Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

A Question of Fairness, Ctd

Posted by middlerage on November 12, 2010

So in my recent post, A Question of Fairness, concerning an NYT article about anti-piracy efforts by Microsoft, I solicited readers’ help in determining if there is a reasonable paradigm for why a corporation should not get paid for what they own.

I was so off balance by the ideas of Columbia law professor Moglen, who espoused that America has no business protecting business out in the global marketplace, that I thought I was too dumb to get some radical, important idea. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not missing something, but rather that the idea is just dumb. In my younger days, I would occasionally hear a joke that I didn’t get, and would agonize over my intelligence – or lack thereof. I finally realized that I didn’t “get” the joke because it wasn’t funny. There was nothing wrong with me. I’m not missing anything here, Moglen is just plain off his nut.

What threw me is that what I thought might be a new body of thought, akin to the well developed thoughts around other principles, like freedom of speech or separation of church and state, but in this case is the idea that corporations shouldn’t always be paid for their ownings was actually a disguised-but-common, liberal hatred for capitalism. As a liberal myself, I rue the knee-jerk (and that is what it is) despising of all things money. This is alien to the “American Pragmatism” that makes us so unique and can really be a tool for fostering liberal ideals. I think what Moglen was really doing was engaging in the liberal code-speak of anti-imperialism. Whenever, the little brown peoples of the world are up against America (not ‘western’ not ‘euro’ but that evil daddy of them all – Amerikkka) then Imperialism is at work, and if somebody points out that no territory is involved, then it’s Cultural Imperialism.

What Moglen and others like him are saying is that Indians (or any other third world place) are being foisted things they don’t want or need. But this is so patronizing. The noble savage should keep to growing rice and mangoes instead of writing software and funding startups. Along these lines, muddlerambler had a good comment:

Funny that a guy living in the US and speaking for India would liken Microsoft’s efforts as a sort of economic imperialism when India is working it’s ass off to be a partner in the “economy of ideas”. […]  I’m curious how that same professor would respond to a Bollywood studio’s efforts to stop its movies from being pirated.

I just find this notion of American Imperialism absurd. I dare guess the late 19th century British citizen was happy and proud to be part of an empire on which the sun never set. But Americans have never been interested in this sort of thing. In fact, we often got chided for isolationism. Furthermore, all we do, anymore, is buy shit from China, outsource to India, and sell mortgage securities to Australia. It’s a global marketplace and we are as colonized by this fact as we are doing the colonizing. To the best of my knowledge, the closest we got to colonizing was inheriting some Spanish properties after they lost a war (i.e. Philippines – which we no longer ‘own’), and during the mid-twentieth century when some American corporations had quite a bit of control over Arabian oil…which all got nationalized in the 1970s. So if there is any empire going on here – which I don’t believe – it is certainly a case of the tail wagging the dog.

It was all prestidigitation, sleight of hand. Distract the viewer from the old canard of American imperialism by claiming that an economy of ideas is shameful and desperate:

As Mr. Moglen sees it, these efforts underscore a certain level of desperation on the part of American companies and the economy of ideas on which they have come to rely. “This is the postindustrial United States,” he says. “We will make other governments around the world go around enforcing rights primarily held by Americans.

Pah! Defending intellectual property rights is nothing less than defending trade agreements for material goods which are as old as the Phoenician Empire (probably. He says though he’s no classical historian).

Take it Ethel…there’s no business like protecting business like no business I know…


One Response to “A Question of Fairness, Ctd”

  1. Nice article admin

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