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The Wealth of Nations — Adam Smith Institute
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This paper constructs estimates of foreign assets and liabilities and their equity and debt subcomponents for a sample of 67 industrial and developing countries. It characterizes the stylized facts of international balance sheets and asks whether there are trends in net foreign asset positions and shifts in debt-equity ratios over time. Finally, it explores the sensitivity of estimated stock positions to the treatment of valuation effects not captured in balance of payments data.
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More sophisticated methods to normalize, and to detect the underlying dimensionality of choice, have been applied. Most importantly, a more accurate method for identifying cognitive-based structures in the literature is now available. These improvements provide the foundation from which our methodology will be built. Historically, the primary justification for investing billions in research has been based in economics.
When Carl Linnaeus — asked the King and Queen of Sweden to support his efforts at creating plant taxonomies, he argued that, if successful, he would be able to create cold-hardy plants that could be grown in Sweden, thereby allowing Sweden to develop national wealth based on agriculture [ 21 ]. In the 19th century, the U. In the 19th and early 20th century, different nations invested in basic research that supported national advantages in applied research Germany in chemistry, France with its polytechnic schools.
The industrial strength of the U. Overall, there is an extensive literature on the relationship between science, invention, innovation and economic growth that, in essence, points to economic advantage as the primary motive for research [ 23 — 27 ]. Although spillover benefit is often used to justify investments in astronomy, space exploration, and other basic sciences [ 25 ], the primary reason these things are funded is to gain knowledge, to seek answers to big problems. Likewise, why do researchers choose careers in basic sciences rather than those that directly benefit the economy?
Interviews with researchers in astronomy and space exploration reveal part of the answer. Astronomers are, in large measure, men and women who, as children, would look up at the stars in awe. They maintained this sense of awe in choosing majors and career paths. Personal motives for going into astronomy and astrophysics are not based on homo-economicus; they are based on curiosity—an altruistic analog.
At both the researcher and funding levels, much of research is being done for reasons that are clearly not economic in nature. A different part of the national brain is being stimulated when altruistic research is considered. We suggest that altruism is a dominant motive for research. Discovering basic principles of life and nature and making them manifest are an integral part of the human psyche.
These research activities, along with those aimed at reducing illness, protecting the weak, providing world-wide educational opportunities, sustaining the earth as our home, reflecting on the meaning of life and living in a fair and just civilized state, are rooted in altruism. It is this tension—between our current belief about the role of research in economic progress and our observation that many research activities are strongly rooted in altruistic motives—that is the focus of this background discussion.
As such, we will first elaborate on the traditional views of research and economic growth before we turn our attention to the possibility that altruism plays a significant role in why nations spend tens of billions of dollars on research. The background section concludes with a summary of how one can investigate these issues using publication data.
Joseph Schumpeter — significantly influenced the economic policy in the United States and Europe via his focus on entrepreneurship, technological innovation and corresponding waves of economic destruction [ 28 ]. Since patents are a primary mechanism for capturing the benefits from research, there is a corresponding literature on what subjects are patentable [ 32 , 33 ].
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The field of strategic management also focuses on economic motives for research. This stream of research on corporate diversification was re-interpreted using the concept of absorptive capacity [ 35 ]. Absorptive capacity is the ability of a firm to identify, assimilate and apply external knowledge. This is now the dominant explanation for corporate research; firms conduct research in order to learn about what moves to make in the competitive environment and whether first mover advantages exist [ 36 ].
From the perspective of strategic management, corporations do not publish scientific articles for the altruistic reasons of contributing to world-wide knowledge and well-being. Both economists and managers agree that entrepreneurs play a critical role in converting research into economic benefits. As such, there has been an extensive literature on the role of entrepreneurs, especially in regional growth.
There is also an extensive literature on the characteristics of these entrepreneurs and how entrepreneurs recognize opportunities [ 41 — 43 ]. The practical problem of taking research to the marketplace has also been addressed by academics studying the innovation process. Most notable were the early work on the characteristics of successful vs. As the source of innovation shifted from the large industrial labs, there has been corresponding work showing how innovation could be financed using crowd sourcing [ 46 ]. Joseph Schumpeter is one of the most influential forefathers of this research, and there are many well developed research questions that are currently being investigated from the underlying assumption that inventors convert ideas into patents and entrepreneurs convert opportunities into product and process innovations.
The assumed goal is economic gain or is strongly related to economic gain, such as is the case for research that enhances national security. Altruism provides a strong alternative to the economic motive for research. For example, the economic motive is not the dominant reason behind funding for the JWST as mentioned above , nor is it the driver for the large amounts of funding that are directed primarily by wealthy nations to detect and respond to pandemics that, while they generate fear, are relatively unlikely to significantly affect those nations.
At the personal level, many medical researchers chose their professions in response to a desire to find a cure for a particular disease that affected a family member or friend. In addition, many non-profit organizations NPOs , both large and small, fund research related to their causes and missions, all of which have a strong altruistic component. Altruism plays a significant role in research. Despite this role, the relationship between altruism and research has not been subject to the same level of study as has the economic motive.
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Altruism has had no intellectual champion such as Schumpeter. Most altruism research is performed within the context of topics on biological fitness and behavior, cooperation in the evolutionary dynamics and game theory sense , organ donation, professionalism particularly in medicine , medical education, volunteerism, citizenship, and monetary donation.
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The relative positions of these institutions are shown in Fig 2 , where each dot represents a specific NPO. Neighboring NPOs in map space share similar mission statements as reflected by the words used on their websites. Not surprisingly, one of the most populated areas on this map of altruism deals with the treatment of disease lower right.
NPOs in this area actively fund medical research without any expectation of economic gain. Their motives harken back to the same motives that were mentioned in the introduction—to extend life [ 1 ]. A comparable level of activity is associated with Civics. This area of the altruism map includes NPOs concerned about the type of society we live in and social dilemmas, as well as others that focus more on political issues. It is interesting to note that within Civics we see a large number of NPOs devoted to the issue of technological innovation.
Consider, for example, the number of non-profits and regional development organizations that have been formed to encourage entrepreneurial behavior. While economists might argue that the motive of the entrepreneur and the venture capitalist funding the entrepreneur is personal gain, the NPOs helping entrepreneurs must by law be more altruistic.