Get your free Kindle version of the book that explains why the US has lost its innovation engine – The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws and Regulations are Killing Innovation. This offer is valid through Sunday, June 24th. The book provides simple, inexpensive suggestions for how to rev up the US’s innovation engine.
This book explains how little known laws passed within the last decade have crippled America’s innovation. This resulted in the stagnation in median family income that was a major contributor to the housing crisis. The evolving sovereign debt crisis, which promises to make the housing crisis look trivial by comparison, is also being exacerbated by this dearth of innovation. The book provides simple, inexpensive suggestions for how to rev up the US’s innovation engine.
What Reviewers are saying about The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws and Regulations are Killing Innovation.
“Dale Halling’s Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur makes a compelling case for the need to reform regulatory and other policies that hamstring entrepreneurial innovation in our country. Everyone concerned about the decline in American innovation should read this book.”
David Kline, Coauthor of “Rembrandts in the Attic” and “Burning the Ships”
I do not review books on the Net unless I find them well-written and especially informative, which certainly applies to Dale B. Halling’s The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur.
Nonetheless, I do have a criticism directed towards the publisher. My copy did not contain a vita of the author, which in this case is a major omission. Mr. Halling is a physicist, lawyer and an expert on patents and entrepreneurship, all of which comes through in his book. This author delivers the goods. A vita in subsequent printings would be useful.
Mr. Halling combines two topics — the impediments to entrepreneurship that have been created by theU.S. government as an unintended consequence of its pursuit of other goals and the systemic weakening of theU.S. patent system by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congress.
The resulting technological stagnation is a major reason theU.S. has gone from producing 25 percent of the World’s Gross Product in the mid 1990s to about 20 percent today. The loss is significant – about $3 trillion of U.S. GDP in 2009 alone.
He demonstrates in clear terms the linkages between economic growth, productivity, and income. And he lays out how technological advancement has always been the American advantage in global competition, an advantage that theU.S. is squandering.
He explains how the Sarbanes Oxley Act cut off the waves of venture investment that did so much to stimulateU.S.growth in the 1980s and 1990s, and he also explains how shifts in accounting rules as per stock options directed many of our most creative people into less than innovative activities.
His final chapter contains some straight forward recommendations that involve no direct-cost regulatory changes that would once again stimulate more innovation, investment and job creation inAmerica. Amazingly, Congress is now considering a so-called “patent reform” legislation that would further diminishU.S.innovation. The author convincingly explains how this would damageU.S.innovation. He also explains the consequences of recent Supreme Court decisions on patent law. My observation is that theRoberts Courtis the most anti-patent set of Justices inU.S.history. Once Congress understands what the Court has done, their decisions need to legislatively overturned.
In sum, this is well-written, jargon-free, 137-page book that is a quick read. It evidences smart and practical thinking by an author with real world experience. I highly recommend it.
Dr. Pat Choate, economist, former Vice Presidential running mate of Ross Perot 1996, Director of the Manufacturing Policy Institute, Phd. Economics University of Oklahoma.
The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur presents the issues facing technology start-up companies in today’s environment. The book sheds light on the underpinnings of these issues and is enthralling. Halling’s tight, accessible and personal style make this a fast and compelling read. His book is a political clarion call that should be heard now.
Former President Ramtron International (RMTR) and CEO Symetrix Corporation. Both companies founded on IP.
This book conclusively establishes the link between innovation and per capita income, and shows that we have recently entered into a time in which innovation is under assault. This assault has resulted in a predictable loss of income and contributed significantly to the economic woes we are experiencing right now. The book’s sound policy recommendations suggest a way to turn the economic ship around to set a course for a return to prosperity.
Peter Meza, Patent Attorney – Counsel Hogan & Hartson, Attorney for Alappat – In re Alappat
This excellent article shows that when Canada changed from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system, it was bad for individual inventors, technology start-ups, and Canadian venture capital. The article then quotes a UK study showing how the European system is not encouraging innovation. The article notes that the America Invents Act will effectively eliminate the one year grace period for inventors, which is particularly important for startups. The new post grant review will allow large companies to tie up entrepreneurial companies in expensive litigation for years. The post grant procedure has been used effectively in Europe to stifle startup competitors by large companies. Unfortunately, one of the supposed benefits of the Act was to stop fee diversion. The Patent Office is completely funded by user fees and Congress has taken (stolen) these fees to support other Congressional pet projects. The result of fee diversion is that it now takes four or more years on average for a patent to issue. This pendency time results in the patent often issuing long after the commercial opportunity has passed the company by. If it took 3 to 4 years to obtain title to your car or house after you bought it, you would think you were living in a third world country. However, this is what happens in the patent world everyday and the America Invents Act does not solve this problem. The author concludes that Congress should be careful that the America Invents Act not become the equivalent of Sarbanes Oxley.
This article was written by Gary Lauder is Managing Director of Lauder Partners, a Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist and co-inventor of a dozen patents. More info on this issue can be found on his Web site.
Henry R. Nothhaft author of the book Great Again was interviewed on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC and the Harvard Business Review blog radio. The Dylan Ratigan show focused on job creation and how all new jobs are created by startups not by small business or large corporations. Mr. Nothhaft argues thatWashington is forcing a once size fits all government on American businesses. He wants an immediate freeze on new regulations on startup business and a carve out from Sarbanes Oxley and Dodd Frank for companies with a market capitalization less than $500M. He explains that multinational companies have choices to create jobs in theUS or outside the US and suggests that large companies have decided to create jobs outside the US. While I think it is important to point out the current business climate in the US is causing companies to move overseas, the reality is that large corporations never produce large numbers of net new jobs and they are not the engine of innovation. The host attempts to argue that labor rates are the only reason that companies are relocating outside the US. Mr. Nothhaft explains that for high technology companies labor costs only represent 3% of their total expenses and it is the US tax and regulatory structure that are killing startups.
One of the panel members suggests that Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc show thatSilicon Valleyand innovation in the US are doing just fine. First of all, Google was started in the late 1990s before SOX, other regulatory burdens and before the patent system in this country was undermined. SOX and the changes to our patent system have destroyed the venture capital market in theUS. Second, social media companies have not driven the entire economy like the Internet did in the 1990s and the personal computer did in the 1980s. These companies and the social media industry are isolated islands of success that have little significance to the broader economy. If the panel member had any insight to the US economy he would known that the number of technology startups has declined precipitously. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation index ranked the US dead last among 40 countries in the change in our rate of innovation last decade and many other indicators show the US is falling behind technologically.
The host of the show and the panel seemed to have no idea what Mr. Nothhaft was talking about. My guess is that the host and panel are all Wall Street experts who believe finance is the American economy. They believe in Keynesian economics in which manipulating the money supply and increasing demand by increasing government spending are all that matters. They have no idea what affects technology startups and they do not really believe they are important. They do not understand that technology startups create the inventions that increase our real per capita income.
The Harvard Business Review interview again focused on how startups create jobs. Mr. Nothhaft again argues for a two-tiered approach to SOX and other financial regulations. He argues that technology startups do not use leverage and do not pose a threat to the financial system of the US. He also points out that Lehman Brothers, AIG, Goldman Sacs, etc. were all SOX compliant going into the current financial crisis.
He later explains that the patent system has been undermined by the theft of user fees from the Patent Office by Congress to the tune of over $1B in the last two decades. Congress just stole another $100M from the Patent Office in the continuing resolution bill – See Stealing From Inventors.
The HBR interviewer is also ignorant of the US’s lack of innovation in the last decade. She does not understand that increases in technology are the only way to increase real per capita income. The host ends the interview with the condescending comment that it’s clearly a very complex issue. It is not complex! When the government interferes with property rights (particularly patents) and imposes absurd regulatory burdens (SOX, Dodd Frank) and the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the World it is straight forward that the result will be fewer businesses, fewer jobs, and a lower standard of living for all.
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Nothhaft’s two-tier approach to SOX and other financial regulation. First of all, Mr. Nothhaft points out that SOX failed to stop financial fraud and the 2008 financial meltdown. He points out that the companies he believes should be subject to SOX were all SOX compliant, but they were also the ones that caused the financial meltdown. So if SOX does not work, why have a two-tiered approach? SOX should be repealed – period. Second, laws that only apply to certain people or businesses are the essence of tyranny. A good law should apply to all people equally, much like a law of physics/nature. When Congress exempts itself from certain laws (e.g., antidiscrimination, Social Security, Obama Care, etc) and makes convoluted tax laws to help the politically connected at the expense of the rest of the country, you know that you are on the path to tyranny. Adding another law that only applies to certain businesses will only accelerate the US’s decline into despotism.
Hear is an excellent article, IT’S OFFICIAL: The IPO Market Is Crippled — And It’s Hurting Our Country in the Business Insider, on the damage we have done to our capital markets. The article starts out by showing that many of our biggest companies went public when they were very small. At the time there were numerous underwriters and often the main inventors were individual investors. For instance, the article explains:
As recently as 1986 Adobe had an IPO raising $6M. None of these companies could have gone public in today’s environment even adjusting for inflation. Virtually all the buyers at the time were individuals and there was a robust “over the counter” after market for young companies.
The article then explains that a company has to have a market valuation of $250M or more to be viable in today’s market. My estimates are higher. The article points out that a major reason for this change in the market is because of Sarbanes Oxley or SOX, which imposes onerous accounting requirements on companies. The article then discusses some attempted solutions to this problem. (I have suggested an alternative in my post Circumventing Sarbox and the IPO drought)
This has been a disaster for the venture capital industry. As a result, VCs are looking for companies that can exit by M&A at earlier states. VCs are also not investing in capital intensive companies.
Unfortunately, the article calls for half measures of curtailing but not eliminating SOX. They suggest this course of action despite the fact that they do not single benefit provided by SOX. The authors point out that:
The number of annualU.S.issuers listing IPOs onU.S.exchanges has declined since 1996 from 756 to a low of 36 in 2008 and 50 in 2009 and 120 last year according to Dealogic. By contrast, there have been 346 Chinese issued IPOs listed onChinaexchanges in 2010 even though the U. S. GDP is 3x larger thanChina’s.
This is just one more example of how were are exporting our innovation and jobs overseas.
The insane thing about our securities laws is that in the U.S. you have to hire a lawyer to invest in a non-public company, but you can blow your money in Vegas, Atlantic City, etc freely. One activity creates jobs and wealth and creates value. The other is a less than zero sum that destroys wealth.
This intriguing question and its implications for US economic policy are tackled in the groundbreaking book Great Again, by Henry R. Nothhaft with David Kline. They answer the above query with a series of questions:
Could a twenty-year-old college dropout, just back from six months in an ashram somewhere, attract funding for a capital-intensive venture based on the manufacture (yes, the manufacture) and sale of a $2,500 consumer product unlike any that had ever been bought by consumers before? One whose potential uses were at best unknown, and possibly nonexistent? And one for which the total current market size was exactly zero?
Not only could Apple not get funded today, it probably could not go public. Nor would Apple have received its first patent (USPN 4,136,359) in only 20 months. The book asks “how many of today’s Apples are not getting a chance?”
The authors use the above example to make a broader point that theUSis failing economically and technologically because of the policies we are pursuing. They show that all net new jobs created in theUSsince 1977 (and possibly longer) were created by startups like Apple. All increases in real per capita income are due to new technologies and most revolutionary/disruptive technologies are created by startups and individual inventors. So what are the policies that have undermined our economy, by undermining technology startups?
The book examines five areas:
1.Role of regulations. The Authors show that our tax policies, Sarbanes Oxley and our indifferent (some might say arrogant) regulators’ application of well meaning regulations to startups is driving them either overseas or out of business.
2. Underfunding the patent office. This is costing theUS millions of jobs and billions in GDP. According to the authors, each issued patent is worth 3-5 jobs on average, particularly patents issued to startups.
3. Manufacturing policies in the US. Manufacturing is key, particularly in a world that does not respect property rights in inventions, to ensuring that theUS profits fromUS innovation and not other countries. TheUS is also losing the global battle for human talent.
4. Battle for global talent. Our restrictive immigration policies are depriving theUS of talented entrepreneurs such as Andy Grove, founder of Intel.
5. Funding for research. The book shows that our spending on basic science and engineering is not only declining as a percentage of GDP, but the system has become short-term oriented and bureaucratic.
While this book tackles complex issues, it is a quick easy read. It is full of interviews from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and technologists who built America’s technology startups over the last three decades. Great Again provides numerous real life examples to illustrate its points.
This pioneering book shows how the US can create jobs and increase per capita income. The policy prescriptions are based on solid science. Just cutting government spending (balancing the budget) will not cause theUSeconomy to grow vigorously, we need pro-growth policies. The authors are some of the few people that understand what policies are needed for the US to be GREAT AGAIN.
Great Again: Revitalizing America’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, by Henry R. Nothhaft and David Kline
I was confronted with the statement that there are “Hugh transaction costs related to patents.” This statement implies the assumption that these transaction costs are unjustified. I disagree with the premise, but since all systems can be improved I will provide a number of specific proposals to reduce the transaction costs.
The alternative proposed by the author of this statement, was to shorten the length of patents and increase government funding of R&D. The proposed system of government funding for research is not effective substitute for patents. The history of government funding for research is mixed at best and much more expensive than patents. The US patent system is completely funded by user fees (in fact Congress has been stealing user fees to pay for their pet projects). The patent system has been significantly more effective at stimulating innovation than government funded projects – see Zorina Khan’s work including her book The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920 (NBER Series on Long-Term Factors in Economic Development) also see The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention, by William Rosen.
Litigation Costs: There has been a very effective propaganda campaign to suggest that the patent litigation is out of control. The implication is that there is an explosion in patent litigation. This is just not true.
“The real facts of the so called litigation crisis are that for the past two decades the number of patent lawsuits commenced annually has been about 1.5 percent of all patents granted. In 2006, it was 1.47 percent. This is business as usual. Most patent lawsuits, moreover, settle before trial. In 1979, some 79 percent of patent cases settled before trial, while in 2004 almost 86 percent did. Matters are actually improving.
Also, the U.S. has few patent trials. For instance, in 2001 only 76 patent lawsuits were tried and only 102 went to trial in 2006. By no measure can 102 patent trials be considered a national litigation crisis. The annual report of Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics, which is on the Internet, provides the factual antidote to false claims of a litigation crisis (www.uscourts.gov/ caseload2006/contents.html).” see http://www.manufacturingnews.com/news/07/0629/art2.html
Even though this data is a little old nothing has changed in the last several years. In a $14.4 trillion economy built on technology this is anything but a litigation crisis.
There is also a myth that there is a patent quality issue in the US. This is not supported by the facts.
“As to the massive numbers of “unworthy patents” argument, the real-world test is how many patents are challenged and the outcome of those challenges. Between 1981 and 2006 the USPTO issued more than 3.1 million patents. In that period, 8,600 were challenged at the Patent Office through inter partes and ex parte reexaminations. The number challenged amounts to less than three-tenths of one percent. Of those challenged, about 74 percent resulted in claims narrowed or cancelled. In addition, almost 60 percent of the relatively few patents challenged in a court trial are sustained.
My point is that the USPTO’s work is certainly not perfect, but the Patent Office is also not pouring out a stream of bad patents.” http://www.manufacturingnews.com/news/07/0629/art2.html
By every objective measure: R&D per patent, GDP per patent, and number of citations per patent patent quality is increasing. See http://hallingblog.com/2010/01/07/patent-quality-nonsense/ and http://hallingblog.com/2009/08/18/patent-quality-myth/.
Cost and Time to Obtain a Patent: When Edison applied for his light bulb, he received a patent in 3 months. The reason it takes so long to obtain a patent today is because Congress has been stealing money from the Patent Office.
I have an angel investor friend who was a highly successful entrepreneur who complained that when he invested in a company he did not know about hidden prior art and this created a large amount of uncertainty. He supported the idea of publication of patents. However, the answer was not publication of patents, which breaks the social contract, but fully funding the patent office – as the Edison example above proves.
Disingenuousness of Libertarian Argument about Costs of Patents: All property rights systems have some costs involved in them. GE employs 600 attorneys to comply with tax laws, it probably employs another 600 to comply with SOX, discrimination laws, environmental laws, health and benefit laws. However, it probably employs less 100 patent attorneys. Their patent costs are a drop in the bucket compared to dealing with tax and other regulatory laws. The Libertarian attack on patents in light of all the other burdens imposed on business is disingenuous.
Patents are property rights and companies’ purposeful infringement of other people’s property rights is not a regulatory burden, it is the result of purposeful belief that they can get away with the theft. It is called efficient infringement. See “Technology Theft as a Business Strategy” http://hallingblog.com/2010/03/24/pat-choate-technology-theft-as-a-business-strategy/
Patent Litigation: While patent litigation costs are similar to litigation costs generally, there are a number of things that can be done to make the system more efficient. Some are changes to government and some are private sector initiatives.
Secondary Market/Title Insurance for patents. Before the advent of title insurance it was very expensive to buy a piece of land. You had to pay an attorney for a title report that did not come with any insurance. Lawsuits over the boundaries of real property were epidemic before the advent of modern survey tools. Patents are in the same position where no title insurance has been created. Unfortunately, antitrust law undermined the first efforts to create a title insurance/secondary market for patents. Patent pools were a way to determine the validity of patents, enforce patents, and widely license the patents in a cost efficient manner. But the antitrust idiots said that they were illegal. Today, Luddites are using the rallying cry of “patent troll” to kill off the beginning of a secondary market – see http://hallingblog.com/2009/09/18/in-defense-of-patent-trolls/ For more information see Jump Starting a Secondary Market for Patents http://hallingblog.com/2009/11/16/jump-starting-a-secondary-market-for-patents/.
Accelerated Patent Court: A new court similar to the ITC that has expertise in patents and accelerates the patent litigation process is needed. The court should be sufficiently funded and have procedures that allow patent cases to be resolved in under a year. Perhaps the court would be limited to issuing injunctions as a remedy as opposed to economic damages. The goal of this new court is to establish the US as the premier arbiter of patent rights. The US is the best positioned country to protect patent rights, despite our recent history. This would increase the US’s standing as a technological leader in the world and draw innovative companies and people to the US.
Judges: Appoint judges with technical backgrounds and who have passed the patent bar to adjudicate patent cases. Judges without these qualifications make silly mistakes, such as stating that any invention that is just a combination of known elements is suspect whether it should obtain a patent. All inventions are combinations of known elements – it is called conservation of matter and energy. You cannot create something from nothing. (For more on the Supreme Court’s ignorance see http://hallingblog.com/2010/01/19/ksr-supreme-ignorance-by-supreme-court-2/ )
Patent Reciprocity: One of the largest costs of obtaining patent protection is foreign filing. Patent reciprocity would significantly reduce this cost.
If you drive your car across the border into Canada you do not lose title to your car. If you take your manuscript across the border into Canada you do not lose the copyright to your manuscript. But, if you take your invention across the border into Canada, you lose your patent protection and anyone can steal the invention – not the physical embodiment, but the underlying invention.
Patent reciprocity would automatically provide patent rights in a foreign country when you obtained a patent in the US and vice versa. This idea was first proposed by the US in the mid 1800s according to B. Zorina Kahn’s book “The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920“. Unfortunately, the idea died and since then patent rights have been part of the convoluted process of trade negotiations.
Patent reciprocity would significantly increase the value of patents and increase the value of research and development. As a result, it would spur investment in innovation. Reciprocity would increase the valuation of technology start-up companies in all countries that participated. It would also increase per capita income.
Eliminate Maintenance Fees: Maintenance fees are the major cost associated with a patents filed outside the US.
Maintenance fees are a backhanded way of introducing a “working requirement” to patents. Working requirements for patents have always been rejected in the US. These fees favor large entities and reduce the effective life of patents.
A strong patent system pays for itself several times over in increased tax revenues from increased economic activity. The supply side returns from a strong patent system probably exceed the return resulting from lowering the capital gains tax.
Reduce Formalism in Patents: A large part of the cost of obtaining and litigating a patent is overly formalistic requirements. The Non-obviousness requirement should be repealed. It is not logically a part of the definition of an invention and is the source of uncertainty, and increases the cost of both obtaining and enforcing/defending patent lawsuits. For more information see Non-Obviousness a Case of Judicial Activism http://hallingblog.com/2010/06/18/non-obviousness-a-case-study-in-judicial-activism/.
Some of the other overly formalistic requirements include the rules on restrictions, the inequitable defense, and the silly requirements related to section 101. Restrictions are required for trivial differences that are embodiments of the same inventive idea. The doctrine of equivalents has been dead for over a decade. Formalism over logic rules in the realm of inequitable conduct. USC 101 issues related to software inventions also place form over function that require absurd recitations to computer hardware. All of these formalistic requirements favor patent thieves at the expense of real innovators.
It has been a year since I published my book The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Know Laws and Regulations are Killing Innovation. The book explains that the only way to increase real per capita income is by increasing our level of technology. This can be accomplished by capital equipment purchases, which upgrade plant and equipment with newer technologies or by creation of inventions. Since the United States is a leader in technology, we do not have the choice of just upgrading to new technologies produced in another country. So we must create new technologies if we want our economy to grow. There are two ways to encourage the creation of new technologies; government funding or private investment in inventions. Government spending on research and development is not nearly as effective as private spending for all the same reasons that government spending is always wasteful. A study by the Small Business Administration shows that most emerging technologies are invented by small entrepreneurial start-ups. Unfortunately, since 2000 the U.S. has undermined the three foundations on which technology start-ups are based. Those three foundations are intellectual capital, financial capital, and human capital. We weakened the intellectual capital foundation by weakening our patent system, we weakened the financial capital foundation with the passage of Sarbanes Oxley, and the human capital foundation was weakened by the accounting rules that required the expensing of stock options.
Since my book was published the financial capital foundation has been further undermined by the passage of the financial reform bill. There has been no change on the human capital front. There is mixed news on the intellectual capital front. The good news is that David Kappos replaced the incompetent and traitorous Jon Dudas as the head of the Patent Office. The bad news is that Supreme Court again illustrated their utter incompetence in the Bilski decision. For more information, see The US Economy and the State of Innovation.
These problems are being exacerbated by the budgetary issues associated with aging baby boomers. The Obama and Bush administrations compounded these problems by expanding Medicare to prescription drugs and the passage of Obama Care. Presently, Medicare/Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) represent 21 percent of the federal budget. Social Security represents about 20 percent of the federal budget and interest payments represent about 8 percent of the federal budget. It is estimated that about 10,000 baby boomers will go on Medicare per day for the next twenty years. However, about 5000 seniors are dying per day. Each Medicare recipient costs about $10,500, so Medicare costs will expand by $185 billion dollars (today’s dollars) or another 5% of the federal budget. Roughly, the same calculation applies to social security. So Medicare and Social Security will consume approximately 50% of the U.S. federal budget by 2020. In addition, the interest payments are likely to consume around 30% of the U.S. federal budget. This means that 80% of the federal budget will be spoken for. This does not include any additional costs for Obama Care. It is unlikely that the federal budget as a percentage of the economy can grow, since the U.S. had to borrow one third of the federal budget in 2010.
Here are my predictions for the next decade based on this background. I provide an optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic scenarios. Note these scenarios are based on what I believe is most likely to occur, not what I believe is the best that could be done or the worst that could be done to the U.S. economy.
Predictions Common to all Scenarios
Properties rights of all kinds will continue to be weakened. It appears that you can get a PhD. in economics (or even win the Nobel Prize) without understanding even the most basic ideas of property rights and how they affect a free economy. Even so called free market economists forget that Reagan not only cut tax rates, he strengthened property rights. Particularly he strengthened patent rights – for more information click here. He also strengthened property rights by weakening regulations and weakening the power of unions. A number of so-called free market economists do not understand that property rights are based on productive activity. As a result, they have joined in an all attack on property rights for inventions – patents. For more information see Scarcity Does it Prove Intellectual Property is Unjustified.
There does not appear to be any meaningful ground swell against Sarbanes Oxley and the Financial Reform Bill. As a result, entrepreneurial companies will be starved for financial capital. Because it appears very unlikely we will strengthen property rights for inventions or property rights generally or strengthen our capital markets so they work for start-up companies, the most optimist scenario is limited to subpar growth.
The growth of the Internet will result in a continued decline in commercial real estate values under all scenarios. Commodity prices are likely to increase, inflation adjusted, under all circumstance. Growth in China and inflation will drive this increase in commodity prices.
This scenario assumes that the U.S. faces up to its budgetary problems, repeals Obama Care, and rationalizes it tax structure. This scenario assumes that Obama is not elected for a second term. Government spending will grow slightly as a percentage of GDP. Supply Side economists would probably consider this enough to create vigorous economic growth. However, it does nothing to really encourage investment in new technologies. As a result, real inflation adjusted GDP growth over the decade will probably be around 2%. Median household family income after taxes will be stagnant. This will be two decades during which median household income has not grown in the U.S. I believe that will be the first time in the history of the U.S. this has occurred.
The housing market is likely to be stagnant since family incomes will be stagnant. Inflation is likely to run 4-6%, but this will not be enough to cause appreciation in housing prices. In fact, inflation adjusted housing prices will likely decline.
The best economic opportunities will be in government related jobs or businesses. Commodity based business will also prosper. Technology entrepreneurs will be few and far between. Unemployment numbers will hover between 7-9% throughout the whole decade – this will be the new normal. The U.S. will no longer be the largest economy in the world and based on per capita income among large countries the U.S. may fall below the top ten in the world. The U.S. will also be one among many equals in technological and scientific leadership. All social ills will increase slowly including crime, number of welfare dependents, and black market transactions.
Most Likely Scenario
This scenario assumes that the U.S. will not face up to its budgetary problems and Obama Care will not be repealed completely. Under this scenario, the U.S. will go from financial crisis to financial crisis. Each financial crisis will be meet with a short term band-aid solutions. Federal government spending will grow to at least 30% of GDP and total government spending will be 50-60% of GDP. Inflation will grow to 10-14% by the end of the decade. Despite this, housing prices will not keep up with inflation. Median household family income after taxes will decline by 2-7%. Official GDP numbers will show slightly negative growth, but this will over state the actual growth rate.
The best economic opportunities will be in government related jobs or businesses. Commodity based business will also prosper. The financial differences between those who are in the government’s favor and those who are not will be huge. Technology entrepreneurs will be almost nonexistent. The brain drain from the U.S. will be apparent and a cause for anxiety. Unemployment numbers will hover between 9-15% throughout the whole decade. The U.S. will no longer be the largest economy in the world and based on per capita income among large countries the U.S. will fall well below the top ten in the world. The U.S. will also be a declining power in technology and science. All social ills will increase moderately including crime, number of welfare dependents, and black market transactions. The chance of a major war in the world will be moderate.
The U.S. will not face up to its budgetary issues even to get through a crisis. The U.S. will either literally default on its debt or inflation will be over 20% or both. Multiple states will go bankrupt and be bailed out by the federal government. Tax burdens will skyrocket as will the black market. Housing prices will decrease significantly except in extremely exclusively neighborhoods. Social order will collapse. The pretense that the U.S. is a nation of laws or that the Constitution has any meaning will be completely destroyed. There is a possibility (15%) that there will be a military coup. Alternatively or in combination there is a possibility that the U.S. will break up into a number of separate countries. Many parts of the U.S. will decide that it no longer makes sense to support Washington, Wall Street and parts of California that have become use to crony capitalism and government handouts. The brain drain from the U.S. will be well known and huge. This may be the driver for politicians and voters to demand real reform. China and India will dominate the world economy. Unfortunately, neither will likely fill the U.S.’s shoes and become a technological and scientific leader. Singapore will likely be the richest country in the world on a per capita basis by a large margin. They will be the major center of technological and scientific research. The chance of a major war in the world will be probably.
The best reason to be more optimistic is that the U.S. has never had two bad decades in a row. In the late 1930s and late 1970s there was no reason to suppose that the U.S. would right itself economically. We pulled out the 1930s because Roosevelt realized that he had to adopt pro-business policies if the U.S. was to have any chance of winning World War II and so did the voters. In the 70s, there was little hope that the U.S., let alone England, would pull out of the inflationary spiral, increase unionization, increased regulation, increasing government spending and entitlements. However, there was the glimmer of Ronald Reagan and a surge of free market economists such as Milton Friedman, who still understood property rights. Unfortunately, I do not see a Ronald Reagan on the horizon and many of today’s free market economists are overly focused on the detrimental effects of Federal Reserve and high marginal tax rates. Very few seem to understand the importance of strengthening property rights, particularly for inventions or the need to free up our capital markets from regulation. I hope I am wrong and there is a politician who understands property rights, particularly for inventions, and the need to free up our capital markets, while having the strength to stand up to government unions and special interests.
I cannot decide if we are seeing the collapse of Western Civilization under the weight of the welfare state (socialism) or if we are seeing the last hurrah of the welfare state.
 Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have advocated eliminating SOX.
Patents are often analyzed as monopolies or rent seeking. Patents are clearly not a monopoly. A monopoly give the exclusive right to sell a product or service. A patent does not give the holder this right. For more information see The Myth that Patents are Monopoly.
The concept of economic rent is a more useful concept than monopoly for analyzing patent law. In the typical patent case production will either remain the same or increase compared to the pre-patent situation. As a result of the invention, protected by the patent, the inventor has a cost advantage that allows him to make more money–economic rent–than his competitors. In that sense there is no restriction of production and hence no monopoly.
Economic rent is defined in Wikipedia as “excess returns” above “normal levels” and they are associated with a lack of competition in markets. What is meant by “normal levels” of return? Is it the same return that a person could make by putting their money in the bank? Or is the same return a person could make by investing in the stock market? Or is the same return that a person could make by investing in non-inventive manufacturing or service business? The concept of “excess returns” suffers from the same flaws as all socialist concepts of fairness – who decides? The concept of “excess returns” only makes any sense statistically. We are not talking about the returns from a specific patented invention, but the average return from inventing versus other economic investments. In addition, it only makes sense to compare the return on patented inventions to investments in private manufacturing or private service businesses. Let’s assume that the people who suggest that patents are rent seeking mean, patent holders are on average (statistically) receiving a higher return (excess return) compared to other similar private investments. For simplicity I will assume a private manufacturing business. Based on these assumptions, would the fact that investors in patent inventions (hereinafter inventors) receive a higher return than other manufacturing business be bad for the economy or bad for consumers? Let’s be clear that most commentators who state that patent holders are rent seekers, believe this would be damning evidence against patents.
There are several possible scenarios that meet the assumptions above: 1) inventors receive normal returns on manufacturing their invention, 2) inventors receive normal returns both on their manufacturing costs and their cost of inventing, 3) inventors receive normal returns both on their manufacturing costs and the risk adjusted costs of inventing and marketing a new invention, and 4) inventors receive excess returns both on their manufacturing costs and the risk adjusted costs of inventing and marketing a new invention.
My post Invention – A Financial Analysis , created the following mathematical model for the cost of inventing.
Ci(n) = (Inv + Mi)/P + NRE + PC*n + OH*n (New Product based on invention)
Cmt(n) = NRE + PC*n + OH*n (Me-too product)
Where Ci is the cost of creating a product for the owner of the invention, Inv is the cost of creating the invention, P is probability of that the invention will succeed in the market, Mi is the incremental marketing and sales cost of introducing a new invention, n is the number of products that have been produced, NRE is the nonrecurring engineering cost of setting up production, PC is the production cost of the making n products and OH is the cost of overhead for producing n products, Cmt is the cost of creating a me-too product. I will use this mathematical model to analyze the four scenarios discussed above.
Scenario 1 – Inventors Receive Normal Returns On Manufacturing Their Invention
In the above equation this means that the inventor can receive no compensation for cost of invention (Inv), the cost of marketing a new invention (Mi), or for the probability of success (P). This means that the inventor will never be able to justify the cost of inventing (Inv, Mi, p), since it is a sunk cost that will always cause the inventor’s return to be less than they would receive by investing in other manufacturing businesses. Why undertake the cost, risk, and hassle of inventing when you can obtain better returns by investing in any random manufacturing industry. If this is patent critics’ idea of rent seeking, then they will essentially kill off all but accidental inventing and inventions that can be kept a trade secret. It will also kill off all venture capital.
Scenario 2 – Inventors Receive Normal Returns on Both Their Manufacturing Costs And Their Cost Of Inventing
In this scenario inventors are allowed to receive normal returns on their inventing costs (Inv) and their manufacturing costs (NRE, PC, OH). However, this does not compensate them for costs of marketing the invention (Mi) or their probability of success (P). While this makes inventing slightly more favorable, it still does not justify investing in inventing instead of any random manufacturing industry. If this is patent critics’ idea of rent seeking, then they will essentially kill off all but accidental inventing and inventions that can be kept a trade secret. It will also kill off all venture capital.
Scenario 3 – Inventors Receive Normal Returns Both On Their Manufacturing Costs And The Risk Adjusted Costs Of Inventing And Marketing A New Invention
Now this scenario sounds fair. Inventors (statistically) are compensated for all their true costs and risks. Inventors are in exactly the same position as investors in any other (manufacturing) business. In addition, inventors have the random chance of hitting the jackpot. This supposedly fair mined solution to the problem of rent seeking by patent holders ignores the return received by the beneficiaries of the invention (hereinafter society). Is this a fair solution if society receives an “excess return” when they buy (use) the invention? Let’s look at a real world example to illustrate this point. Because of the cotton gin, US cotton exports change from less than 500,000 pounds in 1793 to 93 million pounds by 1810. A single cotton gin could generate up to 55 pounds of cleaned cotton daily a 25 fold improvement over previous methods. So Eli Whitney would receive a 10% or so return on his invention, while society (cotton farmers – owners of the cotton gin) would receive a 2500% return. Why is it fair for Eli Whitney to receive a “normal return” of say 10% on his efforts while the purchasers of his cotton gin receive a 2500% return on their investment? Who is the real rent seeker in this situation?
Is the Eli Whitney case an outlier case? Real world purchasers in a B to B situation will only purchase an inventive product if they will receive more than an “normal return.” If an invention only provides a “normal return” to the purchaser, then they will have a wide variety of known devices that will provide them average return. There is no reason to select an inventive product that is going to require the purchaser to learn a new product and possibly alter their existing processes when they can get the same return from existing choices. Similarly, no rational investor is going to invest in an invention if they can obtain the same return by investing in a number of other known projects. This shows that in the real world both the inventor and the purchaser have to receive excess returns for an invention to be successful.
We know that neither the inventor nor the purchaser of the invention is expecting a normal return. An invention will only be successful if both the buyers and the inventor receive an above normal return on their investment. The inventor and the buyer are both rent seeking according to standard economic theory, which shows that the concept of “rent seeking” is seriously flawed. I propose that real rent seeking is when one party to a transaction obtains above normal returns and while the other party obtains below normal returns.
It is clear that the real rent seekers are not patent holders but a society that wants to obtain the benefits of new technologies without paying the creators of these new technologies.
Scenario 4 – Inventors Receive Excess Returns Both on Their Manufacturing Costs and the Risk Adjusted Costs of Inventing and Marketing a New Invention
This is the only scenario under which inventing can be encouraged. As explained above, both the inventor and the purchasers must receive above normal returns in order for the invention to successful in a free market economy. This is the very definition of how economic progress occurs. Economic progress (real increases in per capita GDP or per capita income) only occur because of increases in our level of technology. Our patent system has to provide excess returns above normal levels for inventors if we want our economy and standard of living to increase.
 35 USC 154  Dam, Kenneth W., THE ECONOMIC UNDERPINNINGS OF PATENT LAW, JOHN M. OLIN LAW & ECONOMICS WORKING PAPER NO. 19 (2D SERIES), http://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/files/19.Dam_.Patent.pdf, p.4.  Wikipedia, Opportunity Costs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost, 8/24/10.  Wikipedia, Eli Whitney, Jr., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_Whitney,_Jr., 8/24/10.  Wikipedia, Eli Whitney, Jr., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_Whitney,_Jr., 8/24/10.  Gordon, John Steele, An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, Harper Perennial, New York, 2004, p. 84.
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