the U.S. technological base. A conspicuous increase in recent years in the discussions about U.S. technology policy seems to be, to a great extent, a response to Japan's technological and industrial challenge to the United States.

For a Japanese observer, it is striking that after such serious discussions for almost a decade, often carried out with a deep sense of crisis, there still does not seem to be a consensus on the need for an appropriate technology policy. This may well be because an adoption and implementation of a technology policy could be considered a path towards the adoption and implementation of an industrial policy, which seems to be conceptually rejected by many in the United States. To a Japanese observer, the most important response by the United States to the challenge of Japan's growing technological capability seems to be forging a consensus on the need for a technology policy.

Although it is difficult to assign priority to various elements of U.S. technology policy, from a Japanese point of view a need to remedy the inclination of American corporations to have short time horizons seems to be one of the most crucial elements.

It is widely pointed out that the short-term inclination of U.S. corporations is a major constraint to conducting patient research and development activities and investing in plant and equipment on a long-term basis, both of which are crucial in introducing competitive products into the market. A number of the factors contributing to the short-term thinking of U.S. corporations have been pointed out. Among them, the character of the U.S. stock market seems to play an important role. One possible measure for the U.S. government to take, as suggested by an American friend of mine, is to introduce tax measures to discourage quick turnovers of shares by institutional investors and to reward those who hold shares over a longer period of time.

In formulating and implementing a technology policy, one cannot possibly ignore the recent phenomenon of rapid growth in international technological and economic interdependence. Government-level cooperation in various aspects of science and technology and the activities of multinational corporations have contributed to the emergence of a transnational technology base. "As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish one firm's technology from another's or one nation's technology base from another's."1

In such an environment, it is desirable and perhaps even necessary to try to avoid including "technonationalistic" elements in technology policy. Such elements would surely restrain the capability of private corporations


Thomas H. Lee and Proctor P. Reid, eds., National Interests in an Age of Global Technology (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1991), p.72.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement