Thursday, October 14, 2010

Economics 14/10/10: Innovation Union from European Union

Just in case you thought our own Government's naive and overly optimistic 'knowledge economy' papers were original in their lack of understanding of business, take a look at the latest EU-wide policy idea.

According to the European Commission boffins, by 2020 we will be living not in a Fiscal Union (won't happen, cause Germans wouldn't want a de jure responsibility for PIIGS) or the Monetary Union (can't last much longer in its current shape due to contradictory forces of sovereign economic policies) or even a Bailout Union (the current reincarnation of the big idea)... instead we will be the happy citizens of an Innovation Union.

The details (if one call them such) of this well-meaning stuff are provided here.

Not to waste anybody's time with navigating the lofty dream space of European 'thinkers' on development policy, let's cut straight to the chase. Two things come to mind reading the document.

  1. It is aspirational (good thing) of benefits of the Innovation-driven economy and is strong on traditional bits of bureaucratic competency, promising good targets on legal environment and strategic partnerships, but
  2. The big iceberg awaiting the Euro dreamliner (err... Titanic) is also right here - on the Welcome page: "Innovation as described in the Innovation Union plan broadly means change that speeds up and improves the way we conceive, develop, produce and access new products and services. Changes that create more jobs, improve people's lives and build greener and better societies."

Spot what's missing in the grand vision? Here:
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Logistics
  • Commercialization
  • Consumer
  • Finance (especially the issue of relationship between current fiscal imbalances and promised subsidies)
You see, folks in Brussels think that once a nerdy type draws a squiggly thingy on an i-pad and another nerdy types says 'Cool, man!', you instantaneously get more jobs, improve lives and green-up the bettered society. Not much else is required:
  • Lower taxes to promote greater consumption, especially given we are facing rapidly aging and more risk averse European demographic, which is not exactly representative of early adopter consumer types needed for Innovation Union? Nope, not needed.
  • Lower state charges to promote more investment, again especially in economies where savings will be increasingly consumed by pensioners instead of invested by the younger income earners? Why bother!
  • Fewer Nanny State regulations to improve 'access', especially in the regulatory environment that has by now even managed to ban insurance companies from pricing the basic risks? Will have Innovation without that, thank you.
  • More entrepreneurship to support deployment of products into the marketplace, again a major bottleneck in the aging and largely socially immobile society of EU? Uh, oh, what's 'entrepreneurship'?
  • Improved early stage finance environments with fewer state subsidies inducing distortions in the market, especially crucial given the state of public finances in the non-Innovation EU? We can't have anything that involves 'fewer subsidies'!

So this is why, in my view, the latest idea, despite being aspirational and well-intentioned risks becoming yet another Titanic of economic policy, to join such hits of the past as:
  • The Lisbon Agenda (which aimed for EU to overtake US in terms of economic growth, jobs creation etc by 2010);
  • The Social Economy (which aimed for the EU to become a singular welfare state where the young labour away assets-less and savings-less to preserve the status quo of landed gentry and pensioned state employees);
  • The Knowledge Economy (which aimed for the EU to become a heaven for all sorts of knowledge), and
  • The Green Economy (which aimed to turn EU into one big nature preserve at a wave of a magic wand of subsidies).
What can possibly go wrong this time around with Innovation Union, then?


Holbrook Fields said...

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debt said...

lower taxes! great blog btw