How do you design a society for the really long term? There are a couple of levels to consider: notably, decision-making and economics. And it doesn’t look as if we’ve got any good solutions to either.
Fear is a great motivator. Throughout history, successful leaders have known how to use fear to unite and to manipulate their followers. Usually this fear is of “the other,” a group that looks different, talks different, or worships a different god.
We are 37th! We are 37th! No, this is not the cheer to be heard this week at a Notre Dame football pep rally. Rather, it is, according to the last rankings done by the World Health Organization, the chant appropriate for the U.S. health care system. What does the rest of the world know that we don’t?
Intellectual property, like biopolitics, is not a simple left-right issue. There are arguments for and against patents on human genes, and patents in general, from both progressives and libertarians. Stephan Kinsella, for instance, is a libertarian critic of intellectual property.
Although it’s easy to think otherwise, the structure of the modern global economy is not terribly old, arguably dating back to the collapse of the gold standard in 1971, or the post-World War II “Bretton Woods” conference in 1944. Earlier versions of what we would nonetheless still call “capitalism” had very different degrees (and kinds) of government intervention, roles for labor and capital, even rules about currencies. Add to that the mention more extreme variants such as socialism and communism, corporatism (fascism), and the sundry experiments in anarchism, and you have quite a menagerie of all-but-extinct economic models.
We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems.
The healthcare debate has gotten so weird, I think it’s time someone (I guess me) says what’s actually going on. I do not presume to have the answers to all of these problems (well, actually I think I have most of it figured out) but all I mean to do is share what appears to be happening. It is bizarre. Let’s start simple.
Before I left for an Alpine vacation of high altitude hiking, fresh air, and peace, I was pondering my response to Randall Mayes puzzlingly entitled: “In Defense of Patenting DNA: A Pragmatic Libertarian Perspective” published in Ethical Technology on July 26. In the meantime, a much more scathing and less meaty attack on my book Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes was published as a “book review” (more on this in a moment) which stoops to the same level as numerous recent bloggers who, so moved by the danger of my arguments to their cause, have attempted to attack me, and thus misses the point of most of my argument. I am glad I waited to respond to Mr. Mayes, who at least raises his own policy arguments and responds to a number of my policy arguments.
Continuing our effort to flesh out the parameters of technoprogressive policy ideas by building our “Technoprogressive Policy Wiki”, we turn now to the problems created by the push to patent everything, including human genes, and shut down all fair use and copying of music, texts and film. IEET intern Ed Miller has been engaged with open source and intellectual property issues for some time, and has taken a crack at a general policy statement on this issue. We welcome feedback. - J. Hughes
Although biotechnology patents existed prior to the 1980s as the biotechnology era officially began, they soon became a divisive public policy issue. Perhaps a culture war issue is more appropriate as the free market approach of using DNA patents in biomedical research is under fire from strange bedfellows, a bioconservative-technoprogressive axis. The bioconservative criticisms are on moral grounds and the technoprogressive criticisms for economic reasons based on values.
If you had been born with your exact genetic makeup, but in another time and place, would you still have achieved whatever success you’ve had? Is the happiness you’ve gained mostly a matter of effort and determination, or do you owe a lot of your accomplishments to a fortunate but accidental combination of timing and location?