The Corner

European Innovation

A few lefty readers are crowing about the fact that Europeans “invented” the internet  worldwide web specifically this guy.  It’s in response to this email from a reader, but to read these emails it also disproves my column, which is nonsense.  Leaving aside the irony of lefties finally admitting that Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, the real point is that American innovation and entrepreneurialism transcends tendentious or authentic claims to the authorship of a single idea. Does anybody really dispute that America has driven the exploitation and development of the web? Uh, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, stop me when I hit a Swedish company. America takes good ideas — and bad ones — and spins them into something bigger and grander than anyone could have imagined. Of course, Europeans have good ideas, often when they’re working for American institutions. Even more often, they take their good idea to Americans to turn it into a product. I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions to the proposition that America monopolizes worldwide innovation, because we are talking about such a huge subject. But I don’t think any serious person can dispute that the proposition itself is true.

Update: Don’t forget the crapper! From a reader:

These are not particularly recent but when it comes to useful, I’d say the diesel engine, aspirin (which I suppose is a discovery rather than an invention), and the flush toilet are all pretty cool.

Update II: From a reader:

What WAS the last European innovation you wouldn’t want to live without? 

That’s easy:

Constitutional republics.

Update III: Okay now I’ve got webheads and engineers screaming “Darpa!” at me (Darpa Jihad when the walls fell?). Anyway, yes, yes, yes: Berners-Lee invented the Web not the internet.  I threw that reference to “tendentious” claims in my original post above as a subtle reference to these sorts of arguments and distinctions. Alas, it was too subtle by 99%. Anyway, my point still holds.


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