Reaching limits

“Losing its oomph !” (7 August) produced an interesting exchange between Steven Kurtz and Atanu Dey. I was tempted to get involved but it will be better for them to continue — if they want — between themselves.

Just as we are a pecking-order species at social levels so we are at national levels and, in particular, at innovation levels. According to Isaac Newton’s observation, genius — that is, leading edge scientific research these days — stands on the shoulders of these before them — in that particular culture.

Discoveries — the greatest ones usually being serendipitous — and subsequent innovation doesn’t arise anywhere on earth, only in those cultures that are already ahead and prepared for the next step forward.

This is where so many economists have got it completely wrong. Get all the main political institutions right, like those in the advanced countries — so-called democracy being the main one mentioned — and limitless economic growth is sure to follow. This is not so, as the history of so many countries in the post-war years have shown us.

Countries can get so far along ‘economic development’ — usually just by copying — but then become trapped because they have no innovations of their own to follow up.

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