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13 March 2011

Illicit: a case study in package dealing

While generally pretty assertive about my non-Objectivism, I must admit I owe a debt of gratitude to Ayn Rand for popularizing the phrase 'package dealing.' One textbook example of this practice which is out standing in the field is the US Chamber of Commerce's funding of PBS' broadcast of National Geographics's hour-long production titled Illicit: The Dark Trade. Basically the terms 'illicit trade' and 'black market' are used interchangeably. These terms, we are told, cover everything from intellectual property infringement to illegal drugs to human trafficking. The centerpiece of the film is a truly heartbreaking story about hospital patient fatalities in Panama because of some cough syrup tainted with toxic ingredients because some overly-entrepreneurial Chinese firm substituted some cheap-but-poisonous compound for glycerine. Sounds to me not like not so much the consequences of counterfeiting proprietary products as the consequences of information about the supply chain being treated as proprietary. The problem is too much proprietary.

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