Words & Numbers

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Insightful weekly commentary on news & current events from economist Antony Davies and political scientist James R. Harrigan.

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December 4, 2019

One of the few enumerated powers that the Founders granted to the federal government was the power to issue patents.

Patents are a compromise between two conflicting goals. On the one hand, we want to avoid the creation of government-protected monopolies because monopolies stifle innovation. On the other, we want entrepreneurs to have an incentive to innovate. And one way to incentivize entrepreneurs is to grant monopoly protection for their inventions.

Patent law is an attempt to balance these two conflicting goals, but the balance presents trade offs. Weaker patent laws mean cheaper goods today but a lesser variety of goods tomorrow; stronger patent laws mean more expensive goods today but a greater variety of goods tomorrow.

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Quick hits

Why did the South Bronx burn?
A history of NYC rent control.
Paying property taxes with nickels.
What happens if merchants refuse to take dollars?
Businesses taking Benjamins.

Foolishness of the Week

Michael Bloomberg and “those people”

Topic of the Week

The Constitution and Patents

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About the Hosts


James R. Harrigan is Managing Director of the Center for Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona, and the F.A. Hayek Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also co-host of the Words & Numbers podcast. Dr. Harrigan was previously Dean of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani, and later served as Director of Academic Programs at the Institute for…

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Dr. Antony Davies is the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at FEE, associate professor of economics at Duquesne University, and co-host of the podcast, Words & Numbers. Dr. Davies authors monthly columns on economics and public policy for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has written a book on understanding statistics, published by the Cato Institute, and has co-…

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