Sunday, January 10, 2016

Intellectual Property Issues: A Single Example

Regular readers know that I prefer posts with more than a single example. However, my strength is quite limited in recent days by a chronic pain issue which I hope to take care of sometime this week, after six months of self management that are no longer working. While I've needed to manage headaches the last fifteen years with over the counter medication, it became a daily process as of last July. Hence I hope to find someone who will remove the two teeth which are responsible for making these headaches (and now neck aches) a daily concern. As of recently, all I want to do is sleep.

Herein lies the problem, in terms of intellectual property. Tooth pulling in the U.S. - important though it might still be - is not a task that just any self respecting dentist wishes to perform anymore. But other individuals are not able to perform this service in their stead (as far as I know) on economic terms. Tooth pulling could be considered an "ordinary" aspect of intellectual property wealth captured by default I suppose - missing marketplace and all. Perhaps there are supply side options in some U.S. cities, but the need to find means for travel is additional stress which someone who has already been in pain, does not need - especially for such a basic services issue.

So I have a question: if professionals are understandably less eager to perform mundane - but necessary - chores as part of their repertoire, why not give the marketplace back to others to do so? (I know, this is a general equilibrium suggestion re further labor division, not time arbitrage) Apparently teeth pulling is a negative signal regarding one's professional status, and indeed the task may no longer provide sufficient revenue to pay the office bills, in areas where dentists seek to gain the most return for their extensive investments.

Of course, value for time based services is also in the eyes of the beholder. Reliable teeth pulling is right up there with "the best" value in use services - should anyone find themselves resorting to slurping down broth and cream of wheat, because it hurts too much to chew real food. And life can feel even more dicey all around, should others need to rely on anyone who ends up in these circumstance.

Plenty of trips to the ER, are also the result of a general lack of access to dentists. Granted, I could apply for government assistance for some reconstructive dental work. However, I've had to seek out time based services on these terms several times over the years, and have long since grown weary of the process. In fact...If I never have to ask for government help again I will be perfectly happy. Hah, perhaps that should be a tombstone inscription for those who are "dead" serious! All joking aside, I've already been reminded that it was dangerous to wait, as long as I did. With a little luck, I'll find a dentist this week who will do the job, so I can get my strength back.

What brought this subject to mind, was a paper about the fact intellectual property has increasingly substituted for labor. While one thinks of intellectual property rights as important for cutting edge material, author protection, and also experiential goods, these protections also exist for the mundane aspects of time based services (i.e. life) which everyone needs but providers can't charge the fees which pay for general equilibrium. Since the paper is in the form of a file, I provided a link to Arnold Kling's (referencing) post, so that readers can download the paper as they wish.

Even though the political left and right may actually agree about intellectual property problems, their ideas for coping with this reality could scarcely be further apart, at present. I hope to spend some time with the above referenced paper, and share some further thoughts about it soon.

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