According to Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the best way to help improve the state of world is to spend $10 billion of American resources, over the next four years, on large tax-free prizes.
Historically, the greatest improvements in the quality of life have come from two patterns the extension of the rule of law and the development and diffusion of technology. Unfortunately, the former is a complex and difficult process; therefore, it would be better to focus on the development and diffusion of technology, and rewarding such efforts with tax-free prizes, says Gingrich.
Favouring large tax-free prizes would send signals to everyone that they can compete, and they are payable on achievement rather than on application. Moreover, prizes would be a useful experiment in large-scale breakthroughs.
For example, scientists could be awarded between $1 and $2 billion tax-free prize for developing:
A low-cost vaccine or preventive intervention for malaria possibly the single biggest potential improvement in the quality of life in poor tropical countries.
A modestly priced, mass-manufacturable hydrogen engine for cars, which would be the biggest single contribution to reducing carbon loading of the atmosphere and reducing subsidies through high oil prices to dictatorships.
The first privately financed permanent lunar base.
A method of learning math and science that kids like and would enable us to replace "No Child Left Behind" with a more effective education model.
However, the modern emphasis on peer-reviewed research has three bad side effects, says Gingrich:
It leads people to spend an amazing amount of time on the paperwork of application rather than on actually doing the experiment or undertaking the research.
It limits the applications to credentialed people.
It is a very cautious process that emphasises relying on the approval of peers who tend to be cautious.
Source: Newt Gingrich, Prizes to Improve Life, Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2008.
For text: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121841519522928573.html
For more on Economic Issues: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=17
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 19 August 2008