Who owns the covid vaccines?

Socializing risk and privatizing gain for fun and profit.

Cory Doctorow
7 min readMay 16, 2021


A key idea from sf is “all laws are local, and no law knows how local it is.” Prisoners of our own time and place, it’s hard not to feel like we’re living in the only possible world, is if everything around us is inevitable and natural — and any change is “unnatural.”

But anyone who’s ever dabbled in multi-agent modeling (sims where “individuals” each have their own goals and aversions) knows there are lots of stable configurations that a big, complex system can fall into, and re-rerunning the same sim produces wildly different outcomes.

14 months ago, we hit STOP on our big, complex system and now the US is about to hit START again. It will not be a return to “normalcy,” because the old normal wasn’t inevitable. There are lots of other ways we could get along. And frankly, the old normal sucked.

A key way in which Old Normal sucked was the way that monopolists were able to style themselves as heroic entrepreneurs whose great rewards were commensurate with their great risks — when in reality, the risks were always socialized and only the gains were privatized.

That’s an area where a new normal is long overdue, and that new normal is being born in the controversy over public access to covid vaccines.