Posts tagged Nathan Goodman

Burn Corporate Liberalism

AlterNet’s recent article, Why Atheist Libertarians are Part of America’s 1 Percent Problem is mostly remarkably only in how utterly, thoughtlessly awful it is. Of course many political libertarians are conservative tools, and this includes those who are anti-religious. But the bulk of this article is a series of undirected polemical jabs and cheap partisan talking-points attacking Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer in the most formulaic and uncharitable possible terms; in general the article might be a candidate for the Ridiculous Strawman Watch, but mostly it is just a demonstration, as Nathan Goodman says, that the author couldn’t pass an ideological Turing test. I do want to mention the following, though — because the pull-quote manages to take just about everything I despise in American liberalism and wrap it up into one tight little package:

. . . Atheists who embrace libertarianism often do so because they believe a governing body represents the same kind of constructed authority they’ve escaped from in regards to religion. This makes sense if one is talking about a totalitarian regime, but our Jeffersonian democracy, despite its quirky flaws, is government by the people for the people, and it was the federal government that essentially built the great American middle-class, the envy of the world. . . .

— CJ Werleman, Why Atheist Libertarians Are Part of America’s 1 Percent Problem
AlterNet, December 3, 2013.

Yes, indeed. Here is a completely mythical, wildly unrealistic civics-textbook Disney cartoon[1] of how American government works. It has a few kinks here and there in the real world application, but it’s vouched for by the idealistic fantasies of a prestigious racist, expansionist slave-owning Democratic President. You know that it works great because through a stupendous effort of subsidy and social regimentation it has created the most privileged bourgeoisie the world has ever known. America, fuck yeah!

This is what happens when you take corporate liberalism and expose it to gamma radiation. In all seriousness, it is absolutely true that the construction of the white American middle class was one of the biggest and most effective projects of the United States government over the past 80 years. And in every aspect — the world-empire militarization; the cartelized, permanent warfare economy; the border controls; the internal segregation; the subsidized white flight, car culture and Urban Renewal; the Junior-G-man ethos and the law-and-orderist socioeconomic policing; the stock-market bail-outs and the logic of Too Big To Fail; the institutionalization of everyday life and the full-spectrum pan-institutional promotion of patriarchal family, bourgeois respectability and bureaucratic meritocracy — the political manufacture of the white American middle class has been one of the most reactionary, destructive, dysfunctional, patriarchal and racist campaigns that American government has ever waged against human liberty, and the basic justification of every one of its most grievous assaults on the oppressed, exploited and socially marginalized.

Of course the federal government created the great [white] American middle class. To the eternal shame of both.

  1. [1] Actually, John Sutherland Productions. Sutherland spent three years as a director for Disney before he went on to produce propaganda films for the D.O.D. and then for Harding College (on a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation).

Patents kill, part IV

Here’s some passages from a great letter to the editor of the Daily Herarld (Sint Maarten, Dutch Caribbean), by my friend and fellow C4SSer Nathan Goodman.

Deadly Contradictions: Patent Privilege vs. Saving Lives

In his 2013 State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama claims that the U.S. will help end extreme poverty by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the president directly contradicted these goals earlier in his speech by pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is typically presented as a free trade agreement, but there’s one type of trade barrier it proposes to strengthen: Intellectual property. Patents and other forms of intellectual property restrict trade by granting monopolies on the sharing of an idea or the manufacture of a product. Intellectual property makes it illegal to use your own personal property to manufacture a product and sell it on the market once the state has defined the very idea of that product as someone else’s property.

Intellectual property harms consumers by raising prices. For some goods this is just an economic cost. But when it comes to medicine, the price increases associated with pharmaceutical patents cost lives.

As Judit Rius Sanjuan of Doctors Without Borders says, Policies that restrict competition thwart our ability to improve the lives of millions with affordable, lifesaving treatments. . . . The Trans-Pacific Partnership would expand these already deadly patent monopolies, further restricting access to lifesaving medicines. Tido von Schoen-Angerer of Doctors Without Borders wrote in 2011 that leaked papers reveal a number of U.S. objectives: to make it impossible to challenge a patent before it is granted; to lower the bar required to get a patent (so that even drugs that are merely new forms of existing medicines, and don’t show a therapeutic improvement, can be protected by monopolies); and to push for new forms of intellectual property enforcement that give customs officials excessive powers to impound generic medicines suspected of breaching IP. Each of these provisions would use government force to prevent poor people from accessing medicine.

It’s clear that entrenching patent monopolies contradicts Obama’s stated goals of saving the world’s children from preventable deaths and realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation. . . . Contradictions like this are nothing new for the state. While politicians repeatedly promise to protect public health, they have long used coercive power to raise medical costs, sacrificing public health for private profits. The state has long justified its power with the language of the public good, all while wielding that power to protect privilege.

If we really care about “saving the world’s children from preventable deaths” and “realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation,” we must end this murderous collusion between state and corporate power.

We must smash the state and its deadly contradictions.

— Nathan Goodman, Deadly Contradictions: Patent Privilege vs. Saving Lives, in The Daily Herald (February 18, 2013)

Read the whole thing. Many thanks to Nathan for a great letter on an important point.

Patents kill people. They mean that the pharmaceutical cartel can call up the armed bully-boys of almost every government in the world in order to enforce artificially high prices for their top money-makers; and that means that State violence is being used to prevent affordable, life-saving drugs from reaching the desparate and the poor. The multilateral so-called free trade agreements of the past couple decades — NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, and now the TPP — selectively cut back on traditional industrial protectionism, but they simultaneously dramatically expand the scale, scope, and deadly reach of intellectual protectionism.

To hell with that. Intellectual property and patent privileges are not about incentivizing or encouraging or opportunities. Patents about pure, invasive force: invading other people’s property to force them to render long-term rents to corporate monopolists, long after the inventors have brought their ideas to market and long after they’ve stopped putting any particular work into what they are claiming to be theirs. A necessary corollary is that it also means invading those who offer incremental innovations based on the work that the patent holders control, unless those innovations comply with a very narrow set of guidelines for authorized use. They are tyrannical embargoes on creative intelligence, and prohibitions on the natural capacity to peacefully imitate, emulate and bring competing goods to market. Patnet holders have no right to do that, and they sure don’t have the right to do it at the expense of innocent people’s lives. A free society needs a free culture, free knowledge and free technology. Patents kill and freedom saves people’s lives. This is as dead simple as it gets. To hell with state monopolies; to hell with state capitalism.

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