Thursday, February 2, 2006

Theft and economic development

I was reading Eric Hobsbawm's Industry and Empire last night, and he wrote about how factories in Europe and the United States were often set up by Englishmen, or--more interestingly--through illegally copied designs. It was interesting to me because something that was illegal grew to something legitimate, even to the point that this initial "theft" went on to transform national economies.

It reminded me of how pirating in Taiwan and South Korea used to be a big problem. Despite that short-term loss in revenues to software companies, their tools proliferated and they gained market share. People learned to use that stolen software, developed skill in using it, and even went on to create their own. As a software industry pops up, people learn to appreciate the effort that goes into writing software. With this, a respect for intellectual property is instilled.

This just reminds me how messy the world is. Things end up working out in the end, though. It just seems funny when the lucrative sectors of national economies are founded on theft.


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