Word B. Free, Not Xanax

Bill Gates has decided that patent protection is a bad way to stimulate pharmaceutical R&D.  For some obscure reason, he doesn’t seem to feel the same way about software.

OK, so he’s a goddamned hypocrite. No surprise there. But even worse, he’s got things exactly backwards.

If there’s one thing that people are clearly willing to provide on their own and share with others, it’s software. If there’s one thing that people are not going to develop and distribute for free, it’s pharmaceuticals. Not only are they expensive to develop and test, but they also expose the developer to lawsuits. So this is an area where private philanthropy can play a role in developing “orphan” drugs. In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is already funding a wide range of anti-malaria activities including the development of new drugs.

Capitalism is what allowed Bill Gates to amass the fortune that allows him to fund the types of projects he personally believes to be important. Without it, R&D decisions would be made through a political process that would allocate funds to the loudest squawkers. If Bill Gates thinks for one minute that African malaria victims would be able to lobby their way to as much US government funding as they now get from the Gates Foundation, well…let’s just say that I think he’s fundamentally mistaken.

So, Bill, how about you STFU and keep giving away a fraction of the vast wealth you accumulated thanks to patent protection?



1 Comment

Filed under Economics

One response to “Word B. Free, Not Xanax

  1. Intellectual property rights is an issue that has the younger generation’s attention. It won’t be resolved in our lifetime. This is an age of transition. No telling how it will shape the future, but it will. Gates is a hypocrite, but being a liberal means never having to explain or apologize, because everything is relative and facts are fluid.

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