The answer to America’s recovery and prosperity in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic lies in America’s innovation, invention, ingenuity — and a change in policies and priorities.
The pandemic has shed a bright light on the danger of allowing one superpower — China — to control the production of critical national security infrastructure in medicine, emergency response equipment and medical devices like ventilators, masks, gloves.
America has always led the world in the aftermath of wars, depression, recessions, and natural disasters. In fact, America invented 11 of the 13 greatest inventions that changed the world in the last 150 years. Here are the top 13 inventions:
- Telephone — invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell (U.S.)
- Electric light bulb — invented in 1879 by Thomas Alva Edison (U.S.)
- Automobile — invented in 1889 by Gottlieb Daimler (Germany)
- Radio — invented in 1896 by Guglielmo Marconi (Italy)
- Airplane — invented in 1903 by the Wright brothers (U.S.)
- Assembly line — invented in 1913 by Henry Ford (U.S.)
- Television — invented in 1923/27 by Vladimir Zworykin (Russia and U.S.) and Philo Farnsworth (U.S.)
- First programmable computer — invented in 1936 by Konrad Zuse (Germany)
- Nuclear reactor — invented in 1942 by Enrico Fermi (U.S.)
- First personal computer — invented in 1953 by IBM (U.S.)
- Internet — invented in 1969 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA (U.S.)
- Cell phone — invented in 1973 by Motorola (U.S.)
- Windows computer operating system — invented in 1983 by Bill Gates (U.S.)
Notice that, since 1876, a great invention has come along every 7.25 years on average. When America invents, we invent for ourselves and the world — and often share our technology with others. The goals of unleashing our technology is simple: to bring financial reward and to better society.
There is no doubt that because of America’s ingenuity and invention, the world has been changed for the better. Most countries on our planet have benefited greatly from America’s inventions, and America has prospered like no other as a result. Our “superpower” status has been attained as a direct result of our entrepreneurial superiority.
The great inventions in our lifetimes have come in computers. There are likely to be great leaps in medicine and energy in our lifetimes which will make us all healthier and less polluting — not through government mandate but through good businesses decisions and public/private partnerships.
When President Kennedy in 1961 challenged America to get to the moon by the close of the decade, we did not have the technology to make that challenge a reality. Many scoffed, but even more were inspired. Our nation was put to the test. Government incentivized, and business delivered. Look at how many of the products we use today were developed out of that effort. Even though President Kennedy was not alive to see his vision become reality, he still gets the credit for having achieved it.
In the 1960s many skeptics bitterly chastised America’s investment in the race to the moon. They argued that it was not a sure thing and, therefore, any public monies spent were being gambled and squandered. In retrospect, any government investment was returned through the great leaps made in computers, plastics, electronics, communications and medicine that still today benefit every inhabitant of this planet in one way or another.
Every great invention requires a robust public/private partnership. We have seen it before, and we see it today with governments — federal, state and local — coming together with businesses to deal with the pandemic. When cars were built by Ford and others, they needed government to build the roads, bridges and tunnels. When America went to war, it was private sector companies that retooled the factories to aid the war effort by building tanks, ammunition, planes, etc. When computers were being developed, government became a huge investor in procurement and the development of the internet through the DARPA program at the Pentagon.
Now is the time to limit the dependency on others for our national security and to diversify our imports to ensure a reliable supply chain.
“America first” is not a selfish idea — it is a matter of our survival. The coronavirus was a wakeup call to America.
China is a country of “makers, takers and fakers.” It makes our products, takes our products and fakes our products. It cheats on agreements, steals technology, deals in currency manipulation, dumps products on outside markets, engages in cyber attacks on our government and private sectors, and lacks transparency in health care — to name just a few of its faults.
America got greedy about the reliance on cheap labor, and China took advantage of that and more.
We can learn from history or be condemned to repeat it. Our challenge going forward is to add to the list of great inventions by investing in America’s needed goals and objectives. We need to think big and challenge ourselves and our nation.
China has not made the list of great inventions because it has been content so far with the profits from making, taking and faking our products.
America’s freedom to invent and to fail is our greatest strength. As long as China continues to limit its own innovation and invention, it is at a huge disadvantage to America and the West. We have to assume this will change in time, but this time is still ours to lead. Our goal is to continue to make the list of great inventions.
The coronavirus has exposed China and given America a huge wake-up call.
Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business.