15 September 2006

The Tired Old "Innovation" Argument

One of Microsoft's favourite justifications for its monopoly is that any brake on it would be a brake on "innovation" - as if Microsoft were some hotbed of the latter. The danger with letting this kind of nonsense pass unchallenged is that others start using it. Here's a prime specimen:

Speaking in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general at the DOJ’s antitrust division, warned that forcing companies to reveal their intellectual property stifles innovation. He used Apple as an example, in a nod to growing discontent in Europe regarding the way that music purchased from iTunes is tied to the iPod.

Well, no: if you read works like the splendid Against Intellectual Monopoly, you find in fact that

intellectual monopoly is not neccesary for innovation and as a practical matter is damaging to growth, prosperity and liberty.

The book gives plenty of examples - like James Watt and the steam engine - that are eye-opening in this respect. And since the book is freely available, there's no excuse for not finding out about these fascinating things and helping to stamp out this wretched "innovation" meme.

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