If there is a key word in the United States in the late 1980s, it is "competitiveness." It's a word that's used in many contexts to mean many things. In his new book The Technical Enterprise (Ballinger, 1986) Herbert Fusfeld discusses how social, economic and political pressures like the drive for competitiveness are at work in shaping the technical system today. In this adaptation from the book, he describes the practice of using export controls to keep technological advances from potential adversaries and cautions against overuse of controls.

Export controls on technology from the United States are intended to prevent a potential adversary's access to any U.S. technology with military applications. Both the definition and implementation of such controls pose enormous difficulties, and they have a significant impact on the technical enterprise worldwide.

There is little quarrel with the intent of export controls. Common sense indicates that no great social...

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