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Design Principles for American Industrial Policy

April 26, 2021

Andrew Schrank recently published, "Design Principles for American Industrial Policy" which examines the current and future state of industrial policies in the U.S.


In principle, the United States could let manufacturing decline and adopt compensatory or targeted social, environmental, and security policies to protect the disadvantaged, the environment, and the borders—just as in principle we could adopt the ideal industrial policy now in an effort to generate the resources needed to promote equity, sustainability, and security later. But we don’t live in principle; we live in practice, and in practice all these policies are harder to adopt and defend than design. Industrial policymakers may therefore decide to exploit the current moment to build a broad coalition of disparate actors marked by diffuse goals—including geopolitical competition, environmental sustainability, economic security, and social justice—in an effort to pursue their shared vision. Andrew Schrank proposes that if lawmakers are willing to pursue a broadly targeted approach that trades short-run efficiency for long-run effectiveness, they’ll have a much better chance of achieving a sustainable compromise, one that leads not only to successful legislation, but to achieving the diverse and largely laudable goals that brought them together in the first place. 


Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson recently cited Schrank's research in "A Bipartisan Vision for the Future of American Science."

"Andrew Schrank at Brown University, writing in this publication, observes that 'competitiveness is neither a necessary nor a sufficient basis for equity, sustainability, or security.' He goes on to write, 'China’s industrial policy has improved neither equity nor sustainability. Russia’s economic collapse has done little to erode its national security.' A similar line of thinking on our part motivated us to reframe the conversation around a new Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions at NSF that would focus not on developing technology for its own sake—or for the singular goal of competitiveness—but on advancing solutions that will help make people’s lives healthier and safer, society more equitable, and the globe more resilient to a changing climate and other threats."