Software Patents: A Test Run for Bipartisan Cooperation?

Ramesh Ponnuru writes in the New York Times today that Republicans need to stop idolizing Ronald Reagan’s policies, which were great in the 80s but no longer address the problems we face now. The truth is that income tax rates are low enough already and the Fed has inflation well under control. Today we have to deal with growing income inequality and rising healthcare costs. The answer, Ponnuru suggests, can be found in things like lower payroll taxes, child tax credits, reforming the tax subsidy for employer health insurance, and adopting NGDP level targeting at the Fed. And this:

The Republican economic program of the 1980s also fought against government-imposed restrictions on economic activity: decontrolling energy prices, for example. Today we should target different restrictions. Software patents have become a source of unproductive litigation that entrenches large tech companies and inhibits creativity. Republicans shouldn’t support those patents. Economic growth has to trump corporate executives’ campaign donations.

As usual, when the subject is anything other than abortion, Ponnuru makes some sharp points. Most of them, however, the Republican Party isn’t really ready to hear yet. But what about that last one? There are, obviously, some powerful corporate interests who really don’t want to see us make changes to our intellectual property regime. And I suppose that dooms any effort at patent reform. Still, this is something that a lot of liberals would like to see happen, and as Ponnuru points out, it’s also a good fit for a party that wants to see less economic regulation and more entrepreneurship. Surely there ought to be at least some chance of a bipartisan effort here?

For what it’s worth, it’s also something that lends itself fairly well to talk radio mockery. They patented a button? Rounded corners? WTF? It seems like there are some real possibilities there for anyone of either party who’s more interested in getting something useful done than in scoring partisan points. I’m not sure how many of those we have these days, but surely at least a few?


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