Liberals Citing Libertarians in Tech Policy

by on January 14, 2007 · 6 comments

I’ve noted before that there’s been a trend recently of left-of-center academics citing great libertarian thinkers in their writings about copyright and patent law, peer production, industrial organization, and related topics. Tim Wu and Yochai Benkler cite Hayek and Coase, respectively, in their writings. The latest example is Cass Sunstein’s (relatively) new book, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. I haven’t read it yet, Patti Waldmeir of the Financial Times says:

Sunstein, one of the biggest of America’s internet big thinkers, has written an intriguing new book in which he argues that Hayek’s insights about the genius of markets are equally true of the internet. Sunstein argues, for example, that sharing scientific information online would cure some of the worst problems of the US patent system and foster innovation much more efficiently than costly patent litigation. Sunstein recognizes all the potential flaws of such collaborative projects. Groupthink can be dangerous. But, says Sunstein, the wisdom of the many is a great thing, and sharing knowledge online can lead to remarkable advances for companies, for governments and for the rest of us

Now, obviously, many libertarians (and perhaps Hayek himself) would take exception to some of the details of Sunstein’s argument. But I still think it’s a positive development that the problems Hayek and Coase focused on–how do we organize our economy and society to optimize the dispersion and use of knowledge–are increasingly recognized as central to high-tech policy debates.

Are there other examples of non-libertarian academics citing applying the insights of Hayek, Coase, or other libertarian thinkers to tech policy issues?

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