Launching the Innovation Rennaissance by Alex Tabarrok is another fine Kindle short. Tabarrok is an academic economist and co-author of the very successful Marginal Revolution blog. The book examines how innovation is important for economic growth and how the US performs on innovation and how it could do better. The book links in with The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen which is another excellent Kindle short.
Tabarrok puts forward the view that the US can reignite innovation by changing the patent system, in particular reducing the time for software patents or abolishing them altogether and having patents of different durations and patents that the US government would then buy under certain circumstances. Tabarrok is also a big fan of prizes for innovation and thinks that more of them will improve innovation citing examples like the Ansari X-Prize and others. Tabarrok also thinks that better teachers are required. He believes that paying teachers more for performance and allowing the removal of poor teachers would improve the system. He is not a fan of increasing college attendance and points out that while college graduation rates have increased in the US they have increased in majors that are not creating innovation and not in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields. He also makes the very much needed point that the greater wealth of the world will mean more innovation as there is more demand and there will be more people with the time and education to innovate. Tabarrok also looks at US spending on innovation against welfare spending.
Tabarrok doesn’t look at are why with the average education the US has long had how it continues to be the center of world computer technology and a major centre for medical and other research areas. He doesn’t look at how the US has produced Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Genentech and others while the rest of the world seems to capitalise less on this sort of innovation. He also doesn’t get into detailed questions such as if permanent bodies such as NASA and the NIH are better at research than grants for Universities.
The book is impressively crisp and thought provoking. It’s a really interesting book that is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in what could be done to enhance innovation and wealth. It’s not a complete popular study but hopefully Tabarrok or other people inspired by the book will follow this important area of economics and public policy.