Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater | submitted by Gregory Lynch
Ronald Bailey has criticized the federal government’s loan guarantee provided to Solyndra (“With a Government-Funded ‘Success’ Like This What Does a Government-Funded Failure Look Like” Reason Magazine, Sept. 1, 2011). While it may be easy to attack a decision that ultimately turns out to be wrong, it is important also to highlight the successful government investments, especially in basic research, that have played a critical role in the American innovation engine that has been for some time now the envy of much of the rest of the world.
Take for example the Bayh-Dole Act, which was passed in 1980 and is (fortunately) still going strong. Bayh-Dole created a framework that could be reasonably thought to be the foundation for the incredible advances in the pharmaceutical sector over the last 30-plus years by encouraging the transfer of government-sponsored research findings to the private sector for commercialization. Programs like Bayh-Dole are all about making ultimately limited taxpayer investments in basic research while empowering the private sector to take the best of that research from a commercialization perspective and profitably develop it into real-world products and services.
Now, I am not suggesting that every proposed government investment in research, even when accompanied by development-facilitating technology transfer paradigms, is always successful. But I do think it is important, especially for those of us who believe in the primacy of markets as the best arbiter of investments, that we avoid throwing the commercialization baby out with the research bathwater due to a single high-profile example.