Knowledge and Technological Change
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 12:30 PM - 2:15 PM (PDT)
- Chair: Edward Kosack, Xavier University
War Mobilization and Its Impact on Patenting in the United States: 1941-48
AbstractLabor and total factor productivity data indicate that mobilization and demobilization for war between 1941 and 1948 disrupted a strong trajectory of technological advance prevailing during the interwar period, particularly the depression years (1929-41) (Field, 2019a). This paper asks whether patent data can be read as consistent with this narrative. I show that for aviation and shipbuilding, patenting rates were stable compared to the prewar period, but that there were significant declines for chemicals, petroleum, rubber and plastics, instruments, fabricated metals, and other machinery, particularly when comparing 1941-48 with 1932-1940. Similar declines are evident in consumer-oriented sectors where production was eliminated or sharply restricted during the war, including motor vehicles, electrical appliances, and radio and television. Existing explanations for weak wartime patenting focus on “economic conditions” and judicial decisions – particularly compulsory licensing decrees in the late 1930s – along with an intellectual and political environment that allegedly weakened the economic value of patents. The explanation proposed here is that, with a few exceptions, patentable inventive activity declined significantly as a direct consequence of economic mobilization for war.
The Wheels of Change: Human Capital, Millrights, and Industrialization in Eighteenth-Century England
AbstractMeasures of human capital correlate strongly with technological change and economic growth across areas. In the context of the British industrial revolution recent studies suggest that England's relative advantage in high quality mechanical workmen was the main force behind its leadership (Mokyr, 2009, Meisenzahl & Mokyr, 2011; Feldman & van der Beek, 2017). In this paper we test the endogenous relationship of mechanical skills and mechanization by using the spatial distribution of historical watermills from the Domesday Book (1086) across Britain, as an instrument for their availability more than 600 years later, in 1710-50. We focus on a specific group of workmen who specialized in watermills, and show that its availability created a relative advantage for the mechanization of other industries such as textile and iron-works, which adopted the watermill to their production processes (e.g. fulling-, blowing-, and forging- mills). This connection works primarily through the technological complementarity between the technology of the early watermills, designed for grain grinding, its adoption to industrial uses since the thirteenth century and further technological changes, mainly in textile machinery, in the eighteenth century, on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.
- N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
- O3 - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights