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Department of Justice to Focus On Key Problems!

Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced a major new effort to crack down on intellectual property theft, by which he apparently means illegally-copied DVDs, CDs, and software. (I refuse to use the term piracy to refer to illegal copying. Piracy is the violent boarding and theft of property on ships, and is a major problem even today. Referring to copying information as piracy is to frame the debate wrongly.)

He made no mention of the 120,000 hours of untranslated terrorism-related intercepts. He made no mention of the decrease in violent fugitive cases opened.

There’s only so much money allocated to the Department of Justice each year. The executive branch has to make decisions on how to spend it. It may well be that ensuring that Microsoft software is not available on the streets of China has a net economic benefit which is greater than that from tracking violent fugitives, or preventing another large-scale terrorist attack.

Economics is all about the allocation of scarce resources. One of those resources is the time and attention of executives, and John Ashcroft is making the wrong choices. If he worked for me, I’d fire him.

2 comments on "Department of Justice to Focus On Key Problems!"

  • DoJ To Divert Resources to P2P Enforcement

    Last week the Department of Justice issued a report on intellectual property enforcement. Public discussion has been slow to develop, since the report seems to be encoded in some variant of the PDF format that stops many people from reading it. (I coul…

  • No! Economics is NOT “all about the allocation of scarce resources.” If that were all that economists did, economists could be replaced by a supercomputer. Politicians could decide on an evaluation function, and the supercomputer could allocate scarce resources in the most efficient politically decided manner.
    Economics is instead the study of how and why people trade.

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