Greenstein on Innovation
| Peter Klein |
One of my regular lectures at the Mises University deals with the economics of networks and information technology, with a particular focus on the history of the internet. A few years ago I wrote up my notes for a Mises.org daily article, which appeared as “Government Did Invent the Internet, But the Market Made It Glorious.” Shane Greensteinn’s new NBER paper could used the same title, though he chose something meatier: “Nurturing the Accumulation of Innovations: Lessons from the Internet.” Okay, the paper is a bit meatier too. Check it out:
The innovations that became the foundation for the Internet originate from two eras that illustrate two distinct models for accumulating innovations over the long haul. The pre-commercial era illustrates the operation of several useful non-market institutional arrangements. It also illustrates a potential drawback to government sponsorship — in this instance, truncation of exploratory activity. The commercial era illustrates a rather different set of lessons. It highlights the extraordinary power of market-oriented and widely distributed investment and adoption, which illustrates the power of market experimentation to foster innovative activity. It also illustrates a few of the conditions necessary to unleash value creation from such accumulated lessons, such as standards development and competition, and nurturing legal and regulatory policies.