In From Poverty to Prosperity, we write,

One broad alternative to restrictive patents and copyrights would be for a patronage model to support the development of new recipes…People with friends or family members afflicted with a particular ailment could form an association that offers subsidies for research and prizes for discoveries that lead to treatments for that ailment.

Overall, what is called for seems to be a pragmatic rather than an ideological approach to intellectual property.

Tom Maguire and Dean Baker objected to what they saw as a narrow defense of intellectual property in the David Brooks review of our book. As the quotation above shows, our actual discussion of the issue is nuanced.

Baker makes an interesting point about the challenge of enforcing intellectual property law in other countries. That is another argument in favor of the alternatives to patents and copyrights that we discuss in our book.

One point on which we make no concessions is the suggestion that in order to be successful an economy, most people must “make things.” Two hundred years ago, you would have said that in order to be successful, most people have to farm. A key point in our book is that with better and better ideas, fewer and fewer people need to make things. And before you tell me that we are outsourcing to China, you should remember that (a) our manufacturing output has been increasing, even though the number of people working in that sector is declining; and (b) employment in China’s manufacturing sector has been shrinking, also.

UPDATE: Also, see Nick’s response.