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Mark Zuckerberg, in today's Washington Post, writes about teaming up with several other Silicon Valley leaders to promote more 21st century thinking on immigration - fairly progressive stuff.

But what really caught my attention was one of his bullet points for public change, this one regarding who exactly pays for the research that corporations exploit for their shareholders' profit:

●Investment in breakthrough discoveries in scientific research and assurance that the benefits of the inventions belong to the public and not just to the few.
The most salient phrase "the benefits of the inventions belong to the public and not just to the few" speaks volumes to the billions and billions that have been paid from the US Treasury to fund basic research, both in our universities, through institutions funded by the NIH, the CDC, as well as non-pharma research, like for defense, or other engineering. Virtually all working scientists were trained at public universities, supported by public money.

And what do the corporations benefiting from this generosity do. They maximize their profits, often at the expense of the federal government. For instance, Big Pharma. They have probably the most lucrative agreements with Medicare and Medicaid and government funded Health Insurance companies, all in tandem with the most favorable tax breaks that corporations can arrange. And this is only Big Pharma.

Scientific research, IT research, medical device research, telecommunications research research, oil and gas exploration technologies, the list goes on and on - these have all benefited, and continue to benefit from public funding of research and education.

When a breakthrough is achieved, it is often not the very first new insight that makes the biggest splash. It is often somewhere later on, with some yet to be determined patent, even some slightly altered patent (technically, but not essentially altered from the original) that winds up making the windfall. Some variations of this can be found in most scientific work that finds its way into consumers' lives.

That the corporations have us cowed about their research costing them so very much while at the same time returning so little to the original coffers that fueled their success, this is shameful.

There are exceptions, certainly. But as soon as the typical modern corporate leadership takes charge of P&L, the more ethical standards of fair play get lost.

 -  Zuckerberg's opinion piece


Do you think corporations ought to pay the government for research that led to their success?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    "Gun violence places a tremendous burden on America's health care system. Direct medical costs for gunshot wounds total more than six million dollars a day." - The Violence Policy Center

    by Beastly Fool on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 10:48:21 AM PDT

  •  There are some mechanisms in place for this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, BlackSheep1

    For example, I managed a project where we used a technology that had been developed by the US Department of Energy. This technology was commercially licensed with royalties returning some [very small] amount of money back to the government. I'm no expert on intellectual property, but it seems to me that there's are ways to expand upon this sort of arrangement.

    Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

    by cassandracarolina on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 11:38:00 AM PDT

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