When President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, America was rapidly losing the Cold War to the Soviet Union. His simple solution was this: “We win and they lose.”
And he explained why the Soviets were doomed to fail: No country with centralized control, that destroys incentives for innovation or denies rewards for individual achievement, can endure.
To the shock and dismay of public intellectuals and Washington’s elite, Reagan sought to implement this new strategy starting on his first day in office. He denounced Soviet leadership and its schemes of world revolution. And he explained why the Soviets were doomed to fail: No country with centralized control, which destroys incentives for innovation or which denies rewards for individual achievement, can endure. Reagan understood that the way to preserve our freedoms was to play for a win, first with economic strength and then with military might.
For a strong economy, we needed the opposite of the socialist ideal. We needed free markets, incentives for innovation, and rewards for individual achievement. With a strong economy we would then have the means and the purpose to build a strong national defense.
President Reagan always understood that America’s ability to succeed and prosper hinged on our remarkable will to innovate. American innovation has propelled this country forward for more than 200 years and will continue to foster progress in the years ahead so long as we respect the importance of intellectual property rights via a strong U.S. patent system.
The ability to secure and protect patents allows innovators the tools they need to deliver groundbreaking innovations that change the way we live and strengthen our standing in the world. It is vital that we continue to protect a patent system that has served our nation extraordinarily well since our founding. In fact, we must never forget that the only “right” actually conferred in the body of the U.S. Constitution is the “exclusive Right … of Authors and Inventors … to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
Maintaining a strong economy and a strong patent system are directly related to our ability to provide a robust national defense and military strength. Successful innovation grows the American economy and allows us to invest in initiatives that better protect the nation from countries like China, which may be our economic competitor, but can just as easily be considered a military threat. Just take a look at the recent data breach of government employees’ information, thought to be executed by a Chinese digital-intelligence apparatus engaged in 21st century espionage.
A common misconception is that Ronald Reagan’s vision of “Peace through Strength,” was merely a military strategy. It was, in fact, an approach not only based on a robust military, but also a vision that linked our military strength to an economy of innovation and opportunity, and a strong culture as well.
Reagan’s faith in American greatness fueled his vision—which thankfully became our reality—that America is the last best hope for freedom in a global struggle against totalitarian regimes. The lessons Reagan taught us in defeating the Soviets were well learned.
But we once again find ourselves facing a world where rogue nations collude with one another in an effort to rob America of generations of accumulated global strength. Understanding the connection between an economy of innovation protected by our patent system and the numerous threats to our national security are of paramount importance if we desire a future that builds upon and carries forward Ronald Reagan’s historic Cold War end-game: “We win and they lose.”
Dan Schneider is Executive Director of the American Conservative Union