Reduce monopoly protection.

Patents are not natural property rights.  They are government created and enforced monopoly rights.  It is debatable whether patents encourage or hinder innovation and inventiveness. Even if patents promote inventiveness, there is no specific optimal number of years of protection.  In many instances, there is a good case to be made that no patent right,s or very limited patent rights, might spur more invention.  The case of pharmaceuticals and medical devices is more complicated because of government regulations that require much greater spending before a product is allowed on the market.  Even in those cases, we should err on the side of more limited monopoly rights and less use of government force and protection.  Humankind has made tremendous progress by being free to copy the ideas of one another.  What if fire, or the wheel, had been allowed to be patented?  Would that have spurred invention?  Our elected representatives should support shorter periods of time for monopoly patent protection.
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Stop crop insurance boondoggle!

Thanks to the Des Moines Register for the article, “Crop insurance payment soar” on 3/14/2013.  It is not right that we taxpayers are required to subsidize crop insurance premiums for farmers.   I can accept our government administering a crop insurance insurance program if there is no viable private market.  But I cannot understand why taxpayers should subsidize the crop insurance program.  Farmers make higher than average incomes.     Many farmers and farm owners are very wealthy.  Both large corporate farms and wealthy absentee owner investors get Insurance premium subsidies.  Fees and commissions paid to crop insurance companies and sales representatives appear to be very generous.   We need to stop the farm welfare.  Charging the full cost of the insurance to farmers will cause farmers to help keep cost down and prevent abuse.

 

Iowans don’t live in poverty.

Contrary to the picture painted by the recent series of articles in the Des Moines Register, very few Iowans actually live in poverty.  What we have is families who whose incomes, before counting any welfare benefits received, are below government established guidelines for poverty.  We measure “food insecurity” because very few Iowans are actually go without food for any extended period of time.  Taxpayers provide food stamps, Medicaid health insurance, subsidized housing, and much more.  Charitable organizations provide food banks, clothing, shelters and much more. For children, taxpayers also provide pre-school, meals before, during and after school, subsidized child care, and much more.
We clearly have an effective and extensive safety net.  The relatively few who fall through the cracks either don’t know about the benefits or won’t ask for help.  It appears quite clear that we do not need to spend more taxpayer money to expand welfare benefits.  It’s actually hard to imagine that spending for welfare programs cannot be reduced.  There has been much anecdotal evidence of fraud and abuse in our welfare programs by both recipients and providers.
Today, the best way to help the poor is by having a vibrant, growing economy with enough jobs for those who are willing to work, not by expanding welfare benefits.  To encourage a growing economy, we need for our government to stop regulating businesses in areas not related to employee and public safety or pollution of our environment.  Government should not mandate pay levels or benefits.  Government should not provide corporate welfare (subsidies) to artificially prop up favored industries.  Just as with individual welfare, corporate welfare breeds competitive weakness and dependency on government.

Patents gone wild!

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.

New Iowa protectionist law effective 7/1/2012!

On 7/1/2012, the Sunday Register reported on new Iowa laws which took effect on that day. One prohibits auctioneers who don’t have a real estate license from holding open houses before they hold the auction. Multiple choice: What was the reason for this law: A.) Protect auctioneers with real estate licenses from competition. B.) Protect licensed real estate agents from competition. C.) Increase revenues to the regulating agency. D.) Protect the public. I only know that the answer is not “D”.