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Here's a quick but interesting little piece from the recent New Yorker.
Here's an extended quote to pique your interest:
Innovators came up with new ways of selling products, handling suppliers, running organizations, or managing information. If the ideas were good, the innovators got rich, but they also got imitated, which made them less rich than they might have been. It was great for everyone else, though. The competition lowered prices and increased quality; the new ideas spread and were improved upon. The mail-order catalogue, the moving assembly line, the decentralized corporation, the frequent-flier mile, the category-killer store—none of these radical ideas were patented.
Those were the days. Now the first thing someone with a good notion does is press the government to protect it. Priceline patented its reverse-auction method for selling cut-rate airline tickets. I.B.M. patented a method for keeping track of people waiting in line for the bathroom.
The article has a tone and slant that many of us will appreciate. It places emphasis on the fact that the ownership of information and ideas isn't beneficial to the majority. It doesn't, however, go so far as to mention how our current economic system is quite distant to laissez faire Capitalism (and more like Corporate Socialism) becasue of copyright, IP, and other issues. /my opinion