Joel Bowman

What the market giveth, the state rises to taketh away.

One of the more striking features of this whole modern spectacle must surely be the stark contrast between the state and the free markets that exist stubbornly, gloriously, in spite of its best efforts. Wherever evidence presents itself, it appears to do so with the sole purpose of expressing this juxtaposition in ever-higher relief.

This is no mere coincidence, Fellow Reckoner. The two entities are day and night…white and black…truth and government statistic. To the extent that the former exists, the latter does not. One produces; the other consumes. One adds value and meaning to peoples’ lives; the other subtracts value and feeds on the self-worth of those it engulfs. One is dynamic, responsive, nimble and creative; the other is brittle, deaf, lethargic and breathtakingly inelegant in all its forms. One serves customers, the other serves sentences.

It might well be said that, while the free market bends over backwards to serve the needs and desires of individuals, the state merely bends individuals over backwards.

The latest battle between these diametrically opposed nemeses is today being played out in the theater of intellectual property rights. Thanks to shared, copied articles, you’ve no doubt read all about it here and elsewhere. (In addition to some excellent commentary in these very pages, we would further refer interested Reckoners to this piece, penned by Mr. Stephan Kinsella, a man many consider the libertarian expert on this most important subject).

To be sure, the IP skirmish is just one of many such political hot spots, but it may well be one of the most important.

Free individuals’ ability to copy and learn from each other (without denying anyone else a single atom of realized, tangible or even “ownable” property in the process) is an important — arguably vital — tool in our ongoing struggle against the oppression of the state. It is an advantage, in other words, of immeasurable importance and one we surrender at our peril.

To illustrate the point, here is an excerpt from an excellent article by Kevin Carson that appeared on the Center for a Stateless Society website earlier this week:

Because local nodes in self-organized networks are free to take action or innovate without waiting for permission from an administrative apparatus, and every other node in the network is similarly free to learn by example and adopt the innovations without permission, they fully exploit agility advantages of networked communications in ways that authoritarian hierarchies are unequipped to.

[And here is a link to the full article, which we are happy to share with you without permission from the author, in case you’re interested: Why the State Will Fail.]

By larding itself with bureaucracy, inefficiency and structural rigidity — all designed to serve the privileged, politically-connected looter class working the machine behind the curtain — the state positions itself at a considerable disadvantage with respect to the free markets — the self-organized networks — that it seeks to crush.

Happily, we don’t have to follow this path by subscribing to the state’s sinister web of dysphemisms and doublespeak. We can, instead, reject its definition of sharing and learning and emulating as “pirating,” and as something, therefore, to be outlawed. We can likewise reject the state’s logically-circular notion that ideas — non-scarce, un-ownable patterns of knowledge — ought to enjoy violence-backed protection against “aggression”…from a violence-based institution that exists only because of aggression.

Most private citizens would have the decency to feel embarrassed if they had to defend this warped sort of logic. The state, on the other hand, revels in its position…but only because it doesn’t have to defend it. It simply claims the right to enforce it. A big difference, you’ll surely agree.

But here, too, the state’s designs to undo all that humanity has come to enjoy as a result of said copying, emulating and learning from each other comes unstuck. How, exactly, does one grant — much less enforce — an unnatural monopoly on intangible, infinitely reproducible concepts? How does one erect a protective circle around things that have no physical properties?

The state’s strategic efforts (SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and the like) to crack down on the spread of ideas ultimately amount to little more than a woeful, modern day adaptation of the mystical dream snare. Fortunately for us, ideas (and dreams) cannot simply be “caught” in a net…just as they won’t be caught on the net. The brave individuals who daily resist this tyranny ingeniously find workarounds to the state’s feeble-minded aggressions. And bravo to them!

Continues Mr. Carson:

We saw this recently with the development of Firefox’s DeSopa circumvention utility before SOPA even came up for a vote, and Anonymous’s massive same-day DDOS attack in response to a federal takedown of MegaUpload that had been months in the planning. Last summer Tor developers released a workaround the very same day Iranian authorities thought they’d shut down the encrypted router network.

The second the state constructs a wall, 2…4…8…10,000 copies of the very idea it was built to contain emerge on the other side. They are like ornery little neutrinos, seemingly popping in and out of existence as if only to mock the government’s Neanderthalic, cinder block goals.

Fortunately for us, good ideas don’t need or seek protection, nor do they exist to serve any one master. They are non-scarce entities and, as such, are here to serve us all.

On that last note, if you would like to share, copy or “pirate” any article you see appear in The Daily Reckoning, we’re making it as easy as possible. You can:

1) Go to our website and forward the link to your favorite articles to friends or,
2) Find and “like” us on Facebook, where you can share our articles or,
3) Do likewise by following us on Twitter.

As the author Paulo Coelho recently wrote in a fantastic blog post (which you are free to read here):

“Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!”

Joel Bowman
for The Daily Reckoning

Joel Bowman

Joel Bowman is a contributor to The Daily Reckoning. After completing his degree in media communications and journalism in his home country of Australia, Joel moved to Baltimore to join the Agora Financial team. His keen interest in travel and macroeconomics first took him to New York where he regularly reported from Wall Street, and he now writes from and lives all over the world.

  • gman

    “One produces; the other consumes.”

    you do realize that piracy does not produce but rather consumes, don’t you?

    all this talk of libertarianism and freedom and action is nothing more than a cover for theft. theft of another man’s work. theft of property. theft of anything you can get your keystrokes on and load onto your own harddrive for your own personal use or enjoyment. riding on another’s work not your own. that’s all it is.

    of course the state will come after you. have you never heard of the phrase “that to secure these rights”? that’s what’s happening. all this talk of the oppressive state is a diversion. the only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals – and you are giving them gigabytes of excuses every single day.

    it’s like you want them after you. do you? well, here they come. thanks a lot.

  • Ben Franklin

    The State doesn’t bend people over backwards, it bends people over forwards in order to …, well, you know what.

  • Le Petomane

    Hey gman, I read most of your comments and I think you should have my handle. Don’t suppose you would like to make an offer?

  • phelps

    Ideas have always been copied, or stolen as gman likes to say. B. Walsh, SF 49er HC in the ’80s created his west coast offense and it was a huge success. Many NFL coaches followed this and implemented the same offense. Do they all owe Walsh money for this? Are they not allowed to utilize the fullback the way Walsh did?

  • Angelique Wow

    Le Pétomane (play /ləˈpɛtəmeɪn/, French pronunciation: [ləpetɔˈman]) was the stage name of the French flatulist (professional farter) and entertainer Joseph Pujol (June 1, 1857–1945). He was famous for his remarkable control of the abdominal muscles, which enabled him to seem to fart at will. His stage name combines the French verb péter, “to fart” with the -mane, “-maniac” suffix, which translates to “fartomaniac”. The profession is also referred to as “flatulist”, “farteur”, or “fartiste”.[1]

  • CT

    There we go with one word covering everything. “State,” “government,” “corporations,” its like these names explain all the complexities of said name and one word doesn’t do it. We need to be more specific in our definitions. One word to cover all just doesn’t make it. But then we are a lazy species pretending to be busy like little bees.

  • Blackbeard the anti-statist

    Aye, matey.

    Ship ahoy.

  • citigroupie

    What the “media companies” are essentially saying is that they own this song, this TV series episode, this e-book or this movie. They paid some money in order to acquire this particular “square” on the real-life “monopoly board”, and now they want to collect rent everytime someone steps in their square. This is how the system works, isn’t it? I mean, what’s the point of buying a square on the Monopoly board, if the other players aren’t going to pay you if they step on it? What’s the point of financing the creation of a movie or a TV series, if the viewrs (“clients”) refuse to pay any money for watching it?

    This is very bad for you, the owner of this particular square. And this is why you must stop this sort of behaviour, which goes against the very core of the system (private property). I mean, the people do respect private property when it comes to paying their electricity bills, or paying the barber who cuts their hair. But when it comes to paying for watching movies, or reading a book, they don’t. This is not just an financial matter of “lost revenue”, it is also a political and ideological battle:

    The people “must” be taught to respect private property laws on the internet, otherwise they might get some “strange ideas” about abolishing private property all together, thus ending all the monopolies that now control their lives and replacing them with a system the producers of wealth cooperate and share everything, from mp3’s and movies to…food and electricity, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

    Capitalism treats everything as “products” that can be sold or bought (for a profit), or at least that’s its “natural instinct”. NOTHING is free. You have to fight for every little thing in this life (“there is no such thing as a free lunch” in capitalism as the neoliberals famously -and rightly- declared). Movies, books, music songs, all these things are products -the fact that they are not physical doesn’t really matter much. In fact, this is a big problem for the capitalists, as the “digital age” is still new, and the people haven’t yet been taught that they must respect private property laws on the “digital products” (whereas they have been taught that they must respect private property laws on the “physical products”, as they have been around for many years).

    The internet is but one of many fronts, although its “digital” nature makes it a more compelling case, as the people haven’t yet been taught to “respect private property” and they try to “make up excuses for their disobedience” (“it’s not stealing; it’s copying”, etc.). But true victory can only come for the people only if and when they abolish private property all together – otherwise, they will over and over again be destined to repeat this vicious cycle:

  • gman

    “and I think you should have my handle. Don’t suppose you would like to make an offer?”

    thanks, but no. it would be too easy to pirate.

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