Well, it’s also very relevant to technology, as the so-called Progress & Freedom Foundation shows at its conference this week with a keynote by Richard Epstein that literally equates goods such as copyrights with physical property such as land.
Epstein’s Web page describes him as a libertarian. This is a lie. He is a statist, but of a peculiar sort. He prefers a private state, one owned by big business.
How extreme is this? It’s a call to make copyright eternal, to make everything patentable and all such claims absolute.
It would destroy the economy, destroy the U.S. tech sector, and transform consumers into the chattals of Disney and Microsoft.
That’s the basic idea.
There are two stupidities at work here:
- Historical Ignorance — Absolute IP regimes have always been precursors to the end of a society’s business leadership.
- Practical Ignorance — Such regimes are impossible to police. They push smart people underground, and push innovation into other countries.
The truth of this is to be found in America’s own history, and its
founding document. Epstein wants us to ignore the limited rights and
limited times granted copyright and patents by Article I, Section 8 of
the Constitution. He wants to ignore the country’s early industrial
history, which depended heavily on theft of IP from England (and
elsewhere). (To the left, Samuel Slater, founder of America’s first big factory, IP pirate.)
This is nonsense. This is willful ignorance. This is a legal, moral, and business obscenity.
But that’s what you get at the end of a generational thesis,
especially in an area which, like the present Big Industry order, has
been bowed-to by three generations of leaders.
At the heart of the Progressive Movement was an agreement. Big
business would accept the veto of government in its rule over the
people, and in exchange government would mainly work on the side of big
business. That contract was renewed in the New Deal, where the largest
companies came to accept "big government" regulation. But a hallmark of
this latest generational thesis has been an attempt to overthrow that
agreement — to make government as well as all people completely
subservient to the whims of big business, as in the pre-progressive
And it is at this point that people will, are, and should revolt.
Hopefully that revolt will take Astroturfers like the PFF and fascist
apologies like "Dr." Richard Epstein with it.
It needs to.