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Patents and Utilitarian Thinking

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As I've noted previously, utilitarian proponents of patent laws favor IP because it "promotes" innovation. But they have no principled reason to oppose setting up a tax funded government commission to "reward" innovators. Intellectual property and its discontents, by Tom Giovanetti, points out that certain

activists [... ] want to radically change how pharmaceutical innovation is accomplished. They propose that governments should nationalize intellectual property, levy new taxes to fund R&D, and then incentivize R&D through prizes administered by new government-sponsored enterprises or, even better, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) staffed by technocrats unaccountable to voters.

And now I come across this: "Rewards Versus Intellectual Property Rights," by Steven Shavell & Tanguy Van Ypersele, Journal of Law & Economics, which concludes that "the intellectual property rights system does not enjoy any fundamental advantage over the reward system"—i.e., a system in which "innovators are paid for innovations directly by the government (possibly on the basis of sales)...."

Just goes to show you, utilitarian thinking leads to statism.

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Update: Forbes.com is now advocating "reward[ing] drug inventors directly, with money raised from regular taxes, publicly imposed and publicly collected." Egads.

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