Tag Archives: monopoly

Getting back to blogging — just in time for football

Football Cake by Sweet Pea 0613 via flickr(cc)

Football Cake by Sweet Pea 0613 via flickr(cc)

After a couple of months’ diversions, I hope I am getting back to something like regular blogging, starting with a nice article — as far as it goes, at least– by Gregg Easterbrook about the subsidies and political favors governments provide for professional football. A lot of this, on stadium subsidies (not just for football), has been covered in the past by Heartland, most recently here (pdf). But Easterbrook covers some additional ground, noting the federal favors done for the football business. I hadn’t been aware that NFL has a special anti-trust exemption (I thought it was just one of the many many cases where feds choose not to enforce laws.) And I’d never made the connection between stadiums paid for by the public, and the “intellectual” “property” of football game images, which of course are government-created privilege.

Easterbrook does seem to be a football fan, which is a skill (affliction?) far beyond my capabilities.  My preferred remedy for “sports” subsidies has always been for the audience to go away and do something else.  But even tho I’m just as happy watching an amateur softball game, many people evidently get pleasure from seeing the professionals in action.  Easterbrook suggests that it’s necessary that “public attitudes change.”  Great idea, but as long as the public feel compelled to watch these games, it’s difficult to imagine any politician willing to risk the wrath of those who control them.

Ideas come from the community

In his 2003 book Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity, Siva Vaidhyanathan notes that creative works always build on previous (often traditional and/or public domain) creative works, and that creativity will become nearly impossible if writers (or those who “own” their output) are permitted to exercise absolute monopolies over use of their products.  Potential remedies include shorter and looser copyright terms, placing works into the public domain, licensing them as open source, or using another of the Creative Commons licenses.

Michele Baldrin and David K. Levine, in Against Intellectual Monopoly, provide numerous historical examples of patents retarding, rather than promoting innovation, and note the finding (p. 92, regarding the software industry) that patents were not an encouragement to research and development, but rather a substitute for them.

Now, in  Where Ideas Come From (in Wired Oct ’10) Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson sort of combine these two ideas by asserting that innovations are not the products of individuals, but of communities.

It’s amazing that the myth of the lone genius has persisted for so long, since simultaneous invention has always been the norm, not the exception … [T]here’s a related myth, that innovation comes primarily from the profit motive… If you look at history, it comes from creating environments where [people’s] ideas can connect.”

And they tie this into another kind of property rights:

One reason we have this great explosion of innovation in wireless right now is that the U S deregulated [allowed unlicensed use of parts of the] spectrum.  Before that, spectrum was something too precious to be wasted…But when you deregulate– and say, OK, now waste it– you get Wi-Fi.

All in all, a very Georgist article, the authors of which have also written what I hope are very Georgist books (both coming out next month):

Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From

Kevin Kelly What Technology Wants

Cab medallion prices continue to rise

Fifteen months ago, I noted that Chicago taxi medallions were selling for about $77,000.  Now, per the May ’08 issue of Chicago Dispatcher,  the median price increased in April (based on data thru April 22) to $125,000.  That’s a 62% increase in 14 months– with no increase in fares (altho a gas surcharge which was allowed subsequently doubtless was anticipated).

Of course the medallion owners, as such, contribute nothing to the provision of transportation, but they do impose a cost on passengers and/or drivers.  Limiting the number of cabs doesn’t increase the earnings of drivers.