Much American electoral and policy debate now centers on how best to reignite the nation’s economic dynamism and rebuild its competitive strength. Any such undertaking presents an extraordinary challenge, demanding a correspondingly extraordinary institutional response. This Article proposes precisely such a response. It designs and advocates a new public instrumentality--a National Investment Authority (“NIA”)--charged with the critical task of devising and implementing a comprehensive long-term development strategy for the United States.
Patterned in part after the New Deal-era Reconstruction Finance Corporation, in part after modern sovereign wealth funds, and in part after private equity and venture capital firms, the NIA is an inherently hybrid, public-private entity that combines the unique strengths of public instrumentalities--their vast scale, lengthy investment horizons, and explicit backing by the public’s full faith and credit--with the micro-informational advantages of private market actors. By creatively adapting familiar tools of financial and legal engineering, the NIA overcomes obstacles that ordinarily impede or discourage private investment in critically necessary and even transformative public infrastructure goods. By channeling presently speculative private capital back into the real economy, moreover, the NIA plays an important role in enhancing the resilience and stability of the U.S. and global financial systems.
The Article makes original contributions not only to contemporary policy debates over how to revive America’s productive prowess and bring its financial system back into the service of the real economy, but also to current theoretical understandings of “public goods,” “market failures,” and how to provide or address them. It offers an account of what it calls “collective goods”--a broader category than orthodox public goods--as solutions to collective action problems that pervade decentralized markets, hence as goods that can be supplied only through exercises of collective agency. Our NIA proposal operationalizes this theoretical insight by elaborating a specific institutional form that such collective agency can take.