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Access to vs. exclusion from knowledge: Intellectual property, efficiency and social justice

  • Ramello, Giovanni B.


The main rationale for intellectual property relies on the thesis of the incentive to create. Creators and inventors are economic agents attracted by the returns they expect from their effort. This depiction is practical, but does not give due weight to the complexity of knowledge production. This work does not contest the potential benefit of the opportunity for creators and inventors to reap some profit from their work. Rather, it considers the idiosyncratic nature of knowledge, which is simultaneously input, output and productive technology, and is closely linked to the social dimension. This provides further insight into the production process and suggests a significantly different framework for policy. More specifically, because of the increasing returns governing creative technology, the efficiency criterion used to guide the economic choice calls for weak intellectual property rights, thus preserving wide access to knowledge. A stronger appropriation regime would significantly impair the total outcome of the creative processes. Interestingly, this appears to apply equally from a social justice perspective, perhaps in an effortless solution to the age-old trade-off between economic efficiency and social justice.

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Paper provided by Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS in its series POLIS Working Papers with number 90.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uca:ucapdv:90
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  1. Bentham, Jeremy, 1843. "A Manual of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number bentham1843.
  2. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Recombinant Growth," Scholarly Articles 3708468, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  4. Giovanni B. Ramello, 2004. "Intellectual property and the markets of ideas," LIUC Papers in Economics 161, Cattaneo University (LIUC).
  5. Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1989. "An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 325-63, June.
  6. Richard N. Langlois, 2000. "Knowledge, Consumption, and Endogenous Growth," Working papers 2000-02, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  7. Katsuya Takii, 2000. "A barrier to the diffusion of tacit knowledge," Economics Discussion Papers 516, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  8. Sen, Amartya, 1988. "Property and Hunger," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(01), pages 57-68, April.
  9. Julia Porter Liebeskind & Amalya Lumerman Oliver & Lynne G. Zucker & Marilynn B. Brewer, 1995. "Social Networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms," NBER Working Papers 5320, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. F. M. Scherer, 2004. "A Note on Global Welfare in Pharmaceutical Patenting," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(7), pages 1127-1142, 07.
  11. Kenneth Carlaw & Les Oxley & Paul Walker & David Thorns & Michael Nuth, 2006. "BEYOND THE HYPE: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND THE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY/KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(4), pages 633-690, 09.
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