Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Birds of a feather

...spread the flu with ever increasing rapidity.
With all the hubbub over the Avian Flu pandemic that is just around the corner, coming to a town near you, it's easy to get caught up in the craze of blaming someone, be it the government or the pharmaceutical companies, for not being ready to deal with this pandemic. But the reasons that we are slow to react might not be what you think.
I linked yesterday to a TCS Daily article by Dr. Henry I. Miller calling for a Manhattan Project for the bird flu, saying that government regulation and lack of financial profitability are hindering scientific progress that could help stop an Avian flu pandemic. There is another piece today at TCS that looks at a similar quelling effect on advances in biotechnology, caused by disregard and disrespect for intellectual property rights.
So instead of insisting that the government get busy and spend spend spend on research for cures and vaccines, it should actually be getting out of the way.
With so much potential in biotech it's no wonder that White is frustrated by the growing trend to violate intellectual property rights. His complaint is similar to Dr. Miller's; when financial incentive is stripped from an enterprise, investment lags, and progress is slowed.
Its not that there shouldn't be limits and agencies that watch for careless research and harmful products. But the weight of the bureaucracy required to get stuff approved is prohibitive. Remember, innovation in the Soviet Union was, for the most part, driven by political forces. Otherwise it would have ground to a halt, and pretty much did anyway in everything except space and Olympic sports.

Hat tip to the Kat's Meow for the links.

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