Yesterday I briefly discussed Barry Lynn’s article from the July-August issue of the Washington Monthly arguing for a major federal effort to spur innovation in technology via antitrust actions and patent reform.
At Ten Miles Square, Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute responds to Lynn’s article by arguing that the tech sector is the wrong target for such efforts. Here’s a sample:
[T]he tech sector is the one part of the economy where innovation is proceeding at a breakneck pace. In particular, the introduction of the iPhone by Apple in 2007, followed by the release of the Android mobile operating system by Google, rapidly transformed the way that people in the U.S. and around the world do business and live their lives.
The new generation of smartphones spawned an entire new industry of app developers—makers of lightweight software specifically designed to run on mobile devices. According to the Progressive Policy Institute’s latest calculations, the “app economy” has generated more than 750,000 jobs in the United States, and many more in the rest of the world. It’s really hard to see how tech innovation could have proceeded any faster than it did in the tech sphere over the past five years.
Mandel does think the kind of competitive offensive Lynn is talking about might be fruitfully pursued in biosciences:
[I]f Lynn was concerned about technological stagnation, he would have been better off to turn his focus to the biosciences, where the government and private industry have spent hundreds of billions on research and development over the past 15 years. While scientific breakthroughs such as human genome sequencing have been plentiful, turning those scientific gains into commercial innovations has been far slower. Indeed, the FDA has still not approved any human gene therapy for sale.
I suspect Barry Lynn will reply. The debate is very helpful to those of us not as familiar with these issues as we ought to be.