepreneur

I know that there are many out there that still believe that “government is the problem”, but I will again try to convince you that without our government many of the things that we deem essential today would like not have happened. If that argument won’t appease you, then I will try to convince you that government is where the “people’s business” has to happen. How’s that for an ambitions post? 🥸

Many of the innovations of today would not have happened without an alliance between the public-sector funding and private-sector ingenuity. Let me give you some examples. The current primary example is the Covid-19 vaccine which will soon put this pandemic to rest was a result of government/private sector cooperation. Another example is climate change. Climate change is simply too big for any country, let alone a private-sector company to be able to fully address. It will likely take more of an effort than we have yet seen in this world up to now.


Many of the biggest technological breakthroughs in American history have not sprung from the private sector. They have instead been the result of collaboration between private companies and the federal government. An example of that is the Internet. It started out as a Defense Department project. But that is not all, transistors, jet planes, satellites, artificial limbs started out in government R&D labs and moved into the private sector. How would we live without those advances now.

M.I.T. economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson point out in their recent book, “Jump-Starting America” said “Almost everything about your computer today — and the way you use it stems from government funding at the early stages.” The reason is because for profit companies in general just don’t fund research without a clear product in mind.

One of the things that has slowed incorporating all our advances in medicine and technology throughout the world is that there are almost 200 different independent governments who are only very loosely attached. Yeah, I know that the United Nations was supposed to provide a common link between us, but it is just too bogged down with unnecessary baggage to accomplish even the simplest things.

I suspect that most people don’t remember that the US started out with the Articles of Confederation (1777- 1781) which was a very loose connection between the 13 colonies, kind of like a United Nations. As the Revolution dragged on it became obvious that the ragtag alliance was not going to allow us to win our independence. In 1781, a more tightly formed alliance was formed but even that, within a decade, proved lacking. Finally, in 1789 we formed a Federal government and that has existed since.

If we as a world don’t kill ourselves off before then, there will eventually be one government for the world. When that happens it will finally provide that “common bond” that is needed to solve worldwide problems. The way that will happen is a strong government/private sector alliance to look at things from a worldwide view.

4 comments

  1. RJ, I agree with your comment that there will one day be a single world government. I don’t say it much because it brings out all the wing nuts. Look at how much money and resources the world wastes on fighting with each other and preparing to fight each other. Covid is a perfect example of why we need worldwide cooperation. Conquering it in our country only will not do us a bit of good. The virus will continue to mutate in parts of the world where it is not stopped and then come right back to us. The world is forever linked now and we better get used to it.
    A side note on basic research funded by the government. Many of our current drugs were developed based on government funded research. I wonder when we will see an appropriate discount due to our financial contribution to these many companies bottom lines. Perhaps I dream too big.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Fred. I started out my career working at Bell Labs which was the premiere R&D organization in the country. Since they were part of a regulated monopoly they often delved into things without any idea of how to make them profitable. I personally worked with the grandfather of voice recognition. Where would we be today without that technology? When they were defunded in 1983 because of the breakup of the Bell System, that basic research died.

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  2. Social Security wouldn’t exist without government. Ditto for Medicare. Airport funding, Interstate highways, libraries, public universities…
    The list of vital elements in our collective lives that are made possible by the public sector is almost endless.

    To rebel against government involvement is seriously misguided. I don’t know if we will ever see a single, world-wide entity. But, without the public sector part of our society, our lives would be much smaller and much more tenuous.

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    1. Hi Bob, it’s good to hear from you. I dream of the day when the US finally joins the rest of the world in universal medicine so that no one has to die because they don’t have enough money for medical expenses. I also dream of the day that the Republicans quit trying to dismantle Social Security and Medicare and accept it.

      As I told Fred above, I worked for Bell Labs and in the 80s we were working on something called cellular telephones. That was shut down in 1983 and handed over to Motorola and others.

      I’ve got a post coming out soon about those who are so misguided about things of the world. Maybe there is no trying to understand and sympathize with their paranoia. I see where Facebook .et al have pulled the plug on almost 100,000 accounts of those associated with domestic terrorism groups. We will eventually put that plug back in the bottle that Trump released, but it will likely take years to accomplish.

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