Industrial espionage is just as damaging to a country’s long-term national interests as military espionage. The essence of the problem is theft. Countries like China, which sponsor industrial espionage, are stealing the fruits of other nations’ efforts, leaving their victims relatively weaker.
Espionage by one civilized country against another is no different than any other species of theft. France, which brazenly steals secrets from the United States aerospace industry, can no more morally defend its actions than it could defend stealing U.S. airliners when they land at French airports. The United States should legislate to impose punitive fines on robber nations like France and China. If a robber nation insists it has a right to steal from others, then the assets of its nationals should be seized and auctioned to satisfy the fines. Such measures will remind the malefactors why the Golden Rule exists. Once they find their property abused, they will soon appreciate the value of respecting the property belonging to others.
In addition, laws ought to target lax security by companies involved in the development of advanced technology—whether militarily sensitive or not. For example, companies possessing such technology ought to be obliged to keep their computers secure. The law should encourage licensed bounty hackers to breach the security of these companies and reward them with the fines collected when there is a breach. The more sensitive and valuable the technology, the larger the fines should be.
China’s practice of blackmailing companies into handing over their technology as the price of doing business in China should be countered by making it illegal for the company to release such technology, and China should be punished with punitive fines.
Tolerance of corruption, theft, and dishonesty is not enlightened. History shows that humanity can only move forward when it is made clear that such dishonesty is unacceptable. Whether it was the Barbary Pirates plundering merchant ships in the Mediterranean, the British impressing U.S. sailors, revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia invading other people’s countries, thugs and thieves have had to be forced to return what they have stolen and to thereafter live honestly. Winking at such behavior is not pragmatic, it is strategically dangerous and may one day prove catastrophic.