Free culture movement under attack

The free culture movement and the pirate movement are two quite different things. The latter is fair game for ostracism by those who value Rule of Law. Free Culture, however, is not about expropriating things into the public domain but creating things that are born public domain, basically a (largely failed) effort to bring the (IMHO admirable) open source ethic to things other than software.

David Newhoff, in This is no time to be devaluing creators, seems to be trying to conflate the free culture movement with the tragically unfortunate trend of employers who want to pay people in “exposure” or “experience.” That phenomenon harms most if not all workers, creative class or not. The former would benefit more from better labor law protections than from better IP protections.

Another reason a middle level (or middle class) niche in cultural product is difficult to carve out is the “long tail” nature of audience share distribution. So it will probably always be the case that the nightclub acts vastly outnumber the rock stars, but also that the amateurs will always vastly outnumber the nightclub acts. Making assertion of IP rights the main strategy against the unpaid internship phenomenon looks from my outsider perspective like an attempt to guildify the creative professions by erecting entry barriers. I actually have nothing against this approach, as I’m pro-union. But should the high wall be between established professionals and semiprofessionals? Or between semiprofessionals and amateurs? Perhaps the creatives should go full trade unionist and adopt a formal apprentice/journeyperson/master hierarchy. I think paid apprenticeships are the only truly appropriate answer to unpaid internships.

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Intentional economic calculation

The market is remarkably good at allocating resources efficiently. The only problem is that the market magic doesn’t work on criteria of efficiency that aren’t dollar-weighted. I suppose it’s one of those normative vs. positive things. Since (1) it doesn’t seem possible to harness the market mechanism for solving person-weighted optimization problems and (2) I’m not ready to surrender some of my normative commitments (specifically, negative utilitarianism), it appears to me that an effort at intentional economic calculation is necessary, even though it will probably be inherently inferior to the market as an optimization algorithm.

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Quotebag #116

Richard Stallman:
Any speech recognition running on a server that isn’t yours, you can’t trust.
Emmi Bevensee and Kameron Fein
Just because illicit activities are not included in the GDP of a nation does not mean that they are not a part of the national economy or that they are somehow subverting it.
SMART = Surveillance Marketed as Revolutionary Technology
Sometimes, though, I think the ones who make the world better don’t do it for appreciation, but for the sheer pride of solving some puzzle others couldn’t solve. Many sorts of motivation exist, and not all are motivated by the same forces. But I see no reason to believe someone who wasn’t motivated by $50 million/year will suddenly become motivated by $500 million/year, nor do I believe their work will be 10x better than the “punitive” little $50/million paycheck.
In an actual revolutionary situation, presumably, because the workers have guns.
What, too coercive? The NAP is a conservative principle — the violence of the present is affirmed insofar as it is invisible, while the violence necessary to change and progress is viewed with horror.
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Why Anarchists and Voluntaryists Can Never Agree on Anything

Social Anarchist Analysis

If you’re a libertarian of any kind who’s been on the Internet, you’ve no doubt either seen or participated in a long and frustrating debate between the merits of two traditions which have been categorised under the L-word: social anarchism (or just anarchism) and voluntaryism (or anarcho-capitalism).
The former root themselves intellectually in the traditions of the wider anti-authoritarian left, in figures such as Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman, rejecting both the state and capitalism as domineering barriers to personal autonomy and social freedom. The latter root themselves in the traditions of the so-called old right, classical liberalism, and Austrian economics, looking to Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises as founding fathers.

99% of the time, at least in my experience, these debates achieve nothing, entail both parties talking past one another, leave everybody fuming at the cornucopia of bad feeling and petty insults, and later make anyone…

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Quotebag #113

We know by now that hard work at poverty wages is not how those with good work ethic develop skills and experience to become wealthy capitalists. On the contrary, huge numbers of people working at poverty wages is how those willing to exploit the desperation of others become wealthy capitalists.
Michael O. Church:
We don’t need to persuade people or speak “truth to power”, because those in power already know what the truth is. We’ll probably have to fight them.
Russell Keith-Magee:
The idea that all the world’s communication is stored in a single company’s database — be it Twitter, Google, or Facebook — scares me no end.
Frank Moraes:
We aren’t a world of nations anymore; we are a world of corporations. We are living in a William Gibson dystopia, but no one is willing to admit it for what it is.
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Education and its disruptors

Some say debt aversion is a bad thing. Maybe it is, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and all. I was born in the mid-1960s, but my parents were late bloomers, reproduction-wise, so I’m a demographic oddity for my age in being only one generation removed from the Great Depression.

My parents were also low-achieving enough that I qualified for a Pell Grant, and Work Study. Do those programs even still exist? Had I not qualified for non-repayable financial aid, I’m pretty sure that either I would not have gone to college (most likely) or limited myself to majors that were directly applicable/marketable at BS-level (accounting, nursing, engineering, etc.) As it is I majored in math, but with a very broad-based selection of electives. I also chose challenging courses over being grade motivated, which may be the main reason I have no degrees beyond the BS degree. As it turns out I’m even more of an underachiever than my parents, career-wise, so I can’t say with a straight face that I’ve given the taxpayers a return on their investment by breaking out of the 15% tax bracket.

Perhaps we were wrong, as a society, to challenge the conventional wisdom that learning for its own sake is a privilege of the leisure class. Perhaps it is good that the university as we know it is seeing its business model break down and its student body siphoned off by disruptive innovators. Academic careers have become a sort of refuge for people with attitudes that simply don’t fly in a corporate setting, so maybe it is best that a seizable majority of youths should be gently prodded in the direction of practical skills training instead of ivory tower nonsense.

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More on “right to work” and issue framing

Framing is of course important, but I cringe just a little when people use the free rider framing against “right to work” because free rider problems and “tragedy of the commons” arguments in general seem to find uses most often in cases for right of center causes. Same for appeals to contractually defined rights. I sometimes invoke contractarian ideas, but with the understanding that I regard contracts as a bug rather than a feature of the status quo. Show me a contract between a business and an individual that was not collectively negotiated (collectively bargained) and I’ll show you a very one-sided boilerplate. Basically, I don’t like that some employers insist on privacy-invasive practices such as unwarranted piss tests or credit checks, but to vote with my feet against the practice would mean limiting the number of openings for which I would be willing to apply, and I’m simply not established enough to be able to afford to be picky about that, so I just have to suck it up and sign a lot of application boilerplate that makes me puke. Some workplaces happen to be union shop (or “closed shop,” as the dishonest types who use dishonest terms like “right to work” prefer to call it). If you have a problem with that then, as the laissez-faire types like to say disparagingly whenever anyone brings up a genuine worker rights concern, “nobody’s holding a gun to your head.”

That being said, I do understand the importance of being able to argue your cases in terms of principles central to your opponents, as well as the difference between arguing before the water cooler and arguing before the Supreme Court.

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