If seems as if all businesses now require some type of welfare program. The definition of economic development is grants or loans or special tax breaks given by our government to businesses. Banks get their welfare indirectly – from loan guarantees from many government programs. Of course our farmers must be protected from losses by government – through crop insurance subsidies that not only cover natural disasters, but actually protect against price declines. All types of energy companies receive special tax credits or tax breaks. The biggest manufacturers in Iowa receive large tax credits for research. Now, Mediacom and John Deere want a grant of $800,000 from the federal government to help bring high speed internet to farmers who buy high-tech, internet connected tractors that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We should say no! We need to reverse the trend of expecting taxpayers to fund all types of economic development. Just as with with individuals and families, welfare for businesses create dependency. Our economy will continue to grow sluggishly as long as we look to government to manage our economic development.
“There are likely tens of billions of Earth-like planets in our Milky Way galaxy…” according to a study by astronomers at the University of California-Berkely, and reported in The Des Moines Register. And that is only in our galaxy. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in our known universe. By “Earth-like”, they meant planets that are the right distance from their own sun to have the moderate temperatures thought to be needed to support life. So, it seems somewhat likely that there could be intelligent life out there somewhere. The problem is how far ” out there somewhere” is from Earth. The scientists think the nearest Earth-like planet may be only about 12 light years away. (The closest star to Earth, other than our Sun, is about 4 light years away.)
One light year is about 5.9 trillion miles. Currently, our fastest space ships travel at about 36,000 miles per hour (MPH). Unmanned spacecraft that “slingshot” around our Sun have attained speeds near 150,000 MPH. If we could ever build a spacecraft that could travel 1 million MPH, it would take 2,800 years to get to the closest star, and about 8,400 years to reach that closest “Earth-like” planet! Radio waves, which travel at the speed of light, would take 24 years to get to that Earth-like planet and back to Earth. So, if there is intelligent life out there, it is extremely unlikely that we will ever be able to meet or even communicate with them unless and until we develop the ability to travel at something close to light speed or faster.
Patents are government enforced monopolies that are granted to encourage innovation. There is no natural property right in “intellectual property” (IP). Natural property rights exist in physical things. If you create or obtain property by peaceful and honest means, then you have a natural right to keep and defend that property against those who would use force or fraud to take your property from you. Governments are created to help protect those rights.
Throughout most of human history there has been no recognition of patents. Anyone could copy a good idea from anyone else. Only Kings or other dictators bestowed monopolies to favored groups and used force to stop those who infringed on the monopoly. The inventor of the first wheel had a natural property right in that specific wheel. Other people who made similar copies for themselves did not take anything away from the original creator. Why should force be allowed to stop someone from copying from someone else? Do the ends justify the mean? Isn’t it immoral to use force to stop a peaceful person from doing something that does no harm to others?
It is wrong to assume that people would not be inventive if they had no patent protection. They might be more inventive and more creative. Do a thought experiment: What would happen if there were no patents? Might there not be more and faster invention? As much as possible, inventors would try to keep their manufacturing processes secret. But keeping such secrets would be very difficult, if not impossible in many cases. Inventors would also try to use contracts to prevent people from copying their inventions. Contracts would give them some protection, but only against those who are party to the contracts.
Patents are supposed to be granted only for original inventions that are not obvious. In the recent case between Apple and Samsung, one of the patents which Apple successfully defended was the “look and feel” of the IPhone, including the rounded corners and the “bounce-back” screen. Mercedes Benz has a new TV ad where they tout that they have over 80,000 patents. (See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc6CejduPP0) Is that a good thing? Today, it is becoming very difficult to create anything technical without infringing on someone else’s patent. What government gives, government can take away. Until we get rid of patents, our government should get much more conservative about what types of inventions get patent protection and about how much time the patent is granted for.
In the case of drugs and medical devices, I would feel much better about our government providing for our “general welfare” by funding medical research if no patents were allowed if taxpayer money is used in anyway to fund the development. Inventions based on taxpayer funded medical and technological research, or based on research done at public universities should not be patentable, either by the States or the universities. They should be left in the public domain for the benefit of all citizens.