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 povertyby 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 afree tradeagreement, but there’s one type of trade barrier it proposes to strengthen:Intellectual property.Patents and other forms ofintellectual propertyrestrict trade by granting monopolies on the sharing of an idea or the manufacture of a product.Intellectual propertymakes 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’sproperty.
Intellectual propertyharms 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 thatleaked 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 ofsaving the world’s children from preventable deathsandrealizing 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 ofthe 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.
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
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.
- GT 2005-04-26: Patents kill.
- GT 2005-10-20: Patents kill, part II.
- GT 2013-02-13: Patents kill, part III.
- GT 2005-07-06: Libertarians for Protectionism.
- GT 2006-01-29: Libertarians for Protectionism, Appendix A.
- GT 2009-01-21: Libertarians for Protectionism, Appendix B.
- I’m Against Free Trade Agreements Because I’m For Free Trade, guest post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (August 22, 2011).