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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What Intellectual Property Has Wrought

Want to know the cost of bogus intellectual property rights? Read "A Trove of Historic Jazz Recordings has Found a Home in Harlem, But You Can’t Hear Them."

An amazing collection of historic live jazz recordings is in the possession of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, but we might never hear them. Why?
"The potential copyright liability that could attach to redistribution of these recordings is so large—and, more importantly, so uncertain—that there may never be a public distribution of the recordings," wrote David G. Post, a law professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, on the Volokh Conspiracy blog. "Tracking down all the parties who may have a copyright interest in these performances, and therefore an entitlement to royalty payments (or to enjoining their distribution), is a monumental—and quite possibly an impossible—task."

Read This Book!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Is He Not in the Loop?

In Tuscaloosa Obama said he's never seen such devastation. Doesn't the Pentagon show him the bombing reports?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Debt Ceiling Shattered April 15

Much attention is directed to the approaching congressional vote on raising the debt limit, which makes the following mysterious.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the $14.294 trillion limit was exceeded on April 15. See it for yourself here.

The latest figures to the penny:

Total Public Debt Outstanding

April 14: $14,270,792,119,184.89

April 15: $14,305,336,580,992.11

April 18: $14,309,159,097,877.65

April 19: $14,320,468,555,091.68

HT: Ken Sturzenacker

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Splitting Hairs

If you teach people that government is indispensable to security, don't be surprised if they also believe that government is indispensable to social security. Good luck trying to explain the difference. (Calling the latter, but not the former, socialism does not work.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

TGIF: Saving the Welfare State

Why does everyone think Washington is plagued by excessive partisanship? The contest over how to address the fiscal debacle says otherwise: Both divisions of the uniparty (Democrat and Republican) agree that the warfare-welfare state must be saved. It’s the means not the end that divides them.
The rest of TGIF is here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Question for Randian IP Advocates

The Randian case for intellectual "property rights" is that all value-productive action (which is necessary for life) proceeds from a creative idea, and therefore all property is ultimately intellectual property. Deprive a person of the exclusive right to his idea and you attack the very foundation of life.

That case prompts a thought experiment: Imagine a primitive tribe in which one member does painstaking research on which wild berries are good for human consumption and which are not. (The Randian case emphasizes that such knowledge is not automatic as it in the case of lower animals, but has to be discovered by intellectual effort.) He learns through his work that when he eats one particular berry he gets healthier and more energetic -- better in every way. He also discovers that other berries are best avoided. The rest of the tribe observes and takes notes.

Question: Under Randian IP law, would the others need the innovator's permission before they may consume the healthful berries? Or does the innovative have an exclusive right to the fruits of his effort. (Pun intended.)

If not, why not?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Think Dialectically

The title of the post is the advice my old friend Chris Matthew Sciabarra would surely give about proposals to change or abolish Medicare and Medicaid. It means holding the full context at the front of one's mind. These programs certainly violate the rights of the people forced to finance them and make the recipients dependent on the political class while discouraging independence and mutual-aid solutions. But they are parts of a system that has other, interlocking components. Focusing only on abolishing Medicare and Medicaid commits the serious offense of overlooking all the ways government (at all levels) cartelizes and restricts the provision of medical care and insurance against medical expenses. Licensing is pervasive, and myriad other controls and privileges impede competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Libertarians must emphasize this during every discussion of Medicare and Medicaid or they will appear to be advocating that vulnerable people be thrown into the nightmare that the reigning medical and medical-insurance "markets" can be and often are. We must also teach the public about mutual-aid societies and "lodge practice," which enabled poor people to obtain quality medical care during an earlier period in American history. (Also see Roderick Long's article on lodge practice.)

Unfortunately, too many libertarians imply (without quite saying) that these rigged markets are already free and, moreover, that they are the best in the world. I can't imagine a worse position for libertarians to take these days.

If we don't insist on freed medical and insurance markets, we will have no chance to make headway in the public debate. Potential allies who care about the vulnerable will be alienated, and we will be looked on as ... conservatives.

P.S. It should go without saying that this principle applies across the board.

Friday, April 08, 2011

TGIF: Had Enough Yet?

It’s hard to be optimistic that the mountebanks running the government will do anything sensible in the near future. Until there is a deep rethinking about government, the public will not accept the near-term drastic budget cutting required to head off a fiscal crisis, much less the longer-term structural steps needed to prevent a repetition of what we’ve been through. People will need to understand that while the wish for “social security” in an uncertain world is entirely reasonable, the route to it is not Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – which tether people to the political class — but freed markets and voluntary mutual aid.

Finally, the fiscal problem needs more than a fiscal solution. People would be less attracted to government succor if the barriers that raise the cost of initiative and independence – including self-employment taxes, medical care restrictions, occupational licensing, land restrictions, and protection of entrenched economic interests from competition – were removed, freeing individuals to find their most satisfying places in the market without having to kowtow to power and privilege.

The rest of TGIF is here.

Op-Ed: Emperor Obama

We were warned. “Who can deny but the president general will be a king to all intents and purposes, and one of the most dangerous kind too; a king elected to command a standing army.... The President- general, who is to be our king after this government is established, is vested with powers exceeding those of the most despotic monarch we know of in modern times.... I challenge the politicians of the whole continent to find in any period of history a monarch more absolute....”
The rest is here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Show Us the Evidence

President Obama says he had bomb Libya to prevent Col. Qaddafi from massacring the people of Benghazi. Really? Where's the evidence that this was in the cards? Steve Chapman says it runs against the claim. But Obama asks for trust, and his Progressive supporters are mostly willing to give it.

Read about it here.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

First Define Your Terms

I don't mean to make Sean Hannity apoplectic, but I don't "love my country." Why not? Because I don't know what the hell that means and I don't sign on to things without knowing the terms.
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