“They Left out Radio!” ― Human creativity is the key to economic growth

Bull market? Bear market? Recession? Recovery? What does 2016 have in store for us?

Our economy—national, state, and local—is usually described in terms of numbers, percentages, and quarterly comparisons. But the picture is richer than an aggregate dollar value of impersonal production and consumption. No economy exists without millions of unique people bringing to the marketplace their gifts of creativity, intelligence, initiative, and effort. Human capital―the knowledge, skills, and experiences of people―is the true wealth of a society.

The story is told that during his presidency, Ronald Reagan remarked on the limitations of economic predictions that don’t take into account people’s capacity to invent the unimaginable. During a meeting on economic policy, he said:

“You know, back in the twenties I think they did a report for Herbert Hoover about what the future economy would be like. And they included all their projections on industries and restaurants and steel, everything. But you know what they left out? They left out radio! They left out the fantastic rise of the media, which transformed the commercial marketplace. And those were economists talking about the future!

“And now they make their projections, and they leave out high tech….”*

Fostering economic growth requires remembering where wealth comes from. Government doesn’t create it, and human beings can’t fully predict it. Individuals can change the course of the economy with one key new idea. So in this new year, let’s celebrate the special contributions every person brings to American enterprises, great and small, in Oregon and across the country.

* Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (New York: Random House, 1990), 146.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland program at Cascade Policy Institute.


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