Patent Nonsense

The recent tendency, both here and in South Africa with AIDS, is to chip away at patent protection and to lowball the compensation offered. In the short run this approach plays well before a public when resources are stretched thin. But in the long term, our stock of pharmaceuticals depreciates, and it must be replenished. It takes over a $250 million to bring a new drug to market today, and the revenues derived from a successful drug must cover not only its cost of production, but the costs of experimenting with promising products that never make it to market at all. We rightly do nothing to socialize the costs of pharmaceutical research that leads nowhere. Why then take away the fruits of a high side?

Such suspension of law and rights might almost be justifiable, and of less concern, if we were formally at war, but the government continues to refuse to make such a declaration, rendering the precedent all the more dangerous.

More Psywar

South America ? The administration is collecting evidence of al Qaeda operatives involved in cocaine trafficking in Paraguay and Colombia. Islamic fundamentalist cells are operating in a tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Evidence has been found of al Qaeda members in this no man’s land, a senior administration official says.

This reraises the issue that I brought up last week–what would be the impact on domestic cocaine consumption (and concomitantly, Andean drug warlords’ revenues) if the rumor were to spread that nose candy supplies have been laced with anthrax?

Trading Freedom For Security

Today, however, we may be facing just such a threat, and one that is largely without historical parallel.

To respond, we as a nation will have to confront some hard choices. The enormity of the risk to civilian lives on American soil is unprecedented, yet despite this the Bush administration has thus far shown remarkable restraint. But as the president weighs what additional measures will be needed, both the administration and civil libertarians would do well to recall that our history demonstrates that war-time restrictions on civil liberties have neither been irrevocable nor have they curtailed our fundamental freedoms in times of peace. Indeed, our democracy can, and has, outlived temporary restrictions and continued to thrive.

And if, as we get thicker into this grim conflict, the administration deems it necessary to enact more restrictive steps, we need not fear. When our nation is again secure, so too will be our principles.

I hope that he’s right, but one of my concerns is the ill-defined nature of the enterprise on which we seem to have embarked. We do not have a formal declaration of war, nor do we know, ultimately, with whom we are fighting, and I fear that this poorly-defined beginning will make it more difficult to define an end, and that those who benefit from the usurpation of our liberties may find it convenient to continue the crisis. I welcome the sunset provisions in the legislation that has been passed, where they exist, but would like to see them broadened.

Of course, I think that we need a Constitutional amendment stipulating that all federal legislation have sunset provisions…

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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