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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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The Rise in American Agricultural Productivity

In Against Intellectual Monopoly, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine point out that the great rise in American agricultural productivity after 1930 took place when patents were not granted on plant life, especially in the case of corn. Corn varieties were patented only starting in 1974, almost half a century after the great ag productivity boom began (pp. 55-56). They state that better hybrid strains were the primary driver in the farm belt's boom.

The economic historian John Gordon Steele points to another factor in what he calls "The High Price of Farm Productivity" (scroll down a bit): Henry Ford's introduction of the Fordson tractor, which by 1922 cost less then a team of good horses. By 1930 the only farmers using horses were the Amish.

In 1900, a third of U.S. cropland was used for fodder crops; by 1930 it was used mainly for making human food. I don't know which affect was more important, but surely they both were influential.

Here is John Gordon Steele's economic history of America, An Empire of Wealth.


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