One of the interesting things about history is that the more you dig into something, the more you see the world before that thing came into being, and the more you realize how the ideas we have are born from the moments they emerged from. The moment passes, the idea remains. But with patents, intellectual property, the idea came about in a very specific context from a contest between royal power and the increasing power of parliament in England. This is where we get the modern patent system, the model that they're based on. The crown was abusing its power to pick winners and losers in the economy, handing out specific trades to people the crown favored. And then there was a push back from parliament. First there was a ban on monopolies, monopolies were considered a bad thing. But there would be a carve-out. They thought they could attract talent from abroad this way, attract brilliant people and inspire creativity and grow the economy. That carve-out was generally seen as counterintuitive and counterproductive by the big thinkers of the time like John Locke. But the carve-out had a carve-out of itself. Nothing related to food and medicine should be able to get patented. That was considered immoral to give people just the initial 14-year period of a monopoly via a patent. And also back then there weren't a lot of medicines. And that taboo lasted well into the twentieth century. So this normal that drug patents just have this way since the beginning of time is simply not true. They are extremely recent. I try to remind people with the book of how recent an idea drug patents are. In Europe drug patents were in some cases not recognized until the 1990s.
Chuck is back live in studio for his first full interview in two months, welcoming back independent journalist and writer Alexander Zaitchik, who wrote the book "Owning the Sun - A People's History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 Vaccines." Chuck and Alexander talk about medical monopolies, the role people like Bill Gates and Joe Biden play in keeping medical patents in place, and why this makes the world sicker and poorer.