In the 1950s and 1960s, prominent institutional economists in the United States offered what became the orthodox theory on the obstacles to commercializing scientific knowledge. According to this theory, scientific knowledge has inherent qualities that make it a public good. Since the 1970s, however, neoliberalism has emphasized the need to convert public goods to private goods to enhance economic growth, and this theory has had global impacts on policies governing the generation and diffusion of scientific research and innovation. We critique the foundational conceptualizations of scientific knowledge as either public or private by examining Germany’s treatment of scientific outputs as club goods. We then compare the relative impacts on social welfare of distinct United States and German approaches to food and agricultural research and innovation. We conclude with reflections on how these findings might contribute to a democratic debate on how best to manage scientific knowledge to enhance social welfare.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Economics and Econometrics
- Human-Computer Interaction