Over the last year or so, there have been a bunch of excellent books that have come out highlighting many of the issues we talk about here on a regular basis. The latest may be The Crime of Reason and the Closing of the Scientific Mind
, written by Nobel Prize winning physicist, Robert B. Laughlin. I became aware of the book thanks to the fact that he'll be speaking at the Cato Institute this week
about the book, for those of you in the Washington, DC area.
It's funny, because when we point to all the economic research on intellectual property and innovation, we've been told that economists know nothing. In fact, one critic of our site has claimed that even Nobel Prize winning economists aren't worth paying attention to -- and the only Nobel Prize winners who matter are those in the hard sciences. So, I'm sure those critics will be interested in the conclusions of Laughlin, who notes that the strengthening of intellectual property laws has harmed the ability to share knowledge and to innovate. He's quite worried about how it's impacting research and development.
Newly aggressive patent practices are increasingly violating a principle that has been with us since Roman times and is built into our societies at many levels, including our religions: the laws of man flow from the laws of nature and are subservient to them. Patenting nature is transparently immoral. So is patenting reason, since reason and nature are one and the same. Thus, the current problem with patent law is more serious than the bellyaching of a few jaded engineers. It's a crisis of legitimacy.
So, now we can add a Nobel Prize winning physicist to the list of critics of the patent system, along with a few Nobel Prize winning economists.