The Impact of the Vammas
What is 68 feet long, has a giant blade in front for plowing, massive sweeper brushes in the middle, and a 452 MPH wind blowing capacity in the rear?
Imported from Finland, the Vammas is used by Logan Airport for snow removal. A caravan of ten Vammas can clear a snow covered runway in as little as ten minutes (depending on the snow).
Wearing your economic lenses, you could see that the Vammas generates a private and a social return. The positive social return of snow removal is considerable. However, is there also a negative side?
The Economic Life
The private rate of return–the net amount a business gets from an investment–tends to vary considerably and can ultimately be nonexistent because of competition. Moving beyond its origin, as the impact of the innovation ripples through society positively and negatively, it creates a social return. Both are tough to calculate. Edwin Mansfield, a University of Pennsylvania economist (1930-1997) who studied the impact of innovation concluded that smaller innovations such as new industrial thread had a much greater social rate of return than products and processes that sound more dramatic.