Peer to patent Summer Research Fellowship

by John Q on April 15, 2009

If you’re interested in the relationship between ideas, interests and institutions, the development of intellectual property law provides a fascinating (somewhat self-referential) case study. The intellectual debate has been running hard against strong IP [1] for a long time, and changes in technology have not only made copying and reproducing all kinds of material much cheaper and easier, but have revealed, on a scale much larger than before, the benefits that can be realised from free access to ideas.

Meanwhile the extension of IP rights, and the expansion of powers to protect them has rolled on as if none of this was happening, at national (DMCA), bilateral (as a standard condition of US-driven free trade agreements) and global (TRIPS) level.

However, there are some positive countervailing developments, one of which has a summer fellowship attached (CT isn’t a job board, but this is the kind of opportunity that might be missed through the usual channels).

[click to continue…]

Trade, outward foreign investment (movement of plants and services abroad), and immigration very likely have contributed to the growth of U.S. earnings inequality over the past several decades. Reducing any or all of them might well help to boost wages among Americans in the lower half of the distribution.

But in my view this shouldn’t be even a minor part of a strategy for inequality reduction, much less its chief focus. Trade, investment abroad, and immigration tend to benefit citizens in and from poor countries, which includes the bulk of the world’s population. Most of these people are substantially poorer than even the poorest Americans.

Yes, globalization enriches some rapacious corporations and despotic rulers, and vulnerable workers are exploited. But access to the American market and to employment by U.S.-based transnational firms has helped improve the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, and others in recent decades. And moving to the United States almost invariably enhances the living standards of immigrants from poor nations. It would be a bitter irony if American progressives succeeded in making a real dent in our inequality problem at the expense of the world’s poorest and most needy. We can, and should, look elsewhere for solutions.

I’m not suggesting we should sit idly by and let globalization have its way with the Americans who lose their jobs or experience falling wages. But rather than try to slow or block globalization, we should instead do what we can to enhance their flexibility and adaptability and to provide adequate cushions and supports. Among the things we Americans can learn from the Danes, Swedes, and Dutch, one of the most valuable is that it’s possible to embrace globalization (and other sources of economic change and disruption) and still have a high-opportunity, low-inequality, low-poverty society. The following chart offers one indication of this. It shows earnings inequality by imports as of the mid-2000s. Import-heavy countries are by no means doomed to high inequality.

Most of us want policies like wage insurance, better unemployment compensation, portable health insurance and pensions, support for retraining, and assistance with job placement not just because they can help to blunt the adverse consequences of globalization, but because they do so for economic change in general — whether it’s a product of technological progress, geographical shifts of industries and firms within the United States, or what have you. Arguing for limits on globalization directs attention away from these policies, making their adoption less likely. Paradoxically, then, we end up with the worst of both worlds: marginal trade limits, half-hearted steps to curtail investment abroad, confused and ineffective immigration policy, and too little of the supports and cushions needed for successful adjustment.

If you don’t like my take on this, consider what the following have to say before you make up your mind: Alan Blinder, Paul Collier (ch. 10), Brad DeLong, James Galbraith, Nicholas Kristof, Paul Krugman, Dani Rodrik (ch. 9), Amartya Sen (ch. 4), Gene Sperling, Joseph Stiglitz (ch. 3).

Wonderful to relate

by Henry Farrell on April 15, 2009

From “Hilzoy”:

If you have been reading public health blogs for a couple of years, you probably know, and miss, Confined Space, a blog about worker health and safety issues. If you don’t, you missed a great blog, the kind that really educates you about an issue that it’s hard for non-professionals to learn about otherwise. … Confined Space closed up shop a bit over a year ago when Jordan Barab, who wrote it, went to work for the House Education and Labor Committee. … From the Effect Measure post that I linked above, which is aptly titled “Miracle at OSHA”:

“Jordan Barab has been named Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA and until a permanent OSHA Director is named he will be Acting Assistant Secretary (i.e., OSHA Director) (…)If you go back through the archives of Confined Space you’ll find post after post taking the Bush administration OSHA to task for falling down on the job of protecting workers’ health. Now the hand that typed those posts will be running the agency. The bottom line here is that workers who would have died under the old regime will now live. Mirabile dictu!”