If that interests you, I recommend reading this month's Inc magazine; their superb cover story is
a plan to revitalize the American economy by creating lots of new start-ups. Some of the proposals, such as a offering visas to foreign-born founders, are already generating controversy. There is a the question whether more start-ups would be good for America. In a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story, former Intel CEO Andy Grove attempts to challenge this widely accepted idea. "The underlying problem," Grove writes. "[Is] our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs."Exactly, Andy, start ups can not work in isolated patches. You need the big companies to be the cruise ship and the start ups can be all the harbour services to that cruise ship. By letting these big cruise ships leave the harbour for China, we explicitly miss-out on the next new industry ("but what of the industries we haven't created yet?") when the knowledge and expertise that accumulates in the ecosystem of manufacturers and suppliers is largely offshore.
Think batteries, solar power, etc. What seems like a sound farming-out-of-commodity-work this year turns into a wholesale ceding of the next step in an industry's development five years down the road.
I believe Groves is absolutely right that we need to re-think our assumptions about what the link is between what is in the interest of an individual company and what is in the interest of our nation medium-term.
It is not always natural for many in the business world to have an honest discussion of what kind of society we should aim for - and accept that societies do not build themselves but are build by leaders who have a vision greater than their own economic freedom. It is a discussion we should have.
Nortel was one of those major cruise ships and should have been given the GM package of bail out money too. Problem was that no one at Nortel believed that they were in such bad shape and no one did what GM did, get together a large group of businesses and go to Ottawa to lobby their case.
I feel heartened that finally these stories are on front page covers of magazines and that great business leaders are bringing their points to the debate.