Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
21st Century Marxism

By opencontent in Op-Ed
Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:54:24 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

When describing the evils of private ownership of the means of production, which places the common laborer in the uncomfortable circumstance of owning neither the tools of his trade nor the fruits of his labor, Marx could never have foreseen the economic makeup of the information age. Both the ubiquity of the computer and Internet (as the means of producing software, movies, music, e-books, and countless other types of content) and the nonrival nature of digital content (in which replicas exact in every manner to the original cost "nothing" to make or distribute) would both have been foreign ideas to even the most advanced 19th century mind. (Indeed, they seem beyond many 21st century CEO's understandings.) This little ramble describes some of the Marxist implications of computers and the Internet, and suggests what Marx would make of the "Information Age".


Ubiquity and the Private Ownership of the Means of Production

The call to abolish private property is actually a call to abolish the private control of the property used in producing goods. Writing in The Principles of Communism, Marx and Engels (1847) state:
How did the proletariat originate?

The Proletariat originated in the industrial revolution, which took place in England in the last half of the last (18th) century, and which has since then been repeated in all the civilized countries of the world.

This industrial revolution was precipitated by the discovery of the steam engine, various spinning machines, the mechanical loom, and a whole series of other mechanical devices. These machines, which were very expensive and hence could be bought only by big capitalists, altered the whole mode of production and displaced the former workers, because the machines turned out cheaper and better commodities than the workers could produce with their inefficient spinning wheels and handlooms. The machines delivered industry wholly into the hands of the big capitalists and rendered entirely worthless the meagre property of the workers (tools, looms, etc.). The result was that the capitalists soon had everything in their hands and nothing remained to the workers. This marked the introduction of the factory system into the textile industry.

Once the impulse to the introduction of machinery and the factory system had been given, this system spread quickly to all other branches of industry, especially cloth- and book-printing, pottery, and the metal industries.

Labor was more and more divided among the individual workers so that the worker who previously had done a complete piece of work now did only a part of that piece. This division of labor made it possible to produce things faster and cheaper. It reduced the activity of the individual worker to simple, endlessly repeated mechanical motions which could be performed not only as well but much better by a machine. In this way, all these industries fell, one after another, under the dominance of steam, machinery, and the factory system, just as spinning and weaving had already done.

But at the same time, they also fell into the hands of big capitalists, and their workers were deprived of whatever independence remained to them. Gradually, not only genuine manufacture but also handicrafts came within the province of the factory system as big capitalists increasingly displaced the small master craftsmen by setting up huge workshops, which saved many expenses and permitted an elaborate division of labor.

This is how it has come about that in civilized countries at the present time nearly all kinds of labor are performed in factories -- and, in nearly all branches of work, handicrafts and manufacture have been superseded.

This process has, to an ever greater degree, ruined the old middle class, especially the small handicraftsmen; it has entirely transformed the condition of the workers; and two new classes have been created which are gradually swallowing up all the others. These are:
(i) The class of big capitalists, who, in all civilized countries, are already in almost exclusive possession of all the means of subsistance and of the instruments (machines, factories) and materials necessary for the production of the means of subsistence. This is the bourgeois class, or the bourgeoisie.

(ii) The class of the wholly propertyless, who are obliged to sell their labor to the bourgeoisie in order to get, in exchange, the means of subsistence for their support. This is called the class of proletarians, or the proletariat.
Marx's call for putting an end to private property was a call to workers of the world to end their exploitation via the private control of the means of production. In his mind it is apparently an either/or: either the rich (the bourgeoisie) would continue to own and control those means, or working men, women, and children (the proletarians) would combine to take back their control.

In the so-called information age, the computer has become the means of production of a number of goods: software, movies, music, e-books, news services, and a host of other types of digital content. What Marx apparently did not foresee was the day when one of the single most important means of production would exist ubiquitously in schools, cafes, libraries, and other places designed to facilitate easy public access. It is a great irony, of course, that the anti-Marxist American government would involve itself heavily in debates over the "Digital Divide," striving to make access to these valuable production tools available to all the country's citizens. It is difficult to imagine a more Marxist undertaking.

Therefore, the "information age" means of production are nearly ubiquitous in the United States and the federal government is working to ensure that they become more nearly so. So it turns out that the proletarians can own the means of production without wresting them from the hands of the bourgeoisie. Ubiquity means simultaneous ownership of the means of production. So the bourgeoisie must look to something other than controlling the means of production to maintain their exploitation of the proletariat.

The Nonrival Products of the New Means of Production

Most products created by workers are economically competitive: if I have a television in my home, that same television cannot be in your home; if I have a library book checked out, you can't read it until I return it. Until the last half of the 20th century, only ideas and information truly qualified as nonrival resources.

The moniker "nonrival" means that individuals do not have to compete for these resources. For example, when I give my e-mail address to a friend, I don't give it away - I still know my e-mail address. The whole world could know my e-mail address without my knowing it any less (although this would certainly be a sub-optimal situation for me productivity-wise).

Ironically, it turns out that the nonrival nature of digital content creates the only environment in which international monopolies like Microsoft (any software company would suffice, but I use Microsoft as an example here) can rise in the measly span of a decade or two, while simultaneously facilitating the demise of these same corporate behemoths. Because digital content like software is nonrival, the cost of making copies of software is practically zero. When physical media such as floppy disks or CDs were necessary to move software around, these media were competitive resources. But the ubiquity of the Internet has made the cost of transporting zero cost copies of software zero as well. Herein lies the heart of Microsoft's dominance: they write a piece of software once (at a fixed cost), and sell that same piece of software (which they can copy and redistribute at near zero cost) millions of times for $100 or $1000 per copy. But herein may also lie the heart of Microsoft' demise: the proletariat has access to the same tools Microsoft uses to create and distribute software, thanks to federal and state programs which insure the continued narrowing of the "digital divide."

Being a creation of capitalism, zero reproduction and distribution costs do not drive Microsoft to share their products freely. Instead, the bourgeoisie entity takes advantage of this nonrival nature of their product to become wealthier than most nations on the planet. Now, what do you suppose happens when the proletariat tries to take advantage of these same features of nonrival goods?

American notions of property rights exist specifically because property is competitive: you should not be allowed to come into my house and take my bed, because then there will be nowhere for me to sleep. You should not be allowed to come into my garden by night and take my tomatoes because then I can't eat them. Because of the competitive nature of most property, laws make "stealing" illegal. So, while they fully exploit the nonrival nature of digital content to further alienate the proletariat, the genius of the bourgeoisie lawyers gives us "intellectual property" - a notion that is completely oxymoronic and contradictory. How can I steal something that I can't take away from you? If I install a copy of your software, are you unable to continue using it? Of course not... software, like other digital content, is nonrival by nature.

Intellectual Property as the New Bourgeoisie Private Property

Unable to solely control the means of production or distribution of their products in the information age, the bourgeoisie has replaced this exclusive control with laws governing the use of their intellectual property.
  • You can no longer buy software, you rent it via a complicated licensing scheme designed to provide maximum return to the vendor. Just in case you were confused, you don't own any software, regardless of how much you've paid for it. Read your "license." You aren't allowed to take it apart to see how it works, you aren't allowed to use it in a surprising number of ways...you can only use it the way the vendor says you can.
  • Similarly, you are not allowed to make backup copies of, print, or loan many e-books, the same rights that are guaranteed if the books are printed rather than digital. At Adobe's urging the FBI recently arrested a Russian national attending an academic conference in the US for creating a program that removed restrictions on Adobe's e-books that prevented e-book text from being interpreted by text-to-speech readers for the visually impaired, prevented users from making backup copies of their own e-books in case their machines crashed, etc.
  • In another case, eight major motion picture studios are suing 2600 Magazine for linking to computer source code written by a Norwegian teenager who wanted to watch a DVD he purchased legally on a DVD drive he purchased legally. Because DVD playing under his computer's operating system was not supported, he wrote his own player software, in other words, he used the digital content in a way unapproved of by the vendor.
If Marx Were Alive Today

In the Principles of Communism, Marx and Engels (1847) again state:
Private property will be abolished only when the means of production have become available in sufficient quantities.
Private bourgeoisie property, that is, the means of production in the information age, is now sufficiently available as to spell the end of the bourgeoisie's authoritarian control over it. However, they have countered this threat to their position of privilege by simply extending the same tactics in another domain - so-called "intellectual property." If Marx were alive today he would call for the abolition of intellectual property just as he called for the abolition of earlier forms of bourgeoisie property. In the United States, the would mean action against unconstitutional legislation passed at the expense of the people in benefit of corporations, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. Exactly how this effort should be coordinated, and this goal achieed, is a topic for another time.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Would an explicit tie to Marxism hurt the public image of the Free/Open software movement?
o Definitely 48%
o Probably 38%
o Doubt it 3%
o Absolutely not 9%

Votes: 107
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by opencontent


Display: Sort:
21st Century Marxism | 116 comments (115 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
While sort of interesting (4.23 / 13) (#1)
by spacejack on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 02:28:44 PM EST

this article seems to make the same mistakes "information wants to be free" people always make:

I doubt that Marx would render IP "free" if physical property is still owned. Sure, everyone might get the software they need for free, but this doesn't put food on the table... or even buy a table. You are essentially punishing anyone who makes software and judging their skills to be worthless compared to anyone involved in creating physical things.

Just because the tools (PCs, development software) are accessible doesn't make the products easy or cheap to produce. In theory anyone could build a house or a car from scratch out of raw materials too. Software takes educated, intelligent people which can be more expensive than raw materials -- either expensive because they expect high salaries, or expensive because they might've been doctors or scientists, etc.

And finally.. is the computer really "the single most important means of production" today?

not punishment (4.16 / 6) (#13)
by speek on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:28:00 PM EST

I've been writing software for companies for the past five years, and no project that I've worked on so far has required any IP protection. If there were no copyright protection, I'd still have been employed to do these things that I do.

Furthermore, if there were no IP protection, companies would find alternative strategies to getting their needs fulfilled. Need some software? Rather than buying, they'd hire someone to program it. And, indeed, many companies do exactly that, and, to make the whole thing cheaper and better, they make the software open-source. They get the web server they need, for a fraction of the cost that an IP protected web server would cost.

Certainly, some business models would become extinct, but that's not automatically bad. You have to fully evaluate what is going away and what is replacing it.

So I conclude that even without IP, software would still put food on the table. The empirical evidence seems to back me up on that, too.

Books (writings), music, movies likewise would all survive too. Perhaps in modified forms from what we have now - but again, different isn't necessarily bad. (I'm trying real hard to avoid using the extinction of dinosaurs as a rhetorical device, but, as you can see, I've failed :-)

The anti-"information wants to be free" crowd likes to make the argument that the IWTBF crowd is maliciously trying to take away their jobs and livelihood. I think we all know that's not true, so why do you keep pushing that argument?

Here's an analogy: according to all the arguments that IP-backers make (like removing IP would be morally equivalent to slavery, and would "[punish] anyone who makes software and judging their skills to be worthless..."), we could argue that there should be PL (Parental labor) laws - ie stay at home parents must be compensated for their work. After all, they have a right to profit from their labor, don't they? Otherwise it's no better than slavery, now, isn't it? So, we'll just draft up some laws that provide for their compensation, perhaps from the state, or maybe they get a cut from whatever revenue their child eventually generates when they reach adulthood (now that would be interesting).

I think this makes it pretty clear that just because you labor, doesn't mean you have any right to profit, and not having IP laws is in now way akin to slavery. You have the choice not to create music, heck, you have the choice to create it an not share it. You just wouldn't any longer have the choice to share it, and then control what others did with it after you'd given it to them. Seems to me that's the way it should be.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

well (4.33 / 3) (#33)
by spacejack on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 09:45:25 PM EST

Rather than respond to all your points I'll just give you a selfish argument: as a consumer, I would not want to go without the things that are created in an environment with our IP laws. I don't hardly ever watch T.V. or listen to radio; I listen to CDs, use mostly closed-source software and watch copyrighted movies and read copyrighted books, etc.

[ Parent ]
good (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by speek on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:04:46 AM EST

Best answer yet! I'm grateful at least someone is arguing the salient point: maybe I'm wrong to think we'll still get music and books and software when IP goes away. After all, if I'm right about that, you guys have no argument whatsoever! But, I certainly can't prove that I'm right. The evidence I see seems to back up my claim, but that's not proof. Personally, I'd love to try the experiment, and if it proves that people would stop making music and art and software, than I'd be the first to demand the return of IP (cause I love music and reading).

Basically, I have an hypothesis (shared by lots of others), and some experiment needs to be done to test it.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

a test (none / 0) (#76)
by spacejack on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 05:38:01 PM EST

One interesting test would be to see how many people would continue to use K5 if Rusty changed the terms of membership. Currently, we own our own comments. If he changed it to "by agreeing to the terms of membership, your comments are public domain, and may be used or republished by anyone (and that they may do so for free or charge a fee for it)..." then I'm not so sure. I probably wouldn't.

I wasn't too crazy about Yahoo collecting Usenet archives and publishing those on CD a while back either...

[ Parent ]
Slight flaw here (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by MilTan on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:27:14 AM EST

You say:
... we could argue that there should be PL (Parental labor) laws - ie stay at home parents must be compensated for their work.

And then continue to say:
I think this makes it pretty clear that just because you labor, doesn't mean you have any right to profit ...

The problem here is that you have very narrowly defined "profit" to make your argument. The stay-at-home wife (or husband, to be fair) does not do her or his job with no profit motivation. Rather, they do it with no monetary motivation, an entirely different beast altogether. Instead, the stay-at-home parent does her or his job to further the profit goals of the family, be they monetary (by allowing the "bread winner" of the family to work more) or otherwise.

Just because the stay-at-home parent makes no money from her or his labor does not mean that they are slaves. However, this is not because of any inherent quality of labor without profit. Instead, it is because you are simply ignoring the entirety of the equation.

By applying the same idea (i.e. looking at the whole picture) to the software industry, we can see why even in an industry dominated by (some would say) draconian IP laws, free software (both libre and gratis) still thrives. This is because the writers of free software don't do it for monetary remunerations, but instead for the idea (and joy?) of contributing to a community, which still qualifies as a profit; it is just not the type you assume it to be.

In short, if you work, if you labor, you most certainly do have the right to profit. You are just free to choose in what form you will receive that profit.

[ Parent ]
no right to profit (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by speek on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 07:57:55 AM EST

Expanding the definition of profit to include non-monetary ways of profiting sounds like you're trying to make my argument for me. However, a stay-at-home parent is not free to choose how they profit, so you're argument seems weak. If you labor, there's no right to profit. You may profit, or you may not - it's a market risk, generally. Even if you labor and plant a garden, it's possible nothing would grow - God doesn't seem to recognize you're right to profit just because you labored, and neither will I.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

big difference again (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by MilTan on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:41:44 AM EST

Expanding the definition of profit to include non-monetary ways of profiting sounds like you're trying to make my argument for me.

I don't believe so. What I'm saying is that people can define profit in different manners. While this does mean that people are willing to work without the prospect of making money, not everyone feels that way. What is wrong is to force people to accept a particular form of reward for their actions, something that would happen by eliminating IP laws. Therein lies the reason for my discussion on free software. This is to prove that even under current laws, it is possible for people to behave and realize rewards in whatever way they choose fit.

However, a stay-at-home parent is not free to choose how they profit ...

That's not quite true. If a parent is a stay-at-home parent, that means that they have weighed their options between staying at home (and thus profiting in the ways that I briefly touched upon earler) or going out to work (thus profiting in the more traditional monetary fashion) and instead finding alternate methods of taking care of kids and household.

Every stay-at-home parent does make this choice, whether or not they realize it. I think part of the reason that it doesn't seem like a choice is because human beings are always unconsciously making these sorts of choices, so when it finally occurs, it is often hard to pinpoint whether a choice has actually been made (since it is not done consciously) and, even then, why exactly that choice was made.

But my real issue with this is here:
If you labor, there's no right to profit. You may profit, or you may not - it's a market risk, generally. Even if you labor and plant a garden, it's possible nothing would grow ...

At this point, you are confusing the issue by conflating two different ideas. These being the right to profit and the ability to realize that profit. These are very different (if related) concepts.

You will not find me arguing that everyone who works deserves money or reward (if we did give out money regardless of actual worth of the labor involved we would be approaching some form of communism, I think). Instead what I am arguing is that there is no sort of work where we should be allowed to take away a persons right to obtain their reward at all (and remember from my earlier paragraph that everyone defines reward differently). Completely different from their not capitalizing on this right, so that they may actually realize profit.

[ Parent ]
IP law does not increase freedom (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by speek on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:00:49 AM EST

What is wrong is to force people to accept a particular form of reward for their actions, something that would happen by eliminating IP laws

That's not true. People would still be free to seek whatever reward they want. Financial or otherwise. As I've said, I think the empirical evidence backs me up on this.

This is to prove that even under current laws, it is possible for people to behave and realize rewards in whatever way they choose fit.

So IP laws increase our freedom, in your opinion (since you imply that without IP, we would lose some choices of rewards for our work). I don't think that's tenable position. Even without IP, financial reward is still a viable choice for content creators. Furthermore, other choices would become more easily choosable, and that's to say nothing at about the freedoms that consumers gain without IP law.

If a parent is a stay-at-home parent, that means that they have weighed their options between staying at home ...

Indeed, and I've said the exact same thing about those who would choose to create software and music without IP protection. They made the choice - they knew what to expect.

These being the right to profit and the ability to realize that profit

No, I'm not conflating - I recognize the existence of one (ability to profit), and don't recognize the existence of the other (right to profit). By advocating the removal of IP I'm not taking anything away except a governmental creation of artificial scarcity. There is nothing "sacred" about IP laws - they are there to serve a purpose. I'm saying that purpose will survive just fine without IP laws.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Yet more problems with definitions (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by MilTan on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:48:00 AM EST

So IP laws increase our freedom ...

There is a difference here. IP laws do increase the freedom afforded to the producers of IP. That is all I am trying to say. I make no statements regarding the freedom available to the consumers of IP.

No, I'm not conflating - I recognize the existence of one (ability to profit), and don't recognize the existence of the other (right to profit).

Well, I mainly take issue with the fact that your example provided previously used the former to disprove the latter. I think the problem here is that we still disagree on what is meant by "right to profit." I do not mean that all that is required for profit is simply doing labor. What I mean by "right to profit" is that people should be afforded the ability to profit in whatever manner they so choose.

[ Parent ]
around again... (none / 0) (#61)
by speek on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:10:17 PM EST

What I mean by "right to profit" is that people should be afforded the ability to profit in whatever manner they so choose.

Yes. So? You think no IP means people lose the choice of profiting financially. I don't think they would lose that choice. Is that or is that not the entire point of contention between our views?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

mass market software. (4.00 / 3) (#42)
by rebelcool on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:50:34 AM EST

So you do one time jobs for clients. If everything was that way.. a painting was just for one person and so on, then there would be no need for IP laws.

The entire *reason* that IP laws were invented was largely due to mass consumption and distribution. Magazine editors would literally steal stories from competitor magazines and reprint them and the the original authors would receive no compensation.

Therefore, the main reason we have software IP is for mass consumption software - the stuff thats designed for use by more than 1 party. If I owned a company (and i kinda do..i contract myself out) and had a piece of software that I invested thousands of dollars and hours of work into, I need a return on it to put food on the table and roof over my head. The same goes for any company producing software for mass consumption. If anyone could take my software and copy it, and began reselling it (thanks to captalism, they could do so very cheaply..after all, they invested nothing in creating it, only stamping CDs, which is a trivial cost).

They would simply put me out of business by stealing my work. And this is why we have IP laws, and why there will always be IP laws, and why there SHOULD be IP laws.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

mass market (5.00 / 2) (#49)
by speek on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 07:52:16 AM EST

You're ignoring the fact that plenty of "mass-market" open source software exists and thrives. Likewise, as I said, I don't believe music and writing and movies would go away without IP. We can all disagree on that point, it's true, but I believe the empirical evidence mostly supports my belief. Until some experimentation is done, however, we can't know for sure.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Marxism revisited. (4.10 / 10) (#2)
by Inoshiro on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 02:37:21 PM EST

Thanks to computers, digital craftsmen are back is business. While any trivial mechanical work, such as spinning, can be done by a monkey or a machine, true creativity is the exclusive domain of sentient creatures. Be it a Thai elephant band, or a person working on a musical script, there is no other way to duplicate that exact output given the same inputs.

So why is intellectual property bad? If you sit down, come up with an idea that is new or neat, you should be allowed to gain off of it. There are two kinds of goods in this world: the physical goods you use and replace, and the digital goods you use and use without wear and tear. If a composer makes some music, I should not be allowed to just use it for free if they are alive. People who produce non-physical goods should be compensated like any other because they also need the consumables -- food, shelter, tools of the trade. Things which they could not otherwise get while producing new ideas for society.

But this concept has to be carefully treated. Patents are one example where people protect ideas about new, unique ways to make physical goods. The problem is that the patent system has not reformed -- patents on useless things are granted. Software patents don't make sense (since copyright law provides any protection needed there). Similarly, ideas should not be used as a club. Uncle Walt has been dead a long time. Why the fuck should that Eisner asshole be making money off the mouse with the ears? He has not earned it in any way -- he just happened to be born in the right place, in the right time. But if I try to produce a good or some ideas involving that little Chu, I will be smote by a bar of lawyers.

Some of Marxism does not apply now that industrialization has finished happening. Do you consider yourself exploited when you go to work for a company or person? No. Once you work, you gain the benefits of your work. These benefits give you opprotunities you'd never have had otherwise in a society where effort and intelligence aren't rewarded (such an a pure communist system). If you reward those who dispaly effort, and allow the others who choose not to display the same intelligence/effort the same opprotunities, you are being fair and just. I'm not saying that any system in the world today is perfect (Sweden or Canada are my pics for closeness to the ideal), but any good system lets people go beyond because of their abilities -- not because of parents' inheritence, friends in high places, or copyright laws that ensure that some ideas your parents or grandparents created are still feeding you and your children centuries later.

By imposing proper limitations on digital content (which, naturally, the producers decide when they produce their content), you allow people to live off of producing it. Writers, artists, musicians, programmers, all can make great new things which can be enjoyed by the coming generations, without having to sacrifice basic standards of living.

If there is a class division nowadays, it's that the less intelligent (who can't create well, even if they've practiced, etc.) are below the more intelligent. It'll take a few centuries for the dumb rich to lose their money to the smart poor, but it'll happen. Money is always flowing around in the economy. And in a socialist nation where a properly people-chosen government exists, the lower-class will still enjoy the same chances to rise above.

Canada, for example, lets everyone see a doctor for "free." And you can ask for social assistence if you need the help. But if you work hard, you don't need any assistence. And you have the power to buy any goods or services you want with the money you earn (once you basic needs are taken care of). The hybridization of the various 19th century philosophers, plus the new ideas of our generation, are the only compelling new ideas for government we have now.



--
[ イノシロ ]
A few points... (4.00 / 3) (#3)
by ti dave on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:02:28 PM EST

"Do you consider yourself exploited when you go to work for a company or person? No."

Quite possibly, Yes.
The unskilled worker pigeonholed in a low-paying job.
The young and inexperienced worker.
The person laboring for MegaCorp on the other side of the globe, for pennies a day.
All of these, and others can be exploited, and more importantly, consider themselves exploited.


"Canada, for example, lets everyone see a doctor for "free." And you can ask for social assistence if you need the help. But if you work hard, you don't need any assistence."

Would your statement her be more accurately written as "But if you work hard, you can't get any assistance."?

My observations of human behavior lead me to believe that by providing that assistance, at a high enough level, you are removing a motive to work hard. Why go the extra mile, when you can sit on your duff and still get by?

A disclaimer, I'm playing Devil's Advocate here.
I believe there should be governmentally regulated caps on profits earned by Health Care Organizations, to include Pharmaceutical Companies. Ideally, they should be run as not-for-profit organizations, but I don't think that would work in the U.S.

Another thing that chaps my ass, is when Landlords jack rents up rapidly so as to recoup their expenses in 4-5 years, instead of 20-30 years like other property owners. That shit has to stop. It's Profiteering, plain and simple.

Cheers,

ti dave

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
because (4.33 / 3) (#8)
by spacejack on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:30:10 PM EST

My observations of human behavior lead me to believe that by providing that assistance, at a high enough level, you are removing a motive to work hard. Why go the extra mile, when you can sit on your duff and still get by?

Because it's incredibly demeaning. Nobody wants to be on welfare when everyone else is working and looks down their nose at you. It's not like you're going to impress a lot of women. And even though we live in igloos with polar bears and moose roaming the streets, there are still lots of fun ways to spend money in Canada.

[ Parent ]
Anecdotally... (3.66 / 3) (#9)
by ti dave on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:47:25 PM EST

Pride seems to be declining on the list of personal Motivators. At least here in the U.S.

Also, even though I was playing Devil's Advocate on that last comment, I've heard that even the "90-miler" Canadians have problems with the wildlife prowling the streets.
Good for them, I say, they were there first!

Cheers,

ti dave
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
tough call (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by spacejack on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:00:09 PM EST

Some places seem more motivated than others. I suppose if you are surrounded by a lot of wealth and have none, you might be fairly motivated, whereas if you're surrounded by other freeloaders...

As for wildlife, I am always almost running into skunks and racoons these days downtown Toronto. I've seen foxes in parks, and I've even seen a deer out by High Park (a large park in the downtown's west end). I heard recently that there's a coyote problem in the outer burbs!

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.00 / 3) (#11)
by Betcour on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:02:11 PM EST

My observations of human behavior lead me to believe that by providing that assistance, at a high enough level, you are removing a motive to work hard. Why go the extra mile, when you can sit on your duff and still get by?

Well your comment is true in that social assistance remove one motive for work (saving your life is not an issue anymore), but wrong in that it doesn't remove all motives. Frankly if you have really seen the kind of life you get with just the social assistance of the gov - you know that while it gives you food and a roof, it hardly gives you anything else. If you want to taste all the little luxuries of life, you still have to get a job and work. Those who say social assistance only encourage lazyness should get to live out of welfare for a month and see for themselves how "good" it really is. Welfare keeps you from dying, but that's about it.

[ Parent ]
Uhm (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Inoshiro on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:33:27 PM EST

People are not allowed on social assistence unless they can prove they are looking for a job and are otherwise unable to currently find one. No one is just allowed on and left there. You seem to assume there aren't checks and balances.



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Your .sig (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by Signal 11 on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:15:45 PM EST

Aight, confess... how do I make cool chinese characters appear in my signature block? :)


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]
Cool characters (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by wiredog on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:37:48 AM EST

イノシロ

It's done with the character codes.
イ ノ シ ロ

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]

They're not Chinese! (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by Inoshiro on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:27:33 PM EST

They are katakana, since I am a furriner gaijin , and I made my name up :)



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
yes, I feel exploited (2.75 / 4) (#20)
by ooch on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:14:22 PM EST

Do you consider yourself exploited when you go to work for a company or person?

Yes, in my current job I get less pay then the value I create for the company I work for. Why not just give me all the value I created? My employer exploits the fact that I need to eat, sleep and live and thus can't wait for a job which pays me what I deserve. It also exploits me not having the funds or the extremely bright idea to begin my own company. Why would anyone accept that when they produce 100 shoes for example they only get paid for 50? (actually for shoes the ratio is much worse more like 1 to 100) It can only be because they have a weak position, and are not capable of getting away of exploitation.

[ Parent ]

The numbers look different than the reality. (4.66 / 3) (#47)
by acronos on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:34:10 AM EST

Sorry, this is long. I think it is worth the read for those of you who think their wages are not fair.

Three months ago I started my own company doing computer consulting. Prior to that I worked for a company as System Admin for $15/hr. I now charge $45/hr for my services. I took a huge pay cut.

You are failing to take into account the magnitude of the overhead involved in running a company. Almost all of the money my company takes in goes to cover the bills. Look at SEC filings to get wall-street profit margins. You will find that the average is less than 10%. Industries that do better than this rapidly get many competitors or have some form of monopoly. This means that I have to charge my customers about 10 times what I pay my employees to break even. (yes it is much more complicated than this, but this is about right for most industries)

Let me give an example to illustrate the point. My father owns a company probably worth about 15 million dollars. His profit margin on about 6 million dollars a year in sales is a little less than 10%. This means the company offers a profit of about $600,000/yr. He built the company from scratch over 25 years. This is not an easy thing to factor in because the money he used to build it with was profit. Rather than try to show you all the math, let me just tell you. It works out to where his real return has been between 7% to 20% depending on the year. He has about 50 employees. His machines run at an average of $100/hr. His employees are paid an average of $8/hr. This makes your ratio around 12 to 1.

Now lets examine how fair this is to his employees. How much is he skimming off the top. Lets find out what would happen to his profit if he increased his average labor costs by $2/hr to $10/hr. To do this lets use nice round numbers. Say his starting total costs were 100,000. At a 10% profit margin, his total sales would have to be $110,000. Labor makes up about 40% of his costs so his labor costs are $40,000. After an increase of $2/hr his labor costs become $50,000. This makes his total costs $110,000. That is the same as his total sales so his profit is zero. Let me restate that. A $2/hr increase in average employee compensation caused his business to go from profitable(10%) to worthless(0%).

So why don't we have the government pass a law and eliminate this $2/hr usury? Why would anyone go into business and take the risks involved if there is no profit? Is the amount of profit he earned unreasonable? This is the 6 million dollar question. Be sure to keep in mind the fact that he could earn 7% on that 15 million in many savings accounts, and that he consistently worked 80 hour weeks and regularly received calls at 3am. Remember he used his house and land as collateral on a $100,000 loan 25 years ago. He still carries a heavy debt load. If the business had failed he would have lost everything. You will have to make your own decision if it was worth it. The market said that it was a fair trade.

Speaking of which, lets talk about the market for a minute. It is no accident that the numbers worked out the way they did. Just as the market set the price for how much he could sell his product, it also set the price for how much he could hire labor. If he only offered an average of $7/hr, he would have a hard time finding employees and a very high turnover for the employees he found. We have already discussed what would happen if the average was $9/hr. Again, this is no accident. His employees are paid $8/hr because that is exactly the value that the market has placed on them. If for some reason he and he alone were forced to raise his employees pay, he would be put out of business. If everyone were forced to raise the employees pay, the cost of the final product would go up. If the employees gained more skill that raised their scarcity, the wages would go up. This is why nurses are paid significantly more than most assembly workers.

Speaking of assembly workers, the automobile industry seems to provide a contradiction to this. They pay their employees far above what normal market forces would place them. This is due to the unions. This causes the price of cars to be higher. The reason it works is because the unions are in all the automobile manufacturers so the price of all cars are higher. What would happen if an automobile company came into play that the unions didn't control. The price of cars would be significantly reduced. This company would put all of the union companies out of business.

Using the same rules, what would happen if every company had a union or the government significantly raised the minimum wage? Then it would follow that the cost of everything would go up. This is called inflation. It means that once everything had stabalized, you would be able to buy exactly the same amount with your new higher wage as you could with your old wage. Nothing would have really changed; at least nothing would change if all wages were raised uniformly. The minimum wage is a different scenerio because it only raises the poorest wages. The effect of this is to lessen the gap between the poor and everyone else. (mostly the effect would be to make the middle class poorer because it would be less noticible to the rich)

Anyway, hope you found this useful. I'm impressed you made it this far.


[ Parent ]
Good post. (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by ajduk on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:05:53 AM EST

I think the problem with Marx in this context is that he assumed that

a) Lancashire cotton mills were the peak of capitalism, and

b) The workers wanted to run the place, when in fact they wanted better pay and conditions.

It's worth pointing out that industries such as Steel and Automobiles have political leverage (or at least did), since they are easily converted to war production in times of conflict. This is why they have historically been subsidised by the state (as well as due to Union activity), and countries each want to have their own Steel/Car industry.

[ Parent ]
reply (none / 0) (#77)
by ooch on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 06:06:39 PM EST

First of all, I must say: excellent post. I am not very good at economics(wow, talking about weakening your own argument:), but I will try to respond intelligently...

Imagine a company with 50 employes, $110.000 income of sales and $60.000 of overhead. What I would propose is that these fifty employes earnestly devide this $40.000 according to how much they have worked. So, that would mean $1000 for each. In most company's it works another way. Every employe get's say $800 and the owner of the company/factory/shop gets 10.000. The numbers may fluctuate wildly from company to company, but usually this is the way things work. Now people may contend that the owner runs all the risks, and has his debt, so therefore he has a right to a bigger paycheck, but I guess most employes would happily trade places with him.

I do not believe that there can not be a system created in which every worker gets his fair share. I do not believe that this division is either just or nessecary.

A second point is that I do not believe that the hight of wages is set by the invisible hand of the market. Labor is not like other raw materials. The height of wages is caused by the differences in power between workers and bosses. A part of the strength is caused by the market indeed(with high unemployment the workers have a weaker position, with low unemployment, the bosses have a weaker position.), but another large factor is how organised the laborforce is. If labor is heavily organised, they are much stronger, if not much weaker. You showed the example of the automobile-industry which is heavily unionised, and wages are higher.

Now, about the car example. You say cars are too expensive because of carunions. Firstly i want the people who produce my car be able to make a decent living, so I don't mind paying for that. Secondly, I do not believe it is the unions who make the cars expensive but the owners of the carcompany. When a car is sold for a certain price, unions try to get as big a percentage of that as possible for their workers, so therefore a smaller profit remains for the owners. The owners could say "Ok, so the profits are somewhat smaller this year, I still make a lot of money", but instead they increase the price of the car, so their profits stay high. With higher prices the unions demand more pay and so on. With more unionisation the workers would get a better percentage of the profits, and if this happens nation-wide most people would benefit, except the rich who would get poorer. I don't quite understand what you mean that when workers get more pay, there still would change nothing.

I wish you a lot of succes with your company, I recently read that about 80% of startups are out of business with in two years. May yours be the exception, and the most heavily unionised company of the country:)

[ Parent ]

More Economics... Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by acronos on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 01:00:32 PM EST

Just as the wages for the workers are set by the market, so are the wages of the owners. My wife is currently looking for a job as an administrative assistant. The market in this area for such jobs is from $8 to $12. She keeps applying and turning down the $8 dollar jobs. She wants to wait for someone who will pay her $12. She has been looking for a job for five months. I really hope she will lower her standards soon because we really need the money. My point is that she doesn't name her price. She has to find someone who believes she is worth $12.

There are always two sides to a transaction. People usually work for what is the best for themselves, but they have to work within the bounds set by the other side of the transaction.

Owning your own company does not change these rules in any way. People will only buy your product if they think it is worth it. If your price is significantly higher than the same thing offered by someone else, most people will buy from your competitor. If your price is significantly lower than your competitor, odds are you are loosing money. Again, the price is set by the market. The owners of auto companies cannot just set the price. There is a price where they will make the most money, and they will choose that price if they have any brains. That price is set by the market not by the owners. If they choose a price that is higher or lower, they will loose money. The amount of money they can make is closely related to the difficulty of entry into the market, just as the profit of an hourly worker is closely related to the difficulty in learning the needed skills and experience.

Back to the example of my fathers company. For most of the companie's history (the first 15 years) my father didn't make much more than the hourly workers, and he worked many times as hard. While he was getting value in the form of equity in the company, he never intended to sell so this is not very meaningful. He could have accomplished the same thing by going to work for someone else and putting a significant portion of his income into a 7% interest savings account. In about 25 years he should have a pretty substantial sum. Not 15 million though. More like half a million. The difference between the two is the risk and skill involved in running the company. The market prices CEO's very highly for a reason. Put him in a CEO position rather than an hourly factory worker with about the same level of sacrifice and he probably would be more like 8 million in 25 years. Factor in the added risk of loosing everything, and I think you are near 15 million.

Where does the initial investment come from for your employee owned 50 worker company? If each of the employees had put $2000 into starting the company, then that would be fair. The problem is that the company grew to 50 employees. Initially there were only 3. It could not have supported 50 workers at the beginning. Drop to the three initial investors and you need $33,000 apiece. This money has to come from somewhere. Should my father have just donated it to these 50 workers? Do you really think that is fair? Remember that the value of the company now is 15 million. If he invested that money in a savings account he would be earning about $600,000/year in interest. To evenly split up the profits is to steal his 15 million dollar investment.

While I respect what you are saying about splitting up the profits of a company, to just up and decide to suddenly give the employees what someone else has worked for is not fair. Most employers made significant sacrifices to start their businesses. I realize that the majority of the population doesn't appreciate what goes into creating a company. I really wish they did. I think they would find, if they truly understood the whole picture, that the system is much more fair than they realize.

[ Parent ]
if only that would be the case everywere. (none / 0) (#103)
by ooch on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:22:29 PM EST

Ok, so your father gives himself the same pay as his workers, I applaud him for that. Unfortunately, he is the exception to the rule. I do not know of any other company where the boss gives himself actually the same or less pay then his employees. In most companies the boss gives his employees as little as he can get away with, and as much to himself as he can get away with. Even if your father makes the same amount of money as his employees, I still object to him making the decisions for 50 people, who are well able to make their own decision, but that's another point.

The owners of auto companies cannot just set the price. There is a price where they will make the most money, and they will choose that price if they have any brains.
Yes, and that price will be as high as possible. A price of which the unions will try to get as big as possible a share. But how do the unions drive op the prices, I still don't understand. Profit-seeking CEO's drive up the prices, not unions.

About the fairness of the your father's employees taking over the company after say, a revolution of some sort, I can say this: More people will recieve more fairness by the workers taking over, then the fairness the bosses recieve by the workers not taking over. In either case there is undeniably unfairness, but the solution one should seek is the one with the least of it. And, if the revolution would last, future generation would know nothing but fairness. On a second note, you are talking like your father made the 15 million dollars by himself, and so it would be very unfair if it would be split up between his 50 employees. But when your father made all that money by himself, what does he need 50 employees for? I think those people have a fair share in creating that 15 million dollar, don't you think? If it is true your father worked twice as hard as anybody else, I believe he deserves twice as much as everybody else, but that is not the current ratio, if I understand correctly.

I think they would find, if they truly understood the whole picture, that the system is much more fair than they realize. I think if the majority of the population would truly understand the whole picture, revolution would break out before you can say "to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability" (in a 80's gallup poll 60% of americans thought that sentence was part of the constitution : "it just sounded so fair." ;-)

Have a nice day...

[ Parent ]

I debated over whether to reply or not (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by acronos on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:21:46 PM EST

But since you did ask a specific question, I will do my best to answer it. Disclaimer: Much of this post is a more detailed analysis of points I have already discussed in previous posts. I say the same thing several different ways.

You say:

Yes, and that price will be as high as possible. A price of which the unions will try to get as big as possible a share. But how do the unions drive op the prices, I still don't understand. Profit-seeking CEO's drive up the prices, not unions.

I think you are missing that there are powerful downward forces on prices. The reason profit-seeking CEO's cannot choose any price is exactly the same reason my wife cannot get a job at $12/hr. You are quite correct that CEO will set the price for as much profit as possible. The thing is a higher price does not mean more profit. In every market, except a monopoly, there is a sweet spot in pricing. If you price any higher, you make less money. If you price any lower, you make less money. This is because of competition. If you price higher than the sweet spot you don't sell any product(remember my wife) and therefore don't make any money. If you price any lower than the sweet spot, you make less money on each purchase and are unable to make it up in volume, therefore, you make less money. The graph looks somewhat like a bell curve.

There are several things that can influence this bell curve. The one almost everyone is aware of is advertising and marketing. This creates greater demand for your product while holding supply constant - shifting the sweet spot to a higher price. The other one is changing the cost of production.

Labor is the majority of the cost of production. If you change labor costs, you shift the bell curve up. I trust you are familiar with the "law"/rule of supply and demand or this will be too long. The reason you shift the bell curve up is that fewer people will be willing to take the risks to enter the market. Think of it this way; if my wife can make $15/hr working as a secretary or she can make $5/hr working as something of exactly the same difficulty, say a clerk, the majority of the time she will choose to be the secretary. She is an investor in her own future, so she is likely to choose what is going to ultimately be the best for her. People who are investing in corporations are thinking the same way. They are trying to get the most for their money/effort. If the profit in one industry, say automotive, suddenly drops because labor costs have increased, then these investors are likely to go somewhere where there is more money to be made, say electronics. This reduced the supply of automobiles. Since there are fewer people making automobiles, and there are the same number of people wanting automobiles, the price goes up until the people wanting (demand) equals the number of automobiles available (supply.)

If unions are only in one company reducing profits, then that company will go out of business because it's investors will go into more profitable businesses. If unions are in the entire market, then the manufacturers will raise the price together and they will all stay in business at the same profit margin.

As I said in my other post, profit margin is directly proportional to the difficulty of entry into a market. The profit margin for the industry as a whole is going to stay the same no matter what the cost of production is. This is because you have fewer investors in markets that are harder to enter. Fewer investors means that there is less competition. Or put another way, the harder it is to enter the market, the greater the rewards have to be to entice investors. Doctors make so much money because it is so incredibly difficult to become a doctor. If you have to spend 10 years to become a doctor, then there are not going to be very many doctors unless doctors get paid a lot. Personally, I think doctors are underpaid because their life is a hell. Like several other professions, many of those who work as doctors do so for humanitarian reasons, which increases supply and drives down price. Also government and insurance involvement has driven down rewards in the medical profession. This sounds like a great thing until you realize that this just discourages people from entering the medical profession. If cost is held constant by outside forces, then you end up with supply problems. Demand will stay the same but supply will fluctuate. If the cost is low then there will not be enough supply to meet the demand and health care quality will significantly deteriorate. If the cost is high then you will have thousands of doctors who don't have enough patients (not a likely scenario because this would split the same number of patients over too many doctors and lower the reward for each doctor because each doctor would only be able to see a few patients at this fixed cost. It is not the price itself that matters but the reward for each investment of effort and money.) Things again work exactly the same way with companies and larger for-profit entities as they do with doctors.

The rules for all of this are very simple. I am only giving several examples of the effects of supply and demand.

Again you asked: "But how do the unions drive op the prices, I still don't understand." Let me summarize my answer. Unions drive up prices by raising the cost of production. Profit margins are essentially a constant set by the market. This is the point you are likely missing. Profit margins are essentially a constant becuase if there is not enough incentive then investors will not enter a market. If investors do not enter, or they leave, a market, then prices go up because supply has gone down. This draws in more investors and a balance ensues again related to the difficulty in entering the market. There are other paths for it to take but ultimately they all lead to the same thing, higher prices.

You asked in a previous post: "I don't quite understand what you mean that when workers get more pay, there still would change nothing. " I believe you were referring to my statement: "Using the same rules, what would happen if every company had a union ...? Then it would follow that the cost of everything would go up. This is called inflation. It means that once everything had stabalized, you would be able to buy exactly the same amount with your new higher wage as you could with your old wage. Nothing would have really changed; at least nothing would change if all wages were raised uniformly. " Let me state my assertion in a different way. The forces in an economy (supply and demand) have nothing to do with the actually dollar value associated with them. They speak to the relative value of things. If all wages are raised uniformly across everyone then the cost of everything would rapidly follow suit to exactly match the balance that was there before the artificial wage increase. To demonstrate, look at the economies of two different countries with two different currencies. An English pound buys significantly more than an American dollar. Yet in both countries, 40 hours of work buys a similar number of loaves of bread. Inside America, $100 in New York, NY is significantly less money than $100 in Gordo, AL. People often say that in so and so third world country they live on $5/day. This is not a fair comparison anymore than it is fair to compare $100 in New York and Gordo. There are many factors that the figures do not take into account.

My point being that the actual dollar figure doesn't have anything to do with real purchasing power. Our economy is set by the forces of supply and demand. Unless you do something to genuinely change these forces, the balance of purchasing power will remain the same. The actual numbers involved are meaningless. So changing wages universally makes the number meaningless. Costs will quickly change so the new numbers become meaningful again. Everyone is working just as hard and producing just as many goods and services as before. There is no change in supply. Suddenly everyone is making twice as much money per hour of work as before. So we all rush out to the store and try to buy twice as much as we did before. Ooops, the stores sell out in a few days because everyone is working the same amount producing the same amount of product. Suddenly we have all this money with no way to spend it. Demand has far outstripped supply. The law of supply and demand says that prices will go up in this situation. This is intuitive also. Storeowners jump to try to provide product for all these people with money. They fight the manufacturers for product, I'll buy your eggs for $1. NO! I'll buy it for $2! The storeowners who win pass this cost on to the customer so now eggs cost $2 rather than $1 or actually $2.20 rather than $1.10 with profit added. When the balance is found again, it will be exactly where it was before because the forces that matter, supply and demand, have ultimately not changed.

Greed is a large part of capitalism. Greed is a large part of human nature. That is why communism has had such a hard time in the counties where it has been tried as I will discuss in more detail in a moment. The reason capitalism works is that it balances your greed against mine. You want the highest wages for you. I want the highest wages for me. Whether those wages come from working for someone else or working for yourself, everyone is going for the highest wages they can achieve. The same forces that keep employees in check also keep employers in check. I am in no way implying that capitalism is perfect. It definately has its imbalances. The greatest imbalance in capitalism as practiced today is inheritance. Someone who starts the game with extra money has an advantage. The one change I would make to our system would be to abolish inheritance laws. I advocate an inheritance tax of 100%. This would start everyone out on a more level playing field. It would be more fair and promote a healthy economy. Pure communism would be fair, but miserable.

Since this is already a book, let me quickly address communism. Economic laws are laws of human nature. They are not rules for money. They are rules of human greed. This greed will be in any system composed of people. In capitalism, people are motivated to work because they are rewarded for working. In pure communism, I receive the same reward whether I work really hard or barely work at all. The cost is fixed. As we discussed earlier, this creates supply problems. Since I see people around me who are barely working while I am working really hard, I get angry. I decide if that is how people are going to be, I am not going to work hard either. When the majority of the population gets this attitude, and they will, then everyone is almost starving. The government recognizing it's plight starts using the stick rather than the carrot to motivate people to work. Those who don't work hard are thrown in jail or punished. This creates a very miserable and very poor society. It is also likely to fester in corruption because corruption breeds in misery. A similar situation is played out in the American health insurance system and the California energy crisis. They are caused by price fixing which causes inevitable supply problems. This price fixing would do the same thing in a communist state.

Maybe in the future when machines do more and more of the work, communism will be viable. Machines will not be ruled by greed unless we program them to be. We already use machines as the perfect slaves. If we continue this trend, then the government could give everyone a salary and the machines do all the work. This is one of the few ways that I see communism could be good. I think it is significant that marx had his roots in the industrial revolution where machines were taking over the jobs of people.

This is too long, but I don't have time to go back and do too much editing. I will just take a low score on this one. Again, I hope someone found it useful as it consumed three hours of my life to write it.

[ Parent ]

the three hours are apreciated, here's my hour: (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by ooch on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:54:44 AM EST

If I understand correctly, the price of a commodity is determined by the price of production plus a profit margin which is fixed, and set by the market. If somehow a certain industry has higher profits then other, investors move in, increasing competition, thus decreasing price, and the profits fall again. So overall, profits margins may fluctuate a little temporarily, but overall they are quite stable. I am guessing this system does not work perfectly as many markets have extensive barriers to entry which limit the mobility of capital, and therefore that market has a higher profit-margin. One such a barrier would be the formation of huge corporation, who can easily crush new competition. Seeing, that currently most markets are dominated by big corporation, I doubt how well this actually works, but let us assume, that the economy exists of huge numbers of small businesses who have no degree of control over the market. Does from this follow that the whole law/rule of supply and demand is just a mechanism which quickly flattens all rinkels in the profit-margins across a economy? So supply and demand have nothing to do with the price of goods in the real world? Well, perhaps only when determining the price of a work of art.

I think that, if this theory describes the actual workings of a capitalist economy, this shows how deeply exploitative the capitalist system is. You have a huge class of workers who produce value, and a capitalist class which takes a profit-margin off of that. For the workers there is an unequal exchange of value, they produce commodities which have a certain value, and in return they get a wage which symbolises the production cost. So they give more then that they recieve. The whole system seems to be based on the production of profits, rather then on the abstract satisfaction of consumer needs.

When you say then nothing would change when *everybody* would suddenly earn twice as much, you are probably correct. But I did not say that. I said that through unionisation, the *workers* would start to earn more. Say that in a economy there is a certain total sum of value, capital or how you want to call it. Say 20% of the population has 80% of that value, and 80% of the population has 20% of the population. Now, suddenly, that 80% start getting twice as much value, so now they get 40% of the total value, and the top 20% only 60%. In this case the 80% was twice as rich after as before. Unionisation, when done right, meand more equality, and more equality means for most people an increase of richness.

You say, economic laws are laws of human nature, and they are the rules of human greed. If I follow the logic correctly, you are saying that all every human being is per definition greedy. In science, you can disprove a 'law', by showing one example in which the law is shown not to be true. I do not know how many and what kind of people you know, but I feel very sorry for you, when there is not one of them who is not infected by greed. I know several people who do not care about possesion of money or luxuries. There are millions of buddhist munks who have given up all earthly possesions. I think that proves that there is no 'law' that all people are greedy. What is true I think is that in our current western capitalist society commodity fetishism has almost become a sort of standard. And yes, I also know people who betrayed their friends for some money or luxury. But that only proves that in a *capitalist* society people can become greedy. I disagree that most people will work for the highest wages they can get, no matter what kind of work. Most people would not become an assassin of innocent people no matter what they would be paid(except ofcourse through massive propaganda and a apeal to "patriotism".) I, for example would not want to work in a job where my job is to exploit or dominate other people. Most people have other strong motives except greed, and I think most of them are more powerful and better then greed.

By me using that Marx-quote at the end of my previous post I may have set you on the wrong foot thinking that I am a marxist or a communist. I hate label's, and despise the use of so many -ism's, but I guess you could call me a libertarian socialist. The society I would want would be centered around self-management, and direct workers-control. So for example, I work in a midsized company, which me and my 100 colleagues control. Every monday we have a meeting about what to do with the company, what work should be done, what to invest time and money in, etc. This control, breads a nice product: responibility. The harder I work, the more I actually earn, and because I feel responible for the company I want it to do well. A very detailed explanation of what I imagine could be found here. In communism(or better, the perversion of communism known as leninism) corporate capitalism is replaced by state capitalism, not a real big improvement in my opinion.



[ Parent ]

Already exists within the capitalist system (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by simon farnz on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:47:37 AM EST

No idea if there are equivalents elsewhere, but here in the UK, a large department store called John Lewis works on a worker ownership system (and does quite well). The concept is simple: the company is owned by a trust, which is not allowed to sell any stock. Each worker is alloted a share of the company, according to a fixed system; they cannot sell it, as they do not own it, but otherwise they have the same rights as shareholders.

It works well from the customer point of view (I have never worked there, so I can't tell if it works from an employee's POV), as the staff have a strong incentive to act in the store's long term benefit, rather than aim for a short term gain. They usually give good advice, often recommending cheaper products over more expensive ones. Further, they usually know what they are talking about, and are not in any hurry to serve another customer. The result; I go back there, and while I don't spend much in each visit, I am sure it adds up over time.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

hmmm.... (4.00 / 1) (#113)
by acronos on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 08:58:30 PM EST

My friends are some of the nicest most selfless people you are likely to meet. I am very fortunate to have such wonderful friends. I am a nice guy too. If greed were the only motivator in me then I would not have bothered to write this thread. I never said that greed was the only motivator in people. I said that greed is a significant motivator in almost everyone. It is a significant motivator in you or you would not be arguing for higher wages.

Each atom in your computer monitor has a mind of it's own. It can behave in ways that completely violate the rules of physics. It is quite possible for all of the individual atoms in your monitor to decide to go up at the same time. If they did, your monitor would float. Although it is possible, it is extremely improbable. There are many scientific laws that are based on statistical norms of a population. These atomic exceptions do not violate the laws of physics. Nor do they violate the rules of economics.

I would say there was something wrong with people who never look after their own interests. You kill a plant or animal to survive when you eat. They die so that you can live. That is the epitome of greed to me. Greed is not bad. It is what has driven the human race to the top of the food chain. Greed is evident in almost every creature on earth. Love is what is rare.

I think it is great that you work for a employee owned company. I wish everyone in the world had a more entrepreneurial spirit such that they owned their own business. The world would be much more productive, and everyone would be wealthier. This option is available for anyone in a free capitalist society who wants it. Most people make their choice. Most of the population chose not to put the effort that it takes to earn a lot of money. Many of these same people justify themselves by saying that those who did put the effort in don't deserve the rewards. The 80/20 rule of sales applies to almost all of society. 80 percent of the sales are made by 20 percent of the salesmen in almost any large sales organization. This fact is mentioned in almost any sales seminar and is common knowledge. Why is it true?

I'm done now.

[ Parent ]
laws and rules (none / 0) (#115)
by ooch on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 11:26:33 AM EST

I am glad to hear that your friends are nice people, and in fact I almost knew that before I asked. People are not inherently evil, as some people would like us te believe. Most people are actually nice and social people. People, who value cooperation and solidarity above competition and greed. Then why isn't our current economic climate based on those values which are valued higher? I admit that people have the potential for greed, they also have the potential for total altruistic behavior(like the buddhist munks I mentioned before), the way society is organised is a large factor in which potentials become actual properties of people, and which don't.

Each atom in your computer monitor has a mind of it's own. It can behave in ways that completely violate the rules of physics. These atomic exceptions do not violate the laws of physics. What is your distinction between the 'rules' and the 'laws' of physics? Are the rules, the descriptions mankind has yet found for the world around us, and the laws the way it really works? There must be some destinction, otherwise you can't make the statement you just made there.There are many scientific laws that are based on statistical norms of a population. I very much doubt there are. There are undoubtetly many scientific theories which are based on statistical information of the population, but I do not think they have become laws. Statistical proof is not really hard proof, so such a theory would have a hard time being acceptes as a law. When you are talking about statistical norms of population, what it boils down to is psychology if I correctly understand what you mean with that phrase. In Psychology there are a lot of rules, but AFAIK very little laws.

You say there is something wrong with people who never look after their own interests. I honestly cannot see what is wrong about it, though it may be harmful to their interests. But I see nothing unethical about harming your own interests for the benefit of someone else. I think that it is quite human to do so, though in more or lesser amounts. I am sure you have at some point in you life have done something that wasn't beneficial to yourself, but instead helped others.But to make this discussion a bit more clear, let's give the defintion of greed according to dictionary.com: An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth. Is the eating of a vegetable 'more than what one needs or deserves'? When a worker asks for a just compensation for his work, I do not believe that is because of "an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves." Please explain why yo do. I know very little people who fit in this definition of greed, do any of your friends? Do you still believe greed is a significant enough motivator to defend an unjust and exploitative social system?



[ Parent ]

argh, broken link... (none / 0) (#109)
by ooch on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:59:08 AM EST

The link in the last paragraph of the comment was meant to be:

www.anarchismfaq.org

[ Parent ]

if only that would be the case everywere. (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by ooch on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:24:02 PM EST

Ok, so your father gives himself the same pay as his workers, I applaud him for that. Unfortunately, he is the exception to the rule. I do not know of any other company where the boss gives himself actually the same or less pay then his employees. In most companies the boss gives his employees as little as he can get away with, and as much to himself as he can get away with. Even if your father makes the same amount of money as his employees, I still object to him making the decisions for 50 people, who are well able to make their own decision, but that's another point.

The owners of auto companies cannot just set the price. There is a price where they will make the most money, and they will choose that price if they have any brains.
Yes, and that price will be as high as possible. A price of which the unions will try to get as big as possible a share. But how do the unions drive op the prices, I still don't understand. Profit-seeking CEO's drive up the prices, not unions.

About the fairness of the your father's employees taking over the company after say, a revolution of some sort, I can say this: More people will recieve more fairness by the workers taking over, then the fairness the bosses recieve by the workers not taking over. In either case there is undeniably unfairness, but the solution one should seek is the one with the least of it. And, if the revolution would last, future generation would know nothing but fairness. On a second note, you are talking like your father made the 15 million dollars by himself, and so it would be very unfair if it would be split up between his 50 employees. But when your father made all that money by himself, what does he need 50 employees for? I think those people have a fair share in creating that 15 million dollar, don't you think? If it is true your father worked twice as hard as anybody else, I believe he deserves twice as much as everybody else, but that is not the current ratio, if I understand correctly.

I think they would find, if they truly understood the whole picture, that the system is much more fair than they realize. I think if the majority of the population would truly understand the whole picture, revolution would break out before you can say "to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability" (in a 80's gallup poll 60% of americans thought that sentence was part of the constitution : "it just sounded so fair." ;-)

Have a nice day...

[ Parent ]

You don't need them (4.00 / 2) (#59)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:43:39 AM EST

You don't need either large somes of money or "extremely bright ideas" to start a software firm. If you're reasonably qualified (ie. have more than 5 years experience) you can do consultancy with a brain and a laptop.

In other fields, its even easier. Any idiot can be a property developer, an estate agent, run a firm of cleaners, and so on.

So: Why *don't* you do this if you're being "exploited" ?

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
What did... (4.00 / 4) (#26)
by stuartf on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 06:57:27 PM EST

Thanks to computers, digital craftsmen are back is business

What did digital craftsmen do before computers? Write 1's and 0's on bit's of paper?

[ Parent ]

I meant (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by Inoshiro on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:21:48 PM EST

Craftsmen are back in business, as digital ones. Craftsmen had been put out of business by the looms, etc, remember? :)



--
[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Dialectic of Branding (4.42 / 7) (#4)
by freebird on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:07:21 PM EST

Interesting - I enjoy any attempt to relate current 'info-age' issues to the larger threads of critical discourse, as opposed to the fevered 'everything-is-fundamentally-different-now-and-has-no-parallel-in-history' school.

I wonder though:

But herein may also lie the heart of Microsoft' demise: the proletariat has access to the same tools Microsoft uses to create and distribute software[...]
Granted, the tools to create a rival/superior OS (to continue with your example) are freely available. Many would argue that this has already been done. Nevertheless, I'm writing this from IE on Windows2000 - and I'm competent and comfortable in BSD/Linux: but my work desktop is Windows, simply because it's the standard.

I know the above is a common point, and please skip any Betamax/VCR comments. My point is that perhaps the Marxist focus on the means of production is no longer justified. The means of production and distribution are available to all. So why is everyone using M$? Perhaps the means of 'acclimation' or 'introduction' or 'education' have become more important.

It's (maybe) not about who produces/distributes (intellectual/technological) goods, but who controls what people are familiar with, trained to use, or even simply have heard of. Maybe the modern dialectic is not about production but about branding...

...TAGGATC...(etc)

On Competition (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by BlckKnght on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:59:49 AM EST

To add on to your comment, here's why I think the software market is so noncompetitive, despite the relative ubiquity of "means of production."

The issue of Branding you mention is one of the obstacles to competition that is pretty well know in economics (well enough known that I know of it). As you describe, Microsoft's brand recognition is one of the reasons it domonates the OS market. It gives them a very significant market advantage over any potential competitor because they are the standard to which others must be judged. Consumers trying to decide what product to buy will fall back on the well known brand if they are in doubt.

Another reason the software market is uncompetive is that there is not reliable information about the quality of software products. Part of this is due to the inherant opacity of the closed source software model, which doesn't allow cusomers to actually know what they own. It is compounded by the fact that our current information network is mostly controled by a few media companies, which can be swayed by the influence (and money) of corperations like Microsoft (or other "Big Names" like IBM or Oracle). This is where FUD and marketing spin come in to the picture. All of this combine to make it very difficult to make well informed decisions about software purchases, which is essential to a competitive market.

A final reason for poor competition is what Microsoft managers call Deloper Mindshare (at least, I think the term came from them). The concept is that developers, who, unlike software development tools are still in pretty low supply, can be controlled. Even though compilers are relatively abundant, many of the people who use them learn to do so using Microsoft libraries and a Microsoft IDE. This unsures a better supply of employees for Microsoft than for it's competitors and more importantly, it also increases demand for Microsoft's OS, as the software the developers write is almost sure to be built for Windows. This in turn leads to the famous "Applications Barrier to Entry."

-- 
Error: .signature: No such file or directory


[ Parent ]
Property rights are important... (3.11 / 9) (#6)
by WombatControl on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:23:15 PM EST

It doesn't matter if we're talking about digital content or physical goods, the right of ownership is integral to a free society. Without intellectual property rights, you cannot profit off your work. You have no ownership of that work, and anyone can copy it and disseminate it without your consent or benefit. Eliminating "intellectual property" would only irrecoverably hurt the arts, entertainment, and publishing.

Let's review Property Rights 101, shall we?
Under a system of property rights, you have the right to deal with your creations as you choose, and you have exclusive rights to those creations. You can sell them (proprietary), you can license them (the ASP model), or you can give them away (GPL/BSD/OSS). You can also license your creation to someone else, such as a publisher or corporation under whatever contract you choose. That way an individual can disseminate their work across the world and profit from it.

Now let's look at the flip side, and remove the concept of intellectual property altogether. Let's say you create The Great $NATIONALITY Novel. Because there is no system of legal protections on property, if that novel were to get out you would be unable to stop its dissemination. It would be flung across Napsters and copied innumerable times. There would be no legal mechanism for ensuring that due payments were made on your work.

You think you'd make any money off that?

Granted, a few might send some cash through a micropayment, but if you were counting on living off the proceeds, you're screwed. (Not that many writers can afford that anyway - there's not a big enough market as it is without that market being diluted any more, which is why eBooks will never take off.) There would be no financial way of supporting one's work, and millions of writers, artists, and programmers would be unable to produce any work. While there are those who would produce art for art's sake, they would be unable to do so full time. (And would probably lead to a patronage system in which the artist was taken in by a wealthy patron who would ensure the work would remain their exclusive property and wouldn't allow others to have it for fear of losing all control of it.)

Anyone with any understanding of basic economic principles can understand the clear and gaping faults in Marxist doctrine. Marx's understanding of both economics and human nature are flawed at their most basic assumptions, and Marxism should be left as a relic of the 19th Century where it belongs. Read Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom or F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom to get an understanding of why Marx is fundamentally flawed as anything other than a purely theoretical framework.



Property "rights" are just a social comp (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by phliar on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:27:16 PM EST

WombatControl writes:
Under a system of property rights, you have the right to deal with your creations as you choose, you can, ... you can ...

Now let's look at the flip side ... if that novel were to get out you would be unable to stop its dissemination. It would be flung across Napsters and copied innumerable times. There would be no legal mechanism for ensuring that due payments were made on your work.

I hope that you don't think the two formulations above are unbiased views of the two systems! You are making several assumptions, but let's just take one, the one I think is key:
You think you'd make any money off that?
Why should the artist expect to make money of his or her work?

Let's take this (possibly hypothetical) example:
I write code. Some for hire, some for myself. The stuff I write for hire is more like craftsmanship: person X needs my services to implement some sort of back-end server type things (maybe web servers, maybe app server, maybe telephony etc.) I do a good job and am handsomely paid for my work. I arrive at work at 9 am and leave at 5pm sharp. Then I get home - and write code till I'm falling asleep in my chair. With no hope or expectation of monetary reward. Why? Because I have no choice; I'm driven to do it. If thousands of people then download that code - yippee!

Note: I'm not necessarily saying that property "rights" are evil or should be thrown out or whatever. Just realise that it's not a "right", it's a social compact. Our society has evolved with the notion of property and ownership, so it seems to us that's the only way a society can evolve. Yet there are societies on earth that do not have a notion of personal property.

Not that many writers can afford that anyway - there's not a big enough market as it is
See, you realise it too. The market for art is always saturated. Almost by definition. Therefore it follows that if you're an artist and you expect to live off it, you're deluded; so why not give your work the widest possible audience it can get, and send it out for free?


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Art as a living (4.60 / 5) (#44)
by andrewhy on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:11:42 AM EST

Why should the artist expect to make money of his or her work?

While there will always be people who do it for the love of it, the fact is that many artists and other intellectual property creators put a lot of work into their craft and would like to reap some financial reward from it.

Just talk to any serious artist/writer/musician and they will tell you that their great desire is to make a living off their work. We've all seen examples of people who do it (though they are probably the exception rather than the rule).

Even though the artistic and entertainment fields are over-saturated and competitive, try imagining for a moment, phliar, that you didn't have a 9 to 5 job which paid you generously for the code you so love to create.

If you did it simply for the love of it and had to struggle to make a living off your code (and work a low-paying job in the meantime), then I'm sure the situation would look much different. Your creative love is simply one that happens to be very profitable.

If "Noise" means uncomfortable sound, then pop music is noise to me -- Masami Akita, aka "Merzbow"
[ Parent ]

Art for money (none / 0) (#91)
by phliar on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 05:38:21 PM EST

Just talk to any serious artist/writer/musician and they will tell you that their great desire is to make a living off their work.
Oh, I agree completely! And not just "serious" artists [I include all creative endeavours in "art"] - even part-time hacks like me! I make a tiny amount of money off my work, but not even enough to cover the cost of materials. It's my fantasy that someday it will support me financially, but I don't expect it to, and I certainly don't do it because it might make me money.
Your creative love is simply one that happens to be very profitable.
I didn't say that the hacker working late for the love of it was necessarily me! (Although it so happens that it was.) Yes, I'm very fortunate that I have a job that is closely related to one of my creative outlets, one that is highly paid and, moreover, gives me non-standard working hours so I can work on other things. But I'm also a musician and a "pigments on flat cotton-based substrates" artist. The latter is the one that has a rather high cost of materials.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Funny... (2.50 / 2) (#71)
by Count Zero on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:36:58 PM EST

Read Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom or F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom to get an understanding of why Marx is fundamentally flawed as anything other than a purely theoretical framework.

Telling someone to read Friedman and Hayek because *Marx* is flawed?

Pot, Kettle... Kettle, Pot.



[ Parent ]
bleh, just another anti-DMCA rant (1.00 / 5) (#7)
by dnos on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 03:28:23 PM EST

btw, the U.S. is capitalistic in case you didn't realize.

So what? (3.33 / 3) (#16)
by freebird on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:52:13 PM EST

Whether or not they agree with his conclusions, most folks acknowledge that Marx made major contributions to the historic study of economic and social systems.

And the world is a lot bigger than the US.

So what is your point?

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

think about it. (none / 0) (#83)
by dnos on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 01:23:40 AM EST

Well, for one thing, I wasn't crackin on Marx. Second, I was referring to what the author was saying here: (in case you forgot to read the article and was just trolling :P)

If Marx were alive today he would call for the abolition of intellectual property just as he called for the abolition of earlier forms of bourgeoisie property. In the United States, the would mean action against unconstitutional legislation passed at the expense of the people in benefit of corporations, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA.

Well, if he would, he is even crazier than he looks in his photos.

C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M...do you not understand the concept? This will never happen in the U.S.; if it did, we would be back to the market place selling fruits and vegatables.

[ Parent ]

The opposite. (3.20 / 5) (#12)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:20:21 PM EST

Laws like the DMCA are wrong because they restrict what people can do with their own (conventional type of) property. The DMCA, for instance, prohibits me from playing a DVD on a computer that runs Linux.

Ultimately, this depends *on* property. If you don't believe in property, you don't believe I own the DVD or computer. But if I don't own them, how can I say that my right to use them as I wish is being violated? That right comes from my ownership, after all.

You're wrong... (none / 0) (#75)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 05:33:45 PM EST

...the DMCA doesn't prevent you from playing DVDs on Linux, it just makes it illegal to reverse engineer the software decoders. No one's preventing you from buying a hardware decoder card and writing drivers for it.

[ Parent ]
RTF Act (none / 0) (#102)
by simon farnz on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:16:39 AM EST

The DMCA also makes it illegal to write drivers for the hardware card; the ones on the market are MPEG-2 decoders, and do not handle the encryption. The drivers do the region coding, often using data from the card, but none the less, you would still have to reverse engineer the region coding system, which is forbidden by the DMCA, no matter how you do it.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]
Hmm... (3.85 / 7) (#14)
by trhurler on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:29:24 PM EST

Well, there are certainly some mistakes and sillinesses here.

The main silliness is that Marx was so obviously wrong about the middle class; long before government in the US really became at all socialist(I realize it isn't as socialist as Europe, but it is far moreso than even Marx probably would have imagined possible without a revolution,) the middle class "rose again." Basically, Marx was half right - there was a sort of historical inevitability to the industrial revolution - but that inevitability was that it would first cause some amount of harm, and then later provide immense benefits - mainly to the middle class, which today(in the US at least,) has an inordinately higher proportion of both wealth and influence than it had in any preindustrial civilization.

The main error is the dogmatic and foolish insistence that copying and transmitting information is "free" today. Just because your university doesn't charge you for it doesn't mean nobody's paying. Trust me, the cost is bigger than you can imagine. Go look up the cost of a T1 line - and that's just for starters. There are lots of other costs, not the least of which is the cost of the people who keep the whole show running.

I'm not going to touch on the IP issues, because to the extent that it is a means of production, IP is certainly not unavailable to the common man, so I don't see how anyone can say authoritatively what Marx would have thought of it. He didn't say we should abolish the notion of ownership entirely, after all; he wasn't stupid enough to think we were going to share underwear and so on. This is not evidence that he'd be pro-IP, but it certainly isn't evidence that he'd be against it, either.

That's something else people seem to forget: the net is not a governmental entity. It is not public property. By and large, it is the property of a few large corporations. Those corporations are free to set whatever terms of use they prefer, with a few(telco) exceptions. As such, there's no legal or ethical reason they couldn't just take fees from various large copyright holders to conduct spot checks of their traffic, and then permanently ban anyone caught that way. How'd you like to find out one day that you'll never have Internet service in your home again just because you copied some lousy N Sync track?:) (Yes, yes, I know there are "ways around this." However, the combination of the FUD factor and the outright incompetence of the average computer user would guarantee that the level of illegal copying would drop dramatically, to the point where it was probably no longer of economic significance to, say, Disney. Put some shmoe on TV saying "I lost the Internet - forever!" and very few people will care when you come trying to tell them how to "get away with it," because they won't understand what you're doing, and they'll remember that idiot on TV really, really well.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Hmm... (4.25 / 4) (#18)
by speek on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:13:25 PM EST

Obviously copying and distributing is not free - I paid for my computer, I pay for my broadband connection. But there does seem to be a threshhold of cost, below which, people begin to consider it negligible. The word "free" is used as an approximation. It's not important that it's not actually free - it's only important that people seem willing to give away for no compensation the products of copying and distributing. This is meant to be in contrast to the fact that no one would spend their money and time copying printed books and leaving them on their front step for others to take.

In your last paragraph, I wasn't sure if I was meant to think that it's a good thing or a bad thing that a few corporations could "blacklist" me from the internet if my behavior was deemed bad by them. If all the roads were privately owned, you could have made the same comment about them (run a traffic light, get banned from using the roads). It's one reason why most people like the fact that roads are publically owned. Are you saying you'd prefer roads privately owned, or are you saying the internet infrastructure should be publicly owned?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Freeness and blacklists and beer (4.00 / 4) (#23)
by trhurler on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:54:16 PM EST

Ok, no beer, really. Anyway, the problem I have with calling copying "free" is that people assume that if it is "free" to them, then it is ok to do. Problem being, it wasn't free to create whatever they're copying in the first place. Now, that's not a knock down argument for or against anything, but that's certainly a problem, and one that most of the "free information" crowd seems all too willing to just stick their heads in the sand and ignore. (The best argument I've heard from any of them is "people will still do it anyway," which amounts to "we'll get away with it, and screw those guys!" Not particularly compelling, in my opinion.)

As for blacklists, I'm not saying it is a good thing, but corps would never use punishment that severe for the same reason the government doesn't do so with roads - it would be a PR/political disaster. Much better to just impose penalties(higher access fees, fines, and so on.) And that's what they'd actually do, when you get down to it.

(Keep in mind that government really isn't nearly as accountable as democracy apologists claim, and that corporations are in fact more accountable than the current crowd of anticorporatists claim. Government may be "more" accountable, but only marginally so and only in some circumstances. In other circumstances, government is totally unaccountable, and private businesses are not.)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
head in sand vs. clinging to tradition (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by speek on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 06:57:31 PM EST

Problem being, it wasn't free to create whatever they're copying in the first place

It's not free to do a lot of things that people do without getting compensated financially. I think the "free information" crowd is willing to stick their heads in the sand and ignore this "problem" because they don't see it as a problem. You might think that people will stop making music if IP laws go away, but I think you're wrong. Because I think that, I don't see the problem, and so, to you, it looks like I'm sticking my head in the sand. To me, it looks like your clinging to tradition just because that's what you're used to.

Your point about accountability is well taken. My feelings on the matter basically have to do with size and diversity. The smaller and more numerous the organizations involved, the better things seem to be, and conversely, the larger and fewer organizations involved, the worse things seem to be.

It's related to my religion of choice, which is distributed-decision-making, and thus direct democracy and similar ideas. This seems to always put me at (idealogical) war with those who think most people are idiots.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Actually... (5.00 / 3) (#32)
by trhurler on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 07:36:45 PM EST

I'm rather fond of the "lots of small organizations" idea, but I'm not so sure that direct democracy is a part of the same intellectual package. The latter seems to me oriented towards the creation of large entities with more sweeping powers than the small organizations would have.

Sure, I think most people are idiots. However, I'm willing to let them be idiots, if they're willing to let me be otherwise, and the numerous small organizations model is ideal for that - the problem being, that as soon as they realize this means no more mooching off of me to compensate for their incompetence, they'll form a big government to try to get their way by force. Jefferson said that the natural order of things was for government to grow and liberty to shrink - he was right, and my contribution in this area is to point out that the reason he was right is that most people are idiots:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Or. (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 10:22:58 PM EST

As for blacklists, I'm not saying it is a good thing, but corps would never use punishment that severe for the same reason the government doesn't do so with roads - it would be a PR/political disaster. Much better to just impose penalties(higher access fees, fines, and so on.) And that's what they'd actually do, when you get down to it.
Or, they could make themselves out to be common carriers like the phone companies, who aren't accountable for what is sent by their customers over their lines (or so I hear).



[ Parent ]

Probably not going to happen (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by trhurler on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:23:39 PM EST

First of all, "common carrier" does not mean what people think it means. What it really does is indemnify the companies against liability for their customers provided that the companies always meet any and all governmental demands on them. Normally, this consists of not discriminating among customers based on their use of the service, but it can also mean letting the FBI tap lines at will and so on.

Secondly, at least in the US, the courts have already ruled on multiple occasions that internet companies cannot be common carriers. This has frightening implications for future civil and criminal proceedings against them, but the real fault is with the insane US liability, conspiracy, and RICO laws rather than any issue of common carrier status.

Third, I doubt most savvy corporate types would want common carrier status, because of the aforementioned strings attached. If you've got a decent cash position, it might be cheaper to just deal with the occasional legal proceeding than to constantly have to accomodate the g-man's every whim, and besides, if you're allowed to discriminate among customers, you can, as I pointed out, use this to make more money.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:42:59 PM EST

... if the choice is between a common carrier internet service that can be tapped with proper warrant from a judge and one that can be pulled forever because my provider is getting kickbacks from some Content Empire (or has been recently bought by the same) that employs an army of lawyers, one of which doesn't like the packets I'm sending through the lines, I think I'm not unreasonable to choose the former.

About the second point: Yeah, and I still don't quite understand why the courts have ruled this way. Why hold my internet provider responsible for my files?

About the third point: interesting. Reminds me of a pessimistic saying I once heard, "Industries continue to develop until they reach the point at which they can get kickbacks from a previously established industry, then they dig in." Maybe it would be good to have a parallel system of common carrier internet providers that compete with the non-common carrier types. Allow people the choice between them, you see.



[ Parent ]

hmm, (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by mami on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:59:37 PM EST

he (Marx) wasn't stupid enough to think we were going to share underwear and so on

Are you sure ? I remember my mother sending underwear, soap, coffee, pantyhoses (wow, even American ones) to the few cousins my family had left in East Germany. You have no idea what was shared ... and not available to people who had to live there.

[ Parent ]

Ah (5.00 / 2) (#72)
by trhurler on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:39:02 PM EST

There is a difference between what Marx said and what Marx's ideas actually produce. This is not surprising in light of the fact that there is also a difference between what Marx said was going to happen to capitalist countries and what has actually happened; the problem is, Marx's basic theses were almost all wrong.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
<sigh> (1.50 / 2) (#67)
by Count Zero on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:03:47 PM EST

Basically, Marx was half right - there was a sort of historical inevitability to the industrial revolution - but that inevitability was that it would first cause some amount of harm, and then later provide immense benefits - mainly to the middle class, which today(in the US at least,) has an inordinately higher proportion of both wealth and influence than it had in any preindustrial civilization.

Yeah, the middle class was real well off during that whole great depression thing. Remeber that stock market crash caused by laisse-faire capitalisim? Good thing we got FDR as president to help the middle class. Yes, WWII truly saved our economy. But FDR is why we have things like laws protecting workers' rights, otherwise we may very well have seen a Marxist rebellion in the us. Funny how modern US capitalism owes so much to a president disliked by it's adherents.

By and large, it is the property of a few large corporations. Those corporations are free to set whatever terms of use they prefer, with a few(telco) exceptions.

And those same companies were granted the right to lay cable for said networks across public land through easements. If you are going to use public land, then you owe something to the public. Not to mention the government could have kept the Internet free of commercial traffic and private ownership in the first place.



[ Parent ]
Lame (4.66 / 3) (#74)
by trhurler on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:44:47 PM EST

I bet you walk around saying "sigh" too, don't you? You're just so angst-ridden at the stupidity and pointlessness of it all. Hey, do you by any chance own flannels?:)

Anyway, on to the point. The stock market crash was caused by government action, not capitalism of any form. The government raised taxes, future earnings potential dropped, various ventures that were profitable or were going to be became nightmares, and all hell broke loose. Then they blamed speculators for accurately gauging what was about to happen.

FDR's programs didn't do much for any middle class. Or for anyone else, as it happens. Responsible analysis shows that if anything, his programs ate up money the private sector would have used to rebuild faster.

WWII did not save our economy. WWII set us back ten years by killing off lots of people who would otherwise have been productive and diverting industrial production into many essentially useless avenues where it might have gone to something constructive. War is bad for the economy, no matter what anyone tells you.

FDR is not responsible for most of the "workers rights" laws and so on. Almost all of that stuff came well after he was gone.

There was never any real danger of a Marxist rebellion in the US. By the time there were enough Marxists to mount one, we were well into the 50s, and prosperity was making Marxism pointless.

Easements do not come with the kind of terms of use you seem to think they do. You can argue til you're blue in the face about this, but the fact remains. In addition, many of the companies involved are satellite and wireless (sometimes microwave, and others also) operators. No easements there.

Had the government kept the internet free of commercial traffic, a private network would have been built, and by now, I can assure you it would be the only one left. To see why, just look at public access and PBS. They're wastelands. Government has nothing interesting to say to most people most of the time, and nothing entertaining to say at all, save the blustery speeches of the likes of Diane Feinstein, Orrin Hatch, and Barney Frank, which collectively could serve as a sort of archetype for brazen stupidity in the face of cold reality.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Silly. (1.44 / 9) (#15)
by rebelcool on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:37:25 PM EST

And what does Jesus think of my car?

Let's keep marx in discussions about the 19th century.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Ignore the past? (4.57 / 7) (#17)
by freebird on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:55:56 PM EST

So you would also I assume consider Adam Smith, Plato, Shakespeare, Machiavelli and Confucious irrelevant as well, since they didn't have the good fortune to be alive when you are?

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

his ideas are for the most part obsolete.. (3.20 / 5) (#39)
by rebelcool on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:34:42 AM EST

and irrelevant. Adam Smith's ideas, while they've been built upon, are still used in some ways. Most of marx's (at least any of the ones i hear quoted often), are completely irrelevant today and are based on his flawed misunderstanding of human nature.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Irrelevant? Tell that to Subcommandante Marcos (3.25 / 4) (#56)
by el_chicano on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:41:09 AM EST

If you had been paying attention in school, you should have come to the realization that the world does not end at the US border. Even if you have not bothered to pay the slightest attention to what has been happening in Mexico recently, surely by now you have heard about the Zapatista uprising taking place in Chiapas.

Subcommandante Marcos has written many statements detailing what is happening to the people of Chiapas. Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds, A Storm and a Prophecy is a brilliant description of how Chiapas has been raped by foreign capitalists with the help of Mexican traitors. The First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle gives all the reasons that the people of Chiapas have declared war against a Mexican government that would rather assist foreign capitalists rather than help its own indigenous people.

The existence of this movement gives lie to your statement that Marxism is "irrelevant" to people today. The people of Chiapas would have never joined the Zapatista movement if there wasn't some grain of truth to Marx's understanding of human nature.

Maybe next time you should look at the big picture before exposing your narrow-minded beliefs to the world...

[ Parent ]
Not marxist (none / 0) (#111)
by orichter on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:24:36 AM EST

Marxism as an excuse to provide yet another dictatorship modeled on 19th century ideas of rebellion against industrial dictatorship? Read your history books, Marxism did not work, was a theory as Marx himself said. He also said in several papers and books (read Marx and Engels, On the threat of Russia to Europe) that Marxism would not work in an agrarian society. You who wish for the simplistic idea of an industrial/agrarian utopia as envisioned by Marx have to be reminded that the Marxist ideas tried in so-called Communist/Socialist countries failed economically and ended with their peoples left in economic misery, the countries in economic chaos. That is not the utopia hoped for by Marx. Try again. Get a life. Look at reality instead of reading just ONE author (Marx). There are many more ideas that have come about since Marx. Many more that have been economically validated.

[ Parent ]
Ideas != Analysis (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by freebird on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:32:14 PM EST

While you may feel Marx's ideas are obsolete (and I think the other poster has made clear that this should be independant of whether you agree with them), his analysis and paradigms are generally acknowledged to have added greatly to our understanding of socio-economic history and the way it is studied.

I think you are allowing your personal political preferences to color your judgement about philosophical and scientific relevance.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Marxism and Obsolecence (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by Error404 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:33:25 PM EST

How can Marx's ideas be based on (as you put it) his "flawed misunderstanding of human nature." ? Marx was a Dialectal Materialist. He said nothing of human nature, save for that human nature is a result of environment.
And, just to add to this, perhaps you're right... perhaps Marx's ideas ARE obsolete. But what about Lenin, and Trotsky, and every other socialist/communist, living as well as dead
(note: Stalin, was NOT a communist, he was just a dictator. Don't even try to bring him into this, else I can bring Hitler in as an argument against capitalism... look at it as a kind of Godwin's law, for commies)


[ Parent ]
+1, interesting take (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by strlen on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:16:59 PM EST

Although I'm no fan of DMCA rants, I voted this one up due to the interesting take on the situation it takes. Most rants I've seen so far take on the property-rights stand arguing that it's the software THEY'VE bought or the DVD player THEY'VE bought and hence they should have the rights to it. Interesting argument.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
My IP solution (4.55 / 9) (#22)
by Wah on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:39:47 PM EST

Pick one A or B.

A: IP should be the sole property of those that create it.

B: IP should be free to all.

And of course my answer, C.

C: IP needs to be seperated into two areas, use and ownership. Use should be be free, ownership should be the constrained to its creator.

It is the nature of IP that makes C possible. Since I can create my own copy with my own resources, there is very little logical argument for why I legally shouldn't be able to. But ownership needs to be defined for a functioning society. So only the owner of IP can use it to gain profit. Anyone else who would like to profit must obtain license from the owner. However, it can still be used by everyone.

Practical applications of this:

Productivity software, a business using this to make money (i.e. any business) must obtain a licence. Home use, or subsistence use, should be free.

Music, a business wishing to profit from the use must obtain a license. To print CDs (or other physical media) and sell them would require license. Playing them on a commercial radio station would require license. Using them in a commercial to hook your audience would require license. Home and personal use for cultural exchange would not.

Drugs, (and this one is frickin' huge) again roughly the same thing, although free clinics should be able to manufacture their own supply if needed to provide basic health care. This is a tough one because the U.S. has decided that profiting from inevitable poor health is a good idea. The patent on Prozac is nearly run out. This is after various extensions based on the color and shape riders, known as patent "stacking". It is estimated that the price of this drug will drop 95% once a competitive market is allowed. When you hear of the "prescription drug benefit" for health care, and how that will break the U.S.'s Social Security system, this is an alternative. But one you won't hear from an industry that recently lobbied to allow the drug industry to advertise to the public at large. This one goes on for a bit. You can start here, if curious. Mentioning this to senior citizens would be a good way to them on the bandwagon.

There are others, but this is getting long so I'll move to my next point. The major destructive monopolies in this country have all come from industries that have "nonrival" products. The phone monopoly, the rail monopoly, the oil monopoly, and the software monopoly. All of these are industries that have a HUGE start-up cost, but once the infrastructure is built providing additional services is dirt cheap. It is these industries that necessitated the creation of anti-trust legislation. Drugs are another one and media is another that will probably face such lawsuits in the near future.

If you're not sure how such a system would work, ask and I'll go further. But think about it for a second. There still exists the reason the create and explore and study. The profit motive isn't the only reason people create and fight disease. But it has become a limiting factor because of our current laws. This (mainly the drug thing, music is just gravy) is a very important part of the Information Revolution, and would, IMHO, be a major victory if it could be codified into useful law. This is my simple answer and the one I'm fighting for. Could it work?
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | SSP

Destuctive Monopolies? (3.20 / 5) (#25)
by semaj on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 06:53:26 PM EST

it seems that the issue of monopolies will never be fully explained or rationalized in this or any other country. The only destructive monopolies that have existed in this country came from the government's interferance in the first place. The only type of monopoly that is destructive is one in which competition is outlawed. The only way that can happen is with government approval.
To include the last two forms of monopoly is a misnomer if you agree with the classification of destructive I have just given. The oil monopoly... ie Standard Oil and the software monopoly.. ie Microsoft came to be mainly because of them being better companies than their rivals. The other two, where formed out of poorly planned and thought out rules created by the government itself. AT&T was forced into its position by the government and the monopoly was held in place solely by the force and backing of the government. The railroads... particularly the Big Four of California had a similar strangehold on the market due to enforcement of the government.
The whole mess of laws, rules and regulations that make up the "Anti-Trust Laws" are nothing but a poor attempt at correcting a problem that only the government can cause to happen in the first place.

there are billions of people on this planet, why hang around the bad ones.
[ Parent ]
you still missed the development costs (none / 0) (#116)
by yesterdays children on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 10:22:49 PM EST

But thats a common enough mistake, given that many times, software development itself is pretty rewarding. Not every needed IP product can be produced for free, or else there wouldn't be all this fuss going on.

[ Parent ]
Available Means of Production (4.57 / 7) (#24)
by SPrintF on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 06:47:19 PM EST

In the so-called information age, the computer has become the means of production of a number of goods: software, movies, music, e-books, news services, and a host of other types of digital content.
Well, no. Computers don't produce goods; skilled people who use computers produce goods. Typewriters have been commonly available for many years, but you don't see Joe Sixpack pounding out the Great American Novel, do you?

The creation of "intellectual property" requires the availability of "intellects" capable of producing such "property." The goods you cite (movies, music, books, news) are beyond the creative ability of most citizens. Therefore, most citizens will have to aquire these products from those able to create them.

And, as a creator, I believe my time and effort is worth something. So I expect to be paid.

Ironic... (3.85 / 7) (#30)
by dash2 on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 07:12:16 PM EST

Given that you've just contributed, for free, to a news and comment site composed entirely of the freely-given writing of Joe Sixpack.
------------------------
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
[ Parent ]
getting paid to make something != IP (2.66 / 3) (#34)
by sayke on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 09:49:13 PM EST

sheesh.


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Curious (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by Wah on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:26:23 AM EST

The goods you cite (movies, music, books, news) are beyond the creative ability of most citizens.

Yes, that's why people who do these things are usually called artists, writers, and producers, not "citizens" (or consumers in the modern vernacular). And they are very much not beyond the creative abilities of most people. Doing them well, however, might be.

Well, no. Computers don't produce goods; skilled people who use computers produce goods.

This is being pedantic. People use computers to produce these goods. Take away the computer and they can't be produced (at least not at the lightning efficiency we've attained by utilizing them). That would seem to point to the computer as "the means of production".

And, as a creator, I believe my time and effort is worth something. So I expect to be paid.

And you should be paid if someone else believes the same thing, but expecting a 40% profit margin on your work ad infinitum is ludicrous. And Joe Sixpack changes to something else once he's written the Great American Novel (or Great People Novel to be K5PC). You have a strange argument, why is that?
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | SSP
[ Parent ]

Means means means (none / 0) (#62)
by Rand Race on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:21:56 PM EST

Well, no. Computers don't produce goods; skilled people who use computers produce goods.

That's why Marx uses the term 'means of production'. Factorys don't produce cars, skilled workers do. But the means of producing these cars is the machinery of the assembly line which, unlike your computer, are owned by people who do not produce cars but rather profit off of the labor of their workers.

Typewriters have been commonly available for many years, but you don't see Joe Sixpack pounding out the Great American Novel, do you?

But, until recently, the only means of producing a book in quantities required for it to be read enough to be considered a 'great american novel' were large, expensive printing presses owned not by writers but by publishers. The typewriter is a means of creation not production. The computer along with the internet is a means of production (as well as creation) as it allows one to mass produce and distribute works.

And, as a creator, I believe my time and effort is worth something. So I expect to be paid.

Not only should you expect to get paid, you should also expect to get the full value of your work. Controlling your means of production (somewhat, no personal chip fabs yet) is what allows this to occur... which is what Marx was getting at. The factory worker does not get paid the full value of his work as some of that value is taken by those who control the means of production as profit. The Marxist model is geared towards the industrial age he lived in, where to procure means of production and still gain the full value of their work the workers would have to own the highly expensive means of production communaly, hence Communism, due to their lack of huge personal amounts of capitol.

I'm still not sure the PC/IP thing fits into classical marxism, Marx himself would probably call you (and I) 'petty bourgouise'.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Write one, sell many? (4.60 / 5) (#28)
by stuartf on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 07:04:27 PM EST

Herein lies the heart of Microsoft's dominance: they write a piece of software once (at a fixed cost), and sell that same piece of software (which they can copy and redistribute at near zero cost) millions of times for $100 or $1000 per copy

An argument likes this essentially ignores the fact that software costs money to develop. Microsoft have to recover the costs of developing their software, hence they sell it. The cost of redistribution isn't what they are recovering when they sell the software.

It also assumes that the code remains static - once Vendor X sells the software, then comes support, bug fixes etc. There are also all the auxiliary functions to providing software - documenting API's, providing developer support, marketing etc etc.

This argument gets repeated so often without people taking time to think about it.

On the contrary... (3.71 / 7) (#29)
by dash2 on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 07:10:52 PM EST

The argument specifically states that software has a fixed cost. The point is, however, that the marginal cost of selling an extra copy of the software is near-zero, and therefore the cost of the software is pure economic rent (anyone wanna check my economics here?) If software is a commodity, its price should fall to its marginal cost, i.e. zero. And that's one interpretation of the rise of open source software.
------------------------
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
[ Parent ]
But wait. (3.66 / 3) (#31)
by stuartf on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 07:29:38 PM EST

The argument specifically states that software has a fixed cost.

Whether it specifically states it or not, it may not be a valid assumption. The realfixed cost of software is probably reasonably hard to determine.

The point is, however, that the marginal cost of selling an extra copy of the software is near-zero, and therefore the cost of the software is pure economic rent (anyone wanna check my economics here?) If software is a commodity, its price should fall to its marginal cost, i.e. zero.

...given a certain amount of production & sales

[ Parent ]

Not really (4.66 / 3) (#37)
by qpt on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:54:29 PM EST

In an ideal market, the sale price of an ideal good will be equal to the cost of producing the good. That cost be expressed by:

(marginal cost [m]) + (fixed cost [f]/quantity produced [p])

If m is nothing, then we are left with:

(fixed cost [f]/quantity produced [p])

Obviously, if f is constant, the value of the expression will approach 0 for large values of p. However, f never is really constant - there are always costs associated with increased distribution. Furthermore, p is constrained by the demand for a good. If f is large and the demand for a good is low, (f / p) will never get anywhere close to 0.

Finally, all of this applies only in the case of an ideal good, a good that can be produced by many different firms with no appreciable difference between the different outputs. However, this is clearly not the case for software.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

So... (4.00 / 2) (#40)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:38:31 AM EST

... instead of quibbling about this point that may or may not effect the relivant other variables by appreciable amounts, why don't you do us all the goodness to bother looking it up in some economics text or webpage somewhere and finding the relivant correction factors that we can use to patch up the equation given by previous a priori reasoning? I mean, you are the one claiming that this correction matters in some domains, right? O.k. what domains? By how much?

Until we know that, we can't determine how far from free we must settle for in our effort for "fairly-priced" software. So I will just go with "you know, a few coins". Is that a good compromise? How about "price of a modest meal"? :)

Good day.



[ Parent ]

But if you distribute over the Internet (3.50 / 2) (#101)
by hotcurry on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 05:15:34 PM EST

and allow free re-copying, the costs with increased distribution become negligible. And such as they exist, get mostly absorbed by the users who are passing it on.

[ Parent ]
uhm.. (3.75 / 4) (#41)
by rebelcool on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:39:20 AM EST

what exactly are you figuring in cost of production? Stamping the CD? Writing code and paying your employees is indeed a cost of production, and an extremely high one.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Some people do it for free. (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by hotcurry on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 05:12:16 PM EST

And they do a better job of it, too. It's called open source. And you can get it off the Internet. No cost of stamping a CD.

And shouldn't you already know all this?

[ Parent ]

You need to pay more attention in Econ classes (3.57 / 7) (#45)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:37:38 AM EST

If you had paid more attention when you read or heard the statment you are making you'd know that this is how things work in a state of Perfect Competition. A perfectly competitive market has the following characteristics
  1. Firms sell a standardized/interchangeable product.

  2. Buyers are fully informed about the prices of the standardized product offered by these competitive firms.

  3. Each firm has only a small market share of total supply and takes the price of the product as beyond its control. It is therefore a price taker.
Now unless your claim is that there are a large number of vendors producing and selling indistinguishable versions of Microsoft's software in a state of perfect competition then your point is damn near moot.

[ Parent ]
IP laws prevent competition. (3.00 / 1) (#107)
by mrogers on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:41:20 AM EST

IP laws prevent me from selling an identical product to that sold by Microsoft (which I could do in an unrestricted economy by cloning a Win2k CD). IP laws prevent the software market from entering a state of perfect competition, and thus keep the cost of software artificially high.

[ Parent ]
Seems to be two misunderstandings here (4.75 / 4) (#43)
by Defiant One on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:05:14 AM EST

First of all, Marx did not believe that private property was inherently evil, but that it could be used for evil - a view he cultivated during many years of dire poverty surrounded by working class folk who were stuck in squalor and factory work.

Because of this, his view of property was particularly pessimistic, and was generally stated as a belief that business property, or "exploitative" property was the real problem. He DID NOT believe that people should not be allowed to own certain things.

Secondly, as comes as little surprise, this discussion on kuro5shin immediately has become about OSS software versus commercial software, which is to miss the point. Just because a popular thinker had a belief against exploitative property, and because many companies charge big money for their intellectual property, it by no means follows that commercial property should be abolished, because it is not evident that Marx was right.

This problem hinges on the notion of intellectual property, and it seems to me that there is absolutely no precedent to abolish such property. "IP" wasn't created by dot-comers, but by a very long tradition of recognizing the author of a work. The very act of recognizing the name of someone who created something, be it a book, an application, a patentable idea, is not only a part of our jurisprudence, but of our psyche. The Richard Stallmans of this world will never turn us away from that (even he puts his name on what he writes), for their argument is merely reactionary, never rational. IP is a natural concept (but to charge reasonably for it is a virtue I think many companies could develop).

Like it or not, the kind of exploitative property Marx had in mind, when viewed in contemporary dress, would be something like a Nike shoe factory in Thailand paying 20 cents a day to workers to create lifestyle shoes for American posers, not the likes of Microsoft charging 89 bucks for a toy operating system which allows many people to surf the web and create stuff. (I personally prefer Linux over Windows - let's try to let some air out of the ball when it comes to this M$-bashing)

I've actually thought and written about this very question before tonight, but I'm still not completely sure what Marx would think of computers, software and internet, and since his view was so reactionary, I'm not sure it matters...


"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


Marx would have wanted me to have free software? (3.20 / 5) (#46)
by one time poster on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:34:41 AM EST

I'm confused. I'm a little slow and I don't understand your point. Maybe I'm just tired.

If some thing takes a long time and a great number of resources to be produced, a long time to distribute and an end user can touch it, then it's ok for it to be expensive. Excuse me, its ok for it to be expensive as long as everyone (the proletariat, right?) who participated in the production and distribution of said thing were fairly compensated for their time and effort with... with what? I get lost here...

well, I guess I got lost because I also understood the following:

If some thing (maybe even the same thing) takes a long time and a great number of resources to be produced, but can be delivered instantaneously at low cost, then it should be free! Especially if it can't be touched. However, we no longer care about the people who produced it because they are part of the new bourgeoisie? (This is doubly true if we are talking about software. I mean who ever heard of a starving software engineer? Although there have been rumors of starving software engineers becoming more frequent since the beginning of the year.) I think I'm lost again, err still.

Is everyone going to go along with this new fangled idea that everything is supposed to be free or do I need to start finding a place to keep a cow or a goat so that I can trade milk for wool with my neighbor who might have sheep? I don't like the barter system already. The quarts to yards calculation messes me up every time. Besides, how would I electronically send my neighbor 5 quarts of wool from my checking account? (more confusion!) And then the other neighbor with the chickens, he hen pecks me on the eggs to quarts issue every time. He keeps telling me that because he reads to his chickens they lay healthier eggs and he wants a better conversion ratio.

Maybe I do understand. This might be where that chicken & egg theory might come in handy. If the egg came first then it should be free! If the chicken came first, then I have to make sure that the chickens earned a good living wage for producing the eggs. And if not, I'll incite them to revolt. And then I'll be able to get free eggs from bourgeoisie chickens. I better start planning for more room for the cow while I'm at this. I wouldn't want the cow to revolt. That would be bad! And I guess my cow will be stuck in a common area, too. I hope that guy doesn't sneak extra sheep into the common area, it'll affect my milk production.

Can I be excused from all this? I'd rather just pay for things. Not paying for things makes me feel dirty. Have you clicked on any of the Advertisements on this site today?


___________________

That does it, I wont post again...


No - the brainless chicken's point of view (2.00 / 2) (#64)
by mami on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:30:00 PM EST

Marx would have wanted you to own all the software, cows, chicken (try rabbits too, they make a lot of babies fast, a lot of meat to eat) together with all the neighbors in the world.

You would just need to understand that you were such a lucky guy to own the world's chicken, cows, rabbits and at the same time you owned nothing, because all other guys own them with you together. So, you are the freeest, richest poorest man on earth imprisoned in a network, where everybody owns everything, everything is free and everything is worth nothing. On top of that everybody is struggling with everybody to own something. Makes sense, right ?

You have the freedom to starve yourself to death, because when everybody owns everything, there is nothing which can be owned and sold. So, you have to lower yourself to beg for some tips from those, who like you, can't understand, why in a system, in which everbody is so rich and owns everything, everybody is so poor that he owns nothing and is going to starve.

As for the management of quarts to yard calculation and other barter's intricate problems, of course you would be democratically forced to vote for a representative party of the world's chicken, cow's and rabbit owners, that is the People's Chicken Party, AFAIK. The party owns everything because the party is you and I and everybody. Of course your vote is particularly democratic, as your People's Chicken Party represents everybody, so there is no need for other parties and no need for choice of parties. Makes sense, right ?

Those elite representatives of course will do all the calculation for you and they never need to be checked, because how could a representative of a party of all the people chicken owners ever try to cheat you and enrich himself. The Representative of course is just the physical (tangible) embodiment of the abstract idea of ownership of all world's physical goods by all the world's people.

Sigh, what a heck. I am telling you, it's a great burden to own all the world's chicken together with all the world's chicken owners. You own everything and nothing. So, what do YOU own ? What your party represenative thinks everbody should own, of course, HE is representing YOUR interests, which is of course to own everything with everybody, which is nothing.

So, as you are not allowed to own more than what everybody owns, no way you would raise more chickens just for the fun of it. Why make chickens at all, right ? Right, no reason at all. What would be the world without chicken, aah don't even start me thinking about it. We all know that the only things which sell well are chick(en)s, oops...

So, I advise you, if you live in a society where everybody owns everything and everybody owns nothing and the party representaive of the people decides how much everybody should share, you do the following: You start stealing some chickens and hide them in your basement. Then you make some better and more chickens than your neighbor, who tries the same for rabbits.

Then you two thieves organize an underground organization to steal some milk and wool from the party representative and also you insert a bug in his calculation program of how to do the converstion from quarts to yards and stuff like that. That would give you the possibility to own some more than you are supposed to and your underground business will start to flourish.

A German song writer said once that this process of stealing is the way socialism should go (meaning if socialism should become the most fairest distribution of goods to every citizen then - in a communist country - the goods need to go "their socialistic way" - which meant you steal them and own something for yourself. Then you sell it for a price in the hidden black market, so that everybody gets what he needs and everybody pays something for it, so that everybody can survive.

So, tell me, how can open/free software be owned by someone, so that you can sell it without needing to close the software ? If you don't want to close the code (and we really don't want that), what else could you close up to make it sellable ?


[ Parent ]
thank you (none / 0) (#79)
by one time poster on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 06:55:03 PM EST

I understand it all much more clearly now!

[ Parent ]
smileys (none / 0) (#80)
by mami on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 07:01:48 PM EST

We should have both added on to our comments, I think.

[ Parent ]
next time (none / 0) (#97)
by one time poster on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 11:09:28 PM EST

i'll try a little harder.
___________________

That does it, I wont post again...


[ Parent ]
Problems with Marxism (4.58 / 12) (#54)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:06:11 AM EST

Marx was proposing what he saw as a scientific theory of history as a succession of class conflicts as new classes emerged and took over the state. Quite apart from the theoretical problems with attempting a scientific theory of history, the actual history of the twentieth century does not support Marx's ideas.

What was supposed to happen was an increase in the size of the proletariat, and a disappearance of the middle class, as the capitalists struggled to maintain profits against the forces of the market driving down prices. Class conflict was supposed to result, leading eventually to socialism and then communism as the workers gained control. This was supported by the labour theory of value, that said prices fall to the minimum that can be paid for the labour used to produce them. This was supposed to be a positive, not a normative theory.

When we look at the last hundred years, we can see that despite universal sufferage (which was meant to bring socialism, remember ?) the working class has shown much more willingness to dissappear into the middle class than it has to stage a revolution. Rather than being eliminated, the middle class has grown in both size and prosperity (though its a different middle class - of managers and professionals, not craftsmen and shopkeepers), to the extent that there is no longer a "capitalist class" or a proletariat in the sense Marx saw them. As a positive theory then, Marxism appears to have failed.

It is possible to speculate about the reasons Marx was wrong, and to try to patch up his theories, but all that seems to be left of Marx's own thought is a vague, normative notion that the labour theory of value implies that workers are being exploited by capitalists, even if they don't feel exploited and it is rather hard to find any capitalists these days.

On top of that, "ownership of the means of production" is becoming *less* important as an economic force, not more so. Today's most successful companies don't own much in the way of capital at all - instead they own intangible assets from brand names to operating systems. But - as Linux and others demonstrate - there's nothing preventing dispersed groups of individuals with no corporate structure at all from creating and "owning" just these same kinds of things.

So, this brings us to the article, which seems to set out from this point. The author can't spell bourgeois (the adjective) and has the bourgeoisie and the capitalist class mixed up, as well as being rather confused as to exactly what Marx said as opposed to modern vaguely-radical-left sentiment, however there is the germ of an idea in there: that intellectual property is analagous to ownership of "the means of production".

The trouble is, as the author says, the long-run labour value of a copy of Windows (say) tends to zero, or extremely close to zero. Unfortunately, this creates problems for Marxism as a positive theory - how come those dirty capitalists are still making money ? and for the normative side of it - the "full value of my labour" is much *less* than my salary(fortunately). The author wants to imply that intellectual property has replaced ownership of the means of production as a source of capitlist profits. The trouble is, its not just the source of profits, its the only source of any long-run non-zero value for software *at all*, and thus also the only way to renumerate "labour".

In Marx's time it was credible to claim that workers were being exploited because of the enormous costs of capital - they had no option but to work for someone else, but if we look at the costs involved in acquiring access to the equipment needed to set up a software firm, we can see they are very low. A brain and a laptop, as my boss once put it. So what is the explanation for "the proletariat" (albeit extraordinarily well-paid for "the dispossessed") continuing to work for the dirty capitalists ?

It is not really credible to argue that intellectual property has anything to do with it. Indeed the author doesn't - he just makes a blanket statement. There are plenty of ideas out there that have not been patented, and plenty of scope to find ways round those that have. Most people continue to work for firms because they don't want to accept the risk of working independently - a decent salary is most definitely preferable in my view to the risks of bankruptcy and the workload that go with owning a firm.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
phantoms (none / 0) (#94)
by dr k on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 07:31:56 PM EST

...to the extent that there is no longer a "capitalist class" or a proletariat in the sense Marx saw them.

This is a moot point, we don't know how Marx might have viewed the modern class structure, but we usually like to attribute enough intelligence to Marx to believe that he would properly observe where the divisions between classes now fall.

But being able to "see" these class disctinctions is a critical part of the current class struggle. Growth in population and growth in the kinds of resources used for production has made the class structure rather complicated, and to assume that everyone in the middle class is complacent with their place is a dangerous position. Now if you can define a specific group of people and demonstrate that they represent the majority population into which most people are willing to "disappear into", then you've found your posited middle class.

... "the proletariat" (albeit extraordinarily well-paid for "the dispossessed")

You are pointing to a phantom class and making wry observations about them. I think you need to re-examine the notion of "well-paid" - while the situations are highly incompatible, sweatshop laborers are also often told that they are being "well-paid" relative to their local economy.
Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

A couple of points (none / 0) (#99)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 03:36:51 PM EST

I was concentrating on things that affected the case made in the article. I think a full-fledged critique of Marx would be somewhat large for a K5 comment :), as well as being redundant, as it has been done before far better than I can do it.

The term "middle class" now covers almost everyone, so, as I think we agree, its not of much interest if we're looking for class conflicts. I'll happily agree that not everyone in the middle class is content with their position, but I'm not convinced that class divisions are a useful way of analysing the conflicts that (obviously) do exist. As a matter of interest, where do you see the class dividing lines as being, and what are the conflicts ?

As to the proletariat: I interpreted the author as making an analogy between software engineers, musicians, and other similarly well-off people and the old proletariat, because he was making an analogy between intellectual property and the "means of production". Thats a damn silly analogy, frankly. While the proletariat to which Marx appealed were by no means the poorest people in their society, they were, in either adsolute or relative terms, much less well off than todays information workers.

As to sweatshops: well, its an unavoidable fact that relative to their local economies the people working for them *are* well paid. Thats by no means decisive in the broader debate, however.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Enough analogies. Just take a plain look. (3.50 / 2) (#78)
by Apuleius on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 06:09:11 PM EST

Unable to solely control the means of production or distribution of their products in the information age, the bourgeoisie has replaced this exclusive control with laws governing the use of their intellectual property.
1. Dude, the bourgeoisie is us, and there is no proletariat. Instead of looking at the modern era through Marx's glasses just look with your own eyes. Marx wasn't looking straight at his own era, so there is no point applying his analysis to ours. 2. Production does not take place on the net. It may get coordinated on the net for higher efficiency, but the rest of the net is entertainment fluff. "Content production," i.e. creative work, has a part in our life when we are sufficiently rich. It does not direct the economy as much as you think. And that has been true since the paleolithic, when we were putting up cave drawings when food was abundant and leaving caves bare when food was scarce. It won't make or break political trends.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
None of you know what you're talking about. (3.33 / 3) (#81)
by eLuddite on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:54:16 PM EST

(And I dont particularly care.)

Marx would tell you that Copyright -- which encompasses both the Free and Open Source software paradigms, 100% -- is, like all rights and grants, a soporific meant to comfort our stay in civil society while civil society continues to alienate us from our human nature. He doesnt care about such   DIVERSIONS   *at*   *all*.   The wholesale cooptation of amateur and professional technologists into the service of capital is exactly what is expected by expansionary capital because there is no other kind of capital.

Use whatever the fuck license you want. The Big Picture doesnt care.

Software is not art, not expression, not computer science, not psuedo code written on a napkin.

Software is a commodity. Software is capital infrastructure.

Capitalism does two things well: (1) it fetishizes commodities; (2) it innovates to create more commodities for further fetishization. It doesnt matter that people copy Gnu/Linux for nothing or buy Microsoft/Windows for $1000. All that matters is that Linux needs additional commodities to run and capital to create those commodities. In line with capital's current expansion through the imposition of neoliberalism onto the Third World, the poorest inner cities, the dumbest Presidents and Prime Ministers, etc, software that costs nothing is the very best way for capital to penetrate as deeply as possible.

Revolution my ass.

Incidentally, for all the people who have demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of Marx in their comments -- you know who you are, the ones who have never actually read him, the ones who dont realize he's a sociologist -- Marx is actually more relevant than ever.

---
God hates human rights.

Are you sure *you* know what you're talking about? (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by Defiant One on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 12:59:13 AM EST

Even though you are trolling, and even though your spelling an diction are too, cunning, to be understood (Shakespeare reference), you do bring up a couple of marginally interesting points.

First, you speak of what Marx would say about intellectual property, as if you knew, and as if the watered down Ph.D thesis you pointed us toward actually addressed this point. However, the most salient portion I could retrieve was:

In a system where all production is for profit, the allocation of resources and labor will, of course, be determined not by their contribution to the well-being of as many people as possible but by their contribution to profitability. The society's productive capacities are much more likely to be devoted to producing, say, new model cars every year for those who can afford them, or computers designed to be obsolete as soon as they hit the market, than to providing decent affordable housing for all. So Marx would not be surprised that a society like the U.S., with the capacity to feed, clothe, house, educate, and provide health care for all its members, nevertheless has widespread poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, health care costs that many people cannot afford, and a system of education that leaves many functionally illiterate. Nor is it surprising that, in a society with such built-in inequities, there are deep social divisions, in which, for example, class exploitation and racism reinforce one another.
However, the whole thrust of even this quote is a bit off axis toward establishing any fact of Capitalism being unconcerned with building infrastructure and housing, since there is no society in history which has done this to as great an extent as contemporary America. We could cite the Romans, but it would be several degrees lower in scale than our society, which provides much more for every citizen, even fully within the Capitalist system under question.

Secondly, you say:

Software is not art, not expression, not computer science, not psuedo code written on a napkin. Software is a commodity. Software is capital infrastructure.
My question here is how you would assign an author to a work you spent months creating. Surely you recognize that something like a book can be construed as art and expression, so how would you say an application is not like a book, when nearly all of the particulars are identical, with the only ones being different are those which do not matter toward establishing your point?

The remaining bits of your post are either predicated on valid answers to these questions, or are mere flamebait.


"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


[ Parent ]
trolling, trolling, trolling (3.00 / 4) (#84)
by eLuddite on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 02:59:55 AM EST

as if the watered down Ph.D thesis you pointed us toward actually addressed this point.

It does not address that point. It wasnt meant to address copyright at all, and was mentioned in the context of my original subject line. I realize kurobots *think* Marx got Capitalism wrong, but the reality is that his economics was just peachy. His political and sociological predictions were a little optimistic, just like Open Sores evangelists. I specifically provided the link in order to point people to an essay by one of today's better marxist scholars. In consideration of the fact that you didnt know enough to recognize the author's credentials, I'd say that was your first clue I might know a lot more than your subject line would lead you to believe.

The debate over copyright, and the GPL in particular, centers on an issue of rights -- the author's versus his or her audience. The fundamental nature of capitalism remains unchanged in this debate. Anyone who thinks otherwise has another Marxian think coming to them.

Marx wrote something called Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. In this Critique Marx applied Hegel's "transformative method" to political and civil society by turning Hegelism on its head and arguing that the 'State' could be explained by the objective material conditions of man's existence. Marx then returned to Rousseau's challenge: how does one bridge the seemingly irreconcilable schism between civil society and political life? The political realm stands in the same relation to the civil as the City of God does to the City of Man. How does one reconcile the tremendous disparity between the ideal of the State and the reality of civil society?

For Marx the consequence of this tension is that man becomes increasingly alienated from public life. But unlike what earlier religious thinkers thought, this alienated isolation was not merely a matter of perception; for Marx, it was a reality, a product of modern civil society. The question for Marx, as for the less optimistic Rousseau before him, then became one of abolishing civil society and merging man's inner, private self with his public persona so that he may become an uncompromised "species-being."

According to Marx, civil society is a terrible and destructive social system because

its social effect is to sever all man's species-ties, substitute egoism and selfish need for those ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic, mutually hostile individuals.
See, in egoistic civil society, men relate to each other as means instead of as human beings; and as long as life was divided between the social and the political, no political reform or change means a damn thing. The object is to bring mankind closer to achieving his telos as a species, not bitching over who can copy what program under what terms. In other words, the political regime isnt the cause of man's problem, the cause was civil society itself as well as all it's little tricks for self perpetuation, copyright amongst them. All political reforms further civil society -- the enemy. In Marx's view, man could never become "whole" while civil society enjoyed a separate existence from the State.

This explains, for example, Marx's writing in On the Jewish Question -- the "Jewish question" was besides the point and the political emancipation of the Jews was not going to lead to human emancipation for the species. Of course Marx thought political emancipation a very fine thing, much preferable to political disenfranchisement, but he nevertheless regarded this preoccupation with political rights as diversionary. Similiarly, Marx didnt have very much patience for concepts like natural rights, personal liberty, civil liberties and all the other fine concepts which derive from and are useful only in the civil society he wished to see eventually destroyed.

For Marx, the effect of civil society on the individual was particularly and most perniciously pronounced under bourgeois capitalism. Indeed, both Marx and Engels thought capitalism a wicked, unmitigatedly evil economic system representing the perfection of The Division of Labor, Mankind's Original Sin. The DoL was responsible for egoism precisely because it instituted a system of private property.

Capitalism mutilates the laborer into a fragment of a man, degrades him to the level of an appendage to a machine, destroys every remnant of charm in his work and turns it into a hated toil; it estranges from him the intellectual potentialities of the labor process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as as independent power.

Hokay!

Now all we have to do is make the connection between copyright and and capitalism. Certainly traditional IP, I think you'll agree, serves to create and expand capital. That's why grants -- monopolies -- have been given out throughout their history, regardless of contentless, rhetorical flourishes by Jefferson and friends. I have to ask you how capitalism is harmed by Free Software when all software does is allow someone to interact closely with hardware produced by capitalists, in factories, by wage earners, according to a division of labor?

Not fucking much.

Furthermore, why is RMS lamenting his missing printer drivers an issue of freedom and not a form of commodity fetishism? Who the fuck cares about printers, computers, etc except that insignificant minority of people in the world who get a thrill out of programming them?

Commodity fetishises like Linux and Windows are not something Marx cares for or identifies as "freedom". Commodity fetishism is something that Marx identifies as capitalism. Marx doesnt give a shit for the GPL or any list of copyright restrictions you care to invent.

However, the whole thrust of even this quote is a bit off axis toward establishing any fact of Capitalism being unconcerned with building infrastructure and housing, since there is no society in history which has done this to as great an extent as contemporary America. We could cite the Romans, but it would be several degrees lower in scale than our society, which provides much more for every citizen, even fully within the Capitalist system under question.

I dont know what you're talking about. I'll concede whatever point it is you're making.

My question here is how you

Never mind me, I was talking about Marx.

would assign an author to a work you spent months creating. Surely you recognize that something like a book can be construed as art and expression,

No, you are confusing the process of creation with the object you've created. You are confusing ideas with software. Software is a commodity for everyone in the world except a few hax0rs who stay indoors in an attempt to stay as far away from the rest of the world as possible. Similiarly, Rubik's Cube in a box is not mathematics.

For hax0rs, software allows innovation which, in turn, means new products. When everyone (ie, as many hax0rs as capitalism can coopt in a given period) is doing this because of the power of the GPL, Marx is one unhappy historical materialist. On humanitarian grounds. On Marxist grounds, he is pleased to see capital's relentless expansion for only pervasive, extreme capitalism will reveal its own internal contradictions and create the means for Socialism.

Hokay!

so how would you say an application is not like a book, when nearly all of the particulars are identical,

Sorry, a book is a personal, artistic statement. The GPL works for software precisely because software is engineering, not art. I will never confuse reading a book with running a program. Despite the fact that I run Linux, I dont give a shit who wrote what, when, where, why, what the code or its author is trying to tell me. Again, dont confuse the enjoyment you derive from craftmanship with the commodity I will use and fetishize over by downloading "themes" or "maps" or "latest kernel".

HTH, it wasnt a troll although you'll likely think so if you dont understand Marxism.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Yes, you are trolling (3.00 / 2) (#87)
by Defiant One on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 11:52:55 AM EST

Hi again.

I realize kurobots *think* Marx got Capitalism wrong, but the reality is that his economics was just peachy.
I quote this only to say that the heart of your post seems to be in your erroneous assumption that you and the article's author you linked are the only authorities on Marx. That's pretty close to the classic "appeal to authority" fallacy.

In consideration of the fact that you didnt know enough to recognize the author's credentials, I'd say that was your first clue I might know a lot more than your subject line would lead you to believe.
And with this, you come right out and prove my point above. This is the actual appeal, the technical name of which is the ad vericundiam fallacy. Why does this matter? Well, because there is no rational basis for assuming someone is an authority, or that they are correct, based purely on their credentials. If you didn't notice, I haven't mentioned mine :) But what makes your sentence above even worse, and thereby destroys your whole post, is that you appeal to the linked author's "autority" only to claim that *you* know more than *I* about Marx. That's pretty pathetic.

The debate over copyright, and the GPL in particular, centers on an issue of rights -- the author's versus his or her audience.
Well, duh. I think everybody gets that, but if you had worked a little bit harder, you would have noticed the debate actually centers upon ownership, which is more restrictive than rights. If I write a book, I own it, but you may have the right to read it if published. Software ownership seems to be under an attack of ownership in this debate, such that the GPLers wish to deny the individual author(s) any special rights of ownership, rights which we would not question if we were talking about a book.

<snip the pedantic prattle from your college essay>

Now all we have to do is make the connection between copyright and and capitalism.
You haven't even made the connection between your college essay exerpt and copyright! That makes the exerpt a non sequitur.

I have to ask you how capitalism is harmed by Free Software when all software does is allow someone to interact closely with hardware produced by capitalists, in factories, by wage earners, according to a division of labor?
You haven't been reading very closely I see. I did not claim Capitalism would be harmed by free software. I suggested free software results in a "death" of the author. Big difference. Further, software in general does allow people to interact, as you say, but so does a book, so you've failed to make a distinction between books and programs in a way which makes this 'death of its author' automatic.

"...our society...provides much more [infrastructure] for every citizen [than others], even fully within the Capitalist system under question."
I dont know what you're talking about. I'll concede whatever point it is you're making.
Well, at least you have some measure of humility :)

you are confusing the process of creation with the object you've created. You are confusing ideas with software. Software is a commodity for everyone...
The whole point of granting intellectual property is to basically do just that in a legal sense; not to "confuse", but to "assign" ownership rights to an object or tangible expression created which resulted from such a process. (more on this)

a book is a personal, artistic statement. The GPL works for software precisely because software is engineering, not art. I will never confuse reading a book with running a program.
That books are artistic statements was what I said. The GPL might work for some software, but it is not a rubric which should be forced upon all software. Because a program may be engineering is of no consequence, because any form of expression is automatically considered intellectual property under law. To assume that because reading a book and running a program are different activities for the reader or user is a sophomoric objection to allowing software to have IP status.

So, you have failed to address my questions in a clearer way than in your original post, and what's more, you committed a couple of fallacies. Next time, you might try thinking through your position a bit more carefully and avoid clinging to credentials.


"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


[ Parent ]
9 out of 10 idiots cannot recognize trolls (1.00 / 1) (#88)
by eLuddite on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 03:48:45 PM EST

Sadly, you are not the brave, solitary exception.

Why does this matter? Well, because there is no rational basis for assuming someone is an authority,

Especially not someone on Kuro5hin who passes the following judgement in one breath, "watered down Ph.D thesis", then gets everything wrong in the next breath. Maybe my writing is too dense and ironic for you. Is that it?

The debate over copyright, and the GPL in particular, centers on an issue of rights -- the author's versus his or her audience.
Well, duh. I think everybody gets that,

Let's remember that statement and call it $YOU_ARE_WRONG.

but if you had worked a little bit harder, you would have noticed the debate actually centers upon ownership, which is more restrictive than rights. If I write a book, I own it, but you may have the right to read it if published.

What are you babbling about? If copyright were property, I would be dispossessing you of ownership whenever I infringed your copyright. Granted (no pun intended), if I were to break into the copyright office and substitute my name for yours in a certain document, that would be theft; but I didnt do that.

Copyright is not property. End of story. Theft of a book is worse than copyright infringement of the same book. If I stole your book, the one you wrote, you would be out the cost of having it physically reprinted, and a hypothetical sale to my future self. If I just copy it, you're out the latter, alone. If I destroy the book I stole, you're out the former and I am guilty of "destruction of property".

Copyright is a state backed promise that I cannot exploit your expression for X years. That's it. There are almost no similiarities between copyright and property laws. To illustrate the differences between the two concepts, consider the following

  • I purchase permission from you, the copyright owner, to copy your book. I am now legally able to copy that book from anyone who has a copy, whether you wish that I do or do not. For example, I might walk into a bookstore and copy your book, even if the publisher and the bookstore don't want me to. The bookstore could kick me out, of course, but they cannot sue me for copyright infringement, they cannot charge me with theft, and they cannot recover however much of the copy I've made. It has nothing to do with the owner of the copy, it's the owner of the copyright that allows copying.

  • It's illegal to copy a copy you own, something I am sure you will recognize as being completely different than theft. It's obviously nonsensical to talk about stealing from yourself. Essentially, you are claiming that with copying, I steal from someone one I've never even met, and who doesn't even know I 'stole' it.

You make a variation of the same solecism in your original post where you confuse the state of authorship with the state of ownership. Of course if you write a book, you wrote it; the expression has an identifiable author. But copyright isnt concerned with taking away your expression, it's concerned with limiting the use of that expression in others. This is something that you cannot do by virtue of expressing yourself, this is something that you can only do by virtue of government.

Marx doesnt care about such arrangements in civil society. Were you paying any attention at all, or were you simply in a mad rush to demonstrate your reading incomprehension?

This is all rather frustrating. I am sorry but you are not addressing any of the substantive and accurate points I made and are further making demands of me to wade through your inchoherent speeches about property, copyright and Marxism.

Software ownership seems to be under an attack of ownership in this debate, such that the GPLers wish to deny the individual author(s) any special rights of ownership, rights which we would not question if we were talking about a book.

No offense, but you seriously need to shut the fuck up and learn what it is you are talking about. The GPL is voluntary license on both ends. An author retains his copyright under the GPL. The debate over the GPL is purely one about rights and obligations (in civil society).

<snip the pedantic prattle from your college essay> <snip pedantic reference and conflation of a rhetorical fallacy with something we call an "authoritative reference".

$YOU_ARE_WRONG.

I'm sorry if you didnt get the point. Maybe you should spend less time reading canonical lists of rhetorical and informal logic fallacies and more time understanding what it is you purport to reply to.

I did not claim Capitalism would be harmed by free software.

I dont care. Your claims are incidental to my point and I dont even know why you originally replied except to make unrelated speeches about things you demonstrably know very little about: copyright, property, Marxism.

I suggested free software results in a "death" of the author. Big difference.

There are some differences in your head about something that has very little to do with what I've been talking about and, for that matter, what you *think* you are talking about. I dont care about these differences.

Further, software in general does allow people to interact, as you say, but so does a book, so you've failed to make a distinction between books and programs in a way which makes this 'death of its author' automatic.

I have no idea what you're talking about. I think I understand where you are coming from but it's safer for me not to presume anything and just call you on your incoherence.

Regardless of whatever it is you are saying, I'm going to have to stick to my guns and inform you that I was not interested in your internal monologue before I made my original post, and I am not interested in entertaining this same, nonsequitur monologue now. I attempted to clarify my position with the second post, but that doesnt seem to have had the required effect. Indeed, you refered to it as "<snip>".

My point was that software, *regardless of license*, would be identified by Marx as a commodity, and that license wars in particular as an expression of commodity fetishism. Software creates a demand for computer and network products. That is the only importance of the GPL (a list of copyright restrictions in promotion of civil society) to Marx.

If you check out Slashdot, you will notice that there's a lot of talk about competition between closed and open source licensing models; competition leads to products. In fact, if no license other than the GPL existed, Slashdot would still be consumed with talking about gizmos, and ads, and networking, and software, and so on.

This is a pure unadulterated expression of capitalism.

You're talking to me about "death of authors" as this has any relation to my thesis or as if it makes any sense whatsoever.

The GPL might work for some software, but it is not a rubric which should be forced upon all software.

No one is forcing you to do anything, the GPL is completely voluntary. What the hell are you babbling about? (That was a rhetorical question, this discussion and your speeches are over.)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Really, I'm laughing *with* you! (none / 0) (#92)
by Defiant One on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 06:22:52 PM EST

Well, troll, I was hoping for a better showing from you, really I was, but you took the bait anyway and I'm sure I'm not alone in having a good laugh about it. You obviously don't realize how stupid you have made yourself look, but one day you might.

Logic is a bitch, ain't it??

Of course, if you're seriously interested in having a real philosophical discussion, I'm here for 'ya. Otherwise, you lose.

Bu-bye...


"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


[ Parent ]
I'm sure you are. (1.00 / 1) (#93)
by eLuddite on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 07:30:44 PM EST

Logic is a bitch, ain't it??

Keep plugging away, you'll get the hang of it eventually.

Bu-bye...

I recognize that allusion as evidence of your culural and intellectual affluence. It came shortly after Schwing!, right? Oh, stop it, you big lug; your wit is making my nipples hard.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Ha! (none / 0) (#95)
by Defiant One on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 09:36:08 PM EST

Enjoyed it dude. It was a short discussion, but I'll see 'ya on the next topic we both like.


"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


[ Parent ]
redaction errors (1.00 / 1) (#89)
by eLuddite on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 04:06:51 PM EST

Sorry, editing glitches prevented you from hanging yourself by your own shoelaces. Let's try this again.
The debate over copyright, and the GPL in particular, centers on an issue of rights -- the author's versus his or her audience.

Well, duh. I think everybody gets that,

Let's remember that statement and call it $YOU_ARE_WRONG.

[...]

You haven't even made the connection between your college essay exerpt and copyright!

$YOU_ARE_WRONG.

For the obvious reason that your claims of property for copyright were proven wrong and your anterior admission about rights demonstrates my point about Marx's regard for such matters as diversions.

Finally, something I did not make clear is the following: fewer restrictions on copying are fewer restrictions on capitalism. This is not about selling copies of Linux, this is about creating a field of capital. Linux is not a threat to Capitalism, it is an expression of expansionary capital. Under capitalism, no civil arrangement can be otherwise for Marx.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

question (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by mami on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 09:43:37 AM EST

If software is a commodity, you should be able to attach a monetary value to it. How can you do this, if you can't control distribution over the global network, don't attach sofware tangible material and can't control the copyability of free software ?

[ Parent ]
correction (none / 0) (#86)
by mami on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 09:48:22 AM EST

that was meant to say:
...attach software to a tangible material..
Sorry.

[ Parent ]
clarification and hopefully an answer (3.00 / 2) (#90)
by eLuddite on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 05:25:59 PM EST

  • You absolutely can control software distribution under closed licenses.
  • Even if closed source software goes the way of Diviner Rods, the end of a market in closed source isnt the end of Capitalism any more than the end of the market in Diviner Rods was.
  • Open source software isnt a panacea, it is competition for closed source software. This results in more software; for every open source item, a closed source item will rise to compete with it and vice versa.
  • Software is useless without machines. A fetish over software is a fairly strong signal for capitalists to create more machine commodities. In fact, as soon as you pay for hardware, it is outdated. There is an ever widening demand for more ram, faster, ram, newer, faster 3d cards, printers, MP3 walkmans, Tshirts with DeCSS on them -- it never ends. Capital *must* grow.
  • Software drives more than just hardware, it drives information services. There is an economy in information and despite what open source advocates will tell you, licenses cannot be eaten. You must work. You must create something people will buy. It doesnt matter if your ad agency runs on GPL software or Microsoft Windows. If you have an ad agency, you are preparing to be bought out by a bigger ad agency and the concentration of more capital in fewer hands. That is the inexorable march of capitalism. If you stick software in every nook and cranny, Capitalism thinks it's died and gone to heaven.
I could go on. The point is, not only is software very definitely a commodity when you pay for it, it is a form of capital infrastructure whether you are asked to pay for it or not. If you doubt software is an expression of expansionary capital, how do you explain the phenomena that is the Internet? It was built because of software, and open source software at that. How do you explain all the articles on Slashdot and Kuro5hin waxing poetic or distressed over *product*? What is the pattern to (hypothetical) articles such as "Iomega class action lawsuit settled" and "Blaster3D releases GPL drivers, I know where my money is going :-)"?

Mami, you seem to have a problem understanding geeks, but they are not very difficult, sociologically speaking. They are technologists in the service of capital. They cannot be any other thing *under capitalism*, which requires a field of ideas to create new commodities whether we need them or not.

All this talk of "freedom" (for the programmer, evidently, since an overwhelming number of people affected by Capitalism dont know Perl from a camel and never will, even though Perl does affect their existence) and "new economy" would be recognized by Marx for what it is: a diversion from the evils of plain old fashioned capitalism. Market paradigms may change and will continue to change for one overriding concern alone: capital *must* expand.

I'm not saying Open Source is bad -- it's the best diversion we have -- I am saying the shift in attitude among some members of the technocracy debating intellectual "property" amounts to irrelevant "rights" talk for Marx.

And, for good or bad, I happen to largely agree with him on this issue and disagree with almost every Open Source evangelist I've read, from RMS to ESR, to Bruce Perens and so on ad nauseum. I'm sure they are very nice people, but they wont be getting me to share in their delusions.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#96)
by mami on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 09:56:57 PM EST

Also for the link to the <A HREF="http://www.monthlyreview.org/598wood.htm"> article about the Manifesto </A>. It was a pleasure to read, uplifting and clarifying, also the article from Einstein about "Why Socialism". (Last time I read Marx and Engels was in 1968). I actually understood everything I read in the first round. Why is their language so much clearer than what I read often here ? Makes me feel good. Thanks.

[ Parent ]
Right, not if I can help it (1.50 / 2) (#112)
by weirdling on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 02:49:23 PM EST

The US government is working to fix the 'digital devide'? High school civics time. We are a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people'. I sincerely doubt there's any real effort to end the 'digital devide'. Please cite some sources for this, mostly so I can find out if I need to roundly cuss out my congresscritters for so obviously wasting my money...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Marx's ideas (as I understand them) (none / 0) (#114)
by v1z on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:15:18 PM EST

1: Value is produced/added only be work done by sentient beeings(that would be us, humans)

2: Machines used in production, are tools, they do not add value themselves, but increase the efficiency of production.

3: If someone produces efficiently that is a good thing.

4: If you don't have a machine, the only way you can add value, is to rent your work to someone that has a machine.

5: Usually this person will give you less money/goods than you really produce.

6: Because of the complexity of modern production, this is difficult to precieve by the worker.

7: But, usually those with a lot of money get a lot more money, while the rest of us, just get by (Here in the I-world (or e-world ;-)) This follows from 5.

Marx thought that 7 indicated an unfair system. The workers work, but it is the capitalists that control the money. It is they that run the government (this is not paranoia, the government does two things, distributes resources, and enforces a violence monopoly. Generally those that control one, also control the other). In the US there are many strong lobbies; tobacco, guns, food, movie/content producers, just for a few exapples. And in most countries you need quite a lot of money to do efficient campaigning.

Of course "we" have mostly a good life. But Marx hoped that everyone could cooperate for the good of all (See the Zimbabwe story). That, would unfourtunately mean bad news for most of the e-world. We waste too much energy and resources on ourselves. But it feels good, doesn't it ?

As for software, it is production (in that it adds value), it can be controled (Adobe vs Dmitry Sklyarov), it can make you rich to employ programmers (microsoft, Sun etc), and free software is a good thing. But under the current system, programmers need to be paid.

To conclude comercial software isn't terrible. Capitalism is terrible. Under Capitalism we will probably have comerial software. Under communism we won't.

Please read the top again before you flame. Everything below 7 is just a rant.

21st Century Marxism | 116 comments (115 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!