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The Missing Patent and the Health Care Debate

Posted on 01 November 2009

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by Paul Ballonoff

Posted on 01 November 2009

The interest of the current administration in creating a federal national health care program, has provoked discussion of whether the federal government has sufficient power to do so. Often, the discussion is phrased as whether “the government” has sufficient power. Others have asked if the federal government has the power to compel individuals to purchase health insurance.

My article (“Limits to Regulation due to the Interaction of the Patent and Commerce Clause”, in CATO Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3, Winter 2001, pages 401 – 423), gives an insight into both questions, by answering this one: why does the so-called “patent clause” of the federal constitution, not use the word “patent”?

If the word “patent” meant what we currently mean by that term, then the clause could have simply stated the relevant power by saying the federal government can issue patents. Instead, the “patent clause” carefully states that the Congress has the power to issue exclusive rights for a limited time to authors or inventors. It does not use the word “patent” at all. More