Materialistic Genius and Market Power: Uncovering the best innovations
What is the best way to reward innovation? While prizes avoid deadweight loss, intellectual property screens out projects generating low consumer surplus per unit sold. We build a model that formalizes this trade-off and develop tools for solving the resulting multidimensional screening problem. Optimal policy generally calls for some market power but never full monopoly pricing. The appropriate degree of market power is determined by a value-weighted average of the innovation supply elasticity multiplied by the log-variance of innovation quality. This quantifies the value of the materialistic genius long associated with entrepreneurship, opening it to empirical calibration. Our results also apply to the pricing of platforms and public infrastructure.
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