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November 02, 2005

Comments

Jason

So knowing that any process or idea can just be copied and used for the benefit of something or someone else, what is my incentive to do exactly that?

You say that like I was defending the beliefs of that faction of libertarians who don't believe IP exists - but I wasn't, only pointing out that there are differing beliefs. Like I said, I'm not even sure where I fall. Do I think a creative talent like a musician should be able to profit from his work? Of course. Do I think that musician should be able to dictate to me what functions an electronic device like a CD player may or may not have? No way. Sorry if I can't get much more detailed than that - just haven't made up my mind yet.

If I can just sit back and copy someone else's ideas the system will eventually breakdown.

But it didn't break down in Beethoven's and Michelangelo's time, when talented artists were paid not by the masses but by rich benefactors who then allowed the masses to enjoy the works created by the artists. It hasn't broken down for the tens of thousands of pre-20th century books that are now in the public domain but are still printed and sold for a profit by multiple publishing houses. Notice I'm not defending any particular belief about IP, just pointing out that there are alternatives to what we all think of as "business as usual", and there are probably others that no one's thought of yet that might work better than the system as it stands, especially in an age of digitized media, which admittedly makes IP much easier to steal. Lawrence Lessig is one of those people trying to work out some alternatives so creative talents and consumers can happily coexist - one high-profile such alternative is the Creative Commons.

You catch the next flight home, rip off the cover and put your name and title on it and start the presses rolling.

I'd be defrauding my customers by attributing the work as my own - and fraud prevention is an acknowledged role of the government by just about any libertarian you'll talk to.

There are other holes, but those are two of most significant.

But it's not a hole in the libertarian philosophy, it's a bone of contention within their ranks. How can an alleged lack of recognition of intellectual property rights be a hole in an entire philosophy when that lack of recognition isn't even generally agreed to by the adherents of the philosophy?

Let me give you an alternate example. Say another correspondent of mine is a conservative and asks me to point out a hole in the conservative philosophy. I reply with the statement, "They want to institute a national sales tax." Recognizing that only one group of conservatives would institute such a tax, while others would institute a flat income tax, and still others would prefer to leave the tax code alone, does my statement point out a hole in the conservative philosophy or just a bone of contention among conservatives?

You might be able to say that those libertarians who have no respect for IP have a hole in their philosophy (as long as you recognize that a person who respects IP can certainly be a libertarian as well), but others might see that "hole" as just a policy disagreement, much like the disagreement among conservatives on how (or whether) to reform the tax code. If you can make a convincing case to yourself that a complete repudiation of all forms of IP is the only logical conclusion one can arrive at from a libertarian philosophical premise, then I suppose you'd be consistent in concluding that that's a hole in the philosophy - but I don't think such a convincing case can be made.

I noticed you included both of your points as still constituting holes without addressing what I had to say about the first. Any comment on that one? While I have no doubt you'd have little trouble finding references to libertarians who don't believe in IP (I'll even give you one - and as famous a libertarian philosopher as Ayn Rand was an ardent supporter of IP), I think you'll have a very hard time finding any libertarian writings at all that even imply that the reason libertarianism makes sense is because "everyone is so kind and respectful of others".

>>I'd be defrauding my customers by attributing the work as my own - and fraud prevention is an acknowledged role of the government by just about any libertarian you'll talk to.<<

The profit motive is far more intense than any concern of my customers feeling defrauded.

The libertarians I've met all believe there should only be the government that is purchased by subscribers fees. That being the case, there is no government to prevent fraud.

I used literature as an example. Probably not a good one. Since artistic creations are a luxury and not necessities. But there should be some protection for artists in their creation. I mean c'mon. Pat Boone sold more copies of Good Golly Miss Molly than Little Richard. Shouldn't the writer be paid royalties? In the libertarian model I've been told should be put in place there would be no requirement to do that.

Your analogy of using printed material from hundreds of years ago is not applicable in this era of high tech where printed works are easily copied and could be passed off as one's own.

But getting to a societal level. The concept of private property is sacred to libertarians. As it should be to all of us. But what is to stop me from taking your private property? You? What if I hire a stronger or better police force to enforce my desire to take your private property? That is what I meant by everyone being so kind. Greed and the profit motive are far stronger motivators of people than the respect of private property or anothers belongings.

We see it even now when corporations manipulate the legal or legislative system to achieve a desired agenda irrespective of society at large. Given the most capitalized groups will be setting policy, the underclass (being everyone else) would be powerless to stop them from acquiring outright monopolies and seperating all from any and all income.

And those who acquire market share have never shown a predilection for just sitting back and let someone else take it when there were forcible remedies available. One need only look to the robber barons of the Industrial Revolution to observe how monopolists ensured they maintained their stature in society at the expense of all others. At least in that era there were legislative and judicial remedies to stop the monopolizing of commodities. This is especially crucial in a market structure that has a perfectly inelastic demand. In the libertarian models I've discussed with devotees, there wouldn't be that backstop.

That's enough for now.

NickM

The "robber barons" of the 19th century used government to acquire persistent monopoly status. Getting the government to shut your competitors down is effective, but thoroughly anti-libertarian. Without that, monopolies for the productionof goods just don't survive.

As for intellectual property, strangely enough, the vast majority of the libertarians I know have no problem with the existence of patents and copyrights, and generally not with trademarks/service marks either.

I seriously doubt you personally know any libertarians. Your post sounds like you just finished reading Howard Zinn in your American history class and now think you know everything about how the world really works.

Nick

You would be wrong NickM. But so what.

Ultimately it was the government who curtailed the "robber barons" monopolistic practices.

The libertarians I know desire only that government they pay for via subscriber fees.

If the ones you know support the system of protecting intellectual property, they are in a dilemma. Who is going to pay for patent office protection? Them? What would be my motivation to have such a system in place? If I can just wait and copy someone else's ideas why would I pay to have something that would stop me? And do you think there are more people with that attitude, than otherwise? More importantly. If I am wealthier than the person creating that good idea, what's to stop me from just taking it? I have my own police force. And my own judiciary. Since I'm not going to be stupid enough to pay subscriber fees for those entities if they won't do what I want.

I don't pretend to know how the world works. And to be honest, I haven't read any of Howard Zinn's works. But I do know people. And I believe that avarice through the profit motive will overcome any sense of fairness a person might have if they believe their power structure is threatened. That isn't a strong leap.

Gabriel Chapman

The desperation of the union thugs is palpable, thats why CTA is pushing bankruptcy to beat 75. Through a campaign of outright deception and smoke and mirrors the Unions have bought this election.

No one has given a single valid reason to oppose 75, its just more slippery slope (major logical fallacy). The fear of the Unions losing all that revenue has them playing all the cards they can. Whats really disengenious is that you don't see any public union employees but the big Four Nurses, Firefighters, Cops, and Teachers because you know damn well that if it was DMV workers and cubicle dwelling paper pushers out there shouting down dissenting voices no one would pay any attention.

Jason

The profit motive is far more intense than any concern of my customers feeling defrauded.

It's not about being concerned about how your customers feel, it's about having some degree of government available and empowered to punish, or better yet prevent, fraud.

The libertarians I've met all believe there should only be the government that is purchased by subscribers fees. That being the case, there is no government to prevent fraud.

Understood - and I would probably characterize the faction of libertarianism they adhere to as anarcho-capitalism, or possibly even anarchism. More places exist along the libertarian spectrum than just the one inhabited by those who wouldn't protect IP at all - it just sounds like you haven't met any holders of other viewpoints yet.

Shouldn't the writer be paid royalties? In the libertarian model I've been told should be put in place there would be no requirement to do that.

Again, you're ascribing to me viewpoints held by your libertarian friends, not by me. I can't very well defend someone else's viewpoints, especially if I don't know very much about them other than a statement that "the only government that would exist is purchased by subscribers' fees."

Your analogy of using printed material from hundreds of years ago is not applicable in this era of high tech where printed works are easily copied and could be passed off as one's own.

I acknowledged that technology makes it easier to steal IP, but think about that: with the information we have at our fingertips these days - Wikipedia, Amazon.com reviews, message boards, etc. - do you really think it would be that easy to pass someone else's work off as your own? Back in the 50's Tolkien basically shut down an American publisher's effort to sell an unauthorized printing of one of his books just by marking the authorized copies as such and responding to fan letters letting them know the situation. You don't think the ability of authors to defend their own works, even without the copyright system, has grown since then?

But what is to stop me from taking your private property? You? What if I hire a stronger or better police force to enforce my desire to take your private property? That is what I meant by everyone being so kind. Greed and the profit motive are far stronger motivators of people than the respect of private property or anothers belongings.

Again, you're assuming that I'm trying to defend your libertarian friends' views that there'd be zero government in place to protect citizens against the initiation of force. I hold to a view of the "night-watchman" state where the government is just strong enough to protect citizens from the naked aggression of others (including criminal justice) and no stronger - if citizens can't voluntarily band together and communally protect themselves and each other. I'm a little surprised that your friends who have presumably laid out a detailed system about IP protection (or lack thereof) didn't spend more time on this. I don't hold to this view, but from the little I've read, the hypothetical escalation that would result from competing "private police forces" would eventually result in a cold war-type standoff where one police force couldn't overwhelm the citizens protected by another without destroying everything of value the first set of people were hoping to gain through force in the first place. Granted, it's all theoretical, but again, read any mainstream (or otherwise, even anarchist) libertarian apologist's writings and you'd be hard-pressed to find "because people are so darn nice to each other" as a premise they start from. Have your friends actually said, "because people are so nice to each other, all we need is private police forces paid for by subscriber fees", or are you making any logical leaps from what they're actually saying to what you're ascribing to them? Just asking, don't mean to sound snide.

One need only look to the robber barons of the Industrial Revolution to observe how monopolists ensured they maintained their stature in society at the expense of all others. At least in that era there were legislative and judicial remedies to stop the monopolizing of commodities.

The "robber barons" of the 19th century used government to acquire persistent monopoly status. Getting the government to shut your competitors down is effective, but thoroughly anti-libertarian. Without that, monopolies for the production of goods just don't survive.

Ultimately it was the government who curtailed the "robber barons" monopolistic practices.

You're right that government (Hiram Johnson to the rescue) eventually shut down the robber barons, but you missed NickM's point that they used government to obtain their monopolies in the first place - something that couldn't have happened in any flavor of libertarian state.

If the ones you know support the system of protecting intellectual property, they are in a dilemma. Who is going to pay for patent office protection? Them? What would be my motivation to have such a system in place? If I can just wait and copy someone else's ideas why would I pay to have something that would stop me? And do you think there are more people with that attitude, than otherwise? More importantly. If I am wealthier than the person creating that good idea, what's to stop me from just taking it? I have my own police force. And my own judiciary. Since I'm not going to be stupid enough to pay subscriber fees for those entities if they won't do what I want.

It's impossible to answer your questions asking us to defend your libertarian friends' views. Did NickM say that his libertarian friends, who respect IP, also hold in the "subscriber-fee-only" degree of government that your friends do? If they do, I'd agree that they have a dilemma - but if they don't, and ascribe to a "night-watchman"-type state that includes enough government to prevent force and fraud (with only one judiciary, to be clear), would you agree that it's not a dilemma?

I can see that IP is a very important issue for you, but I think you've let it become an all-consuming issue for your opinion of the merits of libertarianism, and I think that's a mistake. I think your narrow reading of the points of view libertarians can and do hold, which is based on the points of view of your libertarian friends - who represent only one sector along the ideological spectrum (seeming to me like the anarcho-capitalist sector) - is also keeping you from understanding that a certain policy view, especially if it's a point of disagreement within the ranks, does not tear down an entire philosophy.

The two of you are having to work awfully hard to defend this concept. My one narrow issue is actually the pillar of capitalism. Disagree with me, that's fine. I'll manage. But I also take solace in the fact that libertarian thinking is a fractional group on the fringes that will never take effect in my lifetime. The Register's Op Ed staff ballyhooed the Free State Project taking hold in New Hampshire. None of them left to try and create a libertarian nirvana which only confirms they rarely have any intention of putting their own beliefs into practice.

On another note. Even Arnie Steinberg (a conservative pollster) is saying the Governor's own internal polling showed the conservative issues in trouble way back and they were less than forthcoming in telling the truth about them so as not alienate their base. That's gotta be good news.

Jason

The two of you are having to work awfully hard to defend this concept. My one narrow issue is actually the pillar of capitalism. Disagree with me, that's fine. I'll manage.

Well, it's obvious that we've reached the point where we're talking past each other. While I certainly appreciate the decorum we've both maintained (hard to come by these days, especially on the web!), I must admit I'm disappointed at the lack of progress we acheived before reaching this point. It appears to me that you're unwilling to grant that there are multiple possible libertarian viewpoints on IP, that your friends' views aren't the only ones out there. I never set out to defend any particular view of IP; I've never even set my view forth. The only thing I attempted to do is show that a certain subset's views of IP is not in fact a "hole in the libertarian philosophy", but it appears that you're determined to ignore any points I make, content to restate the same hypotheticals multiple times, from the same premises - when it's the premises themselves I'm addressing! If you see it as "having to work awfully hard to defend", that's fine. I'll manage too.

But I also take solace in the fact that libertarian thinking is a fractional group on the fringes that will never take effect in my lifetime.

I'm sorry you feel that way, and though I'm sorely tempted to ask if you don't find any jot or tittle of the libertarian viewpoint to have merit (you really detest individual freedom and personal responsibility that much?), I know you'll base your answer off whatever your friends have told you - which, if I'm correct in surmising that they have an anarcho-capitalist bent, encompass something less than the majority of all libertarian thinking themselves. It's unfortunate that theirs are the only views you'll consider as deserving of the designation "libertarian". Alas, many otherwise honest and earnest debates have stalled at disagreement over terminology, and I fear ours has become another victim of that unfortunate malaise.

The Register's Op Ed staff ballyhooed the Free State Project taking hold in New Hampshire. None of them left to try and create a libertarian nirvana which only confirms they rarely have any intention of putting their own beliefs into practice.

Neither did I, but I put my libertarian beliefs into practice every time I vote for a candidate or initiative that would expand individual freedom and personal responsibility, every time I vote against a candidate or intitiative that would contract individual freedom and personal responsibility, every time I have a conversation or write a letter to the editor or write a blog post that exhorts people to practice individual freedom and personal responsibility. It's unfortunate if you feel that the only way to "put libertarian beliefs into practice" is to move to the arctic NE; that seems akin to me to saying the only way to put liberal beliefs into practice is to move to CA or MA, or saying the only way to put conservative beliefs into practice is to move to TX or OK. There are other actions to be taken, other victories to be won along the twisting, turning journey called life than to remove yourself from a system you don't like. Some do, sure, but not all.

Just to satisfy my own curiosity, are you the same nameless commenter who posted yesterday at 10:43am about getting a 15-yr mortgage at 30, not needing a CCW, and said "au revoir"? 'Cause you strike me as a different person, but without using a handle or something, it's hard to be sure.

redperegrine

Some gov't employee (I don't even remember who) said:

"I will be joining redperegrine in retirement at a ripe young age, and I will be able to afford to stay in my home state."

Well, friend, I won't be joining you on that gravy train. I figure I'll be working 'til 70 or so to help keep you in the lifestyle that you and your pals have extorted from the taxpayers of California.

Greenhut is right: we're moving toward a two tiered system: those who don't work for the gov't supporting the retirement of those who did.

RP,

That person is a deputy.

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