We've certainly discussed the work of David Levine and Michele Boldrin plenty of times before -- and both were kind enough to participate in our CwF+RtB experiment
earlier this year. If you haven't read their book
, then you are missing out. Now, Levine and Boldrin have a new editorial up in the CSMonitor, explaining why they think the patent system should be abolished
. If you've read their work, there's nothing surprising, but if you have not, it's a quick summary of the key points:
As a matter of theory, intellectual property is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, giving a reward increases the incentive to innovate. On the other, allowing the monopolization of existing ideas taxes the creation of new ones, thereby decreasing the incentive to innovate. The bottom line: Contrary to widespread belief, economic theory does not provide support for the continuous extension of IP. The only answer to the question of whether IP serves the desired purpose must be empirical. Does it work in practice?
A great deal of applied economic research has tried to answer this question. The short answer is that intellectual property does not increase innovation and creation. Extending IP rights may modestly boost the incentive for innovation, but this positive effect is wiped away by the negative effect of creating monopolies. There is simply no evidence that strengthening patent regimes increases innovation or economic productivity. In fact, some evidence shows that increased protection even decreases innovation. The main finding is that making it easier to get patents increases ... patenting!
No matter what your stance on this topic is, you have to admit it's impressive to see it getting attention in a mainstream publication like the CSMonitor.