“What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]
Bitcoin has been pretty quiet lately. But that doesn’t mean big things aren’t taking place behind-the-scenes for the digital currency. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell pulls back the curtain and shows you how Bitcoin is quietly slipping into the mainstream. He also shows you why now could be the time to buy now, or forever hold your peace. Read on…
In an odd mix of fate, protesters and corporations are holding hands. They both have one common goal: save the Internet from the evil cable companies. We all have a common hate for them. But what if the cable companies aren’t as evil as once thought? What if there’s an even bigger evil lurking behind them? There is. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…
Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.
When’s the best time to invest in something? When everyone else is trying to get their money out of it. It might go against conventional thinking, but following the crowd usually makes you miss the real opportunities. At one monetary metal conference recently, the smartest guys in the industry sat down to discuss where these real hidden gems lay.
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
Remember that correction we’ve been quietly talking about over the past couple of months?Well, it might be right around the corner. Stocks waited until the last day of the month to nose-dive. The S&P 500 posted its first 2% down day since April — and the Dow wasn’t far behind. Early this morning, futures continue […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
What if I told you that the march of human progress could be traced in a direct line from the Epicureans of Ancient Greece… through the 18th Century’s cure for smallpox… to where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found inspiration as scrappy teenagers… to the flying car of tomorrow?Stay with me and I’ll show you […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
Google’s new Motorola unit had great ambitions to serve customers and keep dazzling us with ever more spectacular things that enhance our lives. After all, the smartphone is easily the greatest consumer innovation of our time, and maybe of all time. It accomplishes amazing feats in a tiny package and represents a greater achievement of the human mind than anything accomplished by government, ever.
The smartphone is really misnamed in so many ways. Depending on apps and extensions, it provides maps and global positioning, checks your blood pressure, becomes a musical instrument, allows you to buy and sell stocks from the middle of nowhere, to enjoy video chats with people from all over the world, to assemble friends and networks, and to keep up with and send messages to anyone.
It allows me to make my own movie on the fly and broadcast it out to billions in a matter of minutes. I can record a song. I can immediately make anything happening in front of me become a live stream to the whole world, and do this without paying any expensive fees. I can conduct an interview and archive it on my own channel, which I can create in a few seconds. Or of course, I can play one of thousands of games.
It’s a calculator, an email checker, a weather updater, a camera, a Web browser, a news reader, a complete stereo system, a book reader, a translator, a scanner, and a miniature everything all in a thing the size of a deck of cards that is half as thick. The innovations pour into this tiny miracle by the day, by the hour ,even. And it’s only begun: The app economy holds out the promise of astonishing innovation down the road.
I recall many times suggesting to people that they replace their old cell phone (which itself is a great gizmo, given that only the richest of the rich could afford such a thing in the 1980s) with a smartphone. They demure and refuse and finally give in, and only then do they realize what they’ve been missing. It’s a revelation, a childhood dream come true.
So what does Google plan to do with its new Motorola acquisition? Serve up some more wonderfulness to a public ready to be amazed again? Not yet. It’s first step was to file a massive lawsuit against iPhone. And why? You guessed it: patent infringement. Google claims that Apple has stolen some of Motorola’s technology.
Apple has systematically refused to enter into any reasonable licensing deals, which is exactly the same behavior that Samsung faced before. And Google is not stupid. The whole world was watching that lawsuit that Apple filed against Samsung, and saw how a tired, confused, and technologically dumbfounded jury, in a courtroom 10 miles from Apple’s headquarters, agreed to a $1 billion-plus judgement against Samsung.
Google won’t just take this lying down. It decided to act first rather than risk that kind of aggressive attack. It is asking the International Trade Commission to start blocking all imports of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. Crazy, right? Does Google hate our guts that it would seek such a result? After all these years of desperately serving the Web-surfing world, giving us amazing tools for free and revolutionizing the world of advertising, has it now decided to spread misery to the American public?
Nope, it’s all about defending itself against aggressive attack. What the jury did in the case of Apple v. Samsung has set off a deadly arms race. An industry that became thrilling and gigantic, and has brought unprecedented progress, is now entering into a dangerous period in which dogs really do eat dogs, where one company’s win is another’s loss, and where the welfare of the consumer has to be put on hold for the battle of the titans.
The problem comes down to one word: patent. In the 1980s, patents were extended to cover software. This was the beginning of what would become a catastrophic regulatory thicket that would ensnare every producer and where the lawyers would make out like bandits no matter who won.
When patents first came along in history, they were monopoly privilege granted by the crown in exchange for political subservience. This was the age of mercantilism, and it gradually led to the age of capitalism, in which trade barriers, taxes, and regulations fell. The slogan was laissez faire, or, leave commerce alone to manage itself. Government can’t improve on the results of the market process.
The patent today is a holdover from the pre-capitalistic age. It was not very controversial before the digital age, because economic progress was relatively slow and patents expire and because the patents didn’t apply to most of the important consumer products we use every day. But the problem with them has always been the same: By granting a right of exclusive production to one firm, patents attack the competitive process as its very root.
The competitive process takes place over several phases, which constantly overlap. There is innovation (always an extension of what came before). Then with innovation can come a period of profitability. This profitability attracts other producers to the industry who innovate further and try to improve the good or service. The initial producer then has to scramble to maintain market share, and it does so through innovation and price cuts.
Note that the whole system is based on the ability to learn from others. Good companies emulate the successes of others, avoid their mistakes, and improve what exists at the margin. That’s the essence of economic progress. This is how competition results in the biggest conceivable boon for consumers.
As Steve Jobs said in 1994, “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” So it has been for every great painter, poet, and entrepreneur. They build on what came before. I take issue only with the use of his word “steal.” When you copy an idea, there is not a thief and a victim, but two ideas. This idea-copying process extends to infinity.
Who in the business world likes the idea of competition? The startups like it. The innovators like it. Young companies seeking to change the world like it. Competition gives them an opportunity to make a difference and build wonderful things. But older companies do not like it. Once they get on top, they would much rather rest on their laurels.
In a market, they cannot rest. But with patents, they can sue. They can use the tools of government to clobber their competition. If it works, they can receive what amounts to a bailout. To win a patent suit against the competition is no different from getting a tariff erected against imports, having your insurance company get a huge cash infusion from the Department of the Treasury, or for a labor union to block low-price workers from entering the market.
The real story of Apple’s attack on Sumsung is told in the numbers. Apple has been dramatically losing market share to the competition. That’s no surprise: The first to market experiences a period of profitability above the average rate of return. But then others emulate and improve at the margin. Prices fall, service improves, and great things happen for everyone except the former industry leader.
Patents are an occasion of sin. They tempt business to go to government to smash their competition, instead of turning to more-innovative strategies to attract consumers. This is why industries without patents are so vibrant. Patents don’t apply to fashion, recipes of all your favorite meals, to plays in sports, and to most things we use and love.
I can hold up my Wal-Mart navy blazer and one from Burberrys and, from a distance of three feet, you couldn’t tell much difference. But both manage to exist side by side in peace, and everyone wins. But the jury in the Apple v. Sumsung case looked at the two phones and said: oh this are really too similar, so one has to go!
Patents established government-protected monopolies. Ironically, other divisions of government claim to intervene in markets to bust up monopolies and divide up market share. Either way, the government is doing central planning by picking winners and losers in the marketplace rather than let the competitive process play itself out.
What happened to Apple really amounts to a government-sponsored bailout, no different from that won by AGI in 2008. But do we recognize it as such? Probably not, because the whole racket is couched in the language of a law that few people understand or question.