Monday, March 19, 2012

The Funny Math Behind Conservative Class Warfare

From his days in the 35th Tank Battalion my late and incredibly ultraconservative father returned from Europe after World War II with some fascinating stories about technological conspiracies that invariably began with perceptions regarding the first automatic transmissions.

Throughout the remaining five decades of his life he was firmly convinced that oil companies, even during the decades he worked for one, conspired to withhold technology that would have permitted the widespread availability of fuel-efficient vehicles even far beyond our wildest dreams today.

Part of being an independent, especially one who, like me, is moderate, is reading and listening to people from all points of the opinion spectrum.  Even when I have to hold my nose to make it past the messenger to read or hear the message, I can usually still find something that resonates or stimulates my thinking.

There are many things to commend the writings of economist Dean Baker and you definitely never have to hold your nose to get his message.  In his new book, subtitled “Making Markets Progressive,” Baker, who co-directs the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) cites a 2011 finding by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):Copyright Math

“…that the number of patents per capita was the most important factor determining the extent to which income was redistributed upward from those at the middle and bottom to those at the top over the last three decades.”

Lest anyone feel the need to knee-jerk there are plenty of people at all points on the ideological spectrum who agree that patent and copyright laws need to be reformed and that they are an example of how government is used by conservatives to enforce monopolies.

For a Jon Stewart-esque look at how funny math is used to justify patents and copyrights, click here for hilarious TED snippet by comedian Rob Reid.

In this latest book Baker describes in very easy-to-understand terms that patents and copyrights are “both explicit government policies to promote innovation and creative work.”  But they also allow these “monopolies to charge prices far above the free market price.”  There is equally compelling evidence that they also suppress the free market and inhabit innovation and job creation.

The book breaks down how patents for drug companies provide an incentive to conduct R&D, but the transfers equate to about 15 times the amount the federal government spends on the core program for welfare.

Oh and before you dismiss Baker as a hypocrite because books are copyrighted, he provides his as a free download at this link.

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