This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on September 27, 2013.
Dear Applicant: Thank you for your letter inquiring about positions in our economics department. At this time, we have no openings. However, I will keep your letter on file should an appropriate job become available
At least, that’s what I am required to tell you. But here’s what I’d really like to say to you – and to every recent economics graduate who sends me the same letter.
First, I know it’s lousy for bachelor of arts grads looking for a job “in their field.” Twenty years ago, it was lousy for me too. It’s almost always lousy. In a way, it’s kind of supposed to be – a small rite of passage to welcome you into the working world. It’s sort of like being froshed.
But if I may, I would like to offer some advice.
This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on September 12, 2013.
Students of classical economics all learn about the three factors of production: Land, labour and capital. Over the years, though, we’ve come to learn that land, labour and capital are actually not quite sufficient. They never spontaneously combine on their own to create anything new and useful. What’s missing is a fourth factor: Innovation. Sometimes, it’s called creativity or entrepreneurialism. But by any name we give it, innovation is what drives wealth creation.
On this front, Canada was dealt some sobering news last week. In the most recent global competitiveness rankings by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Canada placed a disappointing 14th. The report considers a variety of criteria, and Canada scores reasonably well in financial markets, stable institutions, and infrastructure. But where we stumble badly is innovation.
The author of the WEF report, Klaus Schwab, writes: “Although substantial gains can be obtained by improving institutions, building infrastructure, reducing macroeconomic instability, or improving human capital, all these factors eventually run into diminishing returns. … In the long run, standards of living can be largely enhanced by technological innovation.”
It’s almost as if he’s pointing directly at Canada.