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Tom Toles
Posted at 07:15 AM ET, 02/22/2013

Friday rant: Why in the world? edition

Here’s another reason I’m not smart enough to be in Washington. Take the Supreme Court, please. I’ve gotten an education since I arrived here, lo, a decade ago. One of the things I was educated about was how smart everybody here is, especially the legal side of things. Not including, of course, the actual lawMAKERS, but they’re not actually from here either. No, I mean the studiers of, and the rulers on all those inticate court cases, who argue them and decide them. Amateurs stay away.

For example, the Supreme Court, supremest of the intelligents, is hearing a case this week about a crotchety old farmer who thought he found a clever way around Monsanto’s seed patent on Roundup-proof soybeans. I have to say, as an amateur, that Monsanto’s legal case looks pretty strong here, and they will no doubt win. We’ll leave the question of genetically modified crops for a different day. But I don’t want to talk about the merits of the case so much anyway, I want to talk about how dumb I am.

The Chief Intelligent of the Supremes, leaned over the edge of the bench and penetratingly thundered: “Why in the world would anybody spend money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” Here’s what I don’t get, because I’m not smart enough. I don’t get why he had to ask that question out loud, because that’s the obvious general background question here that everybody understood before the case started. But I also don’t understand exactly why the court is getting into the meta motivational matrix of patenting, since that’s not on trial here, instead of simply trying to determine specifically what the actual law says and what the actual intent of the law is. But since he went there, I also don’t understand why the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States can’t for the life of him even IMAGINE a world in which scientists work on seed improvements for the good of mankind alone.

Was it so very long ago (I guess it was) when scientists worked on medical research and crops and chemistry and geology for the sake of science and understanding and the general welfare of humanity? When did the profit motive, and here we are talking GIANT profits, become the ONLY POSSIBLE motive that the brilliant Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America can even CONCEIVE of, in that giant braincase of his? Because of the money-obsessed culture we have allowed ourselves to turn into? I’m sure it’s a dumb question, which is why he asked the question he did, instead of mine.

By  |  07:15 AM ET, 02/22/2013

 
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