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Nathan Rosenberg

Economist at Stanford University, expert on the history of technology and its impacts on society


Unlike most forms of geometric expansion, there is no reason to believe that the expansion of knowledge has any inherent limits.

Innovation is more likely to occur in a society that is open to the formation of new enterprises than in a society that relies on its existing organizations for innovation.

Innovation often originates outside existing organizations, in part because successful organizations acquire a commitment to the status quo and a resistance to ideas that might change it.

It is entirely possible that an exaggerated belief in the capacity of government to enhance economic welfare has created more havoc in the political sphere than in the economic. The nineteenth-century autonomy of the economic sphere reflected a division of labor between political and economic leadership that must seem almost idyllic to modern political leaders who are enmeshed in economic responsibilities that they cannot possibly discharge and who are harassed by their inability to finance and manage the traditional governmental functions. The management of economies entails so much frustration and futility, repeated year after year, that they must eventually exhaust the energies, initiative, morale, and effectiveness of those who attempt it.

1986 - from How The West Grew Rich (with L. E. Birdzell, Jr., Basic Books)
The perception of poverty as morally intolerable in a rich society had to await the emergence of a rich society.