Who is the Masked Woman?

by on November 28, 2007 · 0 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).

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