Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 5/5/21: Toyota, Patents, And The Cheating Homecoming Queen

Frozen-Jack-Nicholson

I don’t want to over-use the “This Date In Ethics” concept, but attention must be paid: this was the day, in 1961,that Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. boarded the Freedom 7 space capsule to becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space.

In these times where so many aspects of our culture are working to imbue Americans with fear of living, when people wear masks in their cars and teachers are willing to cripple both the economy and children’s education to minimize their risk of catching a virus, it should be remembered that a young, healthy man risked his life and the chance of a fiery death to advance America’s science and the spirit of exploration.

1. For some reason (Cognitive dissonance?) I haven’t been checking Althouse as often since she decided that her readers were hogging too much attention on her blog by insisting on posting comments. She still has an admirable talent for cutting through the BS. Reacting to today’s announcement that Facebook’s “quasi-indepedent” board upheld FaceBook’s partisan and anti-democratic ban on Donald Trump’s posts. Ann writes, “I’m not surprised. If the decision had gone the other way, Facebook could have found some new offense and banned him again.”

Not could have, though; would have.

2. How is this fair or equitable? Once again, Toyota is giving a special discount to “recent college graduates.” This is, of course, ham-handed pro-college virtue-signaling, but wouldn’t you guess that non-college grads of the same age need such discounts more? In the TV ad, we see a nice, upper-middle class white girl from childhood to college—it sure looks like her parents can afford a car…or she can afford a full-price cheaper car. Interestingly, this is one of the relatively few TV ads running now that dares to feature a white character who doesn’t at least mitigate her ingrained evil by being part of a mixed-race family.

Special deals on products and services for special categories of Americans—yes, even veterans—are divisive and incoherent.

3. A basic comprehension of capitalism should be a prerequisite for the Presidency. The Biden administration today announced its support for a proposal to waive intellectual property protections for pandemic vaccines. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the United States will now move forward with international discussions to waive the protections for the duration of the pandemic. Immediately, pharmaceutical stocks dived on Wall Street.

The incompetence, betrayal and irresponsibility this represents is hard to overstate. The US drug industry produced a vaccine—if fact, several—far faster than most pandemic doomsayers predicted or thought possible. President Trump, in contrast, did predict the rapid development schedule, and was mocked for it. Say what you will about Trump, he does understand capitalism. Corporations are motivated by the prospect of profits, and this opportunity was huge. A large component of the motivation was, of course, foreign profits. Biden’s betrayal of our life- and economy-saving drug companies is to accept their achievement, and then take away their reward for it. If the patent waiver happens, the next pandemic may not see quite the urgency from Big Pharma.

I may be missing some arcane law in this area, but if not, I don’t see how our government can “waive” a private property right, which is what a patent is. I would expect such a waiver to be challenged in the courts, and I would expect, and hope, that the challenge would be successful.

My guess is that Biden and the gang is just posturing, as usual, while counting on biased news media cheer-leading and a majority of an under-educated public that hates drug companies and wouldn’t know a patent from a parrot. This way, he plays to the “US should feed the world” progressive sector, plus he shows that, unlike Trump, he’s the opposite of “America First,” he sticks it to those baaaad drug companies (who just happened to come through when we most needed them), and if SCOTUS blocks him, he can use that to demonize the conservative justices.

4. A high schooler fixed her homecoming queen election, but why would anyone think a Presidential election would be fixed? In Cantonment, Florida, prosecutors have accused Emily Grover and her mother, an assistant principal in the same school district, with casting hundreds of illicit votes to gain Emily the homecoming queen crown. Grover was expelled from her high school, her mother, Laura Carroll, is suspended from her job (presumably as a prelude to being fired), and both mother and daughter are charged with offenses against computer users, criminal use of personally identifiable information, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and conspiracy to commit those offenses.

What kind of values and priorities would lead two women to think a lousy homecoming queen title was worth cheating for, never mind risking the consequences of being caught? Who are these people? How did they get this way?

16 thoughts on “Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 5/5/21: Toyota, Patents, And The Cheating Homecoming Queen

  1. 4. It’s tragic that reporters would spend this much time following leads in a story about homecoming votes, yet couldn’t be bothered to look into anything regarding Presidential votes. What a cesspool the overall press pool has become…

  2. I have a few thoughts on #2:

    First, it seems to me that this isn’t so much “ham-handed pro-college virtue-signaling” as it is standard marketing. I would be shocked if college graduates weren’t likely to buy many more cars over their lifetime than non-college grads. I also remember reading that people are more likely to buy a new car that’s the same brand as their previous car than another brand. I’d assume this is just a way for Toyota to try to lock in lifelong customers.

    Regarding the larger point, “Special deals on products and services for special categories of Americans—yes, even veterans—are divisive and incoherent”, what are your thoughts on credit unions, which are essentially banks with generally better rates that only service members of whatever special class makes up their membership?

    Or what if I, as an individual, decided to bake cookies for first responders? Would that be a special deal that was divisive and incoherent? Would it be different if I owned a cookie store, and used my equipment and ingredients from the business for the first responder cookies? I’m just curious how far back up the slippery slope you’d take this.

    • Credit unions are set up by groups for groups. If a bank had different loan rates for preferred groups, it would be unethical. An individual can do what he or she wants with cookies or anything else, and has no obligation to distribute boons equally. But I have to pay extra to pay for a cookie store giving discounts to others. Not fair. The slippery slope runs in one direction, the bad one.

      • Addendum: I’m sure you’re right on Toyota’s marketing theory, and it’s disgusting. By the same logic, supermarkets should give discounted steaks to rich people. That would “work” too…but they wouldn’t have the “College GOOD” narrative as cover.

  3. 3. The sanctity of the COVID vaccine patent rights would be more secure, and a right to all the profits from sale of the vaccine would be more obvious, if the drug companies were to return all of the federal funding they received for development of the vaccine. Had they shouldered all of the risk of development, their right to the benefits would be obvious.

    • They still have an obvious right. The Feds are bound by contract, among other things.If federal grants have no strings attached when they are accepted, then the Feds can’t add strings later.

      • Since my reading skills are limited to plain English, I’ll pause my thinking on this until some legal minds jump in with an explanation of how the Bayh Dole Act might apply to all of this and whether there were strings attached as soon as the federal money was accepted. I’m familiar with military marchin’, but ‘march-in’ rights are a bit of a mystery to me.

      • The ethical issue, of course, is whether ’tis nobler to help vaccinate all of the world or to validate yet again the idea of property rights. Just how slippery is that slope that starts with a one-time exception during what is billed as an existential world-wide crisis?

        • HJ “whether ’tis nobler to help vaccinate all of the world or to validate yet again the idea of property rights.” All depends on who gains and who loses.

          I will pose this question: If the originating vector of the SARS Covid 19 virus was in fact from infected bats and there was no human influence in the outbreak could we not say that such pandemics are part of nature’s environmental balancing. What I mean is that nature often reduces surplus populations through famine and disease until an environmental equilibrium is achieved. The question then becomes which populations are more suited for continued existence. Natural selection theory postulates that only those populations that adapt to environmental conditions will remain viable.

          This is all purely philosophical. If property rights are obviated in favor of facilitating the herd immunity of other populations then we may not have the ability to create herd immunity in one’s own population when another event occurs because the incentive to create for others will be lost and the only incentive left will be to protect ones self and family.

    • HJ
      In general, I agree with your perspective. Public/Private partnerships has become a go-to process to leverage private sector resources without increasing the debt or raising taxes. The problem is that the government negotiates away all rights to any profits from said partnership. This is rather foolish.

      Where I disagree is that if the government relinquishes any rights or fails to secure them beforehand they cannot come back later and change the rules. What we do not know is the ratio of federal funding to private funding in the vaccine’s development. Even if the government had a majority equity stake in the firm itself it cannot simply give away all the property rights through the company. It could only give away any profits it was entitled to as a shareholder.

      As I understand it the government just prepaid for one hundred million doses to mitigate some of the risk of of development.

  4. #3: When my daughter was very little, she once asked me why we had to pay for our dinner at a restaurant. Of course I told her it’s the law that we must. I also told her about the implied agreement when you made your order, and the importance of keeping your word. I talked to her about the time, effort, and ingredients the restaurant had to put in, and the importance of fairness. But I also told her we wanted the restaurant to make money by feeding us, so that they would keep doing it . I pointed out that, in communities that normalize exploiting and robbing from one another, nobody has a reason to produce anything, and there comes to be less and less to steal.

    Does Joe Biden need a little fatherly talk?

  5. I think that our patent law only reaches to our borders. Beyond that, any protection comes from international convention, so you’d have to look at the treaty to see what a government can or must enforce.

    The big irony, of course, is that the vaccines themselves are protected for 20 years, while every blessed word written about them is protected for 100 years.

  6. Regarding #1:

    If the “quasi-independent” board ruled against Facebook, Zuckerberg would ignore it, and proceed as usual. The information that the ban was rejected would never see the light of day in the liberal media. Maybe a handful of members would realize the inanity of their participation and resign, but the media would bury the story, and then accuse Fox News of over-hyping the importance of a “quasi-independent” advisory board.

    I for one had never heard of this review board, but immediately realized its utter lack of importance as anything but a gimmick to make Facebook look deceptively trustworthy.

  7. #2 …Special deals on products and services for special categories of Americans—yes, even veterans—are divisive and incoherent.

    When you have a city-ful of specific groups of indigents on the streets, such as low-income families and disabled veterans whose housing needs are not being addressed, what do you do? Something has been done. So far no one seems to consider it divisive, and it’s certainly coherent.

    https://www.lmsarch.com/projects/edwin-m-lee-apartments

    • Sure, and I should have been more precise. I consider “indigent” a condition, not a group. Even then, there are problems. If someone is indigent because they choose not to work, or because they sit around and drink all day, or because they ended up in jail and nobody will trust them—why are they due a discount, and why should I have to make up the difference?

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