Industrial Policy in America

Industrial Policy in America

Breaking the Taboo

Marco R. Di Tommaso and Stuart O. Schweitzer

In contrast to what observers have frequently argued, this timely and thought provoking book suggests that the concept of industrial policy is not alien to the American past and present. The debate on this topic in the US has always been full of contradictory rhetoric and policy practices, and the expert authors therefore acknowledge a need to rethink the traditional antagonist positions. They illustrate that contemporary markets continue to demand to be fixed by government policies, and governments continue to show how fixing-the-market policies might fail. The conclusion is that the future of industrial policy is about how to make both markets and governments better in their functioning, but that the real goal for industrial policy is to make better-market and better-government policies consistent with the goal of building a better society.

Chapter 8: Quo vadis? Choosing our destiny

Marco R. Di Tommaso and Stuart O. Schweitzer

Subjects: economics and finance, industrial economics


When we started to think about this book we were inspired by the debate concerning the ideas and actions of the (then) newly elected President Obama at the very beginning of the on-going international economic crisis. We thought it would be useful to see whether or not industrial policy (IP) had finally come to America. What was clear from the very beginning of our work was that we were approaching a sort of “third rail” of economic policy – a policy so controversial that merely coming into contact with it was dangerous! As it was during the presidencies of Carter and Reagan, IP in America is such a powerful concept that the words polarize public opinion. Even a quick look at how contemporary media love to present the issue, supports the hypothesis that we are confronting a taboo that American politicians are still respecting. Those who might be in favor of IP interventions feel obligated to avoid the use of the term. Opponents are ready to use these words because they know how rapidly ghosts and fears might be raised.

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