The best books on how private and public sector enterprises combine to produce new growth-creating technologies

Why am I passionate about this?

Over my lifetime I have been involved in myriad policy issues running from 1970s anti-inflation policies, through the creation of NAFTA in the 1980s, to dealing with climate change in the 2000s. My interest and that of my co-author in technological change and economic growth entailed involvement in innovation policy. We are particularly worried because many citizens have no realisation of the important part that public policy has played in technological changes. Ignorance of this is dangerous in that it may lead legislatures to inhibit the public sector’s future role in such developments without which we have a much-diminished chance of dealing with climate change and holding our own in international economic competition.


I co-wrote...

Industrial Policy: The Coevolution of Public and Private Sources of Finance for Important Emerging and Evolving Technologies

By Richard G. Lipsey, Kenneth I. Carlaw,

Book cover of Industrial Policy: The Coevolution of Public and Private Sources of Finance for Important Emerging and Evolving Technologies

What is my book about?

Our book covers ten case studies of important technologies introduced over recent decades. It divides the economy into the private, for-profit, and public, not-for-profit sectors and shows that both have cooperated in the development of each of these new technologies. The cases thus illustrate how mistaken is the belief that governments should avoid involvement in technological developments because they cannot pick winners, while the miracle of the private market economy can accomplish everything that is needed.

The cases also illustrate that the best stage for the public sector to enter depends on the type of technology being developed. For example, the more science-based is a new technology, the earlier in its development stage are public sector initiatives needed. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths

Richard G. Lipsey Why did I love this book?

Using many case studies different from ours, Mazzucato shows the private and public sectors as partners in the development of new technologies.

For example, in a fascinating case study of the iPhone, often thought to be a prime example of private enterprise, she shows that Steve Jobs’ genius was in combining into a new product many technologies recently developed by the public sector.

She argues that this iPhone case is typical of situations including the internet, biotech, and even shale gas “…in which the State plays the pivotal serious role of taking on the development of high-risk technologies, making the early, large and high-risk investments, and then sustaining them until the such times that the later-stage private sector actors can appear…”

By Mariana Mazzucato,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Entrepreneurial State as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this sharp and controversial expose, Mariana Mazzucato debunks the pervasive myth that the state is a laggard, bureaucratic apparatus at odds with a dynamic private sector. She reveals in detailed case studies, including a riveting chapter on the iPhone, that the opposite is true: the state is, and has been, our boldest and most valuable innovator. Denying this history is leading us down the wrong path. A select few get credit for what is an intensely collective effort, and the US government has started disinvesting from innovation. The repercussions could stunt economic growth and increase inequality. Mazzucato teaches us…


Book cover of The Matter of Everything: How Curiosity, Physics, and Improbable Experiments Changed the World

Richard G. Lipsey Why did I love this book?

Sheehy studies twelve scientific discoveries that created the modern view of the physical world, first the electron and finally the Higgs Boson.

She concentrates on the equipment that made each discovery possible and the myriad practical applications that are built on each of them. These range from devices to diagnose illnesses and treat cancer to the internet and to: “All modern electronic devices [all of which] use our understanding of quantum mechanics.

Although these breakthroughs were accomplished in the public sector and mainly to satisfy scientific curiosity, the applications were, to a significant extent, accomplished by the private, for-profit sector.

She observes that “we hear the tale of discovery from the physicists and the tale of innovation and commercial success from the entrepreneurs, but somehow forget about the symbiosis between them.”

By Suzie Sheehy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Matter of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A surprising, fascinating journey through the experiments that not only unlocked the nature of matter and shaped our understanding of the cosmos but also forever changed the way we live within it

"A book about the fundamental problems of physics written from a viewpoint I hadn’t come across before: that of the experimenter. A splendid idea, vividly carried out.” –Philip Pullman, best-selling author of His Dark Materials

Physics has always sought to deepen our understanding of the nature of matter and the world around us. But how do you conduct experiments with the fundamental building blocks of existence? How do…


Book cover of Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization

Richard G. Lipsey Why did I love this book?

In the original version of this book, Wade refutes the two extreme versions of the reasons for the dramatic successes of the East Asian Tigers, particularly Taiwan, in going from undeveloped to advanced economies, fully integrated into the global economy, within one generation.

One version is that the success was mainly due to the free market and the other that it is attributed mainly to government intervention. Instead, Wade shows that key decisions were divided between the private and public sectors in a way that produced a synergy between them.

The revised version extends the coverage to explain the booms and busts in the early 21st century and outlines his new agenda for national and international development policy.

By Robert Wade,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Governing the Market as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published originally in 1990 to critical acclaim, Robert Wade's Governing the Market quickly established itself as a standard in contemporary political economy. In it, Wade challenged claims both of those who saw the East Asian story as a vindication of free market principles and of those who attributed the success of Taiwan and other countries to government intervention. Instead, Wade turned attention to the way allocation decisions were divided between markets and public administration and the synergy between them. Now, in a new introduction to this paperback edition, Wade reviews the debate about industrial policy in East and Southeast Asia…


Book cover of Sources of Industrial Leadership: Studies of Seven Industries

Richard G. Lipsey Why did I love this book?

This book studies the evolution of seven high-tech industries—machine-tools, organic chemical products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, computers, semiconductors, and software—in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe, stressing the factors that contributed to their successes.

The effects of public policy, although significant in all these cases, have varied across industries and across countries. For example, the American Department of Defense successfully pushed developments in semiconductors, computers, and software, and while the National Institutes of Health massively financed medical research.

Case studies of policy failures, particularly in Japan and Europe, emphasize what has been seen in many less developed countries, that competition among competing firms is vastly preferable to giving a local monopoly to a chosen national champion.

By David C. Mowery (editor), Richard R. Nelson (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sources of Industrial Leadership as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book describes and analyzes how seven major high-tech industries evolved in the USA, Japan, and Western Europe. The industries covered are machine tools, organic chemical products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, computers, semiconductors, and software. In each of these industries, firms located in one or a very few countries became the clear technological and commercial leaders. In a number of cases, the locus of leadership changed, sometimes more than once, over the course of the histories studied. The focus of the book is on the key factors that supported the emergence of national leadership in each industry, and the reasons behind…


Book cover of Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth

Richard G. Lipsey Why did I love this book?

While all the books listed earlier provide detailed, in-depth, case studies of public-private sector cooperation in developing selected new technologies, the last two chapters of this book provide necessarily brief coverages of the myriad ways in which this cooperation had been successfully manifested beyond encouraging specific technologies.

Although the book’s main purpose is to show how a series of important technologies have transformed economic, social, and political life over the millennia, the last two chapters show how knowledge of these transformations sheds light on the wider use of public policy to achieve economic goals.

While many public initiatives have succeeded, others have failed. The authors isolate the reasons for these successes and failures and offer their template for designing and administering policies that are more likely to succeed than fail.

By Richard G. Lipsey, Kenneth I. Carlaw, Clifford T. Bekar

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Economic Transformations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book examines the long term economic growth that has raised the West's material living standards to levels undreamed of by counterparts in any previous time or place. The authors argue that this growth has been driven by technological revolutions that have periodically transformed the West's economic, social and political landscape over the last 10,000 years and allowed the West to become, until recently, the world's only dominant technological force.

Unique in the diversity of the analytical techniques used, the book begins with a discussion of the causes and consequences of economic growth and technological change. The authors argue that…


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Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Michael Bungay Stanier Author Of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

The coaching book that's for all of us, not just coaches.

It's the best-selling book on coaching this century, with 15k+ online reviews. Brené Brown calls it "a classic". Dan Pink said it was "essential".

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By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coaching Habit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Look for Michael's new book, The Advice Trap, which focuses on taming your Advice Monster so you can stay curious a little longer and change the way you lead forever.

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Interested in innovation, industrialization, and economics?

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