Monday, April 03, 2006

The End of an Era

This has been said before but merits repetition. Our learned legal profession has succeeded in destroying one of the greatest scientific and technical organizations that ever existed on this planet. Starting with the 1950's monopoly lawsuit against what was then the Bell System and finally finishing with the current marriage of Lucent and Alcatel; the project is complete. When the Bell System fell prey to judge Green and gave up rights to it's invention, the transistor; the die was cast. Subsequently, during the 1970's the "justice" department, with it's infinite legal wisdom, decreed that the Bell System must be broken up because it was a monopoly. Of course through all of this Bell Laboratories was reconfigured and reconstituted and now has finally been transferred to a foreign company. This laboratory, the inventor of the transistor, discoverer of low noise cosmic source, developer of the test for lead in human blood, creator of hundreds of thousands of patents has been scientifically disabled. It now exists to propagate it's former glory in order to enhance the prestige of it's current possessor with having any of the substance of it's former self. It has been relegated to the task of instantly bringing financial rewards to the bottom line of it's current owners.
Why was this situation allowed to happen? The answers may lie in the propensity of the legal profession to believe what they pass as law has been handed down from some insightful deity instead of from the minds of legislators who are not neccessarily equipped with thoughtful foresight. The legal profession has diverted billions of dollars from useful applications to the defense and offense of litigation. Sometimes for the public good, many times to the public's detriment. The recipients of this legal offense are not without fault, either. The executive management of the Bell System didn't have to roll over and play lapdog for the legal beagles. These highly compensated people weren't equipped with the foresight or intestinal fortitude to fight the process. There were other companies that did so; IBM is one. The real loser is the nation, without the will or resources to establish a comparable facility funded by the taxpayers our scientific community will stagger on with the piecemeal funding of university research. We are fast becoming a nation of has-beens, just look at the state of the auto industry, the steel industry and semiconductor industry. Our industrial base is going offshore at an ever increasing rate and our highly compensated executives, safe in their golden parachutes, aren't worried. Part of the problem, maybe a large part, is because the people who should have their feet held to the fire are immunized from their decisions. The legislators have retirement plans guaranteed by,us,the citizens, the business executives have their golden parachutes and we, the masses, have an underfunded ERISA and Social Security to fall back on. Who is the loser?


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