GMO giant hires retired cops to hunt down farmers

The glories of the intellectual property imperium! (from Occupy Monsanto)

GMO giants DuPont have contracted dozens of retired law enforcement officers to begin patrolling farms in the US next year to spot any potential intellectual property theft.

DuPont Co, the second-largest seed country in the world, is hoping to find farmers that have purchased contracts to use their genetically modified soybean seeds but have breached the terms of agreement by illegally using the product for repeat harvests. Should farmers replant GMO seeds licensed by DuPont, they could be sued for invalidating their contracts. (

This reminded me of my teacher Sam Bowles talking about guard labor (I Google and am glad to find that he still talks about it). Excessive supervision that pays for itself by keeping down wages, prison guards, etc: a great deal of labor is devoted to just watching people who, in a better structure of motivation, would not need to be watched at all.

(To say nothing of the fact the the part of guard labor that consists of prison guards is devoted to keeping prisoners out of the labor market, so that’s everybody’s effort wasted: on this see Bruce Western and Katherine Beckett, and John Quiggin. But I digress.)

Further Googling tells me that Bill Totten, who has a company that distributes open source software in Japan, has made just the same association between IP protection and guard labor.


Skills and the response to crisis

My paper with Andrea Filippetti is now available from Birkbeck’s Centre for Innovation Management Research. Bottom line: European countries with a combination of good short-term unemployment insurance and vocational training participation were less likely to see reductions in private sector investment in innovation in the first year of the financial crisis: having just one of these was no help, and job security, the bête noire of neo-liberalism, made no difference. Another way of putting it is that, in this particular case (investment in innovation, during the financial crisis), it is the security part of the flexicurity model that provides the benefit. This is consistent with the logic of Estevez-Abe, Iversen & Soskice’s chapter in Hall & Soskice’s Varieties of Capitalism.

Economic liberalization depends on strong states

Julia Cagé and Lucie Gadenne find that

tariff cuts lead to lower tax revenues as a share of GDP. The drop is highest in poor countries that don’t have the capacity to compensate for lost tariff revenues with domestic taxes.

This is an important point in itself, and illustrates a more general principle that many of the benefits of economic liberalization depend on strong states. Continue reading

Open access publishing and not-for-profit publishing

Is the UK government’s new requirement of (slightly delayed) free access to publications based on government-funded research a blow to the extortionate power of commercial academic publishers, or will it just entrench them further? Continue reading

Bureaucracy and financial crisis in universities

Richard Evans, writing about the University of California system:

In the decade beginning in 1997, while faculty increased by 24 percent and student enrollment increased 39 percent, senior management grew by 118 percent.

He suggests that this might have contributed more than a little to with the financial crisis in those universities, which has been seen in temporary salary cuts (which earn the nice euphamism “employee furloughs”) and higher student fees. He provides the gruesome graphic seen below. (Note: all from a website run by that Council of UC Faculty Associations – so no dog in the fight, right?)

The cutting edge of red tape

University of California: the cutting edge of red tape

Where I work we do worry a bit about future finances. To preview that future I naturally look to California, where I grew up, since we always liked to think of ourselves as leading the way in everything from psychedelics to electronics. And certainly it has been leading the way of late in the field of problematic public finances, so perhaps this is the shape of things to come.

(A prediction I can make with more confidence is that somebody will write to say that this is not the shape of things to come, but what we have now. About that, I really can’t say.)