Ralph Landau and Nathan Rosenberg review the impact of technological change on U.S. economic growth. They cite several key influences on such growth, including technological innovation, high capital investment rates, and increased training of the total work force. The authors conclude that U.S. economic policies are not conducive to innovation and capital formation, and they propose strategies to ensure continued economic growth.
One change that poses both opportunities and difficulties is the rapid diffusion of technology to other countries. As a result, the exploitation of new technologies is no longer an exclusive strength of the United States. The maintenance of a high-wage economy will depend on the ability of U.S. firms to compete in international markets, particularly in manufacturing because of that sector’s contribution to GNP, foreign trade, and national security; its purchases of services; and its productivity increases and consequent contribution to the overall economy.
Landau and Rosenberg also focus on the role of government in creating a favorable environment for business decision making. Policies that encourage personal savings from which investments could be made, reduce the budget and trade deficits, and support a long-term financial climate are essential. However, because U.S. business interests and government do not work as closely as they do in some other countries, Japan, for example, this goal may be difficult to achieve. If the United States is to remain competitive, increases in productivity must be sustained, and this will happen only if training, management, and investment in manufacturing and services are part of public and private strategies.
In the volume’s final paper, Hajime Karatsu reminds us of some fundamental points about the role of technology in improving the quality of life. Technology is instrumental to economic growth, and as a result, economic strength is no longer a function of a nation’s size and population, as it was before the industrial revolution. Although some will argue that technology is the cause of the problems resulting from industrialization, Karatsu describes how technology has been used to provide solutions to some crucial problems—the oil crisis and pollution—in his own country, Japan. Although not explored in his paper, one issue Karatsu’s point raises is the extent to which technological decisions operate in concert with other strategic policies. For example, Japan’s pollution problem, and that of many other industrialized countries, has been solved in part by the export of the pollution-causing industries to other nations.
Karatsu supports his views on the importance of technology to economic growth by commenting that Japan’s methods of applying technologies have allowed it to achieve a 1986 GNP of $2.3 trillion, or 11 percent of the world’s economic activity. One characteristic of Japanese methodology is that new, advanced technologies are applied in practical and simple ways that can be easily commercialized. He cites as an example the use of carbon fiber in