If you want to create jobs at home, don’t rely on startups

This morning’s Observer column.

[Tom] Friedman is a significant figure because his pulpit on the NYT enables him subliminally to insert ideas into the collective unconscious of America’s ruling elite. Which is why something he wrote recently needs to be challenged. “If we want to bring down unemployment in a sustainable way”, he writes, “funding more road construction will do it. We need to create a big bushel of new companies – fast. We’ve got to get more Americans working again for their own dignity… Good-paying jobs don’t come from bailouts. They come from startups.”

When Samuel Johnson was asked how he would refute Bishop Berkeley’s philosophical proposition about the non-existence of matter, he famously kicked a stone and said: “I refute it thus!” Not having a convenient stone, I pick up the nearest object that lies to hand. It’s an iPhone. “Designed by Apple in California”, it says on the back. “Assembled in China”.

Now of course it’s a long time since Apple was a startup, but the iPhone still refutes Friedman’s hypothesis…