from the outdated-understanding-of-economics dept
The person who was going to do this week’s Techdirt “favorites of the week” post was unable to complete it in time, so instead, with the latest TPP negotiations starting up, I figured I’d post some thoughts on the USTR’s view of the world.
Over the last few weeks, since the draft of the TPP IP chapter leaked, I’ve been puzzling over just why the USTR appears to be actively working against the interests of the American people, jobs, innovation and the economy with the proposal. Frankly, the USTR’s extreme position makes no sense at all. Yes, the USTR is heavily influenced by patent and copyright maximalists that it placed on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) it relies on for input on its negotiating position. Yes, there’s a tremendous revolving door between maximalist lobbyists and the USTR. Yes, the main guy negotiating this part of the agreement is a long term maximalist extremist who can’t even comprehend the idea that locking up information and knowledge might be a bad thing.
But it’s felt like there’s something more. The USTR has been so incredibly obnoxiously dismissive of the idea that these are bad ideas. I’m beginning to think that, while all of the above are a part of it, a much bigger issue is that they simply come at the issue from a historical, debunked and no longer relevant understanding of how economics and economic growth works. That is, the USTR seems to think in the most narrowest of ways that “what’s good for big US companies is good for the US economy” — a view that was popular in the 1950s but has never made much sense. It’s the crony capitalism view of the economy that nearly anyone with any experience in economics knows is bunk. They’re taking a zero sum view of the world when the world is anything but zero sum, especially when it comes to information and knowledge. It also completely ignores the nature of disruptive innovation and the importance of allowing new innovations to flourish, and companies who can’t keep up to die out. Instead, the USTR seems to think that protecting the companies who aren’t innovating is its job. That’s dangerous and harmful.
The USTR simply doesn’t care at all about what the various public interest groups are telling the USTR about the insanity of these proposals because it thinks that those groups are anti-corporation and anti-growth. But that’s outdated and, frankly, wrong thinking. While it may be true of some of the groups, many who actually understand these issues recognize that in the world we live in today, the path to economic growth and innovation is to increase knowledge and information sharing and to work together with consumers to benefit both. But the USTR views the world as “corporations vs. the public.” And it’s firmly on the side of “the corporations.” But that’s not the way the world works. It’s a very last-century view of the world (and wasn’t even accurate then).
Today, companies succeed by treating the public right, aligning interests and building products and services that make people better off, not to fuck them over. That is: if you want innovation to flow and the economy to grow, the USTR should be focusing on an agreement that serves the best needs of the public, by lowering the barriers to innovation and information sharing. Instead, it’s doing the exact opposite — raising trade barriers to help a few industries that don’t want to adapt and embrace the way the world works in this information era.
The next great innovative companies come out of a world where giving the public exactly what it wants is key, and part of that is an openness and transparency that brings those consumers into the process. But the USTR is supporting the 1950s vision of giant monolithic companies deciding what the public wants, and fighting any attempt to actually work with the public.
The end result is that the USTR is basically setting a trade agreement with a 1950s manufacturing agenda in a twenty-first century information age world. The end result is going to be a complete and utter disaster for the US economy, innovation, jobs and the American public — not to mention free expression and access to medicines. We’ve seen the government do braindead things in the past, but the way the USTR has handled the TPP negotiations appears to be one of the most clueless efforts by US government officials ever. Their entire approach is wrong and dangerous — and they don’t even seem to have the slightest clue of what they’re about to do to the economy and innovation. What’s good for a few giant companies isn’t what’s best for the American public, jobs or the American economy. And it’s downright frightening that the people negotiating an agreement that is going to have a huge impact on all of those things don’t seem to understand the basics beyond an outdated view from 70 years ago…