Amity Shlaes: Three Policies That Gave Us the Jobs Economy
Miss Shlaes, author of the forthcoming "Coolidge" (HarperCollins), joined the George W. Bush Institute this week as director of its economic growth project.
Sometimes two separate news events turn out to be related. That's the case with the Wall Street protesters and the extraordinary mourning at the death of Steve Jobs.
Some protesters have praised Jobs as the billionaire who was different—unlike the callous Wall Streeters, he was "beneficial to society." There's a second connection. More than anything else, the Wall Street protesters feel powerless, mere individuals against great banks. Maybe the mourning over the Apple founder is so intense precisely because Jobs gave individuals power. It's hard to think of a gift more empowering than your own personal computer.
Also fueling the grief is a more general suspicion that another Jobs won't come along soon. He was a creature of his times, the late 1970s, the 1980s and 1990s. There wasn't merely Jobs; there was also that economy in which he and other venture-capital recipients operated. Americans fear that the opportunities Jobs enjoyed won't come again.
It's worthwhile therefore to go back and look at what happened in those years, and then to look at how policy changes may have affected innovating firms that received venture capital.
The era didn't start well. The mid-1970s were a dead period. Then suddenly, from 1977 to 1978, new private capital devoted to venture capital increased by 15 times, to $570 million in 1978 from $39 million the year before....
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