What is the Biggest Barrier to Innovation in US? Government, Government, and Government.


The Atlantic asked 50 "Silicon Valley insiders" a series of questions about business, culture, and other things. Above are the topline answers to the question, "What is the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States?"

Given the roles of governments at various levels, it's fair to say that the respondents believe government is the runaway problem. Immigration policy is set by government and education is effectively controlled by it too. Thanks, government!

(Hat tip: Kevin Kelly's Google+ feed.)

And if you think it's only high-tech bazillionaires who feel this way, keep in mind that the last time Gallup asked jes' plain folks, "Which of the following do you think is the biggest threat to the country in the—big business, big labor, or big government?," a record-high number chose big government.

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  1. You forgot to mention government.

  2. Run this poll again after Generalissimo Obumbles finished phoning in and penning his climate change regulations and immigration ‘reform’.

  3. I assume this is all lumped in with number one, but the barriers to entry created at the state and federal levels really helps to stifle competition and, as a result, innovation. Beyond just the costs of regulatory compliance. Government also shits all over the market as a purchaser of goods and services, not to mention market-crushing subsidies and other interventions.

    1. I live in SoCal and have a good friend that owns a crossfit gym. Business was good and she wanted to move to a bigger place. It was mind boggling the hoops she had to jump through to get approval. Ultimately, due to having to lease to sites at once, she decided to stay in her old place even though it’s caps her ability to grow.

      Good thing government is saving us from the evils of private business!

  4. Immigration restrictions are part and parcel of big government.

  5. 2001, drop in fear of our government. So you’re saying W lowered the rising tide of anti-government sentiment?

  6. Now ask what they think about net neutrality

  7. Government is top 5 — regulation, bureaucracy, immigration, education, and the combination of various perverse disincentives that lead to talent shortages.

    Basically, they spit hot fire.

    1. Yeah, I found it odd that Nick cut off the infographic where it did, since the next highest polling option was patents. Hey, guess who does those!

  8. Are we excluding stupidity? (Other than the stupidity that saddled us with a giant intrusive government)

  9. The degree to which government stifles the economy, productivity, innovation, and just general welfare, is beyond any level any of us can grasp. Just seeing small amounts of government at work at a very close level years ago pretty much maxed out my capacity for understanding how bad it actually is.

    1. Government stifles the economy by limiting options, primarily thru regulations on businesses. Consumers or those who don’t run businesses never see the lost opportunities or choices that would have otherwise been available to them.

      Without the (forced) cooperation of business, the regulatory regime would collapse overnight.

      1. There’s also an invisible hand of government, and it’s usually around an entrepreneur’s throat.

        It’s a shame that so many people really have no idea how badly government policies destroy good new ideas.

        1. I think the information revolution will birth many Ubers, and this will make the control government needs unattainable.

        2. BakedPenguin|11.12.14 @ 4:24PM|#
          “There’s also an invisible hand of government, and it’s usually around an entrepreneur’s throat.”

          I find it grabbing my wallet, too.

          1. It’s not that invisible.

    2. It’s worse than you can possibly imagine. And, oddly enough, that multiplier they like to pretend exists in the economy really does seem to work when it comes to multiplying the ill effects of government. For instance, draconian tax code means hundreds of billions a year in tax compliance costs. Not taxes, just lawyers ans accountants.

  10. What is Tammy Wynette’s involvement in this, and why is she gazing so longingly at the “government meddling” line?

    Is this an early “”Friday Funnies”, cause NEEDS MOAR LABELZ, too.

  11. But, then, how many of these same Silicon Valley insiders turn around and give a loving rimjob to the very guys looking to ramp up regulation? And I’m not talking about a grudging “eh, they’re better than Republicans”. I’m talking about the whole felch-til-you-just-can’t-felch-no-more, go-to-town treatment?

    Unless, of course, barrier to innovation is a feature for them, and not a bug.

    1. Creative destruction loses some of its appeal when its your company that stands to be destroyed.

      1. Power desires stasis.

        1. I would have a much different view on who the good and bad guys were if I went back and watched Babylon 5 today.

          1. In the end, they kicked the Vorlons out too. Sent both groups of TOP MEN packing. I’d say they got it about right.

            1. Indeed. Ultimately it was about rejecting authority. But even then, the Vorlons were depicted as being more benevolent, the Shadows more malevolent. I’m not sure I’d buy that today.

  12. Didn’t NPR just run a whole article on the devastating effect a lack of diversity is having on Silicon Valley management?

    Yeah, here it is

    Tristan Walker: I think in Silicon Valley we like to talk about two problems. There’s the access problem, where they’re not enough folks well networked into the Valley to get jobs in some of these larger companies. But I like to think a little bit more broadly about the awareness problem. I didn’t have any idea about Silicon Valley until I moved out here six years ago to go to business school, and that’s a problem. I think once that’s fixed, I think a lot of Silicon Valley’s problems will be fixed.


    1. Nothing is perfect, obviously. But what are these super serious problems that Silicon Valley needs to fix? Because it seems to be doing pretty well for itself and the rest of us from where I’m sitting (which is not in Silicon Valley).

      1. The problem (to these people) is that diversity is an end unto itself and Silicon Valley doesn’t have enough.

        It’s a meaningless metric. And businesses that are guided by meaningless metrics always suffer the same fate.

        1. The best part is that “diversity” doesn’t even have a mathematical basis. Ask this guy what the exact percentages of “diversity” there should be. Then watch him sputter like a mongoloid. Stupid, illogical people are absolutely brutal to deal with.

          1. Yes. “Diversity” is just another way of saying “hire people for reasons other than their qualifications”.

            1. Because having diverse employees couldn’t possibly give a enterprise selling to an increasingly diverse markets any advantage.

              1. Not really no.

                1. Really? So if you’re selling a product in black neighborhoods it wouldn’t be helpful at all to have some black salespeople involved? Or if you’re marketing to Hispanics you should only have English only speaking Asians come up with the marketing pitch?

              2. In marketing and sales, maybe. It’s not like Google is lacking diversity in the actors they hire for their advertising.

                1. Marketing and sales is a bit more than choosing the right actors for tv ads.

                  There’s a lot of stupid under the diversity racket, but it’s not all so.

                  1. I’m with Bo on this. Different cultural backgrounds lead people to value different things, and view the world through a different lens. Understanding that requires more than someone that looks different.

                  2. Except the research out there indicates that the diversity that matters isn’t the diversity that’s selected based on diversity. A black guy whose dad was a lawyer and grew up in Georgetown isn’t going to be much an advantage in selling in the hood. And a hispanic who learned Spanish in fifth grade, or a upper-middle class guy from Argentina isn’t going to help you sell to American Hispanics a whole lot more than your English-speaking Asian.

                    1. Agreed, and I sort of touched on that in my post below. A workforce that was as cosmetically diverse as the U.S. as a whole may not imply true diversity of ideas and values. In fact, achieving it might require greater homogeneity.

          2. I suspect most would prefer to see the workforce at all levels roughly reflect the average U.S. population. That is a fairly easy metric to define.

            I don’t think it is a goal that is *entirely* without merit, either. If met, it would provide a pretty good indication that anyone in the U.S. could go off and do anything they wanted, and that structural barriers that might have prevented had been mostly eliminated. I think that would be a good thing. I don’t want a kid that has the potential to be the next Steve Jobs to get stuck in a dead-end school because they were unfortunate to be born into a cycle of inner city poverty that largely follows racial divides.

            BUT opportunity is only part of the story. If that goal were met, it would also indicate that the U.S. had become largely culturally homogeneous. Or, to be more precise, what heterogeneity existed would be found across the board, without remaining differences in different populations, at least as categorized by race, gender, sexual preference, etc.

            Would that actually lead to a greater diversity of ideas, cultures, and values? I don’t think it would, and that would be a bad thing. Come to think of it, that seems to be the goal among progressives. They want all cultural groups to adopt progressive values.

            1. I don’t think it is a goal that is *entirely* without merit, either. If met, it would provide a pretty good indication that anyone in the U.S. could go off and do anything they wanted, and that structural barriers that might have prevented had been mostly eliminated. I think that would be a good thing. I don’t want a kid that has the potential to be the next Steve Jobs to get stuck in a dead-end school because they were unfortunate to be born into a cycle of inner city poverty that largely follows racial divides.

              There is nothing stopping these schools from becoming good other than the students and parents. There is nothing stopping anybody who really wants to achieve something to do so.
              There are no “structural barriers” to anybody.

              Remove the existing kids and replace them with low income Asians and magically the school becomes good. I am tired of hearing about “the poverty” and all the other excuses for the underachievement of minorities. Are you sure it isn’t the lower average IQ? If so how does that get fixed? Should we have affirmative action forever then even if we know the gap will never be closed?

        2. I had to take an annual survey at work(USMC) and there were about 20(ish) questions about how I thought diversity would affect the Corps.

          Stuff like this is how I know it’s time to retire. I obviously don’t get “it.”

    2. He moved to Silicon Valley…for business school? I’m pretty sure that means he’s functionally retarded.

      1. Stanford is a good business school, and just looking at the interview he’s a successful business guy who worked on Wall Street previously not a technical guy. I suspect he’s just playing the game here.

    3. As anyone who has sat through a day-long diversity “training” can tell you, getting the right mix of race/gender/age/sexual orientation in your management team will solve all of your strategic decision-making problems.

  13. Restrictive IP laws are too often forgotten when we discuss regulation.

    1. IP laws are regulation. I assumed that was understood…

      1. Yes, but it is an aspect of it that doesn’t get as much attention as it probably should. At least I think so.

  14. A lack of diversity is an impediment to innovation?!

    1. Don’t you know that proper gender and racial representation in 19th Century companies made the Industrial Revolution possible?

    2. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    3. Well, it said “Silicon Valley insiders”. Technically, that could include Jenny from Human Resources and Brad, who works at the Palo Alto Starbucks.

  15. Regulatory capture is just a right wing meme. Clearly this isn’t good innovation or the government wouldn’t be stopping it. And besides, we can’t have uncontrolled change. It would be chaos. What are you people? Nihilists?

    /NYT Intellectual

    1. You want uncontrolled change? Move to Somalia!

    2. Isn’t regulatory capture big with Naderite leftists?

      1. So, yesterday John’s a Republican shill and today he’s a Naderite leftist. Chist, Botard, make up your mind, if you have one.

        1. And yesterday you didn’t get my point and today you don’t either!

          1. Bo’s point: “My butt really HURTS!!”

      2. So what if it is? It is a real thing. Nader’s people’s problem is they think it will go away if only we put the right people in charge.

  16. What did Elon Musk say?

    1. “Shut up, Mimsy!”

    2. “What did Elon Musk say?”

      He said ‘where’s the government handing out money now?’

  17. It’s a shame that so many people really have no idea how badly government policies destroy good new ideas.

    I flipped on Bloomberg earlier, just to see what has their panties in a twist today; the discussion topic was, “Should the government regulate the robotics industry more tightly?”

    Are those people too stupid to understand government meddling will effectively destroy the robotics industry, or is that the result they actively seek?

    1. Robot slaves are our right as Americans.

  18. Why the world in 2015 faces a leadership crisis:

    “Well, as our governments have grown, their mechanisms have been plagued by decades of factional alignment, dynasty and deep corruption. In China, for example, 90% of people surveyed by Pew said corruption was a problem; separate studies found that 78% of Brazilian respondents and 83% of those in India regard dishonest leadership as a serious issue…

    Why is this happening today, when we’ve had universal suffrage for over a hundred years in many countries? Perhaps we’ve finally realized we can do better. We have a surge of incredibly smart, enabled people coming out of education, building great companies and showing us the radical pace of innovation; this could explain why Survey respondents ranked business leaders second only to non-profit organizations in our Global Leadership Index. By contrast, when we look at our governments and international institutions, it is tempting to only see ritual, politics and little progress, and to wonder if these systems are just holding us back.”

  19. What is the point of the orangy chick in the lower right corner of the graphic?

  20. What is the Biggest Barrier to Innovation in US? Government, Government, and Government.

    To let you know that our resident little red Marxian Tony is at least consistent in a few things, he repeated the canard that Government is the Originator and Preserver of modern civilization in the John Stossel post.

    1. He also said that Supply and Demand are tantamount to slavery and imperialism, but that doesn’t mean he’s not consistent when it comes to a couple of things he holds dear.

  21. If you want to see what really stifles innovation view the documentary “Print the Legend” about desktop 3D printing. There was almost no diversity in the two companies highlighted yet they still continued to grow. The only hitch was when 3D systems sued Formlab. Anybody familiar with the tech industry knows that patent trolling is far worse than anything government does. They also know many of the patents issued are garbage like those from the recent suit between Apple and Samsung. I have seen patents issued to our company that I assumed any electrical engineer could have come up with. They were derivations of something every engineer has done already just applied to a specific industry. You wonder how a patent could be given for such a simple circuit.

    1. One thing you do notice in the film is there is NO lack of talent in the US. There is NO need for guest workers or immigration. These were almost all young adults and mostly white doing stuff that required quite a bot more smarts than the what the average H-1B “software tester” is capable of. They were able to find all the talent they needed as the company grew.

  22. Lack of “divurristy” among tech executives was a real answer? For real?

    Why that and not the “urrrgency” of global warming and peak oil? Where is their conceerrrn for the chiilldren?

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