Thursday, July 20, 2006

the other drug war

Sometimes I go through my old posts to see what finer points I might have overlooked at the time, glossed over due to an insufficiency of knowledge, or got completely wrong.

Although my intellectual background was once staunchly politically conservative in nature, and necessarily consequentialist, I think (and hope!) that I've shed that psychological baggage to the point that while recently reading Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed, I was made painfully aware of how far I've come as I cringed over his critique of societal structure being unnaturally corrupted via the welfare/warfare state. I've also become more sympathetic to the the left-libertarian movement, so I don't have a dogmatic aversion to some leftist-aligned agendas such as feminism, abortion or being anti-war. Of course my position as such has my folks scratching their heads wondering if I'm a conservative or a liberal, but overall I think they're slowly learning!

What sort of stumped me before, and seems embarrassingly simple now, was the question, or have you, the free rider "problem". The "problem/question" includes a presumption that I no longer assume; that maximum societal efficiency can be derived through instances of coercion. I now understand that only through free, uncoerced, and voluntary exchange can individuals (and ultimately society) maximize their wealth.

Just to go back to the question though, there was also a presumption that the lack of monopoly privilege for all sorts of intellectual property would stem the well of creativity, as presumingly there would be no way to reward and incentivize the creator into sharing his knowledge. Supposedly without this incentive, we wouldn't have new medicines as nobody would want to invest in the R&D, conduct long clinical trials, just to have some competitor copy their formulation and manufacture a low-priced knock-off.

And so a while ago, Kevin Carson and His Merry Men brought up many good points that lay the blame for high R&D costs at the governments' door. Aside from that, Kevin argued that the patent system in place distorts pharmaceutical research into compounds which are more readily patentable, and not those which are most innovative and useful to the consumer, a direct attack against the idea that monopoly incentives are beneficial to Joe Sixpack Individual.

As Stephan Kinsella, an ardent defender of private property rights, and the warrior leader of the anti-IP intellectual battle evisceratingly writes on the Mises blog:
Hey, I know--let's trust the same government who set up the FDA costs and roadblocks to set up a patent office, and give you partial ownership of others' property to incentivize you just enough to overcome the costs they imposed on you with the FDA and taxes and regulations. Beautiful! And if that's not "enough" incentive, establish a government panel of "experts" to give you "enough" of a reward paid by taxpayers. Beautiful! I like it!


John T. Kennedy said...

Kinsella's distrust of government sounds good, but what is one to make of the fact that he wants to license breeding?

iceberg said...


Whatever Kinsella may have held then and may still hold now is irrelevant to this particular point, no? It would be throwing the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater to ignore a good argument where presented, no matter the source.