On Capitalism and Technology

Mossberg talks about capitalism's impact on technology. He argues that in spite of capitalism's imperfections, it has served as one of the greatest drivers of technological change and innovation.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Walt Mossberg: Capitalism has a lot of problems. There are a lot of inequities. There are a lot of things about it that are imperfect and should be tweaked and should be fixed. But capitalism is the . . . you know has created a . . . a world in those countries that practice it where if you have a great idea, you can raise some money and you can go do it. And certainly the personal computer and consumer digital revolution of the last 30 years would never have happened if it weren’t for free markets, people’s ability to . . . from any walk of life, to come up with an idea, do it in a garage, get a little money from some venture capitalist or somebody, and then bring it to market. And if it fails – and most of them do fail, you know – you go try something else. And if it succeeds, you could become the wealthiest guy in the world like Bill Gates did. And I think you can’t overstate the importance of a free market economic system, and particularly the way it has been practiced in the United States where people are willing . . . Both technologists and investors have been willing to take risks. Sometimes you’ve lost money on those risks. We saw it in the dot com bubble and then bust of just six or seven years ago. But overall, it’s been an extremely invigorating and healthy thing. And even in other capitalist countries where risk taking was harder, and where failure was much more of a kind of final thing, they didn’t . . . they didn’t spawn the kinds of ideas, and products, and technologies that we did. Because it’s not a sin to fail in the United States, certainly not in tech. I can tell you that people come to see me every day with companies and products who came to see me five years before for some completely different company and product which may have failed. Maybe it succeeded, but a lot of times it failed. And I don’t say, “Well I’m not gonna see that guy because he failed in his last company.” And the venture capitalists don’t say, “Well you failed in your last company. Why should we even listen to you?” No, they say, “Okay, you learned something from that failure. Let’s listen to your new thing.”

 

Recorded on: 9/13/07