The returns from innovation

by on October 5, 2004 at 7:10 am in Economics | Permalink

In a recent NBER working paper – “Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement” – Yale economist William Nordhaus estimates that innovators capture a mere 2.2% of the total “surplus” from innovation. (The total surplus of innovation is, roughly speaking, the total value to society of innovation above the cost of producing innovations.) Nordhaus’s data are from the post-WWII period.

The smallness of this figure is astounding. If it is anywhere close to being an accurate estimate, the implication is that “society” pays a paltry $2.20 for every $100 worth of welfare it enjoys from innovating activities.

That’s from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek. To some extent fame incentives alleviate underinvestment in new ideas. To some extent I advocate favorable tax and legal treatment for innovation.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: