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The globalization of ideas


  • Anthony E. Landry


Globalization is the process of increasing economic interdependence among nations. It is reflected in the growth of cross-border trade in goods and services. Ideas, like goods and services, also flow across borders and their globalization is well under way. ; Quantifying that flow is difficult; however, patent filings can provide indirect evidence on the production of ideas. Further, cross-border patenting--the patenting of one idea in several countries--can help trace the flow of ideas. What we learn from those data is that idea production has taken off in the developing BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and that exports and imports of ideas have grown substantially. This is happening not just in the BRICs, but also in the countries that have been the traditional locus of global idea production: the U.S., Germany and Japan. ; Because ideas are intangible, measuring the impact of imported ideas on a country’s economic well-being is challenging. Imported ideas can, however, arrive in a physical form--most importantly as new capital goods--whose impact on economic growth can be measured. Drawing on recent research, we can conclude that imports of capital goods have accounted for a sizeable fraction of the growth in U.S. labor productivity since the late 1960s.

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony E. Landry, 2010. "The globalization of ideas," Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, vol. 5(nov).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:feddel:y:2010:i:nov:n:v.5no.11

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