By Alejandro A. Tagliavini *
During a public Facebook meeting, an employee asked Mark Zuckerberg, the fifth richest person on the globe with a fortune of $ 69.4 billion, to respond to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who claimed that billionaires should not exist. “I think that if you do something that is good, you are rewarded, but some of the wealth that can be accumulated is not reasonable,” he replied.
And how right Zuckerberg is since although it is true that he who serves the market – the people – deserves a reward which is the incentive to serve, it does not seem rational, natural, that someone possesses so much wealth when many don’t have enough even to eat.
The Facebook co-founder explained that, with his “Chan Zuckerberg” foundation, invests in scientific research to eradicate all diseases. Well done, but that is not the solution, and Sanders makes things worse: a proposal for a higher tax on billionaires. What the politician does not understand – or does not want to understand since he lives on taxes – is that tax burdens end up being paid by the poor since the rich derive them by raising prices, lowering wages, etc.
Neither understands the basics: the problems of freedom are only solved with more freedom. It happens that, as the lack of freedom is due to the police power of the state, to violence that always destroys, more freedom means less violence and so a better social development.
The point is in the intellectual property or copyright. Being property a question of natural order, arises spontaneously from the market -from the people- and so if the State coercively imposes a supposed property avoiding its free -natural- availability for the rest, it is creating for a single beneficiary the monopoly of the usufruct of an idea.
Thanks to copyright laws, that benefit companies such as Facebook or Microsoft for instance, have grown fortunes that are not typical of a natural market but the result of impoverishing the rest that must pay for certain ideas.
As an example, let us remmember that Thomas Edison was a “serial patentee” in order to make money. He patented about a thousand inventions and it is not credible that he was such a genius. In fact, the incandescent lamp was only perfected by him and patented in 1879. Heinrich Goebel manufactured lamps three decades earlier, while the British Joseph Swan obtained the first patent in Britain, in 1878, then took his plagiarist, Edison, to the British courts and won the case.
Another example. The US Government has insisted on intellectual property rights over medicines for AIDS when in countries such as South Africa it was a critical aspect of public health since the poor could not pay given the high price requested by laboratories, some of which have created a Mafia industry that decides who and how could “cure” a disease.
Ironically these antivirals are combinations of drugs that had been previously developed, but whose combination was patented – Edison-style – by pharmacists with a great capacity for dark lobbying. The argument is that without a “patent protection” research would be discouraged when it is the opposite: if there are no monopolistic “rights” on an idea, everyone can use it, and build on it, exponentially multiplying the applied brains to it.
* Member of the Advisory Board of the Center on Global Prosperity, of Oakland, California