Wayne Brough Reviews “Evasive Entrepreneurs” 

by on August 4, 2020 · 0 comments

My thanks to Dr. Wayne Brough, President at Innovation Defense Foundation, for reviewing my new book, Evasive Entrepreneurs and the Future of Governance, over at the AIER website. Brough says of the book:

Adam Thierer has created a thoughtful and surprisingly timely book examining the interplay between entrepreneurs, innovation, and regulators. Thoughtful because he tackles tough questions of innovation and governance in a dynamic market. Timely because the coronavirus pandemic has forced policymakers to seriously reconsider the cumulative regulatory burden and how it may impede the economic recovery. Whether it’s V-shaped or a slower, longer recovery, decades worth of regulatory underbrush has taken its toll on economic activity while providing few, if any, benefits.

He also does a nice job summarizing the key theme of both this latest book and my previous one on Permissionless Innovation:

Thierer takes to task the anti-growth mentality and the political movements against innovation and growth, highlighting the long tradition of hostility toward innovation, from the early 19th-century Luddites up through today’s technophobes advocating restrictions on new technologies such as artificial intelligence. Much of this is driven by the precautionary principle, which Thierer views as an inappropriate guide for regulators. The precautionary principle is a highly risk-averse standard that provides regulators an excuse to stifle innovation for the slightest perceived hazard.

But Dr. Brough rightly takes me to task for not addressing intellectual property issues in either book. He’s right. I did indeed chicken out of bringing IP policy into these books for a variety of reasons. After I co-edited a big book on IP wars in 2002 (Copy Fights), I made so many enemies for trying to walk the moderate middle path that I largely abandoned the field forevermore. I just got tired of the Holy Wars fought over the topic, and every time I tried to play the role of peacemaker in those wars, I just got shot at by both sides in the intellectual crossfire. I was simultaneously being accused of being an “IP anarchist” and “a whore for Big Content,” by people on either side of those wars. At one point, a board member of the Cato Institute suggested I should be removed from my job for not being enough of an IP opponent while, at the exact same time, a Cato adjunct fellow was suggesting I was already far too radical of an IP opponent. I certainly couldn’t be both! It was comical, but also exhausting and incredibly frustrating. And so I raised the white flag of surrender and walked off the IP battlefield around 2005.

But I also did not bring IP policy into either of my latest books simply because I needed to pick my battles and focus on the issues I know best. When you go down the IP rabbit hole, there’s no escaping that endless descent. Both books would have needed to be significantly longer to incorporate nuanced discussions of how copyright and patents affect innovation outcomes.

Regardless, I very much understand the concerns that Dr. Brough raises in his review about how, “the efficacy of intellectual property laws is inextricably tied to innovation, for better or worse,” and how, “[s]ome of the most disruptive innovation has occurred in the shadow of intellectual property laws that still struggle to keep pace with the rate of technological change.” He’s correct, and entire books have been written on the topic… including my old one!

Anyway, you can read the opening chapter of my new book here, or buy the entire thing here. And my thanks again to Wayne Brough for taking the time to read and review it.

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