Three recent econ-blogger quips from posts that don’t mention IP, but…
Stimulate Demand, Restrict Supply by Arnold Kling:
In my view, the way to look at public policy in food, health care, education, and housing is that it seeks to stimulate demand and restrict supply. It makes no sense from the standpoint of economic theory, but it makes perfect sense from the standpoint of public choice.
Indeed, seems like a recipe for unhappiness, concentration of wealth, and conflict. This is exactly the way of IP dependent industry.
Also see Kling on prize-grants instead of patents.
Health is not an accountancy issue by Ronnie Horesh:
Again, the point is that there are too few incentives in place that encourage people to look for low- or no-cost ways of treating people that are better, from the patient’s point of view, than high-cost ways.
Also see List of ways to improve drug discovery, development, and delivery independent of patents. On that page “outcome bonds” links to other Horesh posts, which are highly important for mechanisms in addition to the one Horesh proposes, including prizes and grants.
Higher wages in China — and other emerging nations — are now limiting the competitive advantage of those economies. And perhaps more important for Americans, as China reaches technological maturity, it is likely to shower innovations on consumers, creating a net gain for people in the United States.
China is already the major producer of solar panels and electric cars, for example. It is likely to contribute important innovations in consumer drones and driverless cars and in many other fields: The Chinese government is pouring immense resources into biotechnology, including new gene editing techniques. When it comes to mobile apps, messaging and electronic payments, China is arguably ahead of America. Imagine a future in which Chinese innovations benefit Americans just as the United States benefited Europe and vice versa.
This would mean more competition from China, of course, and lost jobs in some fields, but to simply focus on the negatives would be shortsighted. The reality is that innovators do not capture all or even most of the benefits they bring to the world. Once an idea emerges, its benefits begin to expand, and those benefits will surely spread to the United States.
Good. But this seems rather complacent about conflict over benefits controlled and captured, whether by innovators or entities positioned to obtain control and rents from innovation (or even non-innovation that they can stimulate demand for). The huge increase in the number of people who can innovate in China, India, and elsewhere calls for pro-commons innovation policy, not acceptance of subjecting knowledge to a property regime that makes private parties lobbyists for and executors of censorship, increases inequality, and stokes conflict. Yes, consumers will be showered with innovations in either case (well, absent world-destroying conflict, which I would not bet against), but let’s not accept a future in which consumers are property when an also amazing future of relative freedom, equality, and security can be had.
Also see Cowen on the peace bubble we’re in (well, those of us fortunate enough to be in it).