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Encouraging Innovation: How Can We Do It Better?

In Tuesday’s New York Times, there was a story about how entrepreneurs have been getting into the game of buying undervalued websites, revamping them, and then selling them for a profit. Read it here.

In Tuesday’s New York Times, there was a story about how entrepreneurs have been getting into the game of buying undervalued websites, revamping them, and then selling them for a profit. Read it here.

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These web-preneurs use home computers and free software, and focus on small, specific niche sites that they think have a lot of turn-around-potential. Much like the real estate investors and day traders before them, they are “looking to make a lot of money without much effort.”

Of course, this is smart, right? Who wouldn’t want to make a lot of money without putting in a lot of effort? Maximizing profits while minimizing effort, well gee whiz, that sounds like a recipe for the New American Dream!

The problem is that this is a terrible algorithm for innovation. Innovation, like any fledgling being, needs a stable and encouraging environment to grow. It requires dedication, brainpower, sweat, blood, and tears, right?

Unfortunately, it seems that many American – and probably global industries – are mired in this self-interested and shortsighted approach to economics: the low energy, high outcome type of business transaction no doubt reigns. Take the oil industry, for example. Exxon-Mobil is currently making $756,000 a minute in revenue, so why would they even consider mining for anything but black gold? The problem is there needs to be some regulation, some incentive, for Big Business to invest in long-term, innovative and eco-friendly strategies. Someone needs to make it worth their while. The Bush Administration really couldn’t seem less interested in checking Big Oil. Thank God for T. Boone Pickens.

But what about the media holding industries like oil accountable for their lackadaisical innovation policies? Well, I’m inclined to agree with Howell Raines and Jim Steele who propose that the media has become yet another enabling force at this point, especially for Big Business and Big Oil. Both argue that today’s young reporters are more beholden to Reaganomics than ever before: a free market at any cost, no taxes, and no meddling, interventionist government.

Well, I’m one young reporter that doesn’t cringe at taxes, government, or a restricted market. Call me crazy.

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So I want to know, what can we the people, we the media, we the government be doing to encourage innovation? Especially when it comes to alternative energy…

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