“Be it known that I, Henri Pieper, a subject of the King of Belgium, residing at 18 Rue des Bayards, in Liege, Belgium, have invented new and useful Improvements in Mixed Drives for Autovehicles…The invention…comprises an internal combustion or similar engine, a dynamo motor direct connected therewith, and a storage battery or accumulator in circuit with the dynamo motor, these elements being cooperatively related so that the dynamo motor may be run as a motor by the electrical energy stored in the accumulator to start the engine or to furnish a portion of the power delivered by the set, or may be run as a generator by the engine, when the power of the latter is in excess of that demanded of the set, and caused to store energy in the accumulator.”
Henri Pieper, quoted in Hybrid Cars, March 1, 2009
This is one of those choice little fragments of information that should become the set piece for any introductory study of capitalist economics. It’s so rich it’s hard to figure out what to say. It’s a good way to start deflating the myth of capitalist innovation and the market.
The hybrid car is still not common a hundred years after it was patented because there was so little profit it. It didn’t matter if it was or was not a good idea, a practical idea, or even an ingenious idea, or a visionary idea. The market takes up the innovation only money can be made.
The market doesn’t drive innovation, it drives profitable innovation. That’s why the idea that the market can fix the energy problem, to cite only one example, is so misleading. As the president makes clear, the government has to push and nudge and often shove the market to make it move in any reasonable direction.