The Fruits of Intellectual Property Law

I recently had a debate with a friend of mine regarding intellectual property.

I took the position that intellectual property is not actually property, and that it should not be protected by law. He took the opposite position, at least with regard to the utility of intellectual property laws themselves. My friend argued that without intellectual property law, intellectual producers--Eminem, for example--would have no substantial monetary incentive to invest themselves into producing really "great" works of intellectual property.

This led me to ponder some of the things that would hypothetically disappear if intellectual property laws were to be repealed tomorrow. Among these products that would conceivably no longer have a market are big record label-produced albums, expensive Hollywood movie productions, and mass market video games. Then I pointed out that all of these "products" I brought up tended to have little productive value to society relative to the money that changes hands over them, and that in fact they are considered by many to be corrupting cultural influences. "So," I thought, "is this the fruit of intellectual property law?"

I know there are better examples of some "more valuable" things that are protected by intellectual property law. Take a cure for cancer, for example. Research costs money, and presumably no drug company or other entity is going to invest big in altruistically researching something that offers no big payoff. But also realize that once an entity secures that intellectual product of a cure for cancer, they own it. They could then charge whatever they want for this highly sought-after hypothetical cancer drug, since their new intellectual property would be protected by law. The fruit of intellectual property law in this scenario is not simply a cure for cancer, but a cure for cancer that can't ever again be duplicated and used freely, and that will only be available to the wealthiest of humanity, according to the whims of whoever designs it first!

Never A Wasted Vote

Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin recently published an article entitled "A Wasted Vote," in which he expounds the virtue of voting on uncompromised principles, viz. voting for Chuck Baldwin, as opposed to casting one's vote for what Chuck calls "the evil of two lessers."

Here, I would like to offer an addendum to Mr. Baldwin's points; I have a couple of observations of my own with regard to the old "wasted vote" argument I often hear when I make it clear to well-meaning McCain and Obama supporters that I do not intend to participate in perpetuating the American two-party duopoly this November:

1. In the grand scheme of things, in a national election, one's vote is insignificant. That's right, your vote is insignificant. The notion that a single individual's vote might sway a presidential election one way or another is completely out of touch with reality. In reality, an individual's vote has virtually no say over who gets elected president. With that in mind, on an individual basis, why would one not vote for a candidate one actually wants to be president, as opposed to a candidate one imagines has close to a 50% chance of winning and who kinda sorta represents one's ideals, or who is perhaps a little better than "the other guy"?

2. Voting for a losing candidate has ramifications beyond the immediate outcome of an election. In other words, winning isn't everything. Granted, as per the above point, the impact your vote will have is an infinitesimally small one, but nonetheless it will have an infinitesimally small impact. The support third-party candidates receive is duly noted by the Democrats and Republicans. Votes garnered by "far left," third-party candidates--Ralph Nader, for example--are incentives for the Democrats to "move left" in an attempt to obtain those votes the next election cycle. Likewise, votes garnered by "far right," third-party candidates--Chuck Baldwin, for example--are incentives for the Republicans to "move right" in an effort to secure those votes. On the opposite side of the coin, if you cast your vote for an establishment candidate, you are essentially assenting to the status quo via the voting booth. You are sending a message to the Democrats or Republicans that you accept the candidate, however lukewarm or otherwise terrible, that they have presented to you this election cycle, and that you will complacently vote for more like him or her in the future.