Editor’s Note: The author delivered these remarks, as prepared, as his opening statement in a debate with Richard Reinsch at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 14, 2019.
I’d like to begin with a quote attributed to Michael Boskin when he was Chair of George H. W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers: “Computer chips, potato chips, what’s the difference?” My argument, in its simplest form, is that there’s a very large difference, and policymakers should take it into account.
My argument rests on three claims, moving from economics to policy and then politics:
First, that market economies do not automatically allocate resources well across sectors.
Second, that policymakers have tools that can support vital sectors that might otherwise suffer from underinvestment—I will call those tools “industrial policy.”
Third, that while the policies produced by our political system will be far from ideal, efforts at sensible industrial policy can improve upon our status quo, which is itself far from ideal.
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