Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Intellectual property and John Locke

As the previous post noted, Locke loves the capitalism because it increases output of the stuff people need and like. And it with this in mind that the U.S. Constitution includes protection for private property, which is an integral aspect of Capitalism. There are many valid criticisms of Capitalism in general and of the conception of property in the Lockian sense, but that is beyond the scope of this writing. For Locke property boils down to labor, essentially he says "I worked to make this thing, therefore it is mine." He comes to this conclusion by theological and practical reasoning. God gave the earth to Adam to exploit and so all men are allowed to exploit it. It is only when the exploitation of resources by more than one man interact that society is needed. The problem with these views is that they come from a point in history when labor is scarce and resources are plenty. He even says that more men is better than more land.(P42 line21-22) To this day the Lockian conception of property is the closest to the common conception of property in the U.S. The more you work the more property you get, in theory at least.

This all breaks down horribly when applied to intellectual property. Intellectual property is not, and in many ways has never been, a scarce commodity. I can promulgate an idea without losing that idea. Yes, I lose control over the idea and what others can do with it, but unlike physical property it doesn't matter. With physical property control matters because one wishes to be able to use one's property, physically; and, with intellectual property one can still use the property even when others can use it. For example: If I go out and pick some berries, those are my berries because I did the labor to obtain them. I have the right to control over those berries because if I do not have that right then I am deprived of the berries in a real physical way, and cannot eat them. However, if I labor and produce a song and then let someone hear and that person thereby learns the song, possesses it, if you will, I still have access to all the immediate benefits of the song. I can still sing it to make myself happy. I can still sing it to make others happy. True, I cannot sell the song if it is allowed to circulate for free, but that presupposes that I should have a right to sell it in the first place.

The framers of the constitution understood this. They including in the constitution what would be the beginning of U.S. intellectual property. "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries" from Article one section eight. Clearly they don't think that there is a natural right to control of intellectual property, it is instead a created right. It was necessary that they put this created right in the constitution because it had not before been enshrined in common law or legal code. It is however important to note that this section of the constitution is not protecting a natural right such as the first amendment, it is creating a legal structure which allows people control of their writings and inventions. This last point is important because more and more in contemporary times people have begun to think of intellectual property as a natural right, which it is clearly not. We can see even more that it is not a natural right if we look to the history of the world. Before the constitution, there was not a legal mechanism for enforcing these rights, because they do not exist.

Previous to the legal codification of intellectual property artistic creations and idea were either protected by secrecy, i.e. no one has access to the Mona Lisa long enough to copy it, or were open for public consumption, as in a folk song. Someone wrote all those songs we now consider traditional. Whiskey in the Jar was written by someone. We don't know who, but even if we did, they would have had no rights to control who sang it or wrote it out as sheet music because there were no laws about it at the time. Even Mozart had no rights to his music. How then can we say that intellectual property is necessary to increase the number of goods available in our society. It, in fact, reduces them. It reduces them because it makes goods less available by the restrictions it imposes and because it limits the ability of others to make alterations to those goods in a way that makes them better.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Does John Locke like proto-capitalism?

You bet your ass!

This is all referenced from John Locke's Two Treatises of Government. More specifically, Chapter five of book two.

Advocating for Proto-Capitalism
In cases such as these, where we lack a statement from the author one way or the other, on whether a given state is good or bad, it is a necessity to first determine what the base normative assumptions from which the author works are. In the case of Locke we see that he views that which is good for men, both specific men and men in general, as good, specifically in regards to the acquisition of those things which are necessary for sustaining and enjoying life. It is because of this that he sees the proto-capitalistic state as a good thing. That is to say that more resources is better and because Proto-Capitalism allows for greater resource production, Locke views it as good.
Locke’s normative assumption is not explicitly stated, not in the second book of his treatises at least. It is however implicit in a number of assertions throughout the chapter on property. This can be found first and foremost in his description of land which has been worked. He consistently refers to land which has been worked so as to increase production of food as “improved.” We first see reference to improvement in ¶32: “As much land as a man Tills, Plants, Improves, Cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property.” (Locke, 290) In this case he separates improvement from other labors which man can perform upon a tract of land, but in his later usage we find that he considers those things to be forms of improvement. Indeed, in the same paragraph Locke states, “God and his[man’s] Reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of life.”(Locke, 290) Clearly tilling and planting would be included under that improvement. Moreover, this is as close to an explicit normative assertion as Locke offer, and it makes clear that improvement is tied to benefiting life, by which he means men’s life, for Locke’s is a clearly anthropocentric philosophy.
On the other side of the coin we see Locke’s statement on waste. “So little, that even amongst us, Land that is left wholly to Nature, that hath no improvement of Pasturage, Tillage, or Planting, is called, as indeed it is, wast;” (Locke, 297) Here we see reinforced that Locke views the other things listed earlier as types of improvements. He also sees land which lies unimproved, left wholly to nature, as a bad thing, and thus that land should be cultivated to the extent that men can use it’s products. This idea of waste does bring up a caveat of Locke’s; letting things which benefit man go to waste once labor has been spent upon them it tantamount to robbery. “But if they perished, in his Possession, without their due use...he invaded his Neighbour’s share, for he had no Right, farther than his Use, called for any of them, and they might serve to afford him Conveniencies of Life.”(Locke, 295) So greater production is only good if those things produced are used, it is for this reason that Locke sees the proto-capitalism which he describes as a good thing. We see this view of wasting things which are necessary to life as bad again in ¶46.
In ¶42 Locke goes on to say that more men is better and that the role of the good prince is to encourage, or “incourage” as it were, and protect the process of improving land. In this is the beginning of his showing that he thinks proto-capitalism is good, because he follows this in ¶45 with the assertion that “yet there are still great Tracts of Ground to be found, which (the Inhabitants thereof not having joyned with the rest of Mankind, in the consent of the Use of their common Money) lie waste, and are more than the People, who dwell on it, do, or can make use of, and still lie common. Tho’ this can scarce happen amongst that part of Mankind, that have consented to the Use of Money.” Here he clearly thinks that the proto-capitalist state is necessary for the sort of improvements and increases in production which he views as good.
One could argue contrary to these views that he sees proto-capitalism as a bad because it ends up with wasted resources, and outcome which he clearly thinks is bad. However, to argue this assumes that he sees proto-capitalism as necessarily being wasteful, a contention for which there is a lack of evidence. There are those who would argue that proto-capitalism would be inherently wasteful, this is however not the point. One could also argue that the inequality in wealth is bad, but Locke states that money is not bad thing, nor is hoarding money. “Gold and Silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to any one.”(Locke, 302) So he is clearly not a critic of self-interest, if acquiring property is good and hoarding wealth is good, then what could be wrong with self interest in regards to property, especially in light of the fact that he sees the inequality as something which men have consented to?
It is clear that Locke thinks that increased production of those thing which benefit man, both necessities and luxuries, is a good thing. Further it is clear that he sees proto-capitalism as a good method for increasing that production. It is true that he might not think that the governments which arise from this proto-capitalism are universally good, but that is a function of the government not of proto-capitalism.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New Privilege Exposed/Discovered

Well I was just reading the comments in The post on the post on marriage over at I Blame the Patriarchy and I ran into this in a comment by maribelle (excerpt):

Ways in which his male privilege rears its ugly head:

1. The privilege of always being right. This is HUGE. He simply cannot see himself as wrong about anything–from whether to make a left turn on Maple to how we raise our children. No large or small mistake can penetrate his consciousness. Even if he’s obviously, demonstrably wrong, (i.e. sinking in a bog near Maple) it is never talked about again. (Three years of therapy later there are grudging apologies, but usually so sour they are an insult in and of themselves. Best thing about therapy–he never yells now. I love that. They can learn. He told me when we married that he was “nothing if not trainable.” That has been generally accurate–about some things.)

#1 alone ensures that our marriage will be forever unequal.

But there’s more:

2. The privilege of always being smarter. He has a PhD. I have a BA. If I happen to know some fact that he doesn’t, from some obscure fact about the Trojan war to Alberto Gonzalez’s latest DOJ outrage, it fries his ass and he has to look it up independently, then act as though my knowledge of a topic predating his were a freak accident.

To this end, he will MAKE UP INFORMATION. I kid you not. Someone will ask a question and he will extrapolate on some subject on which he knows nothing. If I call him on it (in private) he shrugs it off as seeming reasonable or inferable from the facts at hand. In my book, I call it “lying.”

3. The privilege of thinking he’s better at something than I am. Anything and everything, including my areas of professional and amateur expertise.

4. The privilege of choosing his own work. Yes, he “helps” a lot around the house–some weeks he does more than I. But what chaps my hide is that he always picks the jobs he wants to do, and I am expected to pick up the rest. EX: He “cycles laundry” (puts in washer/dryer) but our daughter and I fold it. Yet every Sunday as he lists the chores he did that weekend ( a bizarre ritual at which I am expected to coo and bill) he lists “I did the laundry.” Whatever.

He NEVER scrubs the pans because he “hates” it. (Me, I live for it.) He cooks because he hates to do dishes. He mows the lawn because he WILL NOT vac and dust. on and on.

#3 and #4 I don't really have a problem with anymore, though #3 was definitely a problem for a while. The second half of #2 also used to be a problem, but isn't anymore. Of course I thought of it as being pretentious more than privilege, but whatever.

I still have huge problems with one and two. My further problem is that I don't really know how to deal with them. A bid part of that is because the stuff that I've dealt with already is often a matter of behavior whereas the ones I have problems with are more assumptions I am making about myself and other people. I have tried to change my behavior in regards to these, but I notice that I still immediately think them and instead of saying something I just suppress what I would say, or I do this when I am being aware of myself and my actions.

I really need to figure out how to attack them at the root of the problem, the assumptions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Further Gender Musings

I had a realization a couple of days ago: I gender dogs as masculine and cats as feminine. At first I didn't think that much of it, but I'm finding it weirder now. I can see why I would do that, but I do it to the point where when I first come into contact with a dog I assume it is male, and vice versa with cats. Further indoctrination in the gender/sex binary to be broken I suppose.

That leads me to another point. It seems like there is so much deprogramming to be done, where the heck does one start? I mean, I consistently recognize these ingrained behaviors, schema, as mentioned in an earlier post. I do think that recognizing them is the first step, then acting to change them.

“Ideology and hegemony are opposite ends of a continuum…At one end…‘ideology’ is used to refer to struggles to establish dominant meanings and to make justice claims on the basis of alternative ideologies…At the other end…the term ‘hegemony’ is used to refer to situations where meanings are so embedded that representational and institutionalized power is invisible." (Silbey 1998, 276)

Schema are the everyday actors of hegemony. They are the ways that we as individuals further the oppression of different groups, sometimes even groups to which we belong. I like the way that Sibley (to me by way of Haslanger) talks about the continuum, where we have the presumption of something being natural, whatever that means, on the end of hegemony. I.E. womens place is in the home, black people are not as intelligent as white people, etcetera. and then as ones eyes are opened one moves towards ideology, or the recognition of things as ideology and not as part of a natural order.

So, here I am, slowly moving across the continuum towards ideology.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"We have electoral fraud, rampant corporate corruption, a culture of militarism and war," Williams said. "If you care about democracy and self-governance and any kind of representative system, the only constitutional way to preserve what's left of the Republic is to peaceably take apart the empire."

From here.

And let me say, I completely agree. I would love to see California secede. I realize that practically it is implausible, or at least a long way off, but I don't think it's a bad thing to start talking about. In a way I think this goes back to my previous post on a left/right libertarian coalition. If we can join forces we could do exciting things like reduce the size of the national guard, thus reducing the power of the feds to take it over and fight wars. In lieu of the national guard we could institute a large state-wide emergency response organization, based not on centralized command but on decentralized aid efforts.

One of the reasons that Katrina was such a disaster was because the feds refused to allow private citizens with boats and transport into the city to help rescue people. Throughout history the initial response to large scale disasters has always been by private citizens. Go read about the earthquake in '89, it was the people on the scene of the freeway collapses, regular commuters not emergency personnel that saved the most people. Where as during the aftermath of Katrina there were literally lines of people with boats trying to get into the city to rescue people, but alas centralized authority must be maintained.

In an interesting aside; in imperial China the emperor would have been dethroned if he had acted the way bush did. Natural disasters were seen as a sort of omen; and, if the imperial government did not successfully mitigate the disaster their mandate to rule was thought to be revoked. So emperors have fallen for mistakes lesser than our current presidents.

Back to the point: We need to encourage all of these secessionist movements, they may not succeed, but they might bring about less centralized government control.