I was doing some searching online today regarding climate change and the vote that will take place tomorrow in Congress regarding the so-called cap and trade legislation that, if enacted, would raise the cost of electricity for every American family by an estimated $3,100 per year. As I surfed around the web I stumbled on to what can only be described as an irrational rant by Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the liberal think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research, titled Patent Fundamentalists Threaten the Future of the Planet. And to think that I just thought I was helping secure rights for clients that are specifically authorized by the US Constitution and recognized by Congress. Who knew that patent attorneys and inventors were destroying the planet? I think this is giving us all too much credit really. Could patent attorneys and inventors really destroy the planet? That sounds so B-movie science fiction-ish to me. But if playing a role in helping inventors and business protect the rights they are entitled to while participating in a capitalistic economy is destroying the world, count me in! I think much could be accomplished by destroying the world view of the anti-patent crowd!
There is at least one little problem with Weisbrot’s rant — namely he has zero evidence to support his position. Other than that, he makes a point; not a good one mind you, but it is a point nevertheless. His nonsensical view of patents starts with the premise:
Now it appears that international efforts to slow the pace of worldwide climate disruption could also run up against powerful interests who advocate a “fundamentalist” conception of intellectual property.
It would appear that Mr. Weisbrot believes that those who hold patent rights will prevent the world community from coming to an agreement whereby patents can be completely ignored in order to save the plant from global warming… or wait… not global warming because the globe does not seem to be warming any more and according to NASA data has started a cooling cycle, so the rhetoric is now been altered to “climate change” or as Weisbrot calls it “climate disruption.”
It is really odd that over the years those who support invasive government control of the economy have shifted their claims away from global warming to climate change. This is no doubt because when you look at scientific studies you learn pretty quickly that this is not the first time that carbon dioxide gases have grown to extremely high levels in the earth’s atmosphere, but it is the only time in history that humans have been around to blame. The previous times there were many other causes, and in the past global warming has had more to do with volcanic activity than anything else. Regardless, the truth is that whenever the earth has experienced warming temperatures have risen to a certain point and then started dropping, and in some cases that eventually resulted in an ice age, which if you ask me seems far more likely than the earth temperature continuously rising.
Have you ever wondered why it is that those claiming global warming is going to destroy the planet never show temperature charts that go beyond the last couple hundred years? Easy, because historical records show that over the last 400,000 years the temperature of the earth has risen, fallen, risen again and fallen again. Only for the last 10,000 years has the temperature of the earth remained relatively constant, and even during the last 10,000 temperatures have been higher than they are today. See for yourself below, which are taken from antarctic ice core data and reported by NASA (see Paleoclimatology: The Ice Core Record and Tales from the Ice Age):
With all this in mind, it is not at all surprising that patents, a favorite target of many who just do not like innovation, scientific advances and capitalism, would be blamed for whatever is wrong with the economy, and now apparently whatever is wrong with the environment and the planet as a whole. This would be flat out knee-slapping humorous if it didn’t have any chance of succeeding as an argument to persuade those unfamiliar with history. Lets face it, if facts ever did matter in public debate we are long since past factual reality making a difference.
While it is sadly true that facts no longer matter to many, or perhaps even most, they do still matter to me. I am certainly going to be branded a member of the fringe because I actually think we should look at historical temperature data, and not jump to conclusions that satisfy a particular agenda. Likewise, I will certainly be branded a part of the problem because I am not willing to concede that patents are evil. Notwithstanding, just in case anyone other than me is still interested in the facts, truth and reality, allow me to point out that the thought that patents are destroying the planet is actually as absurd as it sounds.
Patents are monopolies, a restriction on trade that creates inefficiency in exactly the same way that tariffs, quotas, or other trade barriers do. The economic argument for relaxing patent rules is therefore the same as that for removing trade barriers, only times 50 or 100, or even 1000 — since the average tariff on manufactured or agricultural goods is quite small compared to the amount by which patent monopolies raise the price of a pharmaceutical drug.
The trouble with this, aside from it being completely wrong, is that it ignores what should be obvious on its face. You can complain about the price of drugs, but without patents you would never have the drug in the first place. It is nice to dream about utopia, or a communal society where people with money will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop drugs all without ever wanting to recoup any of it. The unfortunate part of such a world is that it does not exist, it never has exited, and it never will exist. So while you rail on about how evil patents are because they raise the price of drugs why don’t you just come out and say what you obviously mean — you hate pharmaceutical drugs and think the world would be a better place without them. That is obviously Weisbrot’s position, and the position of anyone who agrees with him, because you cannot have drugs without patents. Innovation requires capital investment and without exclusive rights no investors are willing to take on the risk required to fund research and start-up businesses. It really is that simple, and just because you don’t think is should be that way doesn’t mean that it isn’t that way.