“I learned an incredible amount”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One student summed up two weeks at the Hoover IP² Summer Teaching Institute on the Politics and Economics of Regulation as “absolutely amazing. One of the highlights of my year.” The twenty student participants—all with an eye toward their futures as policy makers—are judicial interns, US congressional and legislative agency staff, law and public policy students, and advanced graduate students in economics, law, and political science.

The students spent two weeks at the Hoover Institution under the wings of faculty from leading US universities who lectured on topics that varied from antitrust economics to financial regulation to environmental issues. The institute concluded on August 12.

Hoover Institution senior fellow Stephen Haber, director of Hoover IP2, commented that “we start from the premise that government has three levers that it controls to affect economic activity: (1) protecting property rights, (2) command and control, mainly through regulation, and (3) taxation. We examine the impact those levers have on public policy through regulation and government activity.”

Provided with cutting-edge research on property rights, the instructors demonstrate to the students the techniques that social scientists use in their research. Hoover fellow Richard Sousa, who works with the students said, “Armed with economists’ and statisticians’ tool kits, the students should leave equipped to evaluate antitrust claims, patent infringement, financial irregularities, and environmental impact. With data and the tool kits, the students incorporate healthy skepticism when assessing these claims and their possible long-run implications.”

The instructors taught the students that evidence and scientific reasoning should dictate how decisions are made. With case studies and real-world applications, instructors and the students examine whether proposed legislation and regulations and legal disputes apply evidence and reason in determining outcomes.

A highlight of the 2016 session was a panel addressing how intellectual property rights foster innovation. Five experienced hands from Silicon Valley explained to students how products germinated from ideas, were nurtured through development, and made it to market. The crucial roles of establishing and protecting property rights and of venture capital and investor financing were constant themes in that discussion. The panelists’ concern that the US patent system was being weakened was offset by their optimism with increased intellectual property rights protection in China.

The Summer Teaching Institute is just one element of the Hoover Institute Working Group on Intellectual Property, Innovation, and Prosperity. The teaching institute, major conferences held semiannually at Hoover, symposiums at the Hoover office in Washington, DC, a working paper series, and financial support for academic research are the major components of the program, which seeks an interdisciplinary approach to studying property rights issues.