Macroeconomics in the Small and the Large
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Macroeconomics in the Small and the Large

Essays on Microfoundations, Macroeconomic Applications and Economic History in Honor of Axel Leijonhufvud

Edited by Roger E.A. Farmer

This book honors the work of Axel Leijonhufvud. The topics range from Keynesian economics and the economics of high inflation to the micro-foundations of macroeconomics and economic history. The authors comprise some of the very best economists active today.
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Chapter 8:  A Tale of Two Countries: Innovation and Incentives Among Great Inventors in Britain and the United States, 1750–1930

B. Zorina Khan and Kenneth L. Sokoloff


8. A tale of two countries: innovation and incentives among great inventors in Britain and the United States, 1750–1930 B. Zorina Khan and Kenneth L. Sokoloff Technological change comprises an integral input into economic growth. Contemporary debates about the advance and diffusion of technological knowledge echo historical concerns about the specific rules and standards that might encourage would-be inventors, innovators and investors. As in the nineteenth century, skepticism about patent institutions has increased of late. A number of economists have been persuaded by the results from theoretical models of prizes and subsidies and have begun to lobby for these policies as superior alternatives. Although the topic is of great concern, systematic empirical investigation has been limited and many of the key issues about the effects of different features of patent systems and prizes remain poorly understood. Fortunately, the variation in intellectual property regimes and non-patent awards that existed over the nineteenth century can be studied to evaluate the sources, consequences and evolution of knowledge-generating institutions. At the core of nineteenth-century controversies over knowledgegenerating institutions were questions about which segments of the population were capable of producing significant inventions, and whether patents or other types of incentives such as prizes, grants or subsidies could be effective in increasing the rate at which they made discoveries. In the leading countries of Europe the dominant view held that only a very narrow group of the population was capable of truly important contributions to technological knowledge. In...

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