Whatever their aesthetic virtues, the iconic public buildings of Washington, DC are rightly viewed as concrete and limestone embodiments of not only America’s most cherished ideals, but our most essential ideas: The Capitol and the White House stand for representative and limited government; the Lincoln Memorial for equality, manumission and reconciliation; the Supreme Court for equal justice under law.
Rarely mentioned in such exalted company is the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. In fact, it’s not even located in Washington anymore: Since 2006, it has occupied a complex of five modern and renovated buildings across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. And yet this unassuming office complex guards an idea arguably even more valuable than those embodied in the gleaming white edifices surrounding the National Mall.
Note that I did not say the most important idea or the greatest one, but the one with the most value. The most valuable idea is the deceptively simple realization that ideas have value. This may seem screamingly obvious, but that is only because it is so basic to the modern world that, like water to a fish, it is barely noticed. But it was not always so, and the world was a fundamentally different place before it recognized a property right in ideas. Indeed, the recognition of such a right may be the most transformative economic innovation in human history. It is the ultimate source of modern prosperity—more important even than the science of the Enlightenment or the hardware of the Industrial Revolution. And it was no accident that this idea arose and initially flourished in a particular cultural context: that of Great Britain and the United States.
The Origins of Economic Growth
Calculating levels of prosperity and poverty over even a small slice of history is not easy. Gilded Age millionaires lived luxurious lives but lacked access to modern middle-class amenities like air travel, refrigeration and antibiotics. How much more daunting, then, to quantify the prosperity of Abbasid Baghdad, imperial Rome or medieval Paris on a common scale? Despite the challenge and indeed fully aware of its pitfalls, some diligent researchers have managed to estimate gross domestic product figures for the past 10,000 years.1 Their research tells us that, despite some local and temporary success stories, the worldwide level of prosperity (and its correlates, including life span, infant mortality, hours worked per calories consumed and dozens more) was surprisingly consistent throughout almost all of human history. The best estimates of per capita GDP show the worldwide number fluctuating between $400 and $550 per year for seven thousand years.2 By one estimate, worldwide per capita GDP in 800 BCE was virtually identical to the number in 1600 CE.3 The average person of William Shakespeare’s time produced no more and lived no better than his counterpart in Homer’s. Only during the past three centuries can economists find any measurable growth in worldwide prosperity. Then again, that growth spurt is hard to miss: From 1700 to 2000, worldwide GDP grew from less than $600 per person to more than $6,000.
Countless academic careers have been built defending and attacking theories that explain why this is the case (see Revolution, Industrial). The current consensus is that at least three-quarters of the growth in prosperity from the 18th century to the present is the result of growth in humanity’s store of useful knowledge—or more precisely, growth in the rate of increase for that store.4 The difference turns out to be critical. Thousands, if not millions, of discoveries and inventions appeared among humankind during the 99 centuries preceding the 18th. But watermills, spinning wheels and iron forges, however numerous, did not change per capita GDP very much. The most popular theory for why this was so relies on the observation that the most energetic human activity during those centuries was not productive but reproductive: Humanity made babies faster than it made inventions to feed, clothe, house or transport them. Until the rate of increase in useful knowledge exceeded the rate of population increase, the world was stuck in the trap first described by Thomas Malthus in his Essay on Population in 1798.
Perversely enough, the “Malthusian trap” was first identified at just the moment in history when the phenomenon it described was about to disappear. This wasn’t because population growth slowed during the 18th century; in fact, until very recently, it grew faster than ever before. But inventiveness increased even faster. Something happened to cause innovation not just to grow, but to explode. Something happened to create more than $30 trillion in value in a single year, that being the difference between actual worldwide GDP in 2008, and what it would have been if humanity produced goods and services at the same rate in 2008 as it did between 10,000 BCE and 1800 CE.
So what happened? The most common answer is that Enlightenment science and technology accelerated the pace of inventiveness by making it more systematically cumulative than ever before. Economically relevant discoveries were no longer matters of random tinkering. Actual knowledge of nature could direct what we call today applied research. No doubt there is something to this explanation. There is, however, another way to describe what changed that adds a critical dimension to standard thinking. Perhaps it was not just, or even mainly, the pace of innovation that picked up, but also the fact that a larger percentage of the working adult population could get their hands on these innovations. In other words, perhaps it was not the pace of innovation alone that mattered—the vertical axis, so to speak—but the rate of its diffusion along a horizontal, social axis.
What might affect the rate of technological diffusion? Clearly, education was a factor. Only an enlightened tinkerer could make use of 18th-century innovations such as screw-cutting lathes and micrometers. Social organization mattered, too. Some innovations could not be put to use by individuals or families in their cottages, but required larger forms of organization; powered looms and spinning jennys demanded factories, for example. But above all, the rate of innovation diffusion depends on legal and commercial institutions. For centuries, the institutions that dominated the diffusion of practical knowledge in Europe were the medieval craft guilds, those ancient federations of autonomous workshops that monopolized entire categories of manufacturing. The guilds were not without value—they gave their customers a reasonable assurance of quality and managed to transmit a high level of expertise within their ranks, but their raison d’être was the medieval belief that the acquisition of knowledge was a zero-sum game: a cultural conviction that expertise lost value whenever it was shared.
In short, culture mattered. The social and legal context affected prosperity and its distribution at least as much as the strictly technical one. And this can be proven by examining the indisputable fact that prosperity did not rise evenly, and still does not today.
If the aforementioned $30 trillion per year were distributed evenly today, Sierra Leone, with a current per capita GDP of $450 in 1990 dollars, wouldn’t still be playing catch up with Elizabethan England. The prosperity gap dates from the same moment as the prosperity explosion itself: In 1700, aggregate world GDP was $371.3 billion, and it was fairly uniform.5 The share of it produced by the world’s most prosperous segments (which we’ll identify in a moment) was a little more than 3 percent—nothing remarkable there, since the segment then represented about 2 percent of the world’s people. By 1820, the world’s GDP had nearly doubled, to $694.5 billion, but the share produced by the prosperous segment had grown even faster: to nearly $50 billion, or more than 7 percent. In 1870, while the world economy had doubled again, to $1.11 trillion, the segment’s share was more than 19 percent. In 1900, it was just under 27 percent of the world economy, in 1940 more than 30 percent, and in 1950 it hit its all-time high of 37 percent. Even in 2000, it had fallen only to 28 percent of a world economy of $36.7 trillion.
If you guessed that this segment was the G-8, or Europe, or China, think again. For the first 150 years of history’s only sustained period of prosperity growth, the dominant economic engine was Great Britain. For the next 150, it was the United States of America. While it is deeply unfashionable in many quarters to recognize it, world economic leadership has been the sole property of two English-speaking nations for three centuries.
This extraordinary expansion was not because of population growth. Though English-speakers grew from less than 2 percent of the world’s population in 1700 to more than 6 percent by 1870 (largely because of decreased infant mortality and extended life spans directly traceable to increasing income), that percentage hasn’t moved since. For the past 140 years, the Anglophone share of world population has oscillated between 6–8 percent, and its share of world income has always been at least four times greater.
Nor was the expansion due to an enduring technological advantage. By the middle of the 19th century, the ideas at the heart of the Industrial Revolution—steam power, factory manufacturing, railways—had diffused from the English midlands throughout Europe and much of Asia and the Americas. Yet the head start proved remarkably durable, and Anglo-America’s dominance remained, even as compared to nations close in technical sophistication. While the English-speaking world’s per capita GDP in 1900 was 44 percent greater than the Western European average—$4,170 versus $2,892—in 2000, it was still 36 percent greater—$26,238 versus $19,264 (and 25 percent more than Japan’s $21,051).
Correlation, of course, is not causation, or else we could conclude that a move to Palm Beach, Florida is a life-threatening decision. But some paths of correlation are better marked than others. The path, in this case, leads directly from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Virginia at the beginning of the 21st century back to London’s Westminster Hall at the beginning of the 17th.
Westminster Hall, the oldest surviving portion of the Palace of Westminster, where England’s Parliament has met since the 13th century, was originally a royal residence used by monarchs for everything from tennis games to diplomatic conferences. For most of its existence, however, the most important function of the hall was judicial. Westminster Hall was where William Wallace was tried and found guilty of treason in 1305. In January of 1606, it was the site for the trial of Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. Most famous of all, in 1649 it was where Charles I was found guilty of treason and other high crimes.
Given such dramatic fare, it seems an unlikely place to have heard a case about a patent for making playing cards, but nevertheless it did. To understand why the Crown took an interest in such matters, it is helpful to recall that the word “patent” originally had nothing to do with the rights of an inventor and everything to do with the monarch’s prerogative to grant exclusive rights to produce a particular good or service—essentially, monopolies backed by the state. English monarchs issued letters patent (so-called because they were issued openly, rather than under seal, as with letters close) from the 14th century on. The practice burgeoned under the Tudors, once they realized that patents were both a reliable source of revenue and a powerful tool for rewarding friends. By the time of the last of the Tudors, Elizabeth I, the royal trade in patents was dangerously out of control. She granted monopolies for the selling of salt and the making of paper to courtiers who may not have been especially inventive, but possessed both loyalty and ready cash. In 1598, Elizabeth issued a letter patent to Edward Darcy, “an Esquire, and groom of the Queen’s Privy Chamber”, granting him a monopoly on the manufacture, importation and distribution of playing cards in England, evidently out of some queenly feeling that if her subjects couldn’t be persuaded to let alone such an idle pastime, they could at least enrich one of her court favorites by doing so.
Unfortunately for Darcy, three years after receiving his monopoly, Elizabeth agreed to allow her grants to be tested in the common law courts. Within months, lawyers were preparing suits intended to break one or another of these monopolies, and in 1602, a competing merchant named Thomas Allein imported his own cards, and Darcy sued. Edward Coke (pronounced “cook”), as the Attorney General of England, represented Darcy.
As the 16th century turned into the 17th, Coke was the most prominent, successful and honored lawyer in England. In 1602, when Darcy v. Allein was first presented to the Queen’s Bench, Coke was fifty years old, had been a practicing barrister for 24 years, and had served as a Member of Parliament, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Attorney General. His representation of Darcy was a perverse reminder that lawyers have clients rather than opinions. The Attorney General had a long history of opposition to monopolies, as illustrated by his role in Davenant v. Hurdis, in which he had argued against the powerful guild known as the Merchant Tailors of London. Coke cannot, therefore, have been much chagrined when Chief Justice Popham ruled that his client’s grant was forbidden on several grounds, including “that all trades, mechanical as well as others, which prevent idleness . . . are profitable for the Commonwealth.”6 The court ruled, in essence, that the Crown could not grant an exclusive franchise to an individual unless that individual had demonstrated some unique mastery of a particular trade. Though it would be twenty years before it would be written, the foundations of Britain’s first patent law had been laid.
In 1623, Coke, now the Lord Chief Justice of England, took Popham one step further, and drafted what has become known as the Statute on Monopolies. Its ostensible object was eliminating exclusive patent grants by the monarch, but the statute’s world-historical importance is found in the single, critical exception it carved out: an exclusive franchise could still be granted to the “first and true inventor” who introduced the invention to the realm.
The significance of this exception was huge. Though the idea of exclusive commercial franchises for inventions had cropped up occasionally throughout Western history, centuries could pass between occurrences. They started to appear a bit more frequently once Europe had fully embarked on the period that came to be known as the Renaissance. In 1421, the Lords of the Council for the city of Florence granted Filippo Brunelleschi three years exclusive use of the boat he designed to move the stones needed to build the city’s great Duomo. England’s King Henry VI granted a glazier named John of Utynam a twenty-year exclusive right to use his secret method for making colored glass to be used at the chapel at Eton College. But all these earlier patent grants were arbitrary and unpredictable, and therefore poor incentives for invention. By defining patents as a matter of law rather than whim, Coke’s Statute, for the very first time, offered England’s most inventive citizens not just protection, but motivation.
While Coke’s Statute became the model for every other patent structure that followed, its immediate impact was modest. For its first fifty years, Britain issued fewer than four patents annually, which is pretty strong evidence that a nation’s inventiveness depends on changing attitudes as much as laws. That task, as it happened, was taken up by a man named John Locke.
Of Property and Patents
The son of a lawyer recently entered into the professional classes, the young John Locke dabbled in law, medicine, diplomacy and “natural philosophy”, as experimental science was then known. None of these pursuits changed his life, or in fact gave it much direction. What did change his life was his employment, initially as a physician, by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, later the Earl of Shaftesbury, the Lord High Chancellor of England, President of the Privy Council and great political adversary of Charles II. It was while working for Shaftesbury that Locke found his voice in defense of individual liberties against royal abuses of power, and on the economic aspects of property in the relations among men.
In 1668, two years after joining Shaftesbury’s household, Locke wrote a wonkish treatise titled eerily like a Brookings Institution policy paper: Some of the Consequences that are Like to Follow upon Lessening of Interest to 4 per cent. About twenty years later, his political philosophy had ascended to a somewhat higher plane—as had his choice of titles. In his luggage on the February day in 1689 when Locke’s ship returned him to Britain after a 54-month exile in Holland was the draft manuscript for a work that would be published as Two Treatises on Government. The Treatises are so rich in ideas as to be positively overstuffed. But if he had included only the fifth chapter, Of Property, Locke’s impact on the future would have been assured.
As with concepts like sovereignty, freedom of expression, and (not at all coincidentally) experimental science, the idea of property had been relatively stable for a thousand years before the ferment of the 17th century started to eat away at its foundations. You can’t have a society without property law, and you can’t have property law without some definition of property. In Western societies, that definition applied to anything that exhibited some combination of three characteristics: exclusive possession, exclusive use and some level of transferability. Despite arcana that kept legal scholars busy for millennia (medieval law recognized the idea of seisin, which distinguished between title and possession; Roman law embraced usufructus, which was a right to use without owning), that had been about the extent of the definition. If you were the only one to possess, use and sell something, it was your property.
Coke’s Statute on Monopolies changed that, perhaps unintentionally, by changing the earlier version of royal patents (which could not, for example, be conveyed) into what 20th-century economists called nonrivalrous property—the sort of property that can be used simultaneously by more than one person. And by the middle of the 17th century, other events also put traditional ideas about property on the defensive. The Diggers, an agrarian communist movement that emerged at the end of the English Civil Wars, were hostile to any idea of property. Others proposed restricting the amount of property one could inherit—a position radical enough that both Cromwell and Charles II, upon his Restoration, attempted to suppress it. It was at this time of political and intellectual ferment that Locke’s work changed attitudes.
Locke’s understanding of property began with the Bible: In Genesis, God granted Adam sovereignty over the earth. From that fixed point, Locke concluded that land created by God and predating society was naturally something held in common by all men. But then what gives one man a property right over some particular piece of land? Locke’s answer was that property is created when the labor of man mixed with that of God. That is, when man combined his labor with the goods of the earth, he created a natural right to the product. This right, Locke reasoned, like land itself, predated government, laws or kings; it is thus a species of natural law.
The connection to the Patent and Trademark Office is subtle, but powerful: By equating labor with a property right, Locke saw property anywhere labor is added. The defining characteristic of property became the labor, not the thing itself. And labor, in Locke’s formulation, was a thing as much of mind as of muscle:
Nature furnishes us only with the material, for the most part rough, and unfitted to our use; it requires labour, art, and thought, to suit them to our occasions. . . . Here, then, is a large field for knowledge, proper for the use and advantage of men in this world; viz. to find out new inventions of despatch to shorten or ease our labour, or applying sagaciously together several agents and materials, to procure new and beneficial productions fit for our use, whereby our stock of riches (i.e. things useful for the conveniences of our life) may be increased, or better preserved: and for such discoveries as these the mind of man is well fitted.
It is no coincidence that the Copyright Law of 1710 appeared so soon after Locke’s works—as well as the 1735 Engraver’s Act, which granted the same rights to prints as the Copyright Act did to literary works. The idea of intellectual property was born.
The impact of Locke’s ideas was at first somewhat inconsistent, like his reputation. David Hume, his protégé, was never persuaded that property rights derived from natural law; Jeremy Bentham, too, thought that the very concept of natural rights was “nonsense on stilts.”7 Edmund Burke, despite his acceptance of the existence of a social contract, was leery of legitimizing authority by resorting to some natural right pre-existing society. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, he wrote that “government is not made in virtue of natural rights” but rather as an artifact of human creation. With Burke as the voice of tradition, and John Stuart Mill, Hume and Bentham the voices of liberal reform, Locke had a difficult audience in Britain. As it turned out, he found a much more receptive one on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The American Way
By the middle of August 1787, the 55 delegates to the world’s first and most consequential constitutional convention had been meeting in Philadelphia for three months. They had debated a hundred different designs for judicial appointments, the limits to the authority of a dozen executive departments and every conceivable duty of a national legislature. They had established the line-of-command for the new nation’s armed forces and recognized a national responsibility for maintaining a postal service. Given all that, it comes as no great shock that the first acknowledgment of a Federal role in protecting the activities of inventors did not come until August 18, when James Madison proposed that the national legislature be empowered to “encourage knowledge and discoveries.” That same day, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina submitted a proposal that the government be able “to grant patents for useful inventions.”8
Four days later, on August 22, the convention adjourned for the afternoon and headed to the banks of the Delaware River to see a demonstration of the power of one such useful invention: a 45-foot-long boat that resembled an Iroquois war canoe with six oars on either side. The oars, however, were driven not by muscle and sinew, but by mechanical linkages and a three-foot long piston driven back and forth by a coal-fired steam engine. The boat’s creator, a onetime clockmaker and silversmith from Connecticut named John Fitch, had not, as many histories have it, built the world’s first steamboat. As with many such inventions, once the underlying technologies have matured and spread, hundreds of designs seem to appear almost simultaneously. No, the importance of Fitch’s demonstration concerned its audience, which was properly impressed with the steamboat’s maiden voyage. Two weeks later, the Brearly Committee (named for its chairman, David Brearly of New Jersey, and also, unfortunately, known as the “Committee of Leftovers”) reported on 14 proposals to the convention. The last one was a recommendation to “provide limited patents to promote science and arts.”9 The patent clause was incorporated, without a single dissenting vote, into Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 8 of the United States Constitution.
It is no surprise that the American revolutionaries were so taken with this particular attitude toward intellectual property. In almost every relevant way, they were Locke’s children, and Coke’s grandchildren. Indeed, 18th-century America showed even more enthusiasm than Britain itself did for the intellectual forebears of patent law: Locke was considerably more influential among the American constitutionalists than he ever was to English parliamentarians, and had even drafted the first constitution for Carolina colony. The Mayflower itself had carried a set of Coke’s writings from the Old World to the New, and both Jefferson and Madison had gotten their legal training reading them. Coke’s 1628 Petition of Right is cited in the Federalist Papers (where it is compared to the Magna Carta), and his 1610 decision in Bonham’s Case, that legislation is subordinate to common law, is the foundation of the doctrine of judicial review that Chief Justice John Marshall found in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. Even less surprising was their comfort with mechanical as well as political innovation. After all, the eminence grise of the American revolution, Benjamin Franklin, was not only a Fellow of the Royal Society, but one of the most prolific inventors of the entire 18th century, and Thomas Jefferson, the revolution’s intellectual soul, took enough time off from his writing and architecture to design revolving bookstands, copying machines, and even a new-and-improved moldboard plow.
The American Framers thus advanced the idea that intellectual property is distinct from tangible property. What they didn’t realize at the time was the power this idea would unleash in the New World. Think of it this way: A piece of land, a horse or even a quantity of precious metal might be more valuable in one nation than in its neighbor, but it isn’t valuable on one side of a border and valueless on the other. A patent or copyright, however, retains its value only so long as it is explicitly protected by law, and that protection stops abruptly at a national border. Thus, a Dutch and an English inventor might each spend ten years working on the same innovation, and each might secure precisely the same patent rights as the other, but an exclusive license in the 18th-century Netherlands, with a population of two million, was worth only a fraction as much as in Britain, with twenty million, even though the costs to create the invention were identical. Even worse, once the Dutch inventor made his discovery public—a basic requirement of almost every patent law—the English inventor could quite legally take it for his own.
Now, in 1789 there were only a few more Americans living in the New World than Dutch living in the old, and the Netherlands, despite its great wealth and strong patent law, was already falling far behind Britain in the production of useful knowledge. In precisely the same way, no individual American colony was large enough to support a working population of inventors. Inadvertently, the constitutionalists had stumbled on the fundamental issue of scale in intellectual property; and by federalizing patents, they tilted the scale in favor of the new nation. The value of a bar of gold or a bushel of wheat isn’t greater in a large country than it is in a small one, but the value of a patent or copyright is, because it increases in direct proportion to the number of people one can sue to prevent its theft. John Locke wrote inspiringly in his second Treatise on Government that property rights were natural rights, but regarding intellectual property he had the proposition exactly backward: Only a government could create property in a patent.
Not everyone agreed, even in 18th-century America. Most notably, Jefferson was instinctively offended by even the slightest odor of monopoly. In a much-quoted letter sent to his friend Isaac McPherson, Jefferson insisted: “Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”10 (Small wonder that Jefferson is regarded as the intellectual godfather of the 21st century’s “information freedom” movement.) But the real American innovation was the idea that patents do want to be free, or at least cheap. In other words, a patent regime has to be restrictive enough to motivate innovation for profit, but not so restrictive that it too severely limits the use of a given innovation. The inventor must be able to profit from his creative labor, but not exclusively and for all time, like a closed guild. Rather, he must profit by it by making its use available to many others who can in turn profit by it. That is the balance that manages to stimulate both invention and its mass dissemination.
The absurdly complicated British system at the time had not managed this balance very well at all. Each British patent application needed to be endorsed, signed and sealed by the Chancery Court, the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Privy Seal, the King (twice) and the Secretary of State (three times). It was also outrageously expensive. In 1792, the official cost of a patent was £70 for England and Wales, but “gratuities” to every secretary, official and even doorman standing along the way typically cost another £20. The tariff including Scotland and Ireland could easily exceed £30—three times the annual income of a master artisan.
Knowing all this, Madison, Pinckney and their colleagues set the price of a patent application at fifty cents. If the patent was awarded, the recipient owed the Federal government two dollars, plus another dollar for affixing the Great Seal of the United States. It worked: By the end of its first year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had already issued more patents per capita than Britain had that year—more than one hundred applications. By the end of 2008, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had issued more than seven million patents, and the United States has remained thus far the world’s most inventive economy, and its richest.
To be sure, patent systems have been “gamed” for as long as they have existed. Invention produces wealth, and wealth attracts corruption, from abusive lawsuits to out-and-out bribery, in the 17th century and the 21st. Moreover, patents are not the only measure of inventiveness; many economic historians have found high levels of historical innovation in countries with little or no patent protection—though they also found that, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, those countries tended to lack the population necessary for patents to be valuable and as a result depended on larger nations to make major breakthroughs. Still, the main historical storyline cannot be denied: Prosperity and useful knowledge both started their inexorable increase at precisely the moment that nations recognized the existence of intellectual property, and the nations that first recognized it and harnessed its power in law have dominated the world economy ever since.
Not every American leader has recognized the importance of innovation to American prosperity and the role that the U.S. patent and trademark regime has played in it. But the great ones have. In Washington’s National Museum of American History, on the third floor, is a scale model, constructed of varnished wood, that looks a little like an outrigger canoe with 16 vertical tubes inserted fore-and-aft. On May 22, 1849, the device, “a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steam boat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draught of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water”, received U.S. patent number 6469. Its inventor was “Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the County of Sangamon, in the State of Illinois.” And it was Lincoln, in 1859, in a popular speech entitled “Discoveries, Inventions, and Improvements” that he gave at agricultural fairs, schools and self-improvement societies, who observed:
Man is not the only animal who labors, but he is the only one who improves his workmanship . . . by Discoveries and Inventions. . . . In the days before Edward Coke’s original Statute on Monopolies, any man could instantly use what another had invented; so that the inventor had no special advantage from his own invention. . . . The patent system changed this; secured to the inventor, for a limited time, the exclusive use of his invention; and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery of new and useful things.
Over the past forty years, our leaders have made a mess of our system of banking and financial regulation. They have allowed policy on immigration, health care, energy and much else to grow dysfunctional. So far, at least, they have not destroyed the patent and trademark system (not that some have not tried). In times like these, that is reason for hope.
2All calculations in this article are in 1990 U.S. dollars.
3Kremer, “Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million BC to 1990.” The figures in question are adjusted by J. Bradford DeLong’s slightly different estimates.
4Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow’s “fundamental equation of growth” divides per capita growth into increases in land per worker and in capital per worker (buildings, machines and so on). Solow called it “increasing efficiency over time” and economic textbooks call it the “residual”, but it is at least 76 percent of all growth over the past four centuries. Some residual!
5All statistics are drawn from Maddison, The World Economy.
6Popham quoted in Darlington, A Treatise on the Law of Personal Property (T. and J.W. Johnson and Co., 1891).7Paul E. Sigmund, ed., The Selected Political Writings of John Locke (W.W. Norton, 2005).
8Kenneth W. Dobyns, The Patent Office Pony: A History of the Early Patent Office (Sergeant Kirkland’s Museum and Historical Society, 1994).
9Thompson Westcott, Life of John Fitch: The Inventor of the Steamboat (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1857).
10Samuel Eagle Forman, The life and writings of Thomas Jefferson, including all of his important utterances on public questions, compiled from state papers and from his private correspondence (The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1900).