Without America, innovation will die

by | Apr 9, 2010

Jonah Golderg (of cheese-eating surrender monkey and liberal fascism fame) is no fan of Europe (Switzerland, excepted). Today, he frets that, if Obama is allowed to continue with his big gubmint ways, the world is likely to stop having new ideas.

Europe, he argues, is only able to keep afloat because it is propped up by US innovation:

America invents a lot of stuff. When was the last time you used a Portuguese electronic device? How often does Europe come out with a breakthrough drug? Not often, and when they do, it’s usually because companies like Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline increasingly conduct their research here. Indeed, the top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single country combined. We nearly monopolize the Nobel Prize in medicine, and we create stuff at a rate Europe hasn’t seen since da Vinci was in his workshop.

If America truly Europeanized, where would the innovations come from?

Comparing rates of innovation between nations is no easy task, but the Economist Intelligence Unit produces an index – the last of which came out in April 2009. Here’s the top twenty, with the Europeans appearing to hold their own:

1. Japan. 2. Switzerland. 3. Finland. 4. United States. 5. Sweden. 6. Germany. 7. Taiwan. 8. Netherlands. 9. Israel. 10. Denmark. 11. South Korea. 12. Austria. 13. France. 14. Canada. 15. Belgium. 16. Singapore. 17. Norway. 18. United Kingdom. 19. Ireland. 20. Australia.

Such evidence, I fear, is unlikely to sway Goldberg. He prints, approvingly, an email from a reader which supports his thesis as follows:

I think that everything we need to know about the state of innovation in Europe is supplied by the search list results and the fact that the fifth-highest listing is this: Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages.

QED, say I.


  • David Steven is a senior fellow at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.

More from Global Dashboard

Our COVID Future: The Long Crisis Scenarios

Our COVID Future: The Long Crisis Scenarios

Created in partnership with: COVID-19 marks a turning point in the 21st century.​ Levels of uncertainty are off the chart, making predictions impossible. ​But if we can create plausible stories about different futures, we create a...

Protecting our Critical Global Infrastructure

Protecting our Critical Global Infrastructure

Earlier this week, we published Shooting the Rapids – COVID-19 and the Long Crisis of Globalisation. In the final section, we present a plan for collective action at the global level with four elements:  Firefight better – getting the emergency response...