Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. Andre Gide

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Against Intellectual Property

I have long suspected that there was something fishy about the economic defense for property rights in knowledge. My first attempt at questioning the wisdom of such a policy at a conference at NYU in 1994 was met with harsh criticism (especially from the late great Fisher Black, bless his libetarian soul). I was never able to fully recover from that experience, and so I meekly let that research program die.

But I am now very pleased to see that Michele Boldrin and David Levine have taken up the cause. Levine was kind enough to visit SFU on March 20, 2009 where he delivered a public lecture entitled "Against Intellectual Property." The lecture, if you are interested, is now available online here.

There is much food for thought here. The logic of his argument and the evidence he provides is quite persuasive, in my view. But if you see any holes in his arguments that have escaped me, please let me know.


  1. This is very interesting, I've been thinking of open software economics every time I download one. From David's lecture, I see two basic forces that speed up innovation without patents: lower cost of production of any single innovation (don't need to buy patents - this is more important with uncertainty & risk aversion) and attraction of new innovators that leads to a faster "technology" accumulation in aggregate (for the same reason of a lower (0) cost).

  2. Good lecture. I was going to ask for the written version but I suppose one can download Levine's book for free available here.

    Yes, open-source software does pose some tough challenges to the received wisdom in the economics of intellectual property rights world.

    Levine's position should be popular in the 3rd world solidarity movement.