Re: Very good discussion by me of Intellectual Property Rights ;-)

Hal Finney (
Mon, 4 Jan 1999 10:10:30 -0800

Lee Daniel Crocker, <>, writes, regarding whether development would be slower without patents:

> But it _has_ been tested: the thousands of years of human history
> before the newfangled idea of patents were as productive and
> creative as today. Agriculture, construction, toolmaking, money,
> clothing, cooking, boats, roads, water power, and countless other
> technologies that are so commonplace we hardly think of them as
> high-tech were all invented long before patents.

On the contrary, it took thousands of years for these inventions to be developed. The rate of advancement was far slower in the past than it is today.

Historical tests like this are not very meaningful, because so many variables are changing. We saw an increase in economic growth rates, from a doubling time of 500-1000 years to one of about 100 years in the 18th century, with a futher increase to a doubling time of 10-20 years in the 20th century. Someone who wanted to promote patents could suggest that they played a large role in motivating this increase, and that without patents we would be back to 500-1000 years to double our economic output.