Saturday, 20 October 2012

Various teaching links: agricultural productivity and patents

The fantastic Tim Taylor has two very good posts of relevance to my Economics of Innovation students.

1. Can Agricultural Productivity Keep Growing? 
The reference is to the Fuglie et al paper, which I have referred to in the slides.   They  have the following fascintating graph, showing that Agricultural productivity has been more and more dominated by TFP growth in recent years. And that TFP is strongly correlated with country R&D.  So sub-Saharn Africa, which needs the TFP, might not get it if its not doing any R&D. 

 2. Patents Tipping Too Far: Three Examples

His post explores the following.
The basic economics of patents as taught in every intro econ class is a balancing act: On one side, patents provide an incentive for innovation, by giving innovators a temporary monopoly over the use of their invention. This temporary monopoly rewards innovation by allowing the inventor to charge higher prices, and thus the tradeoff is that consumers temporarily pay more--although consumers of course also benefit from the existence of the innovation. Like any balancing act, patents can tip too far in one direction or the other. On one side, patents can fail to provide providing sufficient incentive (that is, large enough profits) for inventors. But on the other side, patent protection that is too long or too rigid can lock profits for early innovators for an extended period, both at the long-term expense of consumers and also in a way that can cut off possibilities for future innovators.