"Kicking away the ladder" – Capitalism, development, & trade poicy

Friedrich List

Reading a great book right now called Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective by economist Ha-Joon Chang.

He apparently falls under the category of a “heterodox economist”, for simply founding his economic study on historical patterns, rather than hypothetical theories of market behaviors as mainstream Neoclassical economists apparently do. (Yes, been spending some time on Wikipedia).

Anywho, this Friedrich List fellow was one of the first major critics of Adam Smith, predating Karl Marx. He was convinced that Smith’s theory of capitalism wasn’t actually grounded in evidence or proof. More notably, he talks about trade agreements and how developed countries “kick away the ladder” for developing countries so that their economies aren’t able to enact the same beneficial policies that helped these already developed countries (Britain, U.S.) to mature. Protectionist laws that allow domestic businesses to incubate and thrive domestically are never allowed under (I think any) trade agreements.

So when they say “free trade” is good for every country…? Turns out that’s bull shit, and one reason is this: Businesses/enterprises in developing countries need some shelter away from strong multi-national corporations that are wayyy stronger and powerful than the vulnerable budding economies in these other nations. Britain and the U.S. did exactly this to protect themselves from other Europeans, and look how they ended up turning out. Now they’re denying developing countries the right to use the same methods that allowed them to prosper. It’s not a coincidence at all: This is the nature of Capitalism, baby. Individuals compete with other individuals over wage, companies compete over profit, and countries duke it out for market share.

Anyways, still in the middle of reading this book…Sort of in preparation for the next TPP negotiations that are happening in San Diego next week. It was recommended to me by my new partner in crime, Carolina Rossini, who is EFF’s new International IP Director. I need to understand trade agreements better if I’m gonna fight this. What’s that saying again? “To defeat your enemy, you might understand your enemy”? I know why these trade agreements are never good for the underdogs, but I need to know how and why they’re so awful. Hopefully this book will help me.

IP is my fight.

I got a sudden urge to rant:

It’s pure madness that government reps can get away with establishing global intellectual property standards of law based upon imaginary concepts of economic and social well-being.

They say:

Copyright infringement robs artists.

Patenting medicines so that scientists and companies can get a return beyond what they invested into the research helps innovation.

School teachers, disabled persons, artists, and researchers can be prevented access to content and technology because the threat of copyright infringement is important above all else.


They shove poisonous IP rules down our throats while they continue to lie and tell us it’s good for us. Intellectual property policies have become one manifestation of the gross power imbalance in society. My government is enacting unwarranted, burdensome policies based on manipulated data to protect entrenched businesses and interests.

It infuriates me that the powers that be continue to mindlessly protect “intellectual property”.
It’s a legacy of centralized, concentrated powers upholding the interests of a powerful minority over the benefit of everyone. Like the tyrants, the monarchs, and the hegemonic religious institutions throughout history: they benefit from people being ignorant and afraid.

When laws are created to superficially remedy insecurity, instead of responding to the underlying cause of societal imbalance, we cause more imbalance. State policies need to ground its function upon thorough analysis of the facts. When fear is involved, logic gets thrown out the window.

It’s about controlling knowledge, innovation, and creativity because new technological situations cause uncertainty for those who play the game and have learned how to win by those outdated rules. The intellectual property policies the U.S. government forces upon the rest of the world denies the rich innovative world of the 21st Century. These policies are meant to restrict ideas, not to free them. They’re meant to deny developing countries the chance to be their own hubs of innovation.

These laws are based on Capitalist ideas of value. When we are taught that the underlying sign of worth is based upon the accumulation of wealth and property, nothing else matters. These policies reinforce these savage values at the expense of creativity and free speech.

Lastly, policymakers’ justifications for these laws are downright insulting because they undermine something at the heart of what makes creativity beautiful: Artists and scientists–at least the passionate, curious, dedicated ones–don’t create, don’t ask questions, don’t spend their lives at their craft because they want to make a profit. They do it because they NEED to create to feel fulfilled, productive, and happy. It’s true that they need to be able to sustain themselves by the work that they do. However, policies that pervert the entire creative, scientific process through regulation is by far the worst way to address this issue.

So you know what? Even if ACTA passes, even if TPP’s IP chapter passes, these are not my laws. They do not represent my interests, nor the interests of all the dear artists, scientists, and creators that are beloved to me. They may be forced upon me, but if I desire to live in a society governed by democratic rule, whereby the rules of society are decided by democratic processes, I cannot consider ACTA or TPP to hold any legitimate authority.

Mmk. I’m done.

I dare you

I dare you…

to keep doing what you’re doing.

to keep thinking that things will change on their own.

to keep being okay with the lack of options, the lack of direction, and the lack of purpose in your life.

to keep thinking that you’re alone in this.

to keep thinking that you’ll find happiness by making yourself perfect.

to keep believing: if only. If only I had that job, that education, that house, that idea, that body…everything would be fine.

to keep blaming others for what’s wrong.

to keep being complacent.