Ultimately, a State Is Not a Business
Even though they occasionally express a worthy idea, articles such as this long Sunday front-pager convey the wrongheadedness that plagues this state:
Another of Carcieri’s major, second-term priorities is building a “green” economy. The concept is sometimes vague, and like biotechnology, every state is chasing it. And yet, going green could be the key to rescuing Rhode Island’s blue-collar laborers from the dying manufacturing industry.
That can only happen, however, if Rhode Island focuses on its obvious advantages and develops training programs to prepare workers to build these industries. …
Still, if it’s not careful, Rhode Island can miss its window. Though there is a scarcity of wind power nationally, New Jersey and Delaware have dived into the mix and are poised to outpace Rhode Island if the Ocean State gets too distracted or settles for too slow a pace.
“You can’t be good at everything,” said Atkinson, the former economic-development head. “You’ve got to be somewhat specialized.”
Put aside the union hand behind the “green” movement. States shouldn’t operate as businesses when it comes to selecting industries and trying to compete with other states. We don’t run on venture capital. We can’t all declare bankruptcy, fold the state, and create an other one. We can’t, in specific, invest in retraining people and recasting our regulations in order to attract a narrow industry only to find that another state beat us to the punch, or technology has obviated our intended product, or any of the various things that can change does change.
The article is about fostering, attracting, and keeping innovators, but the principle that is missing from the entire discussion is that innovators innovate. That’s what they do. And we’ll increase our likelihood of benefiting from their efforts if we eschew the advice of former Economic Development Corp. (and current think tanker) Robert Atkinson to specialize.
We need a generalized improvement of the methods by which innovators can work their magic.