The general political environment poses perhaps the greatest threat to technological momentum. In the last few months, I’ve chatted with a good number of Chinese undergrads in the US, who almost to a person tell me that their parents are urging them not to return to the mainland. China retains considerable strengths, one which doesn’t depend so much on slowing economic growth or demographic drags. The main one is its entrenched workforce that continues to advance manufacturing complexity. I think about the humming engine that is outlined by Kevin Kelly’s concept of the “technium” that describes an ecosystem of intertwined, co-dependent, and complex technologies with a mind of its own. But I grow less certain that a third-Xi term China will sustain an innovative drive. Related: 2022 Letter and U.S. Bound Migrants Surge at Darien Jungle Crossing in Panama
- Date Posted:
- July 19, 2023
Figure 1 shows that the ambitious mission to send a manned crew to the Moon led to a massive expansion of federal investment in R&D – NASA received over 0.7 percent of GDP at the peak of the Space Race. Space Race spending was economically large so we might expect local effects through a fiscal multiplier channel even without technological spillovers. We compare the fiscal multiplier for NASA contractor spending implied by our estimates to the literature to get a sense of this. We find that R&D contractor spending on the Space Race had a similar impact as typical government expenditures. There is no credible empirical estimate of the space mission’s contribution to economic growth. The magnitudes of the estimated effects seem to align with those of other non-R&D types of government expenditures.