Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vannevar Bush: Not a dumb or reactionary guy

Tomorrow I'm presenting what I have so far on the engineering paper at the Urban Institute. I was looking for a quote from Vannevar Bush's Science the Endless Frontier (1945) to express this fear of massive science and engineering labor shortages. I've always liked Bush, but since almost anyone that talks about this issue that's not an economist (particularly those advising government, as Bush did) gets worked up about labor shortages, I figured there was a good chance that Bush raised the idea.

No such luck (at least as far as I can find). I read through his chapter on workforce issues, and while I wouldn't phrase everything quite how he did he has a pretty even keel on this stuff. The only time he mentioned anything like supply inadequacy was fairly legitimate - he was talking about the impact of the draft (a genuine supply restriction) on the number of enginering graduates. Of course a few years later a lot of soldiers would go back to school on the GI Bill and get those engineering degrees.

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