INNOVATION and jobs have become a modern version of motherhood and apple pie in Washington, DC. Everyone in America’s capital wants lots more of both, or so they say. So how come Congress and the White House have decided not merely to underfund a crucial cog in American’s innovation machine but actually to take away revenue it earns? And that at a time when that cog, the Patent and Trademark Office, is already struggling to keep up with the growing demands upon it?
Ah, those short-sighted budget-cutters! But isn’t the important question — as always — whether what much of the Patent and Trademark Office does is really valuable and innovation-enhancing? And if the answer is no, could this be a win-win? Granted, you don’t just want to cut the budget. You also want to pare back the mandate. I believe that regulatory agencies should have the resources they need to do their job, as defined by Congress. I also believe, however, that Congress should, in most domains, pare back the regulatory authority it claims over the economy. The big exception might be the financial system, where, unfortunately, we seem to be expanding regulatory authority in counterproductive ways.