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Western Industrial Policy and International Law

With recent landmark legislation to support decarbonization and innovation, the United States is making up for lost time after its failed 40-year experiment with neoliberalism. But if it is serious about embracing a new paradigm, it will need to do more to help bring the rest of the world along.

NEW YORK – With the enactment last year of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the United States fully joined the rest of the world’s advanced economies in combating climate change. The IRA authorizes a major increase in spending to support renewable energy, research and development, and other priorities, and if estimates about its effects are anywhere near correct, the impact on the climate will be significant.

True, the design of the law is not ideal. Any economist could have drafted a bill that would deliver much more bang for the buck. But US politics is messy, and success must be measured against what is possible, rather than some lofty ideal. Despite the IRA’s imperfections, it is far better than nothing. Climate change was never going to wait for America to get its political house in order.

Together with last year’s CHIPS and Science Act – which aims to support investment, domestic manufacturing, and innovation in semiconductors and a range of other cutting-edge technologies – the IRA has pointed the US in the right direction. It moves beyond finance to focus on the real economy, where it should help to reinvigorate lagging sectors.