Speculation and Solutions

This is my reply to lolwut‘s fourth response.

I think that freedom is a very worthy goal precisely because its unique character allows every person to pursue his own vision of what is the desirable way to live; this is in contrast with other conceptions of the greatest good, which would inevitably impose one moral vision upon everyone’s lifestyle. I was much inspired by Nozick’s framework for utopia, which he elucidated in the final chapter of Anarchy, State, and Utopia: with the government confined only to the protection of individual rights and freedom thus increased to its greatest permissible degree, a system is provided for all individuals to freely form communities in accordance with their moral and ethical values (their own utopias), and also to freely enter and leave already existing communities. No community would be required to implement the stereotypical libertarian utopia (i.e., one in which each member lives under laissez-faire capitalism, owns two dozen automatic rifles, and may do drugs and visit prostitutes to his heart’s content); very restrictive communities, whose rules and values I would very likely strongly disagree with, would arise, and their existence would be permitted, subject only to the constraint that they do not violate rights. Freedom is permitted, but not enforced: nobody would be forced to start or join a community of gun-loving libertarian libertines-that is, that particular community’s values and lifestyle are not imposed on everybody, but only for those who wish to enter into it. (In a way, I think, my preference for permissive licenses over copyleft licenses reflects this view: the former permit freedom, while the latter enforce it.)

This is the liberal ideal: that any collective (be it communal, ethnic, religious, occupational, even artistic) or individual is accorded the freedom to live as they, he or she pleases. I agree that this is a laudable goal, but whether it’s at all practicable is at best questionable. Many peoples are not liberal, and most expect a government whose policies and pandects correspond to their values. For one example, most countries populated by devoutly Muslim majorities could not in literal good faith accept any legitimately liberal government. England and Germany enjoyed a sort of liberal democracy, but moronic marginal majorities in both nations (engendered by the dygenic effects of war, sloth and sociocultural decline) jubilantly embrace their police states. In a different example to which you can relate, I very much doubt that mainland China could ever adopt any form of liberalism, even if it shook off the CCP and Mao’s perdurable (if adulterated) legacy. This is incomparable to the prior examples, as most Chinese are secular and remarkably intelligent. However (notwithstanding exceptions such as HK), most Chinese are collectivist, cherish stability over freedom, and are more concerned with the curtailment of their peculiar corruption than with the niceties of codified liberty.

To encapsulate: I believe that liberty is a worthwhile for some, but I don’t expect everyone (or globally, most) to agree. It isn’t my summum bonum partially because I don’t have one, but also because I treasure other virtues moreso — for two examples, a commitment to truth and the cultivation of aesthetic excellence. Of course, none of these are at all mutually exclusive.

National liberalism appears to be quite a respectable ideology, and one with which I probably have more agreements than disagreements. I also lament how the meaning of the term liberal has strayed so far from its original, correct definition, and I applaud your correct designation of classical liberalism as actual liberalism.

To be fair, that’s largely the fault of clueless pseudo-conservatives and brainless nationalists. Despite the facades of their political parties, most progressives don’t claim to be liberal nowadays, and plenty of them openly detest liberals, even those of the left. I’ll repeat it ad infinitum if I must: progressives are not liberals. They were never liberals. They’ll feign a liberal posture when some repeal or permission benefits them, but they truly hate nearly all of our freedoms: of expression, of self-defense, of association, of privacy. The genuine progressive is a totalitarian more overbearing and relentless in its detestation of and oppugnancy against liberty than the most intractable jihadist. For nearly 80 years, the left was dominated largely by social liberals, but after a score of mainstream progressivism, most dumb conservatives can’t seem to fathom that they’re not grappling with liberals, but with progressives. Hence their risibly inept attempts to articulate our woes as “illiberal liberal democracy” and reliably perennial failure.

Variants of liberalism abound: national and provincial; classical and social; ethnic and individualist; capitalist and socialist; Christian, Deist, secular, etc. Progressivism is none of these. Progressivism is nothing more or less than an inhuman, unnatural, incoherent, post-Marxist ideology (at which Marx would’ve sneered) supported by weak, stupid, ugly people, which aims to undermine society, politics and culture for the benefit of moneyed interests that its adherents don’t understand. As flawed as it is, liberalism is a radical, modern departure from traditional human societies that offers tremendous potential to whoever can harness it responsibly. Progressivism is an enemy of civilization.

I will admit that the case of the Louisiana Purchase presented me with a somewhat difficult puzzle. My personal stance is that the Louisiana Purchase was constitutional because the Treaty Clause of the Constitution explicitly authorizes the president to make treaties with the consent of at least two-thirds of the Senate, and the Louisiana Purchase was, in fact, a treaty for which the specified majority vote from the Senate was received, but I know that you were focusing specifically on Jefferson’s strict interpretation of the Constitution. In this case I suppose Jefferson was technically incorrect, and his proposal of a constitutional amendment explicitly authorizing the purchase wasn’t necessary, but still I must commend him highly for staying true to his principles and hesitating over issues of constitutionality-such an important concern would have seemed very insignificant to any president since FDR (and probably also a few before him). Otherwise, however, we are in full agreement that the continual and very extensive expansion of the government from the Civil War onwards is deeply troubling, and the reasons you cite for this growth give me little hope for reversing it, or even of halting it. (Perhaps strict adherence to a constitution is viable in a non-Western country?)

The Purchase’s legality has been debated for nearly two centuries by constitutional scholars. I hardly expect to resolve that topic, but as you agree, he was right to seek and obtain senatorial sanction (which he practically didn’t need). As far as I’m concerned, the deterioration of the U.S. from a functioning representative democracy into unsustainable and abusive neo-feudalism is the merestone bearing its epitaph. If oligarchy is always inevitable, this country has proved it.

To answer your parenthesized question, I don’t know. No government known to me has observed its constitution faithfully. Japan used to be a stickler regarding abidance of its postwar constitution, but several events have indicated otherwise, such as Koizumi’s (largely unpopular) dispatch of troops to Iraq at the behest of the Pentagon, or the disbandment of nationalist groups who protested propagandistic North Korean pedagogues in certain municipalities after harrassment occurred.

Constitutionality requires the utmost discipline even in predictable circumstances. The only government that may be wholly faithful to its constitution is Iceland, but don’t quote me on that.

Moreover, one of the many failings of neoliberal economics (to which too many libertarians subscribe) is its obliviousness to the basic reality that private enterprise grows, consolidates and corrupts in a manner analogous to government, and so must be subject to regulation.

Here I’m inclined to assert that additional regulations on private enterprise are not necessary, because the laws securing individual rights, if they are vigorously enforced, are sufficient to restrain corporations and to punish them should they violate those rights. However, I should add here that if corporations lobby for legislation which infringes upon individual rights, then it’s perfectly consistent with my views for the government to impose additional restrictions on them which prohibit this, because in that case it is only acting legitimately in its function as the protector of individual rights.

This is clichéd, but anti-pollution laws benefit communities, then individuals. I’m not sure how you’d address this subject, but do you believe that everyone deserves a right to a salutary residential environment?

If we’re to avert most of these problems, we could simply interdict lobbies on behalf of collectives such as wealthy organizations…or entirely.

As for Nozick’s brief discussion of copyright in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, in my copy of the book (which is the first edition) it appears on page 141, and is offered as an example to demonstrate the lack of agreement about universal principles among libertarians, which in the absence of a state would render the punishment of offenders extremely contentious and confusing. His words run thus:

Consider for example, the issue of whether full-blooded copyright is legitimate. Some libertarians argue it isn’t legitimate, but claim that its effect can be obtained if authors and publishers include in the contract when they sell books a provision prohibiting its unauthorized printing, and then sue any book pirate for breach of contract; apparently they forget that some people sometimes lose books and others find them. Other libertarians disagree. Similarly for patents. If persons so close in general theory can disagree over a point so fundamental, two libertarian protective agencies might manage to do battle over it. One agency might attempt to enforce a prohibition upon a person’s publishing a particular book (because this violates the author’s property right) or reproducing a certain invention he has not invented independently, while the other agency fights this prohibition as a violation of individual rights.

Thank you for this, which I scarcely remember.

In addition, at the end of the third sentence of the above quote there is an endnote which reads,

For the first view see Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State, vol. 2 (Los Angeles: Nash, 1971), p. 654; for the second see, for example, Ayn Rand, Patents and Copyrights, in Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal (New York: New American Library, 1966), pp. 125–129.

According to its index, this is the only mention of copyright in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

I could’ve sworn that Nozick expanded on the subject on ethical grounds, but I’m probably muddling this with something else — maybe another essay that he authored.

But I am: if you are referring here to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and other subsequent federal anti-discrimination legislation, I fully believe that they are all illegitimate laws which plainly violate the right to freedom of association, and hence ought to be repealed immediately-and I say this as a racial minority. It truly bothers me that such absurdities ever managed to become law: not only do they reduce our freedom, but they also infringe a natural right, which is contrary to the whole point of government.

I’m very pleased to read this; we’re in full concordance on this point. Freedom of association is perhaps the most important right because it enables us to consort with others — be they homogenous or heterogenous — for the advancement and comfort of society without impediment.

“Whiteness” is a mutable and inexact concept, never so broadly appled as it is in the United States at present. Our federal government classes Arabs, Persians and Mestizos as swarthy as my ancestors a century ago (to some of whom they’re genetically cognate) as white. Fifty years ago, I wouldn’t be considered white by most people, even though I can pass for it at my lightest. I’ve been excluded in rather petty circumstances from groups, occasionally due to racist bias and presumption. These aren’t important incidents, but they do moot an important question: do I really want to be a part of a group that doesn’t want me? Freedom of association permits people, whether on reasonable bases or otherwise, to decide who belongs and who does not. Moreover, it forces the excluded to find their path elsewhere. This is neither a kind nor easy lesson, but it’s one that many people must learn.

I acknowledge that copyright enforcement in China of creative works of Chinese origin has likely increased in recent years, but in truth I cannot say that I’m comfortable accepting this change. I hope you can understand that, as a pure-blooded Chinese, I wish passionately to preserve the culture of my forebears, and to keep China largely free from foreign influences, whether Western or non-Western. This doesn’t mean that China should refrain from importing anything foreign: I would readily embrace, for example, the widespread use of modern Western medicine in China, but in regard to introducing Western (or otherwise non-Chinese) legal concepts and practices (e.g. copyright) into the country I remain far more hesitant. (Even in the case of medicine, I would still maintain that it is important to preserve the knowledge, and maybe also the practice, of traditional Chinese medicine; even if it doesn’t work, it still possesses great cultural value for all Chinese and is an irreplaceable part of our heritage.) I am simply wary of China mimicking the West to too great a degree, and thus losing too much of what makes it authentically Chinese.

In all sincerity, I think Chinese medicine is often far more effective and commendable than modern medicine, but that’s a subject for another time, and I’m already too discursive!

Frankly, I wouldn’t sweat it. China is one of the world’s great ethnocultural monoliths, as resistant to foreign influence and subversion as any known to me. Also, China is as collectively recollective as effective; the devastation wrought by the English, French and Dutch, then the Japanese when China was at its weakest hasn’t been forgotten in the slightest. At a time when self-styled international “authorities” urge globalism, China exploits its potential for trade….but declines the expectation for migratory freedom or perpetual indebtedness out of hand with an obstinacy unimaginable in the west. Best of all, most of what’s genuinely Chinese that was annihilated during the Cultural Revolution has been restored by Chinese authors, artisans, historians, physicians, musicians, architects, et al. China does struggle with serious problems pertaining to and resulting from widespread corruption, pollution and a dearth of certain natural resources, but I know of few peoples who’ve preserved their culture with such enduring or meticulous sedulity. You should be proud to be Chinese: our species’ largest family are endowed with incalculable talent, a nearly unrivaled collective intellect and more achievements than most. If anything, Hans may be our planet’s best hope for progress at a time when Western Civilization nears its twilight.

To me, an obvious solution for SubscribeStar and other similar sites is to introduce cryptocurrency payments instead of relying solely on PayPal and the large credit card processors, thereby freeing them from the whims of the censors and freedom-haters while simultaneously earning them a bit of credibility amongst cyberlibertarians and cypherpunks. Now that cryptocurrencies are more widespread and accessible than they have ever been, I would contend that this is a very feasible option.

Gab and other blacklisted sites are doing this. I suspect that as private censorship becomes unworkably and intolerably pervasive, an entirely separate cryptoeconomy will eventually emerge – an exciting prospect!

Regarding the legal punishment of plagiarists, one possible technique is the inclusion of an anti-plagiarism provision in an individual’s publishing or employment contract (if they are, e.g., an author or an academic), violations of which would constitute a breach of contract that could be pursued in court. However, I’m aware that this will likely not be a satisfactory answer for you, as it obviously cannot penalize instances of plagiarism in which no such contract exists (including possibly Besson’s case, which, if he had gone unpunished, would have been a great injustice), but it is at least a step towards decreasing our reliance on copyright law. Also, after carefully re-reading your statements concerning plagiarism in your previous reply, I realize that I misinterpreted you, and that you never actually stated that representing others’ ideas and public domain works as your own is not actual plagiarism; my apologies.

We’ve both misread each other slightly, which is easy to do.

Your proposition would only cover so many possibilities, but it’s a good start. At the conclusion of this post, I’ll propound my own.

I can’t fault you too heavily for supporting copyright for these reasons. In my previous responses I argued extensively against copyright being a natural right, but I readily acknowledge that, even without involving natural rights in any manner, ensuring proper attribution and compensation for artists is undoubtedly an important goal; I merely wish that we had used different means to pursue it, i.e., that we had never gotten the government involved in the matter and thereby caused it to overstep its proper function. (I also commend you for correctly realizing that digital piracy is not theft, but rather is, as you say, nothing more than unauthorized access and/or duplication.)

Whatever one’s stance on the validity of copyright, nobody can credibly claim that technology hasn’t rendered it unenforceable. When I was a kid in the mid-late ’80s, my friends and I used to scoff at the federal warnings preceding the features or episodes recorded to videocassettes. We weren’t copying them; our parents were.

That point regarding the actuality of piracy was first elaborated to me by either William Gibson or Masamune Shirow. Both of them characterized such access similarly — you take nothing away when you copy data.

I am glad to hear that you don’t regard all corporations (or their owners) as inherently evil because of the actions of a certain subset-the seventh footnote of the original essay was a jab directed specifically at those who do believe that all corporations, by their very nature, are evil, and when I was writing it I had in my mind an image of a typical immature progressive. I never denied that there are many malevolent corporations in the world which frequently attempt to erode our individual rights, but I admit that my phrasing of that footnote could conceivably be interpreted as such a denial.

I’m just as frustrated with conservatives who need to believe that most corporations seek to preserve the trust and liberty that empowers them as I’ve always been with Marxists who’re convinced that profit is evil.

To put the matter simply, I’m opposed not to corporations per se, but to most oligopolists.

These all touch upon the wider subject of intellectual property, so I will respond to them all at once. In regard to the claim of intellectual property being a natural right, I will say that I am skeptical, and lean more towards denial than acceptance; when my views concerning the proper function of government are also considered, I think that you can figure out whether or not I believe intellectual property should be secured by means of the law. However, as with copyright, I realize that many persons currently rely on patent and trademark law (among others) for their livelihoods, and hence I concede that, even though these other varieties of intellectual property law are very likely illegitimate, we cannot simply repeal them all at once without first having a suitable private substitute.

I’ll phrase this as sententiously as I can, so as not to wax redundant. In inspiration and realization alike, the labors and fruits of the mind are as substantial and valuable as any physical that have generated material product, be it one conceived therefrom or otherwise. Effort and afflatus alike were not meant to be dissipated wantonly, but harnessed to create something of value, and from the very fact of such value, I believe that he or those who’ve created have as natural a right as any to claim credit and gain whatever remuneration they may without undue infringement upon others. To me, a society where intellectual property isn’t avowed is at least as foreign as that in which slavery is legitimated.

I’m of a mixed mind about patents, but I don’t believe that trademarks should be legally recognized at all. We can discuss this further, if you like.

You mention the DMCA, which makes me curious of your position on it: do you believe that it should be kept unchanged, reformed, or repealed entirely? (I assume that you are reasonable enough to not pick the first option!) Of all the copyright laws in this country that are currently known to me, the DMCA is easily the one I most dislike, because it is the one primarily responsible for bringing serious copyright enforcement to the Internet, which is in direct opposition to my cyberlibertarian desire to keep the medium as free as possible; I especially despise the abuse of DMCA takedown notices as a tool for censorship. The outright repeal of the DMCA, along with the (admittedly highly improbable) dissolution of the MPAA and RIAA and the resulting cessation of all the litigation and lobbying they engage in, are to me the obvious first steps towards the eventual replacement and abolition of copyright in the U.S.

To epitomize my answer: reformed, then eventually repealed.

I blame claimants and sites alike for the censorial abuse of the DMCA; if the latter don’t know what constitutes fair use, they shouldn’t be in business. I haven’t sufficient time to instance or explain how ridiculously the DMCA’s defense of DRM penalizes education or independent research and development, but you’re probably well aware of this. Moreover, the act’s proscription of certain third-party products oddly contracts whole ranges of aftermarket sales, be they toner cartridges or certain types of remote controls. Ultimately, it’s an awful piece of legislation.

My solution for replacement of copyright would be a privatized, decentralized, globally accessible network of content registrars who are bonded or otherwise authorized by a local, provincial or national government by legal necessity. These registrars would be responsible for the receipt, storage and registry (in an online database) of creative works: manuscripts, blueprints, recordings, etc.

In exchange for an affordable fee, a registrar would deposit a copy of a submitted work to a secure server that he/she either provides or leases, catalog data representing the work (author’s name, date of creation, registration number/date, description) as an entry in the aforementioned database, and provide copies to officers of a criminal or civil court upon request, or to the author for another minor fee (covering costs of bandwidth or duplication and postage) upon request. Retiring registrars could bequeath or sell their businesses (database, servers, content, documentation) to others who seek to expand or start their own. Associations of registrars could promote their industry, while imposing compacts. One of these would be an agreement to refuse service to anyone conclusively guilty of plagiarism or other relevant misconduct or malversation.

Every registrar would either individually establish or abide by his/her association’s contract, which would forbid falsification or unauthorized transference of records or content, on pain of very steep civil penalties. Legislation that abrogates copyright would acknowledge the legal validity of these agents, and instead only outlaw unauthorized sales in limited circumstances. Consequently, people could freely and legally share content online while securing attribution if and whenever necessary.

This is imperfect and requires further deliberation, but I think it’s a pretty effective way to eliminate what we deplore while retaining what’s essential. If the limited involvement of government seems excessive, I can’t imagine an alternative for an industry that would be function in a quasi-legal capacity.

Author: rbuchanan

I'm an author, lexicographer, cacophonist, ailurophile, bibliophile, cinephile, logophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow, incontestable babe, borderline narcissist, weirdly semi-Mediterranean Native American, and alliterative anastrophe addict. My personality type is superlative INTJ.

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