Who is the Masked Woman?

by on November 28, 2007 · 30 comments

I found here a peculiar set of arguments, directed against Solveig the Social Calculator, Solveig the Rampant Utilitarian, Solveig the Anti-Individualist. Who is this Solveig person? Oh, wait, it’s me. I have to wonder if this critique is by the same character who has been going around posting on blogs that I am a defender of Scientology and an erotic model. No, these posts aren’t anonymous.

1) The classical liberal recipe for freedom incorporates the principle that one’s freedom stops where it runs into another’s rights. We may disagree about what those rights ought to look like–and history shows that those rights are likely to change somewhat over time–but if my
package differs somewhat from someone else’s, well, sorry, the argument that this makes me a “regulator” is no more to the point than the argument that the someone else is an “anarchist.” Very silly rhetorical flourishes that fail to join the main issue: what should the rights be?

2) There are perfectly respectable utilitarian arguments for free markets and property. This is not a grand venture into social calculus, it’s common sense. How long would freedom, property, and contract be defensible as institutions if there were a better way to raise standards of living, to get more clean water to more people, to generate wealth so that cleft palate babies can have surgery instead of being left in orphanages, so that a musician from Ghana can quit his day job waiting tables and do what he really loves and others can listen to him? No, I do not know what the socially optimal level of created works to be produced is, or grain, or houses. On the whole, people would rather have ground rules that support the creation of such things. If one is going to up-end those ground rules, one’s case against them had better be pretty strong.

3) Concern for enforcement is not an endorsement of “regulation.” Not even arguably. A defense of freedom includes supporting the fair enforcement of contracts, property rights, voting rights, or any other right that has a proper place in an advanced civilization. Again, we may disagree about what those rights are, but that has nothing to do with enforcement. Now, to the details: Is my view that copyright penalties should be lighter “regulatory”? Is the view that it is unfair to single out a few random individuals and let the majority of infringers’ off, and that this is ineffective for deterrence, “regulatory”? No. Not even close.

In short, teach your grandmother to suck eggs. There are arguments to be made here along these general lines about copyright and regulation that would need to be considered more carefully (see Tom Palmer, Tom Bell, Jerry Brito, etc.) … but you ain’t makin’ ‘em yet. If there were a fundamental, easy-to-spot disconnect between classical liberal fundamentals and my views on IP, I’d have noticed some time in the last twenty years. The more subtle tensions I’m way ahead of you on. (For the love of pete, I’m on the record on what I think on all these things–enforcement, and how strict, and copyright as regulation, and so on–you don’t need to make up what you think my position is and then critique the lame result).

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Thanks for your interesting post.

    My post was a response to your earlier post in which you said:

    Copyright debates strike me as suffering from the opposite defect. We hear a great deal about individuals—the single mom Ms. Thomas in Wisconsin being the most recent. But there is not a lot of thinking about the system as a whole, or how it relates to these individuals. As a result, we run the risk of judging policy and law solely by the standards of advocates for individuals.

    It seems to me that libertarians are, by definition, “advocates for individuals.” We might, as you say, disagree about what rights those individuals have, and how they should best be enforced. Certainly, record companies are “individuals” in this sense as much as single mothers are. And if we believe that copyright is among the rights individuals possess, then our advocacy of individuals includes the advocating the enforcement of copyright, and so we might think that even quite harsh punishments are appropriate in order to enforce the rights of others.

    But you seemed to be suggesting that inappropriate to focus on the rights of individuals to the exclusion of broader “system as a whole” considerations. More specifically, you seem to be suggesting that even if the courts have treated Jammie Thomas unjustly, that might be justified if it make things better “at a systemic level.” That seems to me at odds with the basic tenets of libertarian theory, which holds that if you do justice to individuals, things will take care of themselves “at a systematic level.”

    I thought the meaning of your post was pretty clear, but perhaps I was misunderstanding you. If so, I apologize for mischaracterizing you, and I would be very interested in a clarification of what you meant in the above paragraph.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Thanks for your interesting post.

    My post was a response to your earlier post in which you said:

    Copyright debates strike me as suffering from the opposite defect. We hear a great deal about individuals—the single mom Ms. Thomas in Wisconsin being the most recent. But there is not a lot of thinking about the system as a whole, or how it relates to these individuals. As a result, we run the risk of judging policy and law solely by the standards of advocates for individuals.

    It seems to me that libertarians are, by definition, “advocates for individuals.” We might, as you say, disagree about what rights those individuals have, and how they should best be enforced. Certainly, record companies are “individuals” in this sense as much as single mothers are. And if we believe that copyright is among the rights individuals possess, then our advocacy of individuals includes the advocating the enforcement of copyright, and so we might think that even quite harsh punishments are appropriate in order to enforce the rights of others.

    But you seemed to be suggesting that inappropriate to focus on the rights of individuals to the exclusion of broader “system as a whole” considerations. More specifically, you seem to be suggesting that even if the courts have treated Jammie Thomas unjustly, that might be justified if it make things better “at a systemic level.” That seems to me at odds with the basic tenets of libertarian theory, which holds that if you do justice to individuals, things will take care of themselves “at a systematic level.”

    I thought the meaning of your post was pretty clear, but perhaps I was misunderstanding you. If so, I apologize for mischaracterizing you, and I would be very interested in a clarification of what you meant in the above paragraph.

  • Doug Lay

    Come on. Nothing Tim said in his post is remotely worthy of the offense you take. And I’ve seen nothing in any of his writing, anywhere, that warrants associating him with some anonymous slandering jerk.

    The DMCA anti-circumvention provision is seen by many technologists (including me) as a particularly onerous piece of regulation that doesn’t achieve what it ostensibly aims to do AND reduces both market opportunities and peer-production opportunities (the “freedom to tinker” that your colleague Noel Le loves to ridicule, but which many of us care passionately about).

    Now that your senior partners Ross and DeLong have shed their think-tank costumes and moved on to being obvious lobbyists for content-industry interests, you’re the most high-profile DMCA backer left in the libertarian think-tank world. You’ve gotta expect some heat to be headed your way. Don’t change the subject by trying to broaden or narrow it. It’s about that confounded anti-circumvention provision. It IS a regulation, dang it. It is a bad regulation that diminishes freedom.

  • Doug Lay

    Come on. Nothing Tim said in his post is remotely worthy of the offense you take. And I’ve seen nothing in any of his writing, anywhere, that warrants associating him with some anonymous slandering jerk.

    The DMCA anti-circumvention provision is seen by many technologists (including me) as a particularly onerous piece of regulation that doesn’t achieve what it ostensibly aims to do AND reduces both market opportunities and peer-production opportunities (the “freedom to tinker” that your colleague Noel Le loves to ridicule, but which many of us care passionately about).

    Now that your senior partners Ross and DeLong have shed their think-tank costumes and moved on to being obvious lobbyists for content-industry interests, you’re the most high-profile DMCA backer left in the libertarian think-tank world. You’ve gotta expect some heat to be headed your way. Don’t change the subject by trying to broaden or narrow it. It’s about that confounded anti-circumvention provision. It IS a regulation, dang it. It is a bad regulation that diminishes freedom.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Naw, Doug, Solveig has a point. Lee criticizes her for supporting a “patterned theories of justice” a la Rawls, but that’s actually what he advocates:

    “I’m in favor of copyright law as it was enforced for most of the 20th century largely because it had little to no direct effect on ordinary Americans. Only large, capital-intensive firms had to worry about violating copyright law, and those firms could afford to hire lawyers to make sure they didn’t accidentally run afoul of the law. But as the price of copying technologies continued to plummet, we reached the point where everyone can be a publisher. And that now means that copyright law affects a lot more people in a much more invasive way. A single mother in Duluth in 1987 would never have had to worry about whether she was breaking copyright law, because she wouldn’t have owned the necessary equipment to become a serious copyright infringer.” – Tim Lee

    Tim is saying that he can’t support any law the effect of which is to prosecute poor single mothers in Duluth, but he’s happy to tie up big companies in court ’till the end of time. Thus, the ends justify the means in Tim’s world.

    Perhaps the solution is simply to provide poor single mothers in Duluth with cheaper lawyers and leave the law the way it is.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Naw, Doug, Solveig has a point. Lee criticizes her for supporting a “patterned theories of justice” a la Rawls, but that’s actually what he advocates:

    “I’m in favor of copyright law as it was enforced for most of the 20th century largely because it had little to no direct effect on ordinary Americans. Only large, capital-intensive firms had to worry about violating copyright law, and those firms could afford to hire lawyers to make sure they didn’t accidentally run afoul of the law. But as the price of copying technologies continued to plummet, we reached the point where everyone can be a publisher. And that now means that copyright law affects a lot more people in a much more invasive way. A single mother in Duluth in 1987 would never have had to worry about whether she was breaking copyright law, because she wouldn’t have owned the necessary equipment to become a serious copyright infringer.” – Tim Lee

    Tim is saying that he can’t support any law the effect of which is to prosecute poor single mothers in Duluth, but he’s happy to tie up big companies in court ’till the end of time. Thus, the ends justify the means in Tim’s world.

    Perhaps the solution is simply to provide poor single mothers in Duluth with cheaper lawyers and leave the law the way it is.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    I have not yet seen a connection between “classical liberal fundamentals” and DMCA-style anticircumvention law. No matter how far you consider the copyright holder’s rights to extend, anticircumvention that applies to non-infringers is regulation.

    I have a property right in peaceful enjoyment of my front yard, but that doesn’t let me use government power to shut down aftermarket car stereo stores in Oakland.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    I have not yet seen a connection between “classical liberal fundamentals” and DMCA-style anticircumvention law. No matter how far you consider the copyright holder’s rights to extend, anticircumvention that applies to non-infringers is regulation.

    I have a property right in peaceful enjoyment of my front yard, but that doesn’t let me use government power to shut down aftermarket car stereo stores in Oakland.

  • Doug Lay

    Hey, I like Rawls.

  • Doug Lay

    Hey, I like Rawls.

  • Doug Lay

    Not that I have much sympathy for Ms. Thomas, whose defense was so bad I suspect an RIAA plant. I’m more interested in changing the law to support the likes of the Slingbox developers.

  • Doug Lay

    Not that I have much sympathy for Ms. Thomas, whose defense was so bad I suspect an RIAA plant. I’m more interested in changing the law to support the likes of the Slingbox developers.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Doug, I like Rawls too. I just don’t don’t like his Difference Principle, which, IMHO, isn’t what well-informed and fair-minded people in the Original Position would actually choose.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Doug, I like Rawls too. I just don’t don’t like his Difference Principle, which, IMHO, isn’t what well-informed and fair-minded people in the Original Position would actually choose.

  • Adam T

    Tim… Please explain to me what there is to like about Rawls. His worldview is about as anti-libertarian as you can get, as Nozick ably showed long ago.

  • Adam T

    Tim… Please explain to me what there is to like about Rawls. His worldview is about as anti-libertarian as you can get, as Nozick ably showed long ago.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Adam, I’ll defer to Will, who’s a much better philosopher than I’ll ever be. Rawls didn’t get all of his conclusions right, but as Will says, he offers a useful and compelling framework for thinking about the problems of political philosophy. Note that Hayek and Richard Epstein both have good things to say about Rawls. Julian is also a Fan.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Adam, I’ll defer to Will, who’s a much better philosopher than I’ll ever be. Rawls didn’t get all of his conclusions right, but as Will says, he offers a useful and compelling framework for thinking about the problems of political philosophy. Note that Hayek and Richard Epstein both have good things to say about Rawls. Julian is also a Fan.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Solveig:

    It almost seems that you are accusing Tim Lee of posting that you are an erotic model and a supporter of Scientology. I am not sure he has done that. Why not stick to a subject which would be: Tim Lee’s arguments, which you may disagree.

    Secondly, as someone who has what I would call a ‘freedom based’ perspective on issues, I understand with and sympathize with Tim Lee’s arguments. It seems that many times your stance is anti-freedom, and tending toward authoritarian. Yes, intellectual property rights may be important, but you seem to give preference to certain business plans over the First Amendment. Hence your defense of the DMCA, which I would not say is part of mainstream libertarian thought.

    But particularly worrisome in my view are posts like these, in which you seem to be defending a totalitarian state over a real democracy:
    An entry on ipwatch.org discusses the access to knowledge/free culture movement in India.
    It constitutes another data point in addressing the question of whether the new Asian powerhouse will be India or China… Initially, one might think that India’s history of links with the Commonwealth gives the country a boost, enabling it to serve as a bridge between Asia and more mature economies….China’s.. isolation, historic and linguistic and political, may insulate the country from the worst of the West, silly leftist economics, while India is beseiged with them.
    posted by Solveig Singleton @ 1:35 PM | Free Culture Movement,

    In any case my response to this post:
    IP Central’s Role Model: the Fascist Police State

    I would invite any response, as given the nature of the present Chinese Regime, I can see no call for a defense of it, especially not from someone from an organization called the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

    In short Solveig’s credentials as someone who actually has an interest in the issue of Freedom seem extremely tenuous..

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Solveig:

    It almost seems that you are accusing Tim Lee of posting that you are an erotic model and a supporter of Scientology. I am not sure he has done that. Why not stick to a subject which would be: Tim Lee’s arguments, which you may disagree.

    Secondly, as someone who has what I would call a ‘freedom based’ perspective on issues, I understand with and sympathize with Tim Lee’s arguments. It seems that many times your stance is anti-freedom, and tending toward authoritarian. Yes, intellectual property rights may be important, but you seem to give preference to certain business plans over the First Amendment. Hence your defense of the DMCA, which I would not say is part of mainstream libertarian thought.

    But particularly worrisome in my view are posts like these, in which you seem to be defending a totalitarian state over a real democracy:
    An entry on ipwatch.org discusses the access to knowledge/free culture movement in India.
    It constitutes another data point in addressing the question of whether the new Asian powerhouse will be India or China… Initially, one might think that India’s history of links with the Commonwealth gives the country a boost, enabling it to serve as a bridge between Asia and more mature economies….China’s.. isolation, historic and linguistic and political, may insulate the country from the worst of the West, silly leftist economics, while India is beseiged with them.
    posted by Solveig Singleton @ 1:35 PM | Free Culture Movement,

    In any case my response to this post:
    IP Central’s Role Model: the Fascist Police State

    I would invite any response, as given the nature of the present Chinese Regime, I can see no call for a defense of it, especially not from someone from an organization called the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

    In short Solveig’s credentials as someone who actually has an interest in the issue of Freedom seem extremely tenuous..

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Hmm … “.. and history shows that those rights are likely to change somewhat over time – but if my package differs somewhat from someone else’s, well, sorry, the argument that this makes me a “regulator” is no more to the point than the argument that the someone else is an “anarchist.””

    Solveig! You’re going to become a liberal. Embrace the right to health care, the right to an education, the right to a living wage! :-)

    More seriously, your argument is in fact fundamentally anti-Libertarian. Don’t worry, I think that’s a good thing. Maybe it’ll help your intellectual evolution.

    When you say things like “But there is not a lot of thinking about the system as a whole, or how it relates to these individuals.”, you are abandoning the fundamental precept driving the Libertarian view, for one oft-derided as “social engineering”. That is, in Libertarianism, it’s basically postulated that the system of as whole is best formed by the consideration of individual rights. And that right-set is pretty primitive. One you start to think in terms of social systems, and what’s best for society overall that does not magicaly emerge from the primitive rights-set, welcome to liberalism or conservatism.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Hmm … “.. and history shows that those rights are likely to change somewhat over time – but if my package differs somewhat from someone else’s, well, sorry, the argument that this makes me a “regulator” is no more to the point than the argument that the someone else is an “anarchist.””

    Solveig! You’re going to become a liberal. Embrace the right to health care, the right to an education, the right to a living wage! :-)

    More seriously, your argument is in fact fundamentally anti-Libertarian. Don’t worry, I think that’s a good thing. Maybe it’ll help your intellectual evolution.

    When you say things like “But there is not a lot of thinking about the system as a whole, or how it relates to these individuals.”, you are abandoning the fundamental precept driving the Libertarian view, for one oft-derided as “social engineering”. That is, in Libertarianism, it’s basically postulated that the system of as whole is best formed by the consideration of individual rights. And that right-set is pretty primitive. One you start to think in terms of social systems, and what’s best for society overall that does not magicaly emerge from the primitive rights-set, welcome to liberalism or conservatism.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    On enforcement/regulation. Two of the major precepts of this forum are 1. Less Government Regulation and 2. That the individual has a right not be tracked through surveillance. This forum even has a search category “Privacy and Government Surveillance”, so that you can quickly get all relevant posts. If you look at the posts you will see posts riling against increased government authority to track its citizens. However, there is a confounding silence on this forum when it comes to private industry sponsored legislation. Smacks of hypocrisy.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article related to an attempt to pass legislation concerning “Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention” Based on my read, passage of this type of legislation would be anti-Libertarian. Had it passed, it would have required Universities to spy (surveillance) on student network usage for the benefit of private interests such as the RIAA and the MPPA. In our supposedly free society, there should be no mandate that a University (or any individual) to act as a policeman, especially for the benefit of private companies.

    So it appears to me that when government seeks to aggrandize its power over private citizens, there is a rallying cry on this forum exposing this evil. However, if private industry subverts government to obtain special interest legislation that eliminates civil liberties there is silence. This silence implies that these dubious and onerous regulations are somehow OK. Moral relativism I guess. This is hypocritical.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    On enforcement/regulation. Two of the major precepts of this forum are 1. Less Government Regulation and 2. That the individual has a right not be tracked through surveillance. This forum even has a search category “Privacy and Government Surveillance”, so that you can quickly get all relevant posts. If you look at the posts you will see posts riling against increased government authority to track its citizens. However, there is a confounding silence on this forum when it comes to private industry sponsored legislation. Smacks of hypocrisy.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article related to an attempt to pass legislation concerning “Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention” Based on my read, passage of this type of legislation would be anti-Libertarian. Had it passed, it would have required Universities to spy (surveillance) on student network usage for the benefit of private interests such as the RIAA and the MPPA. In our supposedly free society, there should be no mandate that a University (or any individual) to act as a policeman, especially for the benefit of private companies.

    So it appears to me that when government seeks to aggrandize its power over private citizens, there is a rallying cry on this forum exposing this evil. However, if private industry subverts government to obtain special interest legislation that eliminates civil liberties there is silence. This silence implies that these dubious and onerous regulations are somehow OK. Moral relativism I guess. This is hypocritical.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    Steve, speaking of categories, why doesn’t TLF put “piracy” with copyright, and make DRM and anticircumvention its own category? The new restrictions in section 1201 are a new kind of government intrusion, not really copyright, and since “piracy” is copyright infringement it belongs with copyright.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    Steve, speaking of categories, why doesn’t TLF put “piracy” with copyright, and make DRM and anticircumvention its own category? The new restrictions in section 1201 are a new kind of government intrusion, not really copyright, and since “piracy” is copyright infringement it belongs with copyright.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Don, How this forum is organized is up to Tim & Co., I am out of the loop on that. I really liked your comment “No matter how far you consider the copyright holder’s rights to extend, anticircumvention that applies to non-infringers is regulation.”.

    My post above was too vague in certain respects. There have been posts on this forum that have exposed how private companies have subverted our regulatory process to their benefit.

    I should have been more explicit that I was referring to Solveig. Solveig has talked in the abstract about “enforcement”. For example she wrote:“And at a systemic level, consumers and content producers and equipment makers and so on *all* have an interest in figuring out how to enforce copyright in a digital environment.” She then asked the rhetorical question of how do we enforce this without really disclosing her position.

    Well the enforcement question is seemingly being addressed by the passage of new industry sponsored legislation that forces third parties to monitor internet traffic to protect the interests of content producers. Whether Solvieg agrees with this approach or disagrees with this approach is undisclosed by Solveig herself. I assume by her silence that she would be in support of this type of enforcement/regulation.

    Solveig’s call for greater enforcement is misplaced on another conceptual level. The content producers have been aggrandizing their so-called rights, so Solveig is arguing that we need to enforce rights that didn’t previously exist. My solution to this “enforcement” problem; eliminate the new so-called right on which the enforcement is based. Then we wouldn’t have an enforcement problem.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Don, How this forum is organized is up to Tim & Co., I am out of the loop on that. I really liked your comment “No matter how far you consider the copyright holder’s rights to extend, anticircumvention that applies to non-infringers is regulation.”.

    My post above was too vague in certain respects. There have been posts on this forum that have exposed how private companies have subverted our regulatory process to their benefit.

    I should have been more explicit that I was referring to Solveig. Solveig has talked in the abstract about “enforcement”. For example she wrote:“And at a systemic level, consumers and content producers and equipment makers and so on *all* have an interest in figuring out how to enforce copyright in a digital environment.” She then asked the rhetorical question of how do we enforce this without really disclosing her position.

    Well the enforcement question is seemingly being addressed by the passage of new industry sponsored legislation that forces third parties to monitor internet traffic to protect the interests of content producers. Whether Solvieg agrees with this approach or disagrees with this approach is undisclosed by Solveig herself. I assume by her silence that she would be in support of this type of enforcement/regulation.

    Solveig’s call for greater enforcement is misplaced on another conceptual level. The content producers have been aggrandizing their so-called rights, so Solveig is arguing that we need to enforce rights that didn’t previously exist. My solution to this “enforcement” problem; eliminate the new so-called right on which the enforcement is based. Then we wouldn’t have an enforcement problem.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    For example she wrote:“And at a systemic level, consumers and content producers and equipment makers and so on *all* have an interest in figuring out how to enforce copyright in a digital environment.” She then asked the rhetorical question of how do we enforce this without really disclosing her position.

    Steve:
    Yes, this is an astute observation–many of the posts of the progress and freedom foundation are like this: they make some rather general non-specific comment, and point the errors of some one else’s position, but then they never come out and say what they think.

    Much of their defense of the DMCA is like that–for example, they say that the DMCA isn’t all that bad because Ed Felten never got thrown in jail or Sklyarov prosecution didn’t go anywhere–but they never come out and try to defend the DMCA because that would lay bare their corporate power, deeply anti-freedom agenda.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    For example she wrote:“And at a systemic level, consumers and content producers and equipment makers and so on *all* have an interest in figuring out how to enforce copyright in a digital environment.” She then asked the rhetorical question of how do we enforce this without really disclosing her position.

    Steve:
    Yes, this is an astute observation–many of the posts of the progress and freedom foundation are like this: they make some rather general non-specific comment, and point the errors of some one else’s position, but then they never come out and say what they think.

    Much of their defense of the DMCA is like that–for example, they say that the DMCA isn’t all that bad because Ed Felten never got thrown in jail or Sklyarov prosecution didn’t go anywhere–but they never come out and try to defend the DMCA because that would lay bare their corporate power, deeply anti-freedom agenda.

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