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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4, 2013

Do you have America's next big idea?

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


What is the next big thing in American industry and public life? Perhaps we should look to China for the answer.

China has built the world's most sophisticated network of high-speed trains. You can travel the equivalent of Washington, D.C. to Boston in under 2 hours on their train system. It's so reliable that air service for travel under 400 miles is almost nonexistent because everybody takes trains.

This development has allowed China to raise productivity by a significant amount. The ability to move people and goods very efficiently at high speed and low cost has made China much more competitive, even as their labor costs are rising.

So how does this relate to us? Surely high-speed trains are not a solution for us, outside of maybe the Northeast Corridor, because we don't have the concentration of population to warrant it.

If you think about the Eisenhower Interstate System and how that unlocked economic growth in the late 1950s, that was our equivalent to what the Chinese are doing now. But we need the next big thing, whatever that may be.

I believe it's going to be automated transportation delivery using our existing interstate highway system, like driverless caravans of trucks. This is not sci fi; it's part of the not too distant future. But it's just a part of a larger puzzle. We still need other big ideas.

Whatever they are, they need to come from private business. It's hard for government to do things that lead to significant economic growth. Government could be a partner, but we need people in private business doing these things.

The next big idea is not going to be the latest, greatest gadget from Amazon. It will probably be more in line with our energy boom. Thanks to new methods of extraction and exploration, our energy boom will pay dividends for decades. That's probably been our last real big idea.

So how about you? Can you come up with the idea that's our answer to the communists and their trains? America needs you…

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