How Humanity's Progress Has Been Held Back

How Humanity’s Progress Has Been Held Back: The Case Against IP (Intellectual Property)

With Stephan Kinsella, IP lawyer


Cato Institute:

Whenever a politician gets pinned down for the lousy health care system we must endure, they spit out some glib demagoguery about expensive drug prices.  None of these politicians know why they’re expensive, especially not the cause of INTELLECTUAL property.

Property is sacred, of course, but that’s tangible, and a bit intangible when one considers the property rights we have in our minds – not just what we produce on our own.  But as far back as the Constitution, protectionist impulses led our Founders to benefit domestic manufactures with a threat to punish competitors if they dared to compete with the recipient of IP welfare, in the form of a patent, copyright or trademark.

But each of these examples of corporate welfare got their start through government coercion.  Copyrights emanated from worry over the printing press, and how it could print ideas threatening to the government.  Patents originated in piracy – a “legal” form given by the Queen to Drake to plunder the world.  IP relates to ideas, which cannot be owned.

On the flip side, we know how entrepreneurs seemingly offer us the same thing as a preceding company, but in a manner that better suits our tastes and pocketbook.  Should that smart business person be denied selling us this improvement, if the previous supplier got some politician to grant an IP monopoly – for a set period of time?

IP is political.  It’s not a market creation.  Pharma uses IP loopholes to retain monopolies on certain disease cures that lead to patients paying thousands of dollars a month to get well.  And treaties over the years have sought global enforcement through the World Trade Organization and related bureaucracies.  IP needs abolition.

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