Home > Uncategorized > “Protecting Intellectual Property” against China means redistributing income upward

“Protecting Intellectual Property” against China means redistributing income upward

from Dean Baker

The New York Times had an article discussing the prospects for U.S. trade relations with China during Biden’s presidency. At one point it tells readers:

“Mr. Biden has given few details about his plans for U.S.-China relations, other than saying he wants to recruit American allies such as Europe and Japan to pressure China to make economic reforms, like protecting intellectual property.”

Stronger and longer patent and copyright protections have redistributed enormous amounts of income upward over the past four decades, likely more than $1 trillion annually (half of all corporate profits). If Biden plans to put stronger enforcement of U.S. intellectual property claims at the center of his trade relations with China, it means he wants to redistribute even more money away from the vast majority of people who voted for him to the richest 10 percent of the population.

That should be a big deal in a news story on Biden’s trade policy towards China.

  1. Herb Wiseman
    November 19, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    More goodies for the rentiers. There is a new book out about the role of rentiers from Brett Christophers.

    Rentier Capitalism : Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It?
    Hardback English
    By (author) Brett Christophers
    In this landmark book, the author of The New Enclosure provides a forensic examination and sweeping critique of early-twenty-first-century capitalism. Brett Christophers styles this as ‘rentier capitalism’, in which ownership of key types of scarce assets – such as land, intellectual property, natural resources, or digital platforms – is all-important and dominated by a few unfathomably wealthy companies and individuals: rentiers. If a small elite owns today’s economy, everybody else foots the bill. Nowhere is this divergence starker, Christophers shows, than in the United Kingdom, where the prototypical ills of rentier capitalism – vast inequalities combined with entrenched economic stagnation – are on full display and have led the country inexorably to the precipice of Brexit. With profound lessons for other countries subject to rentier dominance, Christophers’ examination of the UK case is indispensable to those wanting not just to understand this insidious economic phenomenon but to overcome it. Frequently invoked but never previously analysed and illuminated in all its depth and variety, rentier capitalism is here laid bare for the first time.

  2. Ikonoclast
    November 20, 2020 at 1:18 am

    China will do what China wants, The days of the USA dictating to China are over. Collapsing neoliberal, rentier America is in for a huge shock.

    The West’s failure to deal with COVID-19 is leading to immense social and economic damage. It’s a watershed moment. China will soon be vastly more economically powerful than either the USA or E.U. taken separately. Anyone who thinks the world hasn’t just changed completely in 2020 understands neither economics, nor geopolitics and geostrategy, IMHO.

    Here is an excoriating opinion piece on just how badly the West has failed. I endorse every word. Indeed, the West has failed.


    If this were a sail boat race, the West would be dead in the water with a blown-out spinnaker and a busted boom. China is still flying along on a broad reach with full yardage of sails set. The race is over. China has won. The West has lost and is finished. The West will now pay with its own century of humiliation; with of course dangerous climate change thrown in for everyone. China too will not escape climate change, sea level rise etc. etc.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    December 21, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    The surreal and stupid tendencies of our species have been there for over 10,000 years now. And someday we will pay the ultimate price.

    “Actually, I hardly feel constrained to try to make head or tail of this condition of the world. On this planet a great number of civilizations have perished in blood and thunder. Naturally, one must wish for the planet that one day it will experience a civilization that has abandoned blood and horror, in fact, I am . . . inclined to assume that our planet is waiting for this. But it is terribly doubtful whether we can bring such a present to its hundred—or four-hundred-millionth birthday party. And if we don’t, the planet will finally punish us, its unthoughtful well-wishers, by presenting us with the Last Judgment.”
    Walter Benjamin, letter from Paris, 1935

    And then humans made it worse. “Prohibitions against excessive interest, or more properly usury, have been found in almost all societies since antiquity. Charging interest on loans is the oldest financial practice. It has also been decried almost from the beginning as predatory, with the lender seeking to take advantage of the borrower. Whether loans were made in cash or in kind, unscrupulous lenders were said to be practicing a beggar- thy- neighbor policy by ensuring that the borrowers were disadvantaged to the point of losing their collateral or in extreme cases even losing their freedom or families. Charging simple interest was barely condoned, but charging compound interest was unscrupulous, immoral, and rapacious. It was also practiced with near impunity.” (Beggar Thy Neighbor, A History of Usury and Debt, Charles R. Geisst, p. 2)

    And still worse. “Some would say that capitalism is inherently corrupt, because those who can cheat successfully for long enough do very nicely and always have. Even many of those who espouse capitalism unreservedly would grudgingly admit to that. Every day there is a report of some economic crime. There are too many rogues whose names are known to us to imagine that corruption does not pay. There is a saying among Russian businessmen: never ask how he got his first million.

    Yet that is not what this book is about. It is about how the claims made on behalf of capitalism have been subverted in the construction of a system that is radically different from what its advocates claim. They assert a belief in ‘free markets’ and want us to believe that economic policies are extending them. That is untrue. Today we have the most unfree market system ever created. It is deeply corrupt because its leaders claim it is the opposite of what it is becoming. [I would say has become.]

    How can politicians look into TV cameras and say we have a free market system when patents guarantee monopoly incomes for twenty years, preventing anyone from competing? How can they claim there are free markets when copyright rules give a guaranteed income for seventy years after a person’s death? How can they claim free markets exist when one person or company is given a subsidy and not others, or when they sell off the commons that belong to all of us, at a discount, to a favoured individual or company, or when Uber, TaskRabbit and their ilk act as unregulated labour brokers, profiting from the labour of others?

    Far from trying to stop these negations of free markets, governments are creating rules that allow and encourage them.”

    Are we screwed? Probably. My own view is none of us should expect our species to survive another 100 years.

  4. Ken Zimmerman
    December 21, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Apology. Did not include the source in my last comment above. The Corruption of Capitalism, Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay, Guy Standing, 2016.

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