Debate with IPR abolitionists in Mises blog, June 2011

I debated a known anti-IPR libertarian crusader, Stephan Kinsella, when he posted his paper, The Evil of Patenting Food and Seeds. Since the mises.org blog seems to be the hometown of many anti-IPR libertarians and anarchists, my intrusion naturally attracted a lot of counter-arguments. I am posting below those counter-comments and my reply to them.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 1:32 am

I feel that the arguments by the author are rather shallow. Take the case of rice seeds, IRRI alone has 112,000+ different rice seed varieties; various national governments rice research institutes, academic institutes, private corporations and research institutes, also have their own rice genebank. Who now has the monopoly of important seeds? Was anyone disallowed or disenfranchised from developing or inventing a new rice variety? My longer discussion here, http://funwithgovernment.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-intellectual-property-abolition-part_14.html.

If free marketers hate private ownership of inventions, if they want more socialized, more collective, more communal ownership of inventions, I think that position is closer to socialism.

Andrew (from Russia) June 14, 2011 at 2:18 am

“If free marketers hate private ownership of inventions, if they want more socialized, more collective, more communal ownership of inventions, I think that position is closer to socialism.”

They want no “ownership” at all. One doesn’t render IPRs “communal” by rendering them nonexistent, just like one doesn’t render slavery “collective” by abolishing private ownership of slaves. With IPRs gone, physical property rights expand naturally to fill the void – just like self-ownership takes over ownership by one’s master.

On your expanded post, the notion of “additional incentive” smacks of interventionism. Acknowledging that incentives exist is OK, trying to manage them is another story.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 2:24 am

Hmmm, some guys make a full time or lifetime career of producing ideas. They produce not a single physical property, only ideas. Like song composers, book and magazine authors, molecular biologists and chemicsts, etc. Unlike carpenters who produce chairs and houses, farmers who produce food, engineers who produce cars and laptops, the earlier group produce only ideas, and they cannot own their own discoveries and invention. Weird.

nate-m June 14, 2011 at 2:19 am

If free marketers hate private ownership of inventions, if they want more socialized, more collective, more communal ownership of inventions, I think that position is closer to socialism.
Yes, that’s right People that champion freedom, capitalistic forces, wealth, real money and open markets are the socialists while those people that want to restrict markets and think the use of state government enforced monopolies is the key to human creativity and profits are the ones that are the capitalists.

Better markets through regulations, taxes, restrictions, and the use of force. That is the future of capitalism.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 2:30 am

Bright ideas are scarce, idiotic ideas are not, they abound. One proof is that governments anywhere keep expanding. Some idiots say they have invented a coffee that can cure all sorts of cancer, all sorts of heart diseases, and their coffee discovery is free for all humanity to enjoy. This is an example why bright ideas should be protected and rewarded, to separate them from idiotic ideas.

Dagnytg June 14, 2011 at 3:16 am
Nonoy Oplas,

I think you’re missing the point of the article.

The author is only pointing out the ridiculousness of suing a farmer for using seeds produced from his harvest.

If the harvest is a by product of the GMO seeds, shouldn’t the farmer pay royalties on his harvest?

If not, then why does he have to pay royalties for the seeds produced from the harvest? You can’t have it both ways.

To say I can’t use the seeds from the harvest is to say I don’t have property rights to my harvest.

Nonoy…is that what you believe?

Bottom line: Either I own my harvest and the rights to do what I want with it…or I don’t.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 3:37 am

Thanks Dagnytg. The author has generalized the discussion that’s why the title is “The evil of patenting food and seeds.” And the reason why I posted my article is because I showed that in rice alone, 112,000+ rice varieties, mostly product of biotechnology and currently or previously patented seeds, The lesson is that plant patents resulted in an explosion of innovation and competition of tens of thousands of new seeds.

The way plant patent is implemented in the West, based on the articles referenced by the blog author, seems to be different from the experience in poorer countries like the Philippines. Here, patented seeds are not repeated for replanting not because of IPR and legal issues, but because the productivity of “recycled” seeds are lower compared to the original seeds. And if farmers think that the price of one biotech or seed company is too high, farmers have the choice of getting the seeds of another biotech or seed company, or use the old, off-patent seeds. There are lot of choices among patented seeds, among off-patent seeds.

Andrew June 14, 2011 at 2:29 am

“Hmmm, some guys make a full time or lifetime career of producing ideas. They produce not a single physical property, only ideas.”

Don’t they have something in common with the guys that produce SERVICES?

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 2:33 am

No. A bus driver, a restaurant waiter, a barber, produces a service, but not ideas. A molecular biologist or biochemist produces a drug molecule for a particular disease, that’s production of ideas, of a useful idea to treat and kill certain diseases. Idiots can say they have also produced a drug that can do the same with zero clinical trial. Abolish IPR and the claims of idiots and real researchers are generally the same.

Colin Phillips June 14, 2011 at 3:25 am

The key similarity you seem to have missed entirely is that, completely absent any government force, waiters and barbers manage to generate an income for themselves, even though “they produce not a single physical property, only” services. Why then should only molecular biologists get government intervention in their field to grant them a monopoly? What about all the poor waiters? Surely the government should step in and ensure that nobody competes with the restaurant business? Weird.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 3:48 am

It is possible that an IPR like patent can be issued by a private, industry association someday. So the debate is not much of who issues the IPR, but whether IPR should be honored or not. An IPR is a monopoly, true. But it is not an industry-wide monopoly, rather a product monopoly, I discussed here, http://funwithgovernment.blogspot.com/2011/03/ipr-and-medicines-part-8.html, the case of 101 new drugs in development, all patented, all not marketed yet, to treat prostate cancer alone. Excluded there are off-patent drugs, and patented and marketed drugs already, against prostate cancer too. Each inventor gets an IPR, and all inventors compete with each other in producing a drug for the same disease. You reward inventors for producing ideas. You cannot reward IPR to waiters, barbers, bus drivers, etc. since they produce ordinary services, not important ideas.

Andrew June 14, 2011 at 2:51 am

“Abolish IPR and the claims of idiots and real researchers are generally the same.”

So the focus has shifted from “ownership of production” to “truth in advertising”. It seems that absent a concise, coherent argument to hold onto, this game of whack-a-mole can be played forever.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 2:52 am

How in hell does “truth in advertising” come into the discussion?

Colin Phillips June 14, 2011 at 3:21 am

Did you read what you wrote?
“Idiots can say they have also produced a drug that can do the same with zero clinical trial. Abolish IPR and the claims of idiots and real researchers are generally the same.”
What were you trying to say here? Can you try to state it a bit more exactly? Until you do, it sounds like you think that absent IP, consumers are completely unable to distinguish between different things. You can’t seriously believe that.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 3:55 am

What am I trying to say exactly, here: Idiots can say they have also invented a drug that can kill a particular disease even with zero clinical trial, no R&D whatsoever to test the efficacy and safety of their drug invention. Abolish IPR and the claims of idiots and real researchers who go through all clinical trials, all tests on efficacy and safety, are just the same.

Colin Phillips June 14, 2011 at 4:30 am
Nonoy Oplas,

I’m sorry, that’s just not true. The reason I don’t take medicines that have not had clinical trials proving its safety and efficacy is not because there are patents on the medicine – it’s because a proven safe useful medicine is a fundamentally different good to me than an unknown, untested medicine sold on a street corner.

That’s not a defense of patents whatsoever. Think about this: For you, personally, in your own home: In a world without patents, would you buy your medicines from shady characters on street corners? What if there were two pharmacists – one of whom sold cheap, untested medicines, and one of whom was confident enough to get an external third party auditor to stake their reputations on the fact that he only sells safe medicines. Even if the first pharmacist was much cheaper, would you really use him? I wouldn’t.

So clearly, patents are not required to test medicines.

Nonoy Oplas June 14, 2011 at 4:53 am

Precisely Colin. A patent is sort of a certificate that the inventor of a new drug or new seed, etc. has hurdled a battery of tests for efficacy and safety. I think all generic pharma companies are satisfied with the IPR system. They spend little or nothing on inventing new drugs, going through the hassle of repeated clinical trials, of getting the risk of being sued by their patients if the drug is not effective or will produce more adverse results. The generics simply wait for the paten to expire, and they benefit from all the research work done by the innovators. In the Philippines, the biggest pharma company here is not a multinational. It’s a local generic pharma, its sales revenue is larger than the combined sales of #2, #3 and #4 companies, all innovator multinationals. What the generics want are certain flexibilities in IPR, not abolition of IPR. And the generics companies get it.

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