Monday, December 21, 2009

Private Property - Don't Touch!!!

Private property is one of the fundamental building blocks upon which the United States is built. Regretfully the concept of private property is increasingly being abused. Specifically the claim that you are entitled to tell others what to do should you believe that your "property" is somehow being affected.

A recent illustration of this process appeared in the "" a local newspaper out of Wilmington, North Carolina. So I thought that I had better jump on this story as it also complements my beliefs that those who believe in so-called intellectual property are claiming property rights that they don't possess.

The Star News writes in the article "Ocean Isle Beach homeowners, officials battle over native landscape" that:

Beauty, it's said, is in the eye of the beholder. And for Doug and Jane Oakley, their house in Ocean Isle Beach surrounded by thick and lush native vegetation is a beautiful sight.

“This is the glue that holds this island together,” said Jane Oakley as she pointed out the yaupon, wax myrtle and cedars amid the green canopy in her backyard. “Mother nature isn't wrong.”

But some of their neighbors, along with officials in this Brunswick County beach town, have a different opinion.

They see the trees and shrubs, many covered in thickets of thorny vines, that surround the house at 9 Isle Plaza as an eyesore and a haven for rodents and snakes.

The town has now taken the couple to court in an effort to get their property cleaned up


The house, built in 1964, also looks out of place and a bit dilapidated when compared with the newer and larger beach homes that line the quiet street.

The Oakleys think that might be the real reason they're under pressure to clean up their lot.

So here we have the neighbors and the local municipality asserting that they have a "right" to "force" a property owner to do things on their property to protect the property values of others.

On the nature of property from the Libertarian point of view, S. Balasubramanian wrote that one of the most basic principles of Objectivism is that no man may claim the right to initiate force against another. (An Objectivist Recants on IP). I am not an Objectivist (in fact I consider it to be a bankrupt philosophy), nevertheless there is an important fundamental take-away from this Libertarian concept. One does not have a right to "force" another on their property to protect your so-called property interests.

Unfortunately, neighbors (as the Oakley story points out) seem to believe today that they can tell you what to do on your property based on the fact that it affects their property values. The Oakley case regretfully is not unique, when we lived in California the local papers would occasionally have articles on how trees on private property and public parks, blocking coastal views, would be mysteriously cut down.

In terms of so-called intellectual property, those who have "sold" you the content believe, like the Oakley neighbors, that they maintain an entitlement to reach out and tell you how you can use your property. S. Balasubramanian phrased concept this better with the following question: "How do you reconcile the facts that recognising and enforcing IP essentially gives some people a right to the physical property of others?"

The situation that the Oakley's are in is really quite similar to what is happening with so-called intellectual property. The figurative "neighbors" assert that they have an unjustified right to "force" you to protect their property even if it places a needless burden on you. It is time to recognize that "neighbors" do not have a right to "force" you to protect their property rights (which in some cases is fictitious anyway).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nanny State Hypocrisy?

Those who claim to be dedicated to the concept of the "free market" like to toss out the concept of the Nanny State when the government proposes a regulation to protect its citizens. A recent example of this is Berin Szoka post: "Congresswoman, CALM Thyself! LA Times Eschews Eshoo Nanny State Bill to Regulate Ad Volume"> Congresswoman, CALM Thyself! LA Times Eschews Eshoo Nanny State Bill to Regulate Ad Volume". Berin writes: "The LA Times has come out swinging in a devastating editorial against Rep. Anna G. Eshoo’s (D-CA) Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, passed by the House on Tuesday. As Adam Thierer and I have discussed (here, here, and here), and as PFF’s Ken Ferree notes here, this silly paternalist law would require the FCC to issue rules that broadcast and cable TV ads: ..."

The apparent hypocrisy arises when the private sector makes appeals to government to intervene for their protection. Richard Bennett for example writes: "It is time for the U.S. government to take global theft of U.S. intellectual property, especially digital content, much more seriously. A new ITIF report finds that the U.S. government can and should do more to support industry efforts to reduce digital piracy, a growing problem that threatens not only the robust production of digital content, but U.S. jobs. While there are no “silver bullets” to reducing digital piracy, there are a number of “lead bullets” that can and should be implemented. Specifically, ITIF calls on the federal government to not preclude those impacted by digital piracy, including copyright holders and ISPs, from taking steps, including implementing technical controls like digital fingerprinting, to reduce piracy."

So here we have the "free market" advocates writing expansive posts raising significant issues about the evils of the Nanny State when it comes to the trivial issue of volume control. Now when the "free market" sector feels that they need protection, they have no apparent feelings of duplicity in now demanding that the supposed enemy Nanny State step in to protect their interests. Hypocrisy.

So if the government proposes regulations to protect its citizens from abuse, no matter how trivial, we get posts "exposing" how government will take over our lives through abusive and onerous laws. When it comes to the appeals of the private sector for "protection", the Nanny State now becomes our friend. So its OK for the private sector to use the power of the Nanny State, but it is not acceptable for the citizens to be protected by the Nanny State? How Orwellian.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Neglected Concerns in the Copyright Debate

Two stories recently surfaced that point to neglected aspects in the copyright debate. Both deal with the question of enforcement. Techdirt writes: "Congress Gives $30 Million To Fight 'Piracy'". And Freedom to Tinker writes: "Erroneous DMCA notices and copyright enforcement, part deux". Each of these articles, in their own way, unintentionally demonstrate that we tend to view the copyright debate from the viewpoint of the content creators. After all when someone works to create something they should be rewarded for their efforts. A no brainier.

However, things are not that simple. We need to push back on the implicit acceptance that the content creator is simply a victim that needs to be protected when copyright is abused.

So what is wrong with the Congress giving $30 Million dollars to fight privacy? Essentially we are using the power of the State to protect a special interest, the content creator. But then when it comes to protecting the consumer from the abusive tactics of private industry, there are howls of agony over "restricting" business flexibility, Big Government, and the Nanny State. It seems to me that if we truly desire smaller government, freedom, and not a Nanny State; that we should NOT be enhancing (enlarging) the law enforcement bureaucracy. It logically follows that when consumer protection is the responsibility of the consumer, then protection from piracy is a private sector responsibility and NOT a State responsibility.

Now for the shortcoming of Mike Freedman's post: "Erroneous DMCA notices and copyright enforcement, part deux". Mike asks a legitimate question, how best to fight piracy. The problem is that he is using the current law as the "level playing field" from which to undertake his analysis and he really does not go into any meaningful discussion of how the content industry continues to aggrandize ("land grab") their so-called property rights. My response to Mike's question is that many concerns with copyright "enforcement" would disappear if we restore the copyright privilege as originally envisioned in the Constitution and by eliminating the "land grab" of the content creators for "rights" that they should not possess. Eliminate the so-called "crime" and the enforcement issue diminishes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Net Neutrality and the First Amendment

This is going to be a short casual Casual Observation concerning the amorphous "them" who believe that net neutrality will violate the First Amendment. See the post Net Neutrality Regulation & the First Amendment by Adam Thierer. The claim is that the "evil" regulators are out to squelch freedom of speech. This whole analysis by Thierer is astonishingly simplistic and biased.

It is simplistic and biased since it seems to purposely overlook the attempts of the private sector to employ the power of the State to squelch freedom of speech. For example, TechDirt reports that: "Tiger Woods Gags UK Media; Alerts World To Nude Photos". Now, if that example seems a bit off topic, this article is a bit closer: "Anti-Piracy Group Says That Just Talking About File Sharing Should Be Illegal". Even closer to the point: "AT&T Whines To FCC That Google Voice Violates Net Neutrality".

Now if the ani-net neutrality folks are so adamant about protecting freedom of speech, why do they not expose the efforts of the private sector to use the power of the State to deny freedom of speech?

Of course there is a companion question (that I will not be delving into at the moment) concerning the efforts of the private sector to lobby the "evil" regulators to pass laws favorable to their self interests. So when this type of lobbying occurs, why doesn't the anti-net neutrality crowd whine about this form of abomination?

My take, the anti-net neutrality crowd, despite their supposed defense of free speech, are surreptitiously promoting corporatism.

As an aside, Julian Sanchez has an excellent article: "The Virtual Fourth Amendment". Concerning the complexities related to the collection of private information. I had hoped to integrate this into today's post, but it will have to wait for a later day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Travesty

Paul Johnson published an excellent article: Nothing Noble About Nobel in Forbes Magazine. Mr. Johnson writes:
"Awarding President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize does him no good and devalues the prize. This award has gone to some dubious recipients in recent decades, but at least they had demonstrated their virtues (and vices) by actions as opposed to mere words."
Tom Tooles also has an excellent cartoon concerning the insolence of granting the award.

In theory, we need to earn our "awards" through actual performance. Obama has yet to perform. In fact, he is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan clearly prolonging an existing war.

Leaders serve as role models for the citizens of our country. As such they are supposed to lead by example. Obama will not be setting a good example in accepting an unearned award. Along those lines, the news this past week was unfortunately not kind to Tiger Woods. He projected a squeaky clean image, unusual for most so-called sport "heroes". Unfortunately he has now joined the ranks of those (political, corporate, Hollywood, and sport) leaders who have tarnished their image through scandal. In this case, the scandal was one or more mistresses.

So what sort of message is sent to the citizens of this country when the President receives and unearned award and other people who are perceived to be highly regarded role models turn out to be nothing more than fictitious constructs?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Called it Wrong on Obama Concerning Afghanistan

Back in October 2008 I wrote "Afghanistan a Potential Quagmire" In that post I wrote that Obama would probably withdraw from Afghanistan after some sort of "careful" reassessment. Obama orders 30,000-troop buildup in Afghanistan. Well I guess I was wrong.

Staple's Joining the Darkside?

I had long considered Staples to be one of the more reputable stores when it came to salesmanship. Now it appears that Staples may be dipping its toes into disingenuous business practices similar to Intuit, Verizon, and PayPal.

Recently, I went in to Staples buy some printer ink and was greeted by a variety of large colorful "sale" signs. Get $3 back they touted for recycling your old ink cartridges and 10% off the purchase of a new ink cartridge they screamed. Good news!

When I got home, I had the chance to finally sit down and read the terms and conditions of the "sale". See below.

It quickly dawned on me that this "sale" was illusionary. It required that I "earn" a minimum of $10 in reward points in a quarter. Failing to meet that goal meant that I would loose the money that I was supposedly saving from the "sale". Since I don't have much reason to buy lots and lots of stuff from Staples, the supposed savings from the "sale" price were a fallacy. I returned the items to Staples and bought the same items from at a cheaper price.

While I am at it, I might as well mention an article that appeared on TechDirt: "Yes, We Can Write Our Opinions Without Contacting The Company We're Writing About First". While this TechDirt article does not deal with the topic at hand, it does contains links to how companies are scamming their customers. One particular link leads to an article by Michael Arrington: "Video Professor Tries To Bully Washington Post, Fails". Additionally, Jim Harper wrote about shady business practices in: "The Negative Feedback Loop Begins". While Staples has not yet descended to these levels, the fact that Staples is toying with misleading sales points to possible continued future use of deceptive business practices. Our Country is on a slow agonizing downhill slide.

Fiscal Responsiblity? Your Kidding

Today, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana appeared on CNBC. In short, he mindlessly regurgitated the unoriginal mantra of of tax relief with fiscal responsibility. Nice goal, but how do you achieve it?

Representative Pence does not say how. The obvious implication is that if we reduce the "onerous" tax burden then we will need to cut government spending. Will he cut the military? Will he cut social security? Will he cut infrastructure spending? Will the aged be kicked out of nursing homes? Will he eliminate school lunch programs? My mind gleefully spun-on.

Given this upwelling of questions in my mind, what really triggered me to write is that our esteemed journalists failed to follow-up with the obvious question: "Well Representative Pence what said sounds great, now how do you propose to provide tax relief and balance the budget?"

So when will our "journalists" return to real reporting and dig deep into story? We have had too many politicians promise unrealistic goals without the scrutiny that they explain how it will be accomplished.