Israel, a New Jersey-sized nation of 7.5 million people (1.7 million of whom are Arab) filed 7,082 international patents in the five years ending in 2007. By contrast, 28 majority-Muslim nations with almost 1.2 billion people — 155 times the population of Israel — were granted 2,071 patents in the same period.
Narrowing the comparison to the 17 Muslim nations of the Middle East from Morocco to Iran and down the Arabian Peninsula, the 409 million people in that region generated 680 patents in five years.
This means that the Arab and Iranian world produced about one patent per year for every 3 million people, compared with Israel’s output of one annual patent for every 5,295 people, an Israeli rate some 568 times that of Israel’s neighbors and sometime enemies.
The awarding of Nobel Prizes in the quantitative areas of chemistry, economics and physics shows a similar disparity, with five Israeli winners compared with one French Algerian (a Jew who earned the prize for work done in France) and an Egyptian-American (for work done at Caltech in California).
This phenomenon is manifested in other nations as well, where bad government begets poverty. Free South Korea, with 48.8 million people, filed 24,200 international patents from 2003 to 2007. The 24.5 million people in the North Korean slave state managed to produce 14 patents in the same period.
But wealth isn’t the sole explanation for this disparity in intellectual innovation. Saudi Arabia enjoyed a per capita income of $24,200 in 2010. Yet the Kingdom averages an anemic 37 patents per year compared with Israel’s 1,416 per year — and there are 3 1/2 times more Saudis than Israelis, meaning that Israel’s per capita output of intellectual property is 132 times greater than Saudi Arabia’s.
My on-the-ground education in the Middle East began in 1984, when I attended school at American University in Cairo, Egypt. At the time, Israel was a socialist state, still very much mired in a planned economy focused on heavy industry and agriculture, replete with government subsidies and heavy regulation.
Israel’s per capita output stood at $6,749 (in current U.S. dollars), 41% of America’s — slightly less than the Soviet Union’s per capita output at the time.
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