Chomsky on "Intellectual Property"

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Josh Dougherty

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May 9, 2005, 1:04:07 AM5/9/05
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From the Q&A period of a speech by Noam Chomsky at Washington State
University on April 22, 2005

Questioner:

"IP" or Intellectual Properties. Do you feel that they are an integral
component to personal freedoms or a detriment? And what place does
Intellectual Property have in public and academic settings?

Chomsky:

That's a very interesting question. It has an interesting history. The
World Trade Organization, the Uruguay round that set up the World Trade
Organization imposed, it's called a "free trade agreement". It's in fact a
highly protectionist agreement. The US is strongly opposed to free trade,
just as business leaders are, just as they're opposed to a market economy.
A crucial part of the Uruguay round, WTO, NAFTA, and the rest of them, is
very strong (what are called) intellectual property rights. What it
actually means is rights that guarantee monopoly pricing power to private
tyrannies.

So take, say, a drug corporation. Most of the serious research and
development, the hard part of it, is funded by the public. In fact most of
the economy comes out of public expenditures through the state system, which
is the source of most innovation and development. I mean computers, the
internet. Just go through the range, it's all coming out of the state
system primarily. There is research and development in the corporate
system, some, but it's mostly at the marketing end. And the same is true of
drugs.

Once the corporations gain the benefit of the public paying the costs and
taking the risks, they want to monopolize the profit. And the intellectual
property rights, they're not for small inventors. In fact the people doing
the work in the corporations, they don't get anything out of it, like a
dollar if they invent something. It's the corporate tyrannies that are
making the profits, and they want to guarantee them.

The World Trade Organization proposed new, enhanced intellectual property
rights, patent rights, which means monopoly pricing rights, far beyond
anything that existed in the past. In fact they are not only designed to
maximize monopoly pricing, and profit, but also to prevent development.
That's rather crucial. WTO rules introduced product patents. Used to be
you could patent a process, but not the product. Which means if some smart
guy could figure out a better way of doing it, he could do it. They want to
block that. It's important to block development and progress, in order to
ensure monopoly rights. So they now have product patents.

Well if you take a look at, say, US history. Suppose the colonies after
independence had been forced to accept that regime. Do you know what we'd
be doing now? Well first of all there'd be very few of us here. But those
of us who would be here would be pursuing our comparative advantage and
exporting fish and fur. That's what economists tell you is right. Pursue
your comparative advantage. That was our comparative advantage. We
certainly wouldn't have had a textile industry. British textiles were way
cheaper and better. Actually British textiles were cheaper and better
because Britain had crushed Irish and Indian superior textile manufacturers
and stolen their techniques. So they were now the preeminent textile
manufacturer, by force of course.

The US would never have had a textile industry. It grew up around
Massachusetts, but the only way it could develop was extremely high tariffs
which protected unviable US industries. So the textile industry developed,
and that has a spin off into other industries. And so it continues.

The US would never have had a steel industry. Again same reason. British
steel was way superior. One of the reasons is because they were stealing
Indian techniques. British engineers were going to India to learn about
steel-making well into the 19th century. Britain ran the country by force,
so they could take what they knew. And they develop a steel industry. And
the US imposed extremely high tariffs, also massive government involvement,
through the military system as usual. And the US developed a steel
industry. And so it continues. Right up to the present.

Furthermore that's true of every single developed society. That's one of
the best known truths of economic history. The only countries that
developed are the ones that pursued these techniques. The ones that weren't
able... There were countries that were forced to adopt "free trade" and
"liberalization": the colonies, and they got destroyed. And the divide
between the first and the third world is really since the 18th century. It
wasn't very much in the 18th century, and it's very sharply along these
lines.

Well, that's what the intellectual property rights are for. In fact there's
a name for it in economic history. Friedrich List, famous German political
economist in the 19th century, who was actually borrowing from Andrew
Hamilton, called it "kicking away the ladder". First you use state power
and violence to develop, then you kick away those procedures so that other
people can't do it.

Intellectual property rights has very little to do with individual
initiative. I mean, Einstein didn't have any intellectual property rights
on relativity theory. Science and innovation is carried out by people that
are interested in it. That's the way science works. There's an effort in
very recent years to commercialize it, like they commercialize everything
else. So you don't do it because it's exciting and challenging, and you
want to find out something new, and you want the world to benefit from it.
You do it because maybe you can make some money out of it. I mean that's
a... you can make your own judgment about the moral value. I think it's
extremely cheapening, but, also destructive of initiative and development.

And the profits don't go back to individual inventors. It's a very well
studied topic. Take one that's really well studied, MIT's involved:
computer controlled machine tools, a very fundamental component of the
economy. Well, there's a very good study of this by David Nobel, a leading
political economist. What he pointed out and discovered is the techniques
were invented by some small guy, you know working in his garage somewhere
in, I think, Michigan. Actually when the MIT mechanical engineering
department learned about it they picked them up and they developed them and
extended them and so on. And then the corporations came in and picked them
up from them, and finally it became a core part of US industry. Well, what
happened to the guy who invented it? He's still probably working in his
garage in Michigan, or wherever it is. And that's very typical.

I just don't think it has much to do with innovation or independence. It
has to do with protecting major concentrations of power, which mostly got
their power as a public gift, and making sure that they can maintain and
expand their power. And these are highly protectionist devices and I don't
think... You really have to ram them down people's throats. They don't
make any economic sense or any other sense.

Questioner:
...So what role though do you think they should play in academic and public
institutions?

Chomsky:

Well I don't think they should play any role. (Applause) But, since 1981
there was an amendment which gave universities the right to patent
inventions that came out of their own research. Actually that's kind of a
gag. I mean nothing comes out of the university's own research. It comes
out of public funding. That's how the university can function. That's how
their research projects work. The whole thing is set up to socialize cost
and risk to the general public, and then within that context, yeah in your
biology lab you can invent something. But I don't think universities should
patent it. They should be working for the public good. (Applause) And that
means it should be available to the public. So...

Questioner:
Thank you.

frisbie...@yahoo.com

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May 9, 2005, 2:11:22 AM5/9/05
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Josh Dougherty wrote:

>
> WTO rules introduced product patents. Used to be
> you could patent a process, but not the product. Which means if some
smart
> guy could figure out a better way of doing it, he could do it. They
want to
> block that. It's important to block development and progress, in
order to
> ensure monopoly rights. So they now have product patents.
>

Gross!

So does the WTO really suck as much as Noam says? I know that the US
patent system has evolved into a means to protect large companies and
enrich lawyers.

shawn

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May 9, 2005, 11:35:52 PM5/9/05
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<frisbie...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1115619082.7...@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
The short answer, yes.
The long answer is that the WTO exists to expand the same sort of
corporation friendly policies world wide. These corporations who owe no
national alligeance and value nothing but profits who have no concern for
the well being of the people at large and who can avoid the one of the major
governing factors that Adam Smith envisioned in the Wealth of Nations.
Through the use of shell companies subsidiaries and changing company names
these entities that exist only on paper can avoid any consequences for
misconduct. They rig the rules through generous donations to political
leaders and undermine our rights to seek recourse through the court systems.
Because the names can change so easily and the fact that it is difficult to
know exactly who own's whom it is even difficult to avoid giving custom to
offensive organizations. And in many cases they use predatory business
practices to ensure that people have no alternative means of gaining access
to a product or service. One must remember that part of the guiding hand of
the market that Smith envisioned was based on the fact that if a bussiness
abused their customers trust that they would loose said custom. However when
a company can just change the name a subsidiary in such a way as to cloak
its connection with the parrent company it becomes extrordinarily difficult
to hold them to account.
As an example say you fuond PepsiCo's bussiness practices offencive and
wanted to deny them your monies. You would have to dig in pretty deep to
figure out what all they own. In such a case you would have to avoid not
only buying Pepsi soda's you would also have to avoid Taco Bell, Pizza Hut
and KFC, in addition to god knows how many other subsidiaries I don't know
off the top of my head.
The WTO the World Bank and the IMF work in coordination to loot the wealth
of nations offering "loan" with massive strings attached which are
attractive to the leaders who plan on skimming off the loans anyway but in
reality are terribly destructive to the peoples of those countries.
Generally a World Bank or IMF loan comes with requirements to privatize
otherwise public resources such as water electricity and other
infrastructural wealth that the public built in the first place and they are
not allowed to even demand fair market values for these resources instead
having to sell them off at prices set by the WTO and world bank which are
often at penies on the dolar.
Coutries are encouraged to not be self sufficient in any way. So a place
such as India instead of growing food are encouraged to grow flowers for
sale and to buy their food instead from other places such as the United
States.

If you want some specific examples I recommend Greg Palast's "Best Democracy
Money Can Buy"


Traveler

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May 10, 2005, 12:00:59 AM5/10/05
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Did you people forget that Chomsky is a _linguist_?

Let me guess, you have a copy of Al Gore's 'Earth in the Balance' and
it has never occurred to you it was authored by an individual with no
education or background in environmental science. Or in any hard
science.

At a minimum, recognize that those in academics have no understanding
of life in the real world. Most, in fact, would be unable to function
if they had to assume employment outside of academics.

Mother of All Flockers

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May 10, 2005, 11:37:39 AM5/10/05
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That's a fine ad hominem attack, but
what about Chomsky's observations re
the WTO?

-MF

shawn

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May 10, 2005, 12:57:48 PM5/10/05
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"Traveler" <Trav...@mailandnews.com> wrote in message
news:1115697659.3...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

You do realize that Chomsky doesn't study languages but language itself as a
medium of comunication. A discipline that has many over laps with the other
cognitive sciences. Neurology, Psychiatry, Psychology, anthorpology, biology
and sociology amoung others. In fact I on this subject his views are as
valid if not more so that anyone elses.
This is a man who is an intellectual giant an honest to goodness genius and
one of the most respected intellectuals in the world.
He has also been incredibly accurate in his observations over the years when
it comes to American hegemony and the goals and methods of the globalists.
The man speaks in facts and lets the bodies lie where they land you just
don't like that those facts do not support your world view.


James A. Donald

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May 10, 2005, 10:34:34 PM5/10/05
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--
On Tue, 10 May 2005 16:57:48 GMT, "shawn"

> You do realize that Chomsky doesn't study languages
> but language itself as a medium of comunication.

A lot less work than actually being able to read french
and comprehend it accurately.

Surely, a prerequisite for studying language itself is
to know quite a few languages, a prerequisite that
Chomsky seems to lack.


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Dan Clore

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May 11, 2005, 2:09:08 AM5/11/05
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As long as the subject has come up, note the copyright
notices on South End Press books by Chomsky and others. They
claim that you need to copyright to publish in the US, and
give some fairly generous permission to reprint chunks of
the books.

But you do *not* need to copyright to publish; many books
from anarchist presses come out with explicit
@anti-copyright notices, allowing permission to reprint at
will. Some model these on one used by the Situationists,
that gives permission to reprint and reuse all content, even
without mentioning the source.

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1587154838/thedanclorenecro/
Lord We˙rdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"

Dave King

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May 11, 2005, 10:05:24 AM5/11/05
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On Tue, 10 May 2005 16:57:48 GMT, "shawn"
<shawn...@nospam.rocketmail.com> wrote:

Interesting final sentence when you consider how the great
intellectual giant you hold so highly supported the actions of the
Khemr Rouge.

Falky foo

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May 11, 2005, 10:31:27 PM5/11/05
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> Surely, a prerequisite for studying language itself is
> to know quite a few languages, a prerequisite that
> Chomsky seems to lack.

Another ad hominem.. people who defend poorly are worse than no defense at
all.


constan...@gmail.com

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May 11, 2005, 11:48:12 PM5/11/05
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Not ad hominem, since the topic was Chomsky and his accomplishments, so
the response was to the topic. Ad hominem would have been to attack,
say, you.

shawn

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May 16, 2005, 9:36:56 AM5/16/05
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"James A. Donald" <jam...@echeque.com> wrote in message
news:0nr281pbffqktocos...@4ax.com...

> --
> On Tue, 10 May 2005 16:57:48 GMT, "shawn"
> > You do realize that Chomsky doesn't study languages
> > but language itself as a medium of comunication.
>
> A lot less work than actually being able to read french
> and comprehend it accurately.
>
> Surely, a prerequisite for studying language itself is
> to know quite a few languages, a prerequisite that
> Chomsky seems to lack.
>

I didn't say he didn't speak or read other languages .
What I said was that he didn't specifically study languages but rather the
concept of communication which is a much larger subject than simple syntax
and sentence structure.

James A. Donald

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May 16, 2005, 1:41:13 PM5/16/05
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--

"shawn"
> > > You do realize that Chomsky doesn't study
> > > languages but language itself as a medium of
> > > comunication.

James A. Donald:


> > A lot less work than actually being able to read
> > french and comprehend it accurately.
> >
> > Surely, a prerequisite for studying language itself
> > is to know quite a few languages, a prerequisite
> > that Chomsky seems to lack.

"shawn"


> I didn't say he didn't speak or read other languages .
> What I said was that he didn't specifically study
> languages but rather the concept of communication
> which is a much larger subject than simple syntax and
> sentence structure.

Chomsky does read other languages, and better than I do,
but still poorly and with embarrassing errors. You did
not say this. I said it. Because he reads other
languages poorly, he is ill qualified to address
language itself as a medium of communication.


--digsig
James A. Donald
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O9ORXkbWHRUwCFA0q4KwT+3D98aCas+SdwsknP1t
4ZBzXRmb3Dl0LUvkgVGNntLNEbbYNBmKiQLEq1MdC


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G*rd*n

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May 16, 2005, 3:31:09 PM5/16/05
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"shawn"
> > > > You do realize that Chomsky doesn't study
> > > > languages but language itself as a medium of
> > > > comunication.

James A. Donald:
> > > A lot less work than actually being able to read
> > > french and comprehend it accurately.
> > >
> > > Surely, a prerequisite for studying language itself
> > > is to know quite a few languages, a prerequisite
> > > that Chomsky seems to lack.

"shawn"
> > I didn't say he didn't speak or read other languages .
> > What I said was that he didn't specifically study
> > languages but rather the concept of communication
> > which is a much larger subject than simple syntax and
> > sentence structure.

James A. Donald <jam...@echeque.com>:


> Chomsky does read other languages, and better than I do,
> but still poorly and with embarrassing errors. You did
> not say this. I said it. Because he reads other
> languages poorly, he is ill qualified to address
> language itself as a medium of communication.


That's an astonishing proposition. It's like saying "You
can't compute the diameter of a planet because you are not
yourself a planet."

cyr...@yahoo.com

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May 16, 2005, 4:03:58 PM5/16/05
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Chomsky has never produced anything that could be called intellectual
property, he is therefore naturally disparaging of those who do. The
man is an incompetent dishonest fool.

James A. Donald

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May 17, 2005, 9:30:39 PM5/17/05
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--

James A. Donald <jam...@echeque.com>:
> > Chomsky does read other languages, and better than I
> > do, but still poorly and with embarrassing errors.
> > You did not say this. I said it. Because he reads
> > other languages poorly, he is ill qualified to
> > address language itself as a medium of
> > communication.

G*rd*n


> That's an astonishing proposition. It's like saying
> "You can't compute the diameter of a planet because
> you are not yourself a planet."

Rather I say you cannot make generalizations from a
sample of one.

--digsig
James A. Donald
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Rm1IUYKtVFuxF54C0+hVcX1y/xuDH+BZ4uGocAF7
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