Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Property Rights, Trademarks, Patents and Board Games

A friend of mine uses a popular board game, Monopoly, at various points in his AP Economics course. He uses it to fill up the period after the exams, but he also uses it to discuss the rules of markets. He even has numerous versions. As a result, when this article (free at this writing) appeared in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal, I was drawn into it.

It chronicles the long struggle of an economist who came up with something called Anti-Monopoly. But its value for the economics and personal finance teacher is its repeated focus on property-rights: specifically copyrights (and patents). Those are specific enforcements of property rights (some even refer to them as temporary monopolies) meant to encourage innovation. But we can have very interesting discussions about the idea.  For the institution, designed to foster innovation, can also stifle innovation.  The idea can be extended to many areas including pharmaceuticals, and technology.

I won't ruin the story for you, but there is a lot of usable information in the story that relates the concepts to an experience that many of your students are sure to have shared. And that provides a point of departure for deeper and more complex discussion.

I look forward to your comments.

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