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July 15, 2015

TPP Critic Quigley Writes Article for Foreign Policy; Coordinates with Anti-IP Activists

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On Monday, a writer named Fran Quigley had a piece published on the Foreign Affairs website that was highly critical of some of the provisions in drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

We’ll get around to dealing with the arguments in Quigley’s FP article in a separate blog post.

Quigley’s title of “Clinical Professor of Law in the Health and Human Rights Clinic” at Indiana University tells us much of what we need to know. If you merge health and human rights, you have already decided that access to every bit of the latest health care technology available is a human right, and if it’s a human right, it’s your right to have it for free, or for something very close to free.

That makes Quigley an activist more than an analyst of the provisions of the TPP. A look at his cv demonstrates that Fran is a social justice crusader, a proponent of the labor movement, and a neighborhood organizer type.

Now, you might think I’m being a bit too judgmental about Quigley. After all, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and perspectives. I certainly have opinions and biases that I bring to my policy writing, so what’s wrong with Quigley having an opinion?

Nothing at all. But it’s important for people’s biases to be demonstrated, so that their arguments can be evaluated in light not only of the facts, but also of their own biases. And Quigley is definitely biased. Specifically, Quigley is an anti-intellectual property radical.

In this recent article, for example, Quigley worked from the assumption that there is “a fundamental conflict between the human right to health and the regime of intellectual property, in particular the process of granting patents to medicines.” An entire section of his paper repeats the same old pablum about how patents make medicines expensive and thus unavailable to the poor in developing countries. I’m not going to use this blog entry to refute those old and tired arguments—suffice it to say that, without the incentives that accompany patent protection, the medicines would never exist in the first place. Patents incentivize innovation. We can discuss how to distribute the benefits of innovation, and we should, but that’s an entirely different conversation than the one about getting new medicines invented in the first place. Patents make new medicines possible in the first place.

Now some have attempted to grapple with this, asking whether there is a way to sufficiently incentivize medical innovation apart from the patent regime. There isn’t, of course, because the only other option is central government planning, which has repeatedly been shown to be a failure and utterly unable to outperform property rights and free-market capitalism.

That didn’t stop activists like Jamie Love and his Knowledge Ecology International from proposing exactly such a communistic, central control solution to the problem of medical innovation. You can read more about it hear if you like.

Mentioning Jamie Love allows us to circle back to Fran Quigley, who this morning proudly posted his Foreign Affairs article to Jamie Love’s email listserv, with the following line: “Hope this piece in Foreign Affairs helps the cause. Special thanks to several members of this list who gave interviews and connections for this article.”

So Fran Quigley is part of Jamie Love’s anti-IP cabal, and I think it’s important for readers of his FP article to know that.

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