Why the government should not be the Big Innovator

A few weeks ago I got published with an article I wrote about the role governments can and cannot play in stimulating innovation. I responded to a piece that Rutger Bregman posted for the De Correspondent about the biggest inventor and innovator in the world: the government. He claims that governments are responsible for all major technological breakthroughs in the past 100 years and that they are the ultimate venture capitalists. The government should take a stronger role as a technological innovator at the expense of the free market.

Dangerous nonsense. Continue reading

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The Crazy Concept of Life Expectancy

Someone’s life expectancy is the expected number of years he or she will remain alive. It is an average that is computed for several groups of people of varying specificity, such as the entire global population, newborns in Ghana, or 15-year-old women in Europe. It is a statistic used in many debates, especially in those concerning a country’s (under)development. The statistic is always presented with much confidence, that is, no-one really doubts the accuracy and reliability, which becomes clear in thousands of articles, but let’s pick one:

In the two decades to 2010, men’s life expectancy increased by 4.7 years and women’s by 5.1 years – but the extra years of good health were only 3.9 years and 4 years respectively.

Or even more specific:

New Yorkers who are 70 saw their life expectancy increase 1.5 years, to 86.9, compared with 0.7 years, to 85.1, for the same age group nationwide.

I find such statements truly remarkable, since it is not at all straightforward that we can compute life expectancy statistics with great confidence and accuracy. A great deal of uncertainty enters the calculations in several ways, of which I would like to discuss a few: picking indicators, large prediction horizons, and lacking backtesting.

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Implementing Venture Capital Policies in Europe Requires more than a Casual Look at Silicon Valley

Much of the literature on venture capital (VC) policies is inspired by the success of a handful highly visible companies such as Microsoft, Compaq, Intel, Google, and Apple. These companies, nowadays, are huge and extremely powerful, but at some point in their development they had to resort to VC. These companies are, of course, the envy of many countries – who wouldn’t want to have such firms flourishing in his or her country?

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Venture Capital Policies in the Netherlands: Lessons from the Literature and Benchmark Countries

thesis

In recent months I have been on an internship with the Dutch Ministry of Finance in order to write my Master’s Thesis for the MSc in Finance. Two weeks ago I graduated from Tilburg University based on the research I did at the Ministry. The Dutch Venture Capital Association (the NVP) even published my work (here’s a PDF).

Working at the Ministry of Finance in the Hague was a very pleasant and rewarding experience, despite the lengthy daily train journeys. I worked in a directorate with young people, who helped me enormously with my research. I have been there for over 4 fulltime months. At the beginning I had no real clue about venture capitalism aside from a general understanding of its mechanisms, let alone about public policies that optimally support venture capital investments.

 

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