Big Head Press


L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 564, April 4, 2010

"This is the lie of democracies and republics.
Your opinion doesn't matter."

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Top Line Work
by Jim Davidson
jim@vertoro.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Two friends have been discussing my friend Darrin's car, which is currently not running. Among other things is a controversy about when it becomes an abandoned item available for homesteading. Here is my latest post on that topic.

I do find the refusal by Rich to recognise cure time as valid use to be a bit strange. Possibly distasteful. Obviously, if I set a barrel of whiskey in a warehouse and leave it there for 20 years, it cures up into a much more interesting drink. Same for the rusting El Camino half car half truck turning to iron oxide for use in thermite and other applications. However, I think this focus on stuff is really very trivial, almost to the point of absurdity.

Yes there was a time when humans mostly valued things, or land, as opposed to ideas. But that time is past. If you look at the things that people are paid exceedingly well for, they mostly involve good judgement and creativity. For example, Darrin can create artwork, and there seems to be some demand for it (Individual Sovereign University, Del Valley Silver, e.g.). For example, I write essays. For example, various people working in top management positions have a highly valued ability to take choices or pass judgement. Enormous industries are involved in creating works of software—film, books, video, blogs, advertising, publicity, speeches, computer code, network software, etc. Enormous industries are involved in creating works of sculpture that are effectively works of art—microchips, production autos, racing autos, aeroplanes, etc. Invention, creativity, and judgement are the best paying types of jobs.

And you can't have abandoned creativity nor abandoned judgement. There is no separating the individual from what makes her interesting.

The scarcity concept becomes a bit dull after a while. "Oh, you can't abandon a building. Why, we'll come along and squat in it and mix our labour with it and make it something more." Well, yeah. Do that. It isn't like there aren't other buildings in the world, or many places to build new ones. And at the end of your conquest of abandoned property you have refurbished goods. This cannot possibly be a very major industry. But welcome to it.

One of my friends asked the very intelligent question, "When can one homestead a piece of intellectual property?"

My thought was:
That depends on whether you have made an agreement not to homestead it. Let's assume you have not. I would say that as soon as you find a copy of this item, you can make it yours. Given the extremely low cost of reproduction technology usage, that should not be hard to arrange. If you have made an agreement not to homestead a piece of property someone has sold or shown to you under terms of an agreement, then you should abide by those terms. However, perpetuities continue to be illegal in many jurisdictions, so you may want to be careful about the term of years in the contract, if any.

One of the things that our fearless friends John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, etc., have noticed is that when they put their ENTIRE library of original Monty Python works up on Youtube for free downloading, sales of their ENTIRE library of original Monty Python works skyrocketed. It was the best marketing move they ever made, introducing to millions of new people their existence and works of humour.

Now, you may say, and I wouldn't blame you for supposing, that I'm contradicting my above thought that creativity and invention and judgement are most valuable players, if I believe that you have no obligation not to copy things you find laying around in the pubic domain. But, I believe that the cartel operating in restraint of trade in the music industry and in the film industry is not the producers or makers of such works, but the distributors. And if you have any experience in these industries, you'll know some of the most slimy and mafia-seeming weirdos and crooks ever. If you consider for a moment how they paid $50,000 to Humphrey Bogart for his work in "Casablanca" and they are still raking it in on DVD sales many decades after he smoked himself into an early grave. Well, find your own justice in that.

The culture we've already created is an information culture, in which the duplication and dissemination of ideas and information happens very rapidly and at nearly zero cost. It was not necessary for Arthur C. Clarke to propose that the United Nations ban toll charges for long distance phone calls—that was an idiotic idea by a state socialist based on learned pre-conceptions which no longer make any sense.

Today, I can pay a flat fee and dial any number in the world. Most of the Voice Over IP services like Vonage make it possible to dial numbers in dozens and dozens of countries without any toll charges. There are other services I've used where there is no up front fee at all—if you have the right software and can connect to the right server, you can call anyone, anywhere, any time. It isn't even illegal—the system works so efficiently that there isn't any reason to charge you for connections.

E-mail is free, and with encryption, can be as private as regular mail using an envelope (that is, not very private, but for most purposes, private enough). The web is free. Encyclopedias and dictionaries are free online resources. All the public domain books in the world are on the web, and many copyrighted works are, as well.

There is no going back. No matter how many children are forced into pubic schools, made to sit in rows and columns, taught to respond to bells to switch to other classrooms like Pavlov's dogs, ordered to obey, disarmed and made targets for maniax, treated like garbage, ignored when they want to do things to distinguish themselves or, worse, told that by inviting a same sex date to the prom they have ruined it for everyone, no matter how ugly and hidebound with rules the schools become, they are not going to bring back factory work, assembly line production, and the mass psychoses associated with those things.

Look at Generous Motors. It was given all kinds of special privileges in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. These included shutting down Tucker automotive for daring to innovate, very high protective tariffs such as the 1968 100% tariff on imported pickup trucks, all kinds of regulatory barriers to new entries in the market, all kinds of special subsidies. And in 2008 they went bankrupt, anyway. There is no magical formula the government can invoke to bring back the factory jobs. Detroit is gone. Cleveland is gone. The rust belt cities are not going to come back.

It isn't because there aren't people who want to buy things, it is because purpose built objects are easy to make. The advent of computer controlled and numerically controlled machines means that small shops can make complex items and do so from any location. Drive a shipping container to a new town, park it, hook up to electricity, have supplies delivered, make a hundred units, sell them, ship them off, and move on.

Factories are no longer the huge enterprises they used to be. So they don't have to be targets for taxation and labour organisers. Indeed, they don't have to have much labour beyond the entrepreneur herself.

The future belongs to people who can understand ideas and information. And as much as the bullies of the schoolyard are disappointed that their ability to beat up nerds isn't contributing to their success in society, the future is always going to belong to people who understand ideas.

The days of the bully in uniform are numbered. I'll let ya know when the number approaches zero.


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Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. His third book Sovereign Self-Defence will be released for Kindle very soon. His fourth book Being Libertarian will be available for free download as a .pdf, being a compilation of all his essays and letters in "The Libertarian Enterprise" since 1995. Contact him at indomitus.net or houstonspacesociety.org.


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