A lament for slaveowners?


The sort of compulsion we are seeing in the field of xxxxx is an infinitely lesser evil for the yyyyy than the outrage of slavery... a lesser evil for them, but it may kill as many black men and women as slavery ever did.

To find out xxxxx and yyyyy, go read Natalie Solent's superb piece at Samizdata.

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As Natalie herself

As Natalie herself acknowledges, there are legitimate differences in principle involved in the debate over IP. You can bring the slavery analogy to bear on the other side, too. The monopoly prices charged for drugs under patent depend on the government forcibly intervening in the market and preventing anyone else from selling them at a cheaper price. So in a sense, the extra hours you have to work to make the extra $$ a patented drug costs are ALSO slavery. Why is it so surprising the American public is sullen and resentful, or performs "with curses" the added labor needed to pay the monopoly price?

People are so accustomed to thinking of patents as "property," they forget their origins in the Stuart royal prerogative. Their origin lies in the same principle that allowed the king to grant monopolies on lace-making, etc., to favored clients--and have about as much basis in natural morality.

One might argue that AIDS drugs are a "public good" that wouldn't come about without such state intervention. But Rothbard made a pretty good case that such "goods" shouldn't exist, if the only way to attain them is to put a gun to someone's head.

Kevin, Most of the people I

Kevin,
Most of the people I hear making arguments against Big Drugs are not talking about intellectual property. Pharmaceutical drugs are probably a public good in the current state of things, but in a true free market for regulation, that might not be the case, and IP might not be necessary.

the company that made the

the company that made the drug 'owns' it period full stop. not the gov't not the 'people who need it', nada. what they decide to do with it or charge for has absolutely no morality attached to it. how anyone can get some kind of moral leverage on them is beyond ridiculous. they don't owe 'us'society or whomever, anything.

if you were really going to

if you were really going to die and some co. had a miracle drug, would you start complaining about the cost? would you not break down in tearful joy that it had been discovered and go to any legal length to obtain it? why would you automatically assume someone should provide it to you at little or no cost, unless your a retard democrat who thinks we're all here for each others good and need guidance from gov't about whats moral. if someone discovered a chemical in moonrocks that cured 3rd world diseases, should the 1st world subsidze INSANE expensive space travel to 'save' them? its tantamount to that. NO COST is too much for an altruist trying to 'save' humanity. sheesh.

"the company that made the

"the company that made the drug 'owns' it period full stop."

What if someone else makes it independently?

"Pharmaceutical drugs are

"Pharmaceutical drugs are probably a public good in the current state of things, but in a true free market for regulation, that might not be the case, and IP might not be necessary."

How would drug developers not be producing a public good? Having developed and distributed a drug how could they prevent others from copying it and distributing it without the overhead of development?

qwest, The problem is, the

qwest,

The problem is, the holders of those patents (aka anti-free market, state-enforced monopolies) want to prevent OTHERS from selling the drugs cheaper.

"Intellectual property" is NOT property, full stop, it is coercive, thuggish intervention in the market place. A patent, essentially, is relying on the State to invade someone else's property, and prevent him from configuring certain material elements in a certain pattern. Patents are not property, but an invasion of property. Unlike real, tangible property, which has common sense origins in the finitude of physical nature and the fact that only one person can occupy a given piece of the physical world at a time, intellectual property is an artificial creation of the government.

qwest, I should add that if

qwest,

I should add that if you want to treat intellectual property as a legitimate, "real" form of property, by all means do so. But it's not at all self-evident. It requires a case to be made. Considering that people have been occupying land and calling it their property throughout recorded history, but that patents came about only as an arbitrary grant of monopoly power from sovereigns within the last few centuries, your "full stop" is hardly adequate.

How would drug developers

How would drug developers not be producing a public good? Having developed and distributed a drug how could they prevent others from copying it and distributing it without the overhead of development?

Broadly defined, anything can be a public good, including this blog. Yet, I spend hours a day on it in addition to my 'real job' working on the blog.

In that sense, drug IP will always be a public good. But with a free market for regulation, the drastic costs associated with getting a drug to market with permission of the FDA today would instead be much, much lower. Call me optimistic, but I don't think patents would be necessary for drug production in that situation (and after all, patents are a violation of property rights).

Jonathan, I'm with John T.

Jonathan,

I'm with John T. Kennedy on this one; I don't see how drugs of this level of research-intensiveness would come about, even with FDA hurdles and irrationality eliminated, without a government-enforced monopoly to recoup the cost. As with any form of government subsidy or intervention, drug patents have pushed investments in certain lines of technology beyond Pareto-optimal levels.

On the plus side, eliminating drug patents would lead to development of other, cheaper forms of drug technology that are less lucrative now. This would be doubly true if the power of licensing boards to enforce "standards of practice" were eliminated.

For example, I see very few mainstream MDs who are aware of Co-Enzyme Q-10 as a treatment for congestive heart failure. Without drug patents, we might have a medical model that looked a lot more like something designed by Andrew Weil--and we might be a lot healthier, overall.

And doctors might feel more comfortable relying on anecdotal evidence, or on findings that, while not merely anecdotal, did not meet the standards of a full-blown, controlled double-blind study. By such standards, most of the inductive reasoning of mankind, that has served us for hundreds of thousands of years, is invalid. There are many levels of certainty with which we can make generalizations about the value of a treatment; and the trade-off between levels of risk and certainty is an individual decision, that shouldn't be set by the FDA. (It's worth mentioning in this regard that there are no controlled, double-blind studies on balloon angioplasty, for obvious reasons--yet it is the preferred treatment for coronary artery disease).

i'm not questioning or

i'm not questioning or endorsing the validiity of patent law or its application. I am stating that the entity/ corporation owns the 'physical' drug in whatever form it is in. if they choose to dump them on the market or shelve the research,or charge $10k per gulp thats their business. no one else's. if someone comes along and does it for 5c then so be it. my point is that they cannot be forced to do anything with their 'physical' product that conflicts with the corporations natural and stated goals, which i assume are to make a profit for the shareholders.
that was the nature of my 'full stop' blurt.

"In that sense, drug IP will

"In that sense, drug IP will always be a public good. But with a free market for regulation, the drastic costs associated with getting a drug to market with permission of the FDA today would instead be much, much lower."

Lower than the cost to the company copying their product?

I doubt cures for diabetes

I doubt cures for diabetes and AIDS and such things would come about under a free market. There is a greater profit incentive to treat such conditions than to devote time to curing it.

To clarify my position: I'm

To clarify my position: I'm not advocationg government enforcement of IP. I think that drug developers have significant IP rights to their product but they may not be able to secure those rights in a free society. I'm pointing out that drug deveopment is a public goods problem and all other things being equal we are worse off when such IP rights cannot be secured.

Let's imagine we live in an ancap society with no drug IP enforcement. A scientist comes up with a means of copy protection for drugs. Wouldn't such a discovery make us better off because drug developers could now decide who got the benefit of their work and at what cost?

here's an open question; if

here's an open question; if i buy a Bruce Springsteen(stein?)CD and take it to my house, i am now the owner of that particular cd only. on the cd it explicitly states i am not allowed by the 'owner of the music'to copy and distrubute it in any way. but, i can play it over the airwaves. if i buy a duplicator and start selling thousands of them and distributing them nationally, am i breaking the law, or someone's perception of it? it gets pretty deep.

Matt, the belief that cures

Matt, the belief that cures for diseases would not come about in a free market is a fallacy that should be debunked in any good intro to Microeconomics course. Similar is the belief that the industry could develop an infinite lasting light-bulb or a automobile tire but chooses not to. Besides the fact that the industry could just raise prices to account for the loss in revenue from frequent purchases, such a theory relies on extensive collusion among all the firms in the industry, with each individual firm overcoming its own powerful self-interest in breaking the collusion and gaining a huge market share over its competitors.

"Matt, the belief that cures

"Matt, the belief that cures for diseases would not come about in a free market is a fallacy that should be debunked in any good intro to Microeconomics course."

The ability to reap a profit limits the investment that can be made in researching a cure. In a free market nobody is going to invest a billion dollars to develop a cure if others can then distribute the cure without paying for the development. Public goods tend to be under-produced because the producers cannot determine who will get the benefit of their production.

What do I mean by under-produced? People are willing to freely pay a billion dollars or more to see Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings, but in a free society without IP such films could not be produced because it would not be possible for Jackson to recover his investment if others could simply distribute his product without paying him. You could of course have some films, but extravaganzas like TLOTR, which people clearly do value, would be under-produced.

Expensive drug development would likewise be under-produced because it's also public good.

i debate that you could even

i debate that you could even have some films, as once every director mortgaged his dads house and got nothing in return, there would very soon be no films made except by goverment hacks who stole the money to begin with. how would the movie and music industry survive? there would be a fundamental shift in the economic model, if there was a viable one left, but i'm getting off topic, sorry haha.

John: Under-produced

John:

Under-produced relative to what? What you would like? What others would like?

I personally think Porsches are under-produced, because I'd like one for $100. So we need a Porsche subsidy.

That's ludicrous, but so is any argument of "underproduction" of a good. If the alternative to current subsidized production is "underproduction", then clearly the current production is overproduction of the good.

John, I believe you are

John, I believe you are including Intellectual Property rights in your analysis when you claim, "a free market nobody is going to invest a billion dollars to develop a cure if others can then distribute the cure without paying for the development." Of course, this is entirely correct, but that is not the issue matt and I were discussing. Matt claimed that "There is a greater profit incentive to treat such conditions than to devote time to curing it." This issue is separate from the issue of IP, at least as far as our discussion goes.

Matt, the belief that cures

Matt, the belief that cures for diseases would not come about in a free market is a fallacy that should be debunked in any good intro to Microeconomics course.
I don't think too many fallavies are debunked in the course, though quite a few are produced. You can also "debunk the myth" that productivity could be increasing without a corresponding increase in wages y simply looking at page 14 with W=MP, though that "myth" has a whole lot of empirical support ("Contours of Descent").

Besides the fact that the industry could just raise prices to account for the loss in revenue from frequent purchases, such a theory relies on extensive collusion among all the firms in the industry, with each individual firm overcoming its own powerful self-interest in breaking the collusion and gaining a huge market share over its competitors.
It doesn't require collusion, it requires individual utility calculation. Would a compnay choose to subsidize the basic science costs of students, then the R and D costs of developing such a cure, instead of entering another market- like syringes and insulin? I doubt it, without a level of competition heretofore unseen by several orders of magnitude here in the world. We're talking competition that makes profits tend toward zero asymptotically, and produces little Disney Worlds which drive the Disney World out of business by selling beer at cost. That means fantasy world.

I mean if can Fiat such a thing, why couldn't we just as easily Fiat world peace, or perfect cooperation at all times?

"That's ludicrous, but so is

"That's ludicrous, but so is any argument of "underproduction" of a good. If the alternative to current subsidized production is "underproduction", then clearly the current production is overproduction of the good."

People don't spend billions on the Lord of The Rings because it's subsidized, or even because laws protect it. They spend billions because they want it and they cant get it for free, at least not conveniently yet. But that's changing. A few years ago DVDs could not reasonably be copied by individuals, now the means to do so is becoming widely available. When they couldn't be easily copied movies were a private good - producers could determine who got the benefit of them. Now they are rapidly becoming public goods because of copying technology.

Individually people are still willing to pay what they're paying now to see such a film, but they wont if they don't have to and they don't have to if the films can be copied freely. So it will be financially impossible to make such films even though people would still pay for them.

This has little to do with government subsidy or enforcement, and I'm not arguing for either.

"Matt claimed that "There is

"Matt claimed that "There is a greater profit incentive to treat such conditions than to devote time to curing it." This issue is separate from the issue of IP, at least as far as our discussion goes."

Micha,

I took that to mean that pursuits which required less investment would be favored, which is true. I can see how it could be read another way though.

qwest, My apologies. I've

qwest,

My apologies. I've had so many run-ins lately with latter-day Galambosites, I misinterpreted your position.

Regarding the problem you raise of the CD, Murray Rothbard argued for a copyright system based entirely on private contract. The problem, as I see it, is that such a system would be extremely prone to breakdown from third-party violations. Even the amount of surveillance necessary to prevent breach of contract by the initial buyer would probably be not only so expensive as to constitute a "public good," but so intrusive as to be unacceptable in a libertarian society.

So while contractual copyright might be workable in some cases, I think there would be an overall shift toward other models of doing business.

kevin, do you have a link to

kevin, do you have a link to a Rothbard article or book explaining his position? i am in the entertainment business and my associates and i constantly run into this type of discussion. thanks