Images of tech entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are continually thrown at us by politicians, economists, and the media. The message is that innovation is best left in the hands of these individuals and the wider private sector, and that the state—bureaucratic and sluggish—should keep out.
A telling 2012 article in the Economist claimed that, to be innovative, governments must "stick to the basics" such as spending on infrastructure, education, and skills, leaving the rest to the revolutionary garage
Yet it is ideology, not evidence, that fuels this image. A quick look at the pioneering technologies of the past century points to the state, not the private sector, as the most decisive player in the game.
...Apple is a perfect example.
In its early stages, the company received government cash support via a $500,000 small-business investment company grant. And every technology that makes the iPhone a smartphone owes its vision and funding to the state: the Internet, GPS, touch-screen displays, and even the voice-activated smartphone assistant Siri all received state cash.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency bankrolled the Internet, and the CIA and the military funded GPS.
So, although the United States is sold to us as the model example of progress through private enterprise, innovation there has benefited from a very interventionist state.