Tabarrok's Roadmap Out of the Slight Stagnation
Alex Tabarrok’s gem of an e-book, Launching the Innovation Renaissance, releases today. It’s a TED book, but don’t mistake it for a mere transcription of a TED talk. It’s an original and powerful work of popular scholarship that aims to reverse America’s Slight Stagnation with a handful of big evidence-based reforms. Especially:
1. Drastically narrow patent protection. Patent propaganda and reality are far apart. Patents, especially recent vague patents, stifle innovation rather than encourage it. Tabarrok’s patent litigation diagram alone is worth the price of admission; it genuinely pushed me over the edge to extreme patent skepticism.
2. Drastically increase (abolish?) high-skilled immigration quotas. At minimum, it should be easy for high-skilled foreign students to join the U.S. economy after graduation:
We educate some of the best and brightest students in the world in our universities and then on graduation day we tell them, “Thanks for visiting. Now go home!” It’s hard to
imagine a more short-sighted policy to reduce America’s capacity for innovation.
Increasing high-skill immigration is such a win-win policy for increasing innovation that it’s tempting to call it a no-brainer except for the fact that “no-brainer” is a better description of our current policy.
3. Increase school choice, curtail the power of teachers’ unions, and stop pretending that non-STEM majors produce significant positive externalities.
Sometimes I give Alex a hard time for being too moderate and too nice. But his heart – and his head – are in the right place. He’s earnestly trying to show well-meaning people across the political spectrum a better way – and my theory of politics notwithstanding, he just might succeed.