09 December 2018

Non-Kosher Holiday Link Sausages

These link sausages have all been hanging in the same smokehouse, many for far too long. They're all concocted from the same recipe, though — and leave the same aftertaste of "adulterated contents," if not necessarily too Jungle-like. More importantly, they're all directly relevant to freedom of both communication and creation, and who controls the channels. They focus on the intellectual property world.

  • First up is an incredibly obtuse bit of bullshit from someone who should know better: A lament that "Indiscriminate use of ‘intellectual property’ has unsurprisingly bred absurdity." Leaving aside its reliance upon Richard Stallman's entitled, tenure-protected nonsense for damned near anything, the article fails to answer two critical questions that each must be answered in a particular way for its conclusion to have any validity. First, if it's wrong to group "too much" under "intellectual property," shouldn't we also make the same distinctions at the core legal and, umm, intellectual levels in "real property"? Shouldn't use of farmland be treated distinctly from redevelopment of brownfields in all respects (not to mention easements, riparian rights, etc.)? Second, and more to the point, what is the realistic alternative for encouraging those not protected by tenure or leisure to "advance the useful arts and sciences" — and more to the point, how do we get from here to there, and at what cost?

    Bluntly, this is typical utopian bullshit. There's no consideration of costs, alternatives, pathways, or wider consequences. More to the point, there's no consideration of "achievable imperfection" as the true goal of the rule of law… because the rule of law imposes a veil of ignorance ab initio, but cannot guarantee a just outcome in each instance. Nothing can; reality is all about acknowledging the existence of outliers and accounting for them (PDF image).

  • Stepping slightly farther back in the chain, consider glitches in the production-of-creative/useful-works subprocess
  • …and how those glitches are reflected in the publishing-and-distribution subprocess, both before actual publication and afterward at both large scale and somewhat smaller (with more-detailed data). Note, however, that not one of the entities appearing in any of these pieces (specifically identified or otherwise) has been subjected to any realistic antitrust scrutiny — not even hypothetically.
  • But that's just the specialized world of academia, where we can't expect economic realities to intrude, right? <SARCASM> In the purported "real" world, attribution and the nature of works is never a problem, is it? Or reuse — directly, through new publication, or indirectly, as "inspiration" for new works? And, of course, everyone in the distribution subprocess benefits equally, just like rising tides lift all boats (except those already holed below the waterline, perhaps). </SARCASM>

Ultimately, these sausages demonstrate that Marx was fundamentally wrong about any society moving past pure industrialism. It's not control of the means of production that creates power disparities and injustice, but control of the means of distribution. During the early and mid-nineteenth centuries — the data set upon which Marx (and Engels et al.) unleashed their black-box ideologies and post hoc rationalizations — in Western society "production" and "distribution" had largely coextensive ownership, so it was perhaps more difficult to understand that they're equally important loci of antitrust. Of course, if they weren't distinct, the leading US antitrust cases of the first three decades of the Sherman Act wouldn't concern railroads…

Whether one's loyalties are pledged to the Montagues or the Capulets, the Sharks or the Jets, it's still about organized crime. Even if it's not that organized.