The American System: A Schumpeterian History of Standardization

22 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2007

See all articles by Andrew L. Russell

Andrew L. Russell

Johns Hopkins University; Stevens Institute of Technology - Program in Science & Technology Studies

Date Written: March 5, 2007


While governments as far back as the ancient Egyptians have implemented industry standards, their economic importance grew with the spread of industrialization. Throughout the 1800s, the rise of nationalism, a greater emphasis on accuracy and precision science, and the steady march of industrialization further underlined the importance of standards for establishing competitive advantages in the industrial age. In the Information Age, The U.S. government has played specific roles in the system of standardization: investment and leadership in basics standards to relieve some financial burden from firms; specific research and development funding for information technology; and policies that support standards built through industry consensus. While a few exceptions exist where the U.S. government has played a direct role in standards setting, policymakers have preferred to rely on standards set by private firms and collaboration. This market-oriented approach to industrial standards greatly increases the chances of such standards being widely adopted and implemented.

Keywords: standardization, individualism, industrial revolution, entrepreneurship, information age, competition, standards, de jure, capitalism, creativity, creative destruction, innovation, Schumpeter, socialism, bureaucracy, enteprise, state ownership, antitrust, metric system, measures, weights,

JEL Classification: B20,L5,N00,D70,O14,E11,O3,O31,O32,O38,L40,L51

Suggested Citation

Russell, Andrew L. and Russell, Andrew L., The American System: A Schumpeterian History of Standardization (March 5, 2007). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper No. 14.4, Available at SSRN: or

Andrew L. Russell (Contact Author)

Stevens Institute of Technology - Program in Science & Technology Studies ( email )

College of Arts & Letters
Hoboken, NJ 07030
United States

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

History of Science and Technology
3505 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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