A commenter on a previous post mentioned a couple of essays by Paul Graham. He is one of my favorite writers, and it’s been too long since I visited his site. Here is an essay on software patents.

One thing I do feel pretty certain of is that if you’re against software patents, you’re against patents in general. Gradually our machines consist more and more of software.

…I think the problem is more with the patent office than the concept of software patents. Whenever software meets government, bad things happen, because software changes fast and government changes slow.

…Before patents, people protected ideas by keeping them secret. With patents, central governments said, in effect, if you tell everyone your idea, we’ll protect it for you. There is a parallel here to the rise of civil order, which happened at roughly the same time. Before central governments were powerful enough to enforce order, rich people had private armies. As governments got more powerful, they gradually compelled magnates to cede most responsibility for protecting them. (Magnates still have bodyguards, but no longer to protect them from other magnates.)

This reminds me of The Arbiter with the Golden Scepter.