About patent on wealth

50 YEARS AGO / Western industry holds the patents in absolutely the entire world.


By Arne Skouen

You and I read about the poor countries, about the need to share with each other, about unhelpfulness and about the World Bank. Because we are not financial experts, we think about money, about the transfer of funds to start work, and we read about all the projects. At the same time, we are gripped by desperation when we hear that the gap between rich and poor is only getting wider.

Robert McNamara: «Nothing we can do will close that gap!»

Robert McNamara should be well informed about this, he is head of the World Bank. Recently, he told Newsweek that the gap is bound to get ever deeper, because the rich nations' industrial potential and technical know-how are so overwhelming that no power in the world can remedy poverty in step with the growth of wealth among the rich. Today, it is divided by 3700 dollars per head among us wealthy, while it is only 290 dollars among the poor. In the year 2000, we will have increased our share to 12, while the poor will have the height of 000. In his home country's language, the head of the World Bank says: "Nothing we can do will close that gap!"

Looking for encouragement, I then turn to Peter Neersø who works at the Danish Institute for Development Research. He writes a column in Politiken about the current state of affairs in Latin America and draws a vicious circle: Western industry holds the patents in absolutely the entire world. And patents breed new patents, because we know so much that we breed even more knowledge. And we increase our knowledge because we have money to do research with, and the more we earn, the more research and the more patents, a word that covers a concept – something we all too often forget in the whole problem of poverty. Our vicious circle is that we guard our knowledge stingily and do not want to share it with anyone.



What does the Latin American circle look like?

Yes, we rent out patents, the so-called licences. We get paid well for them. The patents require such advanced technology that we do not create new jobs, while at the same time taking the brunt of the home industry. We then require the licensee to buy semi-finished products from us, at prices we decide ourselves, and eventually we raise the prices so high that the license factory goes bankrupt, after which we take it over, which was the intention from the very beginning.

In the same Newsweek I find a carefully worded article, written by Mochtar Lubis who is the editor of Indonesia Raja. He walks diplomatically quietly in the doors, but rebellion seethes between the lines as he whispers his wishes to the American readership: please let the developing country have full control over the technology introduced by outside investors so that it does not continue to crush the local economy through piracy for quick profit, computerized and automatically through a handful of experts.

He pointed out that they must understand that they are not helping them, but impoverishing them more effectively than any old-fashioned colonizer: because you are using the knowledge of the West without sharing it with us. He says modestly: this of course requires a new business philosophy from you rich men. You must think about us who live here, and whether we get any pleasure from what you do.

We carefully guard our knowledge and will not share it with anyone.

A new return philosophy from the rich men is his wish. But the rich men are private people, and what they know is private property, and the patents – back to the patents! – is in private hands. An industrialist who owns a patent that crushes the competition does not give up at the door, on the contrary, he ensures careful guarding, and he provides an extensive espionage network, known as industrial espionage.

The World Bank is the result of knowledge and patents. We only have a World Bank with money in it, we don't have a World Bank that hands out patents. Therefore, we will get richer and richer, and the others poorer and poorer. Therefore, there is no more important task for socialists the world over than to rally their forces against the patent monopoly, which is capitalism's most powerful bastion, its super-modern basis, and hitherto impregnable.

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