Information Environmentalism

Information Environmentalism

A Governance Framework for Intellectual Property Rights

Robert Cunningham

Information Environmentalism applies four environmental analytical frameworks – ecology, ‘the commons’, public choice theory, and welfare economics – to the information environment. The book neatly captures the metaphorical relationship between the physical environment and the information environment by alluding to the environmental philosophy of ‘social ecology’ and the emergent informational discourse of ‘cultural environmentalism’.

Chapter 9: Public choice theory and social production

Robert Cunningham

Subjects: economics and finance, law and economics, law - academic, intellectual property law, law and economics


Although public choice theory is a relatively complex discipline, many of the lessons emerging from it are reasonably simple. As an example, concentrated interest groups are likely to have significant influence over regulatory frameworks. This regulatory capture lesson has been critical for the contemporary environment movement in developing strategies to counteract regulatory effects of concentrated interests. In this regard environmentalists have underscored two essential limbs to public choice theory. The first limb is concerned with the regulatory capture of concentrated power holders. This limb will be discussed mostly through the lens of rent seeking. The second limb relates to overcoming collective action problems. We will explore this limb with primary reference to civil society and the associated public sphere. The chapter begins by discussing similarities and differences between welfare economics and public choice theory. We will then discuss the two limbs of public choice theory. In doing so, the idea of social production as a complementary method of overcoming collective action problems will be advanced. This discussion involves fleshing out the ‘hardware-code-content’ paradigm. The information process and allocative efficiency characteristics of social production will also be drawn out. Part I of this book applied welfare economics to IPRs. This involved identification and analysis of market failures within the information environment and contemplating social net product analysis as it relates to the information environment. In Part IV public choice theory is applied to the information environment.

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