Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More good ways to spend the stimulus money

We all know about infrastructure. And we certainly need it. But we also need imaginative ways to spend the stimulus money we will be spending. Thomas Friedman had one suggestion. Are there others? I'm sure there are. Usually when the government spends money it invites proposals. Why not do the same thing this time. Divide the money into a number of categories such as infrastructure, labor intensive, and far out. Let people submit proposals. Start a DARPA-like stimulus agency which is given the job of finding imaginative and productive—but possibly experimental—ways to spend money that will have a positive effect on the future of the economy. I'm sure there will be lots of good ideas.

One criterion should be that the programs are primarily labor intensive. We don't want to spend money buying gold, for example. So a program gets points for doing things that require people. It shouldn't use people when technology can be used instead. But there are things only people can do, e.g., medicine, education, counseling, policing, research, software development, etc.

There are programs that deserve experimental trials, such as solar energy farms in the desert What can we learn about building solar energy farms that would be useful to know in the future? Here's our chance to find out.

Give some of the money to successful venture capitalists, not for them to spend but for them to invest as part of their portfolio as if the government is another investor.

There must be lots of good ideas out there. Let's not just spend the money on traditional government make-work programs. Let's be creative, imaginative, and productive about it.

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