Chapter 3: Intellectual Property, ‘Entangled Particles’ and Hi-Tech Policies
Don Lamberton INTRODUCTION Ken Boulding (1966, p. 21) used the insight of Will Rogers, American comedian: ‘The trouble isn’t what people don’t know; it’s what they do know that isn’t so’, in his 1966 Ely lecture to illustrate the need for an information economics. More recently, Robert Solow (1997) had a slightly different version in arguing that economists are ‘intellectual sanitation workers whose ‘prime function’ is to hold out against the nonsense ‘people and institutions know that “ain’t so” ’. Helpful as Solow’s remarks may have been, he failed to recognize that the economics discipline should likewise be viewed as an institution that can fall victim to the same tendency. This chapter uses this perspective in trying to take a few steps along the information economics path to clarify some issues relating to intellectual property and the policies of firms and governments. Information economics has made a good deal of progress and has had some impact (Lamberton, 1971; 1999). One judgement is that it is ‘the most important break with the past – one that leaves open huge areas for future work’ (Stiglitz, 2000: 1441). To illustrate its evolving character, some central points relevant to the task here, some of which were identified long ago, are noted: • ‘A great proportion of actual behavior in the real world, if businessmen are “on the job”, must . . . be experimental’ (Walker, 1943, p. 94); • ‘[W]e produce not only commodities but also processes’ (GeorgescuRoegen, 1971, p. 250); • The firm ‘is an incompletely connected network of...
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