Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inventions as Scientific Discoveries and IP

In an LDS Liberty group topic about intellectual property, I had these thoughts about inventions being scientific discoveries and the consequences of that. My particular example is the cure for cancer, but the same point applies to any drug that saves lives, or invention that makes life easier:

I thought I'd turn this on it's head a little. Considering patents for drugs. I see inventions as nothing more than scientific discoveries. A discovery that if I combine this widget with that widget, I have an invention I can do this with. Likewise, if I combine this chemical with that chemical, I have a new drug that fights this disease.

Now, regardless of how many resources I've expended leading to the new discovered drug, once discovered, what right does the discoverer have to monopolize it? Let's pretend someone finds the cure for cancer. He immediately patents it and takes it to market. As one producer with a monopoly on the cure for cancer, he's able to charge a higher price and the time it takes for the drug to become affordable to everyone, and reach everywhere on Earth is obviously much longer than if there were several producers competing with each other to sell the cure for cancer.

As important a discovery as the cure for cancer is, why should the one who discovered it be allowed to hold it back from getting to those who need it as cheaply and quickly as possible? I have no doubt that such a granted monopoly would indirectly cause the death and suffering of millions of individuals. By what right is the discoverer able to monopolize such a life-saving drug (formula)?

It could be argued that without a patent system, such a life-saving drug may never be discovered, or would take longer to be discovered. I don't think this is true as even without a patent system, the discover would be the only one with the formula and would be first to market and would reap ample profits for his effort.

(I would also argue, ethically and morally speaking, anyone discovering the cure for cancer should, as a matter of personal principle, be more concerned with distributing as fast and far and wide as possible than monopolizing it and holding it back. Patent systems enable what I would consider the evil of such holding back of something as important as the cure for cancer.)


Let me clarify one more thing regarding IP and real property. Since IP violates real property because it restricts the owners use of it, if someone had the formula and ingredients to the cure for cancer, it would be a great evil to prevent him from using it to his or others' benefit, ie curing cancer. Would it not? This is what IP does (at the point of a gun). How can that be defended?


On the cure for cancer:

The same could go for any invention that would make my life easier. If I have the materials and know, say, how a shovel is engineered, what right does the original inventor have in preventing me from organizing my material into a shovel, in order to make my labor easier? Once the shovel is fastened, like anything owned, I have a right to trade it for something more valuable to me, say money so I can buy much-needed prescription drugs, or even food. Another example used by some in the group was a log cabin. The first person to invent a log cabin patents the idea and suddenly everyone else is prevented from copying the idea without paying him royalties. Just because you are the first to discover some new invention (I say discover because that's what it really is, a discovery, scientifically speaking), what gives you the right from keeping other people from making it and keeping it or making it and trading it for something more valuable? Some inventions have even been discovered separately by people in different places at the same time. Who gets the patent? The first to the patent office?

I would even go further to say that because inventions are merely scientific discoveries, the idea really belongs to the world, like any other scientific discovery.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Personal Views on Government

In one of the many discussions I've been involved with at the LDS Liberty discussion group, a friend asks, "How long can self government by self sustaining?" I'd like to share here my latest reply to his inquiring on how I (and the others in the group) see things. This is not all-encompassing when it comes to my personal views on government:

A few points and then I can answer some of your questions:

(This is from my own understanding. I consider myself a student, and probably always will.)

First, Minarchism is the political philosophy that holds limited-government as the ideal. Many libertarians and Constitutionalists are minarchists, at least on the Federal level. I've heard from Constitutionalists that held rather statists views when it comes to State and local governments. I've also heard from libertarians that advocated centralized, Constitutionalism (14th amendment promoters). Wikpedia's entry on minarchism is found here:

Second, Anarchism is the political philosophy that holds self-government as the ideal. Many libertarians are anarchists. There are several different implementations and views on anarchism. Wikipedia's entry on anarchism is found here:

Third, political philosophy is quite expansive and covers everything from anarchism to totalitarianism. The forms of government Wikipedia entry is found here:

Fourth, though I think everyone in this group desires and wants to promote liberty, we are diverse in that we see how to do so differently. This is okay since if we all believed the exact same way, we really wouldn't have a discussion group. This is a great place to come and see other points of view, discuss, debate, and to do so respectfully.

It is my belief, that all of the above forms of government are are incomplete as they are man-made and hold man as the final authority. Minarchists fail to see the anarchy that prevails among officers of government (, and the myth that is the "rule of law". For a great essay on the myth of the rule of law, I recommend this by John Hasnas:

As I've explained before, I am not an Atheist. But I am an atheist when it comes to every other conception of God than the Mormon conception of God. Likewise, and I've only recently began feeling strongly about this, I am not an Anarchist. But I am an anarchist when it comes to any other form of government than the form of government that will be instituted during the millennium, when Christ will reign as King.

I view the Constitution as a standard for public government, albeit an impossible standard. It is said in the scriptures that God rose up wise men to bring forth the Constitution (D&C 101:80). This makes for interesting imagery but fails to explain the motivations of the actors. There were sometimes bitter disagreements between the anti-Federalists and Federalists. (The Federalists wanted a centralized national government, the anti-Federalists wanted an extremely limited, de-centralized federal government.) The difference between the political philosophies of Jefferson and Hamilton is hardly reconcilable, and although it appeared Jefferson's views prevailed at first (anti-Federalist), it is Hamilton's views that prevail today (Federalist, Nationalist). A great short essay on what I mean can be found here at the Future of Freedom Foundation:

I have also pondered on which direction the inspiration came. Perhaps it came from both. One direction is that of creating the federal government. The other is that of limiting the federal government. Again, because I see the Constitution as a standard for public government, is it out of the question that many actors during the founding era wanted to create a broad federal government (Hamilton), and could have gotten their way had other actors not stepped in to provide the necessary opposition to create what we now know as the Constitution? I don't think so.

There are many anarchist-libertarians that view the secession (revolution) from Great Britain as a good thing (moving towards their ideal), but the formation of the federal government and Constitution as a bad thing (moving away from their ideal). Others see the Constitution as a culmination of the founders efforts to break away from Great Britain and establish their own federal government.

Perhaps also, most of the inspiration came with the passage of the Bill of Rights. The Constitution as it was prior to the Bill of Rights was clear that the federal government could only do what the Constitution said it could do. Why was the Bill of Rights even necessary since the federal government was already prohibited from doing what the Bill of Rights prohibits it from doing? I see the Bill of Rights as wise considering how the federal government has evolved. It would probably be worse today without the Bill of Rights, yet it seems the Bill of Rights only bought time, enough time to establish true religious freedom in America. If only we had a First Amendment for commerce:

This is about where I'm at right now and like I said, I consider myself a student and I am constantly reading and learning new things. I run a blog (a few of them) to share what I've encountered: I do this so that I can educate others and to foster discussion, and sometimes debate. Everyone learns and grows that way. Why? Personally, I feel it is our duty to seek out truth and share it when we find it. I also feel accountable to God for the beliefs I hold and hope that they conform to the truth as He sees it. I never served a mission and hope to do so one day with my companion. I read the scriptures every day and have begun raising a family. I want to make sure I hold true beliefs as they will be passed on to my children and hopefully they will pass them on to my grandchildren. I'm sure everyone here feels the same way.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Income Tax and State Sovereignty

J. Bracken Lee was the Governor of the State of Utah from 1949-1957. He wrote the forward for a book titled The Income Tax: Root of All Evil by Frank Chodorov. This book is on my to-buy list. What Lee wrote is well worth a read:
This was, to be sure, "the home of the free and the land of the brave." Americans were free simply because the government was too weak to intervene in the private affairs of the people — it did not have the money to do so — and they were brave because a free people is always venturesome. The obligation of freedom is a willingness to stand on your own feet.

The early American wanted it that way. He was wary of government, especially one that was out of his reach. He had just rid himself of a faraway and self-sufficient political establishment and he was not going to tolerate anything like it in his newly founded country. He recognized the need of some sort of government, to keep order, to protect him in the exercise of his rights, and to look after his interests in foreign lands. But he wanted it understood that the powers of that government would be clearly defined and be limited; it could not go beyond specified limits. It was in recognition of this fear of centralized power that the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution — it never would have been ratified without them — very specific restraints on the federal government.

In other matters, the early American was willing to put his faith in home government, in a government of neighbors, in a government that one could keep one's eyes on and, if necessary, lay one's hands on. For that reason, the United States was founded as a Union of separate and autonomous commonwealths. The states could go in for any political experiments the folks might want to try out — even socialism, for that matter — but the federal government had no such leeway. After all, there were other states nearby, and if a citizen did not like the way one state government was managing its affairs, he could move across the border; that threat of competition would keep each state from going too far in making changes or in intervening in the lives of the citizens.

The Constitution, then, kept the federal government off balance and weak. And a weak government is the corollary of a strong people. The Sixteenth Amendment changed all that.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do We Ever Get Out of Anarchy?

I've encountered a very interesting essay that asks whether or not we ever get completely out of anarchy, by Alfred G. Cuzan. Anarchy, as defined by libertarian-anarchists, in this case our author, is "a social order without Government, subject only to the economic laws of the market." And Government is "an agent external to society, a 'third-party' with the power to coerce all other parties to relations in society into accepting its conceptions of those relations." Contrast big-g Government, or the State, fitting this definition, to little-g government, or governance. In the words of John Hasnas, anarchy "is a society without [G]overnment, not a society without governance."

It must also be mentioned that anarchy and chaos or disorder are often used synonymously. This is an error. Although chaos and disorder may arise in an anarchic society, they are not synonymous with anarchy. Disorder and chaos may also arise in the total State society, as has been obvious over the last century. To say that anarchy and chaos or disorder are synonymous is like saying that working and happiness or contentment are synonymous. I doubt slaves experience happiness while working.

This essay, however, looks at the establishment of the State, or Government, and whether or not it abolishes anarchy. The author argues that although Government becomes a third-party to each relation in society (taxation and regulation), within Government there still exists anarchy. He says, after explaining in detail, in short "society is always in anarchy. A [G]overnment only abolishes anarchy among what are called 'subjects' or 'citizens,' but among those who rule, anarchy prevails."

Looking at the founding of the United States of America, we see that at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, the 13 colonies, although internally governed, existed in a state of near-anarchy amongst one another. The Articles of Confederation had created a relatively weak Federal Government and so was replaced with the U.S. Constitution. The Federal Government the Constitution established was one prided in it's system of checks and balances. And that the officers within the several branches had certain powers over the others to keep them all in line through the "jealousy" that each branch was supposed to feel towards the others. As every libertarian and Constitutionalist knows, this jealousy didn't last very long and soon enough each branch began working with the others until, over two hundred years later, the Constitution may as well not exist, let alone act as any sort of chain, binding down the Federal Government. Our author calls the type of anarchy that exists among the officers of government "political anarchy".

After establishing the first part of his thesis, he then explores different structures of government, "measured along a centralization dimension." He goes on, "The more authoritative powers are dispersed among numerous political units, the more pluralistic the government. The more centralized the structure, i.e., the more authoritative powers are concentrated, the more hierarchical the government. Note that the more hierarchical the government, the more government is run on the assumption of an ultimate arbiter. In other words, the more centralized the structure, the greater the effort to create a single 'third party' inside the government itself in the form of a God-like figure such as a Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Castro. Such a 'third party,' however, remains in complete anarchy from the rest of his countrymen and the rest of the world." Viewing the amount of power and control the U.S. Executive Branch has exercised over the last century, without regard to Congress or the Judiciary, it's easy to see his point that those working in Government are largely "lawless".

This essay is well worth a read and can be found here. The author concludes that "anarchy, like matter, never disappears - it only changes form. Anarchy is either market anarchy or political anarchy. Pluralist, decentralized political anarchy is less violent than hierarchical political anarchy. Hence, we have reason to hypothesize that market anarchy could be less violent than political anarchy. Since market anarchy can be shown to outperform political anarchy in efficiency and equity in all other respects, why should we expect anything different now? Wouldn't we be justified to expect that market anarchy produces less violence in the enforcement of property rights than political anarchy? After all, the market is the best economizer of all - wouldn't it also economize on violence better than government does, too?"

Friday, September 18, 2009

TIME Interviews Ron Paul

This is a fantastic interview by TIME with Ron Paul. He is currently the most principled politician in Washington, and we would all be better off listening to his arguments, (YouTube, 6m, 21s):

Free-market Regulation

This week, I took my bed-ridden wife (temperamental pregnancy) for a walk in a wheel-chair. We decided to go to a new El Salvadorean restaurant a few blocks away and try it out. The restaurant is located within a small residential-area strip mall. This particular residential area is mostly middle to low income class. The restaurant was small and had about 5 tables. It didn't have much by way of decorations, but was painted yellow and brown on the inside. The owner, who took our order, is an El Salvadorean immigrant and was extremely friendly. He's trying to start a business, after all.

We ordered and he shortly brought us our food. As we sat their eating, I began to reflect on what types of inspections and certifications he must have gone through in order to get permission to serve us. As I looked around at the place, at the floor, and into the kitchen, it occurred to me that the only person's opinion that counts on whether or not this restaurant is a fit place to eat, is my own. Had I seen a dirty floor, I could have turned around and left. Had the owner not been friendly, I could have turned around and left. Had my food not been clean and edible, I could have turned around and left. I realized that I, as the consumer, was the only regulator of this restaurant that truly mattered. What a waste of time and resources appeasing to any other type of regulator must have been. As the consumer, I am who matters and I am who decides those businesses that succeed or fail. Not the city, not the state, not the President. The consumer is the greatest and most efficient regulator a business must adhere to. As someone that was just trying to grow his new business by making customers happy, I felt I could trust him to serve me food safe enough to eat in an environment safe enough to eat it. Nothing else mattered.

I give you a challenge, the next time you shop somewhere, or eat somewhere, or get entertained somewhere, look around and decide for yourself if that's where you want to be, and if that's the kind of place you want to patronize. You are the consumer, and for that you are the regulator.

Free-market Health-care Solution

It's not too difficult to understand:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spectacular Failures

David Z at the no third solution blog had this to say about U.S. government failures:
For the record:
  1. Social Security was established in 1935 – they’ve had 74 years to get it right; it is broke.
  2. Fannie Mae was established in 1938 – they’ve had 71 years to get it right; it is broke. Freddie Mac was established in 1970 – they’ve had 39 years to get it right; it is broke. Together Fannie and Freddie have now led the entire world into the worst economic collapse in 80 years.
  3. The War on Poverty was started in 1964 – they’ve had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our hard earned money is confiscated each year and transferred to “the poor”; it hasn’t worked.
  4. Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 – they’ve had 44 years to get it right; they are both broke; and now our government dares to mention them as models for all US health care.
  5. AMTRAK was established in 1970 – they’ve had 39 years to get it right; last year they bailed it out as it continues to run at a loss!
  6. This year, a trillion dollars was committed in the massive political payoff called the Stimulus Bill of 2009; it shows NO sign of working; it’s been used to increase the size of governments across America, and raise government salaries while the rest of us suffer from economic hardships. It has yet to create a single new private sector job. Our national debt projections (approaching $10 trillion) have increased 400% in the last six months.
  7. “Cash for Clunkers” was established in 2009 and went broke in 2009 – after 80% of the cars purchased turned out to be produced by foreign companies, and dealers nationwide are buried under bureaucratic paperwork demanded by a government that is not yet paying them what was promised.
So with a perfect 100% failure rate and a record that proves that each and every “service” shoved down our throats by an over-reaching government turns into disaster, how could any informed American trust our government to run or even set policies for America’s health care system – - 17% of our economy?

Maybe each of us has a personal responsibility to let others in on this brilliant record…
And thus I've posted it here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Boom-Bust Cycle in Few Words

In a review for Ron Paul's latest book End the Fed, David Gordon gives a short and precise description of the boom-bust cycle (or business cycle, or trade cycle):
Far from being a means to maintain monetary stability, as its supporters falsely insist, the Fed through expansion of bank credit bears primary responsibility for the business cycle. The expansion temporarily lowers the money rate of interest below the true market rate, largely determined by people’s time preference, i.e., their preference for present over future goods. Businesses, with money available, expand; but the new projects cannot be sustained. When the monetary expansion ceases (if it doesn’t, we will have hyperinflation, with disastrous consequences), these new investments must be liquidated. The process of doing so is the depression.
Explaining this has been one of the greatest advancements in economic theory over the last century, yet too few understand it. Much more in depth analyses can be found here and here at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Man Who Saved a Planet III

I just couldn't pass this by without sharing it here. Donald Boudreaux, in his usual eloquent sting comments on Borlaug's contribution, from a 2004 Cafe Hayek post:
Relatively few people recognize Mr. Borlaug’s name. Makes me think of the world as a place in which melodramatic loud-mouths thunder to and fro in the foreground while actually doing very little of any value but stealing all of the credit for civilization and its benefits. Meanwhile, in the background, millions upon millions of decent, creative people work diligently at their specialties – welding, waiting tables, writing computer code, performing orthopedic surgery, designing shopping malls, running think-tanks – each contributing to the prosperity of the rest. Some contributions are larger than others – as Dr. Borlaug’s certainly is – but even a contribution as colossal as his is quickly taken for granted, any potential notice of it submerged beneath the swagger and bellicosity of the political classes who pretend to be prosperity’s source. How wrong. How arrogant.

The Man Who Saved a Planet II

The father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, passed away today at the ripe-old age of 95. Many don't know who he is. I recommend reading up on him through the links offered on my first Borlaug post, found here. Economist Steven Horwitz on the passing:
The man who saved countless millions, if not billions, of lives as the father of the Green Revolution has died at 95. If you've never heard of Borlaug, you should have. And the fact that you haven't, and that the media pay orders of magnitude more attention to dead politicians of all parties who achieved their fame by killing and impoverishing about as many of our fellow humans, is one of the tragedies of our day.

Hopefully the advances that Borlaug's work made possible will not be lost in a rising tide of radical environmentalist criticisms. The Green Revolution wasn't perfect, but no other 20th century event did more for the betterment of humanity on balance. Think of it this way: Borlaug's legacy is the counter-balance to the state-led violence of the century. Add up the millions killed by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Pol Pot. Add to that the millions killed in WW I and WW II and all the rest of the wars of the last century. Borlaug's work saved at least as many lives as all of those "leaders" and politicians slaughtered. If the term "social justice" has any meaning, Borlaug and the Green Revolution did more for it than any political activists by balancing the century's scales of life-and-death. If his more radical critics have their way, they will condemn millions to the poverty and starvation that his legacy saved them from.

In a just world, people like Borlaug would be the subject of hours of media commentary and coverage and special commemorative issues of Time or Newsweek while politicians got a cursory obit notice on the back page of the local rag.

That is not our world, sad to say, but as you sit down to your next meal, take a moment to pause and reflect on the life of a man who made it possible for a large hunk of humanity to go to bed tonight not worrying about where their next meal would come from. Contributions to humanity do not get any more praiseworthy than that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Minarchism & Anarchism

I consider myself a student when it comes to libertarian thought. There's still much to learn and explore. One of the biggest debates among libertarians is between minarchy, minimal or limited public government, such as that established by the U.S. Constitution, and anarchy, the absence of public government or the absence of the state.

Among my so far limited amount of study between the two, I have yet to encounter a truly appealing and constructive view into what is called market-anarchy. (This is also called anarcho-capitalism.) That is until I read this article by the libertarian philosopher Roderick T. Long. I am not yet prepared to come down on either side, but this essay is deserving of my sharing it here. He explores the possible fulfillment of constitutionalism in market anarchy. His introduction:
A legal system is any institution or set of institutions in a given society that provides dispute resolution in a systematic and reasonably predictable way. It does so through the exercise of three functions: the judicial, the legislative, and the executive. The judicial function, the adjudication of disputes, is the core of any legal system; the other two are ancillary to this. The legislative function is to determine the rules that will govern the process of adjudication (this function may be merged with the judicial function, as when case law arises through precedents, or it may be exercised separately), while the executive function is to secure submission (through a variety of means, which may or may not include violence) to the adjudicative process and compliance with its verdicts. A government or state (for present purposes I shall use these terms interchangeably) is any organisation that claims, and in large part achieves, a forcibly maintained monopoly, within a given geographical territory, of these legal functions, and in particular of the use of force in the executive function.

Now the market anarchist objection to government is simply a logical extension of the standard libertarian objection to coercive monopolies in general. First, from a moral point of view, among people regarded as equals it cannot be legitimate for some to claim a certain line of work as their own privileged preserve from which others are to be forcibly excluded; we no longer believe in the divine right of kings, and on no other basis could such inequality of rights be justified. Second, from an economic point of view, because monopolies are insulated from market competition and hold their customers by force, they lack both the information and the incentive to provide consumers with fair, efficient, and inexpensive service. The anarchist accepts these arguments, and merely asks why they should apply with any less force to the provision of legal services.
The entire thing can be downloaded here (.pdf).

My Kids Would Stay Home Too

Thinking about Obama's upcoming speech to school children, I too would keep my kids home, and here's why. I'm sure that what he's going to tell them regarding the importance of education I would agree with. But my problem with the speech isn't the message, it's the messenger.

When it comes to values, such as valuing education, the only people I want influencing my children, that is who I want my children looking up to, honoring, and learning from, are their parents, grand-parents, church leaders, and God. And that's it. I do not want them looking for value lessons from celebrities, lawyers, criminals, or politicians. Especially politicians who believe the government is the answer to everything, such as Barack Obama.

As a parent, it is my natural right to approve or disapprove of who my child looks up to. And if I have the ability to prevent someone who's values I disagree with from captivating my children, I will exercise it. Fortunately for me, my children are not yet school-aged.

UPDATE: I'm proud to report that my wife and I have decided to "unschool" our kids.