Patents should be more restricted, not liberalized.

I disagree with Paul Michel and Matthew Dowd, (Wall Street Journal, 1/24/2020, link below), that our patent laws do not give adequate and clear protection to inventions.  Conversely, we have become too liberal in both what is allowed to be patented and the length of time that patents are granted.

They urge the reversal by Congress of the Supreme Court of rulings that prohibit the granting of patents for “abstract ideas” and “natural phenomena”.  Abstract ideas, like mathematical formulas, computer code, or simple ideas drawn on paper, and natural phenomena, like the discovery of particular DNA or naturally occurring chemical compounds, should not be patentable.

Originally, U.S. patents had a maximum life of 14 years, then 17 years, and then 20 years.  Companies that earn billions of dollars in profits every year on their patents are very willing to spend many millions of dollars to lobby congress to extend their monopolies.  Who spends money lobbying to reduce the term of patents?  Shouldn’t the term of monopoly protection granted depend in part on how much it costs to meet government regulations related to the invention?  For example, prescription drugs may deserve a long patent term because of the cost to meet government regulations.  But there is no logical reason why all patents should be granted for the same length of time.  (Design patents are granted for shorter periods, but why should they be granted at all?)

The concept of “intellectual property” is man-made.  Since time immemorial, humans have copied one another.  For millennia legally protected private property was limited to physical property which could only be possessed by one person at a time.  Ideas can be possessed by many people at the same time without infringing on the physical property of others and without the use of force.  Monopolies, including the exclusive use of inventions, were originally granted by Kings to favored subjects through the use of force.  Our government protects patents through the use of force.  Contrary to the Founder’s intent, some patents appear to slow innovation rather than encourage it.  The case can be made that no patents should be granted.  In this case, Congress should expand patent protection.

Link to Wall Street Journal opinion:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/americas-innovators-need-clear-patent-laws-11579824646

Iowa needs to eliminate licensing laws and regulations that protect existing practitioners rather than their customers.

I agree with Valerie Stallbaumer in her letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register, (See link below), that the purpose of professional licensing requirements by government is to help protect the public from harm.   I disagree with her that it also is to guarantee quality. Safety issues are usually objective: we know pretty well what kind of things can hurt people.  Licensing should assure us that the licensed person knows and follows safe procedures.  But for many licensed professions, quality is subjective. If acupuncture is not effective for some people, what is the harm as long as they don’t get an infection?  The only reason I can think of why government would require a four-year program for acupuncturists is that acupuncturists and their schools lobbied for licensing to protect themselves against competition and to appear more professional.  Acupuncturists, physical therapists, tattoo artists, and ear piecers probably can learn proper safety procedures related to “needling” in just a few days.  We do need a complete review of licensing requirements and regulations in Iowa to eliminate those that prevent competition rather than protect people.

No end to subsidies for favored industries?

The $1 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel producers just passed the U.S. House and appears likely to become law.  The credit, which expired at the end of 2017, will be extended retroactively 2 years and forward for 3 years through 2022.  This tax credit started in 2005.  How long must the welfare continue?  Biodiesel producers are no different than most other businesses and industries in that they become dependent on subsidies and lobby heavily to prevent the subsidy from ever ending.  We need to pass laws that phase out all forms of energy subsidies, as well as subsidies given to other favored industries.  We need free-market capitalism, not crony capitalism.

Link to related Register report:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2019/12/17/spending-bill-includes-long-sought-biodiesel-tax-credit-renewal/2677476001/

Our federal legislators should oppose reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank

I urge our elected federal representatives to oppose the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.  (The Ex-Im Bank provides taxpayer guarantees to U.S. companies that export and sell products to international customers.  Authorization is set to expire on 9/30.)  This has been and continues to be a quintessential example of crony capitalism.  If a U.S. exporter has customers who find it difficult to find financing, the seller can always guarantee a loan and get a security position to get the asset back in a worst case.  If they still cannot get financing, the seller could provide direct financing.  In any case, our government should not guarantee such loan private companies.

I’m sure that small and large Iowa export companies are heavily lobbying for reauthorize the Bank.  I hope our representatives resist the pressure and vote against this bad policy where taxpayers are asked to take the risk and private companies reap the profits.

Export-Import Bank need to end.

 

 

The essay in The Register on 9/15/2014, by Mary Andringa and Jay Timmons in support of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) was well done.  The fact that the Ex-Im Bank returned $1 billion in profits to the U.S. Treasury is very persuasive.  Of course the same thing could be said about the U.S. government getting into about any business.  If our government ran a grocery store or a tractor manufacturing plant, it is very likely that it could make a profit.  But we don’t (or shouldn’t) do things that way in the United States.
In this case, there is good reason to believe that privately owned banks could provide this kind of financing for our manufacturers who want to export their products to other parts of the world.  The manufacturers should be willing to guarantee the debt of their customers if that is what is needed to secure financing for their buyers.  The fact that Ex-Im Bank financing, “is available to any exporter of any size” does not mean that this isn’t an example of crony capitalism.  In this case, the crony capitalists just happen to be a very large group of manufacturers who want the government to guarantee loans for their foreign customers.
We have created a crutch for these businesses.  We need to take away that crutch and move towards free market capitalism.
Link to Register article:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2014/09/15/iowa-view-export-import-bank-economic-engine/15650761/

Don’t regulate swipe fees.

Congress has no proper business getting involved in regulating credit card swipe fees.  Contrary to the editorial in the Des Moines Register by Bill Leichsenring, the market is not broken (“Congress must rein in credit card swipe fees” 11/27/2012″ – see link below).  There is a great deal of competition to process merchant credit card transactions.  I am a retail business owner who pays thousands of dollars in credit card swipe fees each year.  We receive solicitations all the time from companies that would like to process our credit card transactions and try to lower our fees.  Fees do vary widely, but they are not as low as Mr. Leichsenring reports they are in Europe.  If our government is doing anything to prevent European banks from competing in the U.S., or to prevent competition in the credit card market, those things should be stopped.  Otherwise, we should not be asking government to step in and use its force to lower prices that we think are too high.  No business is required to accept credit cards.  They do it voluntarily because they think it will improve their profits.  If businesses don’t want to pay the credit card fees, they don’t have to accept them.  They could accept only cash or checks.  They could offer their own direct charge accounts.  They could even look into offering newer alternatives like Paypal or Dwolla.  When it comes to free market capitalism, most businesses want it for everyone else.  In their own businesses, they want crony capitalism or mercantilism – where government protects them against competition, bails them out when they lose money, but lets them keep the profits.

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20121127/OPINION01/311270075/Iowa-View-Congress-must-rein-in-credit-card-swipe-fees?Opinion&nclick_check=1