Tag Archive | intellectual property

A Suggestion to the LNC

I’m not entirely pleased with the leadership of the national Libertarian Party. Although I have changed my position on Sarwark and now support him, and although I always liked Arvin, the party is falling into disarray, and it’s happening under the current leadership. New caucuses are springing up every week as we divide ourselves into smaller and smaller groups.

2016 saw the split from the Radical Caucus to the Audacious Caucus. More recently, the Audacious Caucus effectively died, splitting into two smaller groups: the LibSoc Caucus and the AnCap Caucus. Although the LPAC still exists, there’s almost no activity in it, as members have backed away from what seemed like a flood of Libertarian Socialism, which led directly to the formation of the AnCap Caucus. The Mises Caucus has also been created, as well as dozens of others.

It would seem, at a glance, that the Libertarian National Committee wants to handle this problem with the hammer of the state and intellectual property, to pound these caucuses into non-existence, and thereby erase the fissures that have formed. It’s a misguided way, at the very least, of dealing with the fracturing into smaller and smaller ideological clusters that spend most of their time bickering with each other. Instead of doing almost anything else to restore some semblance of unity within the Libertarian Party, elements within the LNC would rather nuke the problem. Of course, this will do nothing to heal the division.

Not only that, but it’s disgusting. This measure was only recently put forward, and it was crushed. It is foolhardy at best, and probably impossible, given all the legal protections for political speech. The Libertarian Party has found itself competing with these upstarts, and it doesn’t like it, because these caucuses are direct antagonists to the state-approved party. So naturally they resort to the same monopolistic barbarism as other state institutions: beat them over the head with the government to prevent them from competing.

Why should the Libertarian Party compete with the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus or the Libertarian Party Socialist Caucus, when they don’t have to? They can instead proclaim, “The Government, in its benevolence, has seen fit to bestow upon us monopoly privileges on the words ‘Libertarian Party,’ and we do not approve of your usage. Therefore, you must stop, or we will send the state’s armed goons after you.”

Make no mistake. That’s what is being proposed. Rather than competing with the rising ideas in a libertarian way, elements within the national Libertarian Party would rather crush its competitors with the state. It would almost be funny, if the Libertarian Party wasn’t the one political party that has no rational or principled reason for this.

It is clear that something must be done to unite the various groups back within the folds of the Libertarian Party. Might I suggest… inviting them in? Instead of paying the state to keep them out?

My proposal is simple. First, a measure should be put forward to the LNC to create one (preferably two) At Large positions. This requires voting, and may even require an emergency session of delegates to change the bylaws. It isn’t impossible, and it’s of enough importance that it certainly qualifies as an “emergency.”

These At Large positions shall belong to the Caucus Committee, which shall be formed by Chairperson Nicholas Sarwark, who (if my state and county bylaws are reflective of national) has the power to do create this Committee.

The Caucus shall consist of all caucuses who wish to have membership, and shall include all existing caucuses at the formation of the Committee. However, Voting Members of the Caucus Committee are required to have at least 100 members. Once formed, the requirements for being a Voting Member may not be increased, although they can be reduced. All member caucuses with fewer than 100 members shall be non-voting members of the Caucus Committee, and shall receive voting privileges upon reaching membership requirements.

The Caucus Committee shall decide internally how to cast its votes on measures put to the LNC, and shall elect from among themselves a representative(s) with the authority to actually sit on the LNC and cast the votes as decided by the Caucus Committee.

This should not slow LNC matters down, since measures are generally put forward days, or weeks, prior to LNC meetings. This gives the Caucus Committee plenty of time to debate the matters and decide upon their votes, which their representative is duty-bound to honor (failing to do so shall begin an immediate recall of that representative–but all of this would really be up to the Caucus Committee when it wrote its bylaws).

If you want to heal the divisions, bring these groups further into the folds of the party. Don’t push them away. Don’t crush them with the state. Give them the power to work toward the change they wish to see without anyone being alienated or made into an enemy.

Most of these caucuses have shown their capacity to get along and unite against some of the LNC’s measures–like the previous attempt to drop the state anvil on unauthorized caucuses. So give them a reason to perpetually work together. Bring them in and make them an official part of the Libertarian Party. Give them things they can regularly unite over, and watch the incessant bickering die down. Throw the state’s thugs at them, and you’ll only increase the division.

Thumbs Up to DRM: The Free Market IP Solution

Before we proceed, you should know that I’m continuing on from this work about how Intellectual Property is Poisoning Video Games, and this follow-up article where I addressed a few criticisms the article received. More specifically, I’m building/reiterating/expanding a comment that I made in response to someone else’s comment that really got me thinking. I touched on Digital Rights Management–Orwellian naming if ever there was one, since Digital Restriction Management would be far more accurate–but I only briefly did. Obviously, any conversation about GOG–Good Ol’ Games–will deal with DRM, but the various conversations and periods of reflection I’ve enjoyed due to the preceding articles has led me to completely 180 my position on DRM. Sort of–there’s a bit of nuance to my position.

Still before we proceed, we have to take into account the previous discussions about Intellectual Property, and the best way to do that is to simply assume that we live in a world where there is no such thing as IP, where there is only physical property and actual ownership rights. If you need further clarification on what is meant by this, then I would point you to this wonderful book by libertarian and patent attorney Stephen Kinsella titled Against Intellectual Property, which is available for free at that link. You can also read my previous articles on the subject, or click the “property rights” tag that exists to the right or to the bottom of this article. Because of this, I’m not going to spend a lot of time detailing what this “No IP World” looks like.

However, my mention of the feelers that were included particularly in early 1980s PC games like the Ultima games is a good example of what the world looks like, as is Tool’s recent album Ten Thousand Days. Both of these items have things that simply cannot be copied. A friend could copy their disks of Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness for me, but I wouldn’t get the awesome map, the coin, or whatever it came with to heighten the experience. Similarly, a friend could copy their disc of Ten Thousand Days and give it to me, but I wouldn’t have the cool bifocal thing that is used to create the illusion of 3D over images that range from creepy to pointlessly abstract. These aren’t things to be scoffed at as inconsequential, and the fact that there exist today people with enormous collections of old music albums, old CDs, old video games, and old movies, even though all of these things are easily available online, makes this point for me: there is just something about having a legitimate, physical copy. Even though I own the entire NES library of games on my PC Sharing is stealing and emulation is piracy, so I partake in neither of these things, I still purchased an NES and numerous games several years ago.

Another personal example. Prior to the release of Ten Thousand Days, the album was leaked, and a friend of mine–then the drummer in my band–burned a copy of the leaked CD for me. Yet I still went out on the day of release and bought a copy. Little did I suspect that I was getting a nifty little package beyond just a music album, and I still did it. Why? Because I [then] liked Tool [this was before I was aware of how absurd the Cult of Tool is, and I’ve since stopped calling myself a fan of the band for exactly that reason–have you ever met a Tool fan? Then you know why I don’t call myself one], and I felt that they deserved money for the enjoyment they’d given me. I’ve owned The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for three or four years now, but I still purchased a legitimate copy of the Legendary Edition through Steam a year and a half ago, paying $40 for it, which is what I’ve always felt the game is worth. I owned Super Meat Boy for two years through piracy before I purchased a legitimate copy. In fact, here is a list of games that I once owned a pirated copy of, but which I now own a legitimate, purchased copy of–it’s not comprehensive:

  • Super Meat Boy
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Final Fantasy VI on PC
  • Final Fantasy IV on PC
  • Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD
  • Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures
  • Orcs Must Die! 2
  • Resident Evil 6
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location
  • The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings
  • Mass Effect 2 (via Origin, not Steam)

It’s actually eye-opening to look through my Steam Library and realize how many of those games I once owned a pirated copy of. And yet I still bought them. Why? Because I felt that the people who made them were entitled to payment for their work, for my copy of the game. I simply didn’t agree with them on the initial price point, or my trust in the developers/publishers is so low that I refused to purchase the product without first extensively trying it. This is 100% their fault for releasing games that aren’t finished and that don’t work. Civilization V comes to mind, as being one of the last games I bought “on good faith” when it was new, trusting that the publishers would only sell a functional product. The only developers who I let pass on this was Bioware, who shattered that trust in 2015 with the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, a garbage game that isn’t worth $10.

Once more, we can look to Jim Sterling’s Best of Steam Greenlight Trailers videos and see first-hand how people react when someone attempts to sell something that they didn’t make. My issue with how this resolved is that none of it was necessary; it wasn’t necessary for Valve to step in and remove Greenlight, because the community was doing a fine job of self-policing. People would get honest-to-god angry on Notch’s behalf, on Blizzard’s behalf, on Scott Cawthon’s behalf, because people dared try to sell those creators’ works as their own. It’s not a long-term effect of Intellectual Property in the cultural zeitgeist that causes us to react this way, but simple common decency, the same reason that plagiarism–which is what this was–in the scholarly world will absolutely destroy a career. People innately don’t like it when someone claims someone else’s work as their own. We could speculate why that is the case, but it doesn’t matter; it is the case.

So in this World Without IP, we see something very similar to what we saw with Steam Greenlight. We don’t need Intellectual Property laws and enforcers to keep some idiot from trying to sell World of Warcraft as though he created it, because that will piss consumers off and consumers will not only refuse to buy it but will openly insult and antagonize the person trying. But what if it’s more obscure, some No Name Developer working in his home in his spare time who has his work stolen? This has also happened, and it’s amazing how quickly such things spread. One guy was making a First Person Shooter in his spare time, and he shared it with some people; one of those people attempted to put it onto Steam Greenlight. Despite having fewer followers than I do, the guy who actually created it made a video about the theft, and the video spread like a wildfire, until Jim Sterling finally covered it, and the entire debacle was undone.

So we have countless ways of protecting creators of work without relying on the state and imaginary property rights.

One more of these is DRM.

DRM basically amounts to encrypting the data on the disc so that it can’t be copied and used. When pirates “crack” video games, they do so by cracking the DRM encryption. DVDs once used the same thing, using a laughably simplistic key to encrypt every DVD. Once someone cracked it, DVD copying became widespread. And that is exactly what I’m okay with DRM. It’s a never-ending battle between the content producers to attempt to protect their work, and the pirates on the other side who attempt to bypass it. It mirrors the Virus/Anti-Virus battle, with each side desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the other. If there was just DRM and people attempting to crack DRM, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Of course, things like SecuROM would continue to be a problem, since it was basically a rootkit, and this showcases that there is no Black & White morality here; only Grey & Gray. Motivated by the rightful desire to protect their work, publishers began installing rootkits onto people’s computers. Motivated by a desire to share enjoyable content with their fellow human beings, pirates found that rootkit and brought its existence to the public’s attention. In this way, the pirates serve as a critical check of DRM and publishers who use it, as they are literally out there on the frontlines protecting us from obtrusive, spyware-like DRM. This is indisputably a good thing.

With IP in place, the pirates have a marked disadvantage: they aren’t allowed to work publicly and openly. They aren’t allowed to form businesses that can actually make money from doing what they do; they have to operate in the shadows of the black market. And even though the majority of people who pirate games would certainly be willing to pay $2.50 or whatever for a pirated copy from SKIDROW or 3DM, and even though there probably are some underground methods of doing so, the fact that this can’t be done openly destroys it as a viable business model. Never mind the fact that by tinkering with the DRM in the first place, the scene is violating the IP “rights” of the game publishers and the DRM creators. Not only are they not getting paid, but getting caught would result in a huge legal hammer be dropped on them.

When Company A can use rootkits in their software and secretly put rootkits on everyone’s computers but are still considered the Good Guys, we know we have severe problems and substantial confusion. When the people who call out that behavior face imprisonment if caught and have no real way of being paid for their work and are still considered the Bad Guys, then we know the severity of the problems and confusion are only being compounded by the breakdown of common sense caused by the entire concept of owning intangible, esoteric ideas.

So in this World Without IP, DRM still wouldn’t be enough, because the pirates would be more active than ever. Not only would they finally be allowed to work publicly and openly without fear of being kidnapped by armed thugs, but they could actually make money doing it. People simply making YouTube videos can earn tens of thousands of dollars a month; I absolutely refuse to believe that a huge chunk of gamers out there would be unwilling to throw $1 or $2 a month at 3DM. If they were allowed to. And then the battle is on between DRM and “pirates,” fought openly and without violence, and with each trying to stay one step ahead of the other, while having the tools and financial capabilities to do it. Obviously, DRM would still exist, and I’m okay with that. Under those circumstances, I’d have absolutely no problem with companies that use DRM to encrypt their games. I would take the side of the pirates and would support 3DM and others against DRM, but there’s really no moral hazard in encrypting something you own before you sell it–as long as you don’t send armed thugs to kidnap people when they decrypt it.

Welcome to the world of common sense.

No, you’re right. It doesn’t look anything like our world. Abolishing IP would be the first step in making our world look more like the World of Common Sense.

Since DRM wouldn’t be enough, the onus would again fall to the creators to provide incentives for people to purchase their games, rather than just throwing a bit of small change at piracy groups and playing the games at substantially reduced costs. Of course, the gaming industry is probably the most greed-driven industry in the world, topping out pharmacy and energy. Can anyone explain to me why a new PC game suddenly costs $60, instead of the customary $50? See, console games were always $10 or so more expensive than PC games, because the publishers have to license their games to that console–which obviously would make modern consoles more like the Atari 2600, where anyone could make a game for any console, and this would simply drive down the cost of games further. But there is no license to put a game on PC. I don’t know how much of a cut Valve gets, but it can’t be very high, with games selling at $5 at times.

DRM and piracy would go back and forth, so there would be times when games were effectively unprotected. What should publishers do? Well, they could take the $10 they’re saving by not having to license their games to particular consoles and use it to include really cool things with the games that can’t be copies–feelers. Who wouldn’t want a 2 ft. x 2 ft. cloth map of Skyrim? Or a gross little ooze toy made in the shape of Meat Boy? Maybe even a letter opener in the shape of the Master Sword from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not only would it be cool as hell, but owning a copy of a game would actually mean something, and people’s gaming rooms would be decked out in cloth maps, letter openers, little toys, and all kinds of cool crap that would only help gamers feel immersed and only make them enjoy games more. I would freaking love to have my wall decked out in random feelers from video games, to have little action figures included with games all around my television. But I don’t.

And Intellectual Property is the reason why.

Movies could do stuff like that, too, but I don’t care about movies.

 

A Follow-Up About Intellectual Property

As a tongue-in-cheek gag, here is one of my free songs for you to listen to while you read my free article. Of course, I probably don’t count, but here it is anyway.

Most of the feedback regarding my previous article was positive, which is awesome, but one comment in particular here on the site deserves further scrutiny:

Great, just what the world needs, another anti-IP fanatic. The fact is, anyone who takes the trouble to create a game, or anything else, has the right to dictate the terms of its sale (or, if you don’t think the word “sale” covers a contract that stipulates conditions for resale, then use some other word). If you don’t like the terms, don’t purchase the product. It’s that simple.

But nooooo! People like you seem to think you can dictate terms of sale. It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want. You’re like little squalling babies, endlessly whining. I have nothing but contempt for you and anyone else with this attitude.

I’m not going to waste your time, though, so let’s just dive right into it.

“The fact is, anyone who takes the trouble to create a game, or anything else, has the right to dictate the terms of its sale (or, if you don’t think the word ‘sale’ covers a contract that stipulates conditions for resale, then use some other word).”

This seemingly obvious statement is actually of profound importance to the discussion, and the comment accidentally hit the nail right on the head. The very essence of my argument against IP–which you’ll find alluded to in follow-up comments in the above article–is that it turns us from Owners into Renters, much in the same way that property taxes have usurped our ownership of our homes and turned us into renters. And he would hand-wave this entire point away paranthetically, as though it’s not of much significance what we call such a transaction, when this is of utmost significance.

We don’t have to look hard to find the legal definition of sale, and it is provided here from The Lectric Law Library:

An agreement by which one of the contracting parties, called the seller, gives a thing and passes the title to it, in exchange for a certain price in current money, to the other party, who is called the buyer or purchaser, who, on his part, agrees to pay such price.

The first thing we must call attention to is that, despite the comment’s implication that selling something is a one-sided affair, it is, obviously, an exchange between two sides. We’re not actually talking about “buying” and “selling,” not in real terms; in real terms, we’re talking about a property exchange between two people, while one person has agreed to offer up a currency and the other has agreed to offer up literally anything other than currency. The person with the “anything other than currency” up for sale is colloquially called the “seller,” while the person offering up the currency is colloquially called the “buyer.” But in real terms, it doesn’t matter if I offer up $50 or two Dungeons & Dragons books valued at about that; it only matters if the person on the other end of the exchange agrees that my offer meets their price. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if they offer up some form of property–like a video game–or if they offer up $50 in cash, thereby making me the seller. It only matters that each side have something the other side wants.

We lose sight of this because our use of currency allows our economic actions to become pretty circuitous, but if I want to buy a new copy of Grand Theft Auto V, but I lack $50, I might take seventy-six games to Gamestop and sell them for $50, and then use that $50 to buy GTAV. In every real, useful sense I have participated in barter–I have exchange 76 games for one game. Currency allows multiple actors to be involved in this barter transaction, because the universally valuable commodity means that it doesn’t matter that Wal-Mart has no use or need for 76 used games, as long as I can find someone who does.

Nor does it matter if I worked for two hours to earn that $50, having bartered out my labor and time to yet another actor in return for the cash that I use to purchase the video game. Perhaps I cut lawns for a living, and cut two lawns for the $50. Ideally, I could simply cut Wal-Mart’s lawn, and they could provide me with a copy of the game, right? This is literally the issue with the barter economy, because there is no guarantee that “someone selling GTAV” will also “need their lawn cut.” Again, the use of currency allows us to sidestep the issue, by widening my possible customers from “just people who are selling GTAV” to “anyone with money.”

The point of all this is to say that buying/selling are not one-sided agreements. It’s so easy to lose sight of this, because, again, currency masks the true roundabout of our economy, but I’m still putting up something for sell. I’ve probably already sold my “something for sell,” and I probably sold it to an entirely different person, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wal-Mart wants my $50 just as much as I want their copy of GTAV.

There’s a thin line between being pro-market and being pro-corporation, this comment is safely on the “pro-corporatist” side.

“Call it something else.”

Indeed. This is literally the crux of anti-IP arguments, that it is not a transfer of ownership, which is legally mandated in what it means to buy and sell–to exchange property. Going back to our barter economy, if I trade my two D&D books for your new copy of GTAV, I lose any and all ownership rights of those D&D books, because they cease being my property; similarly, you lose any and all ownership rights of GTAV, because it has ceased being your property. It makes absolutely no difference if you don’t want two D&D books, so I’ve sold them to Random Joe for $50, and then I offer you that $50. In that event, my ownership claims of that $50 in currency have ceased to exist, because I have transferred ownership of that money to you.

By the arguments of Intellectual Property, I have just as much right to dictate how EA uses that $60 I paid them for Dragon Age: Inquisition as they have to dictate how I use my copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Why not? I worked for that money just as hard as they worked for that one copy of DAI. In fact, I probably worked harder, when it’s all said and done. But we reject that out of hand, without even taking the time to process the argument. “Of course you can’t tell EA how to spend the money you paid them for that game! You gave them that money! It’s theirs now!”

I mean, that’s it. That’s exactly the point.

So of course EA can’t dictate how I use the game, because they gave me that game. It’s mine now.

Licensing

They might attempt to pull legalese bullshit and sell me a license, instead of selling me an actual, physical object, and they do attempt this sort of thing, but it’s hardly of consequence, and it can be pretty easily dismissed.

For example, when Square-Enix released Final Fantasy IV on Android for $19.99, I contacted them with my proof-of-purchase and proof-of-ownership of Final Fantasy IV on Nintendo DS and requested a code for FF4 on mobile. It’s exactly the same game, with the caveat that some content has been removed. Square-Enix predictably replied that my ownership of the same fucking game on NDS didn’t entitle me to ownership of the game on other platforms. Don’t get me wrong–I knew they’d respond that way.

“Fine,” I replied. “So you won’t mind if I rip the cart to my phone and use a DS emulator to play it.”

Again, predictably, their response was that making backup copies is a violation of their Intellectual Property, at which point they informed me that they would–seriously–be forwarding the emails to some government agency piracy watchdog.

But my argument is unassailable, and that’s why the agency never bothered me. For one, we do have the unfettered and unrestricted right to make any and all backups that we want of anything that we purchase. Not only that, but it’s necessary that consumers have this right, so let me get a little technical on you for a minute.

Playing a Game Creates a Copy

Even if all you do is pop your disc into your Xbox 360 and play Final Fantasy XIII, you are still creating an instantaneous copy of that game. That’s right–simply by playing the game, you are creating a copy of it. This is because the “copy” of Final Fantasy XIII that you’d be playing is a ROM–it is Read-Only Memory. But in order for stuff to happen, it must be moved to RAM–Random Access Memory. Since nothing is ever erased from the ROM, ipso facto, launching a game copies the files from ROM into RAM, where they live instantaneously. It’s not of significance whether you create a permanent copy, a temporary copy, or an instantaneous copy; you are copying it either way.

This is the same reason that Microsoft Office comes with a gigantic EULA that allows you to make copies of the program–it’s necessary in order to even use it. To even use Office, you must insert the disc, which copies the files from the CD/DVD onto your computer.

This is also why I made and uploaded this video to Youtube, specifically to call attention to how abused our IP system is. By all rights, Nintendo should have viciously pursued me over this video, but they didn’t. Here I’ve posted a video showing the actual programming of the NES game Startropics.

That’s it. That’s the actual freaking game being played. That’s Nintendo’s programming that I’ve recorded and uploaded. It’s literally proof of piracy. It’s proof that I made a copy of their game, and didn’t stop there–I made a copy of their game and put it online to share with the entire world.

Picking and Choosing

So publishers regularly pick and choose when to apply IP laws and when not to. We can’t act like it’s this Holy Grail of Certainty and Unambiguity, because it isn’t. Not only does that video remain on Youtube–without being ContentID’d–but it will always remain on Youtube, because Nintendo doesn’t give a shit about their intellectual property. When it comes to the game and IP laws, the code for that game is their Intellectual Property. But they don’t care.

If you don’t like the terms, don’t purchase the product.

If only it were that simple. But, see, because of the state, Intellectual Property has a monopoly on video games, music, television, and movies. This is overlooked by this part of the comment. Intellectual Property wasn’t just “such a great free market idea” that every company adapted and every consumer loved it. No, it was strong-armed onto us by the state, and adopted as an anti-consumer measure to protect corporations who had stifled the competition.

This is a critical free market pillar: competition. Intellectual Property, as a solution to a problem, doesn’t have any. It’s the de facto solution, enforced by the state. Sure, I could sit here in my house and listen to any music, not watch any television or movies, not play any video games, and not read any books–for what it’s worth, reading a book also creates a copy in your head–but anyone who would demand such a thing has totally forgotten what it means to be a human being. There’s nowhere to go to escape from Intellectual Property. Even GOG, which takes a diehard anti-DRM stance, doesn’t fight against Intellectual Property.

This argument is nothing more than “If you don’t like America, then you can get out!

Hey, I don’t like living under the state’s monopoly, either. Why don’t I just choose to go somewhere that I wouldn’t have to live under the state’s monopoly?

Oh, wait.

Because there isn’t anywhere to go. Because the state has taken a monopoly, not just over me but over the entire planet. And so has Intellectual Property, thanks largely to Hollywood lobbyists having the United States Government enforce U.S. copyright laws in parts of the world that, you know, aren’t part of the United States–like in Sweden.

Yeah, it’s that easy. Just avoid Intellectual Property. Why didn’t I think about it before?

Probably because I’ve been awake for about 2 hours, and I’m already swimming in a sea of things protected and covered by intellectual property. Like the song I’m listening to right now. Like the web browser I’m using right now. Like the content platform I’m using right now. Like the social media platforms I was on earlier. Like the song that played on the radio as I drove to the store. Like the Newports that I bought when I was at the store.

Every single one of those things deals with Intellectual Property; it’s no exaggeration at all to say that we’re swimming in a sea of it, and this isn’t specific to the United States. Slowly but surely, everything has come to be protected by Intellectual Property, which, as I’ve said and countless others have pointed out, does nothing more than allowing someone who transfers ownership of an item to continue claiming ownership of an item after the point of sale.

People like you seem to think you can dictate terms of sale.

Garbage hyperbole unworthy of a response. Arguing against Intellectual Property is not even remotely akin to trying to dictate anything. Trying to maintain ownership of property that I have purchased is similarly not akin to trying to dictate anything. This actually reminds me of my post about transsexualism, where I had to actually point out to a Voluntaryist that preventing the state from forcing its definitions onto me is not equivalent to forcing my definitions onto the state, much less onto him.

That said, why don’t I have just as much right to dictate the terms of the exchange as the other party? If the other party and I can’t come to an agreement, then the exchange shouldn’t happen, but what lunacy is it to suggest that I have no right to dictate the terms of my side of the exchange? The only difference here is that Intellectual Property prohibits me from going to Wal-Mart’s competition. If I don’t agree with Viacom’s Intellectual Property terms, I can’t just pop down to the meth-head selling bootleg DVDs without risking the full might of the state coming down onto me; this is what I meant when I said that Intellectual Property has drummed out all the competition. It has. Intellectual Property has given the power completely to the person selling the item, and the person selling the currency is just SOL.

My options become to avoid it or to endure their terms, because there is no competition. And while, on the face of it, that seems at least somewhat reasonable, it’s no more reasonable than telling someone to stop driving on the roads if they don’t want to pay taxes. It’s not how any of this works. You’re proposing a free market solution–boycotting–to something that has long since stopped being related to the free market, thanks to government regulations creating IP and stifling competition. Free Market solutions only work when there is a free market.

Yes, if some company could step forward and say, “We’ll sell you these games completely, and they’ll be considered yours from now until the end of time,” they’ll fun into problems. Even GOG doesn’t go this far. Why not? Because if they tried to go that far, then all of the AAA publishers would stop providing GOG with copies of their games to resell.

It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want.

That’s funny to be posted on a free website that contains access to a free book, free music, free videos, and, until recently, free podcasts. And clearly “others” want it. I once created a script for RPGMaker VX that allowed actors with an Undead state to have healing turned into damage, and it was downloaded some 4,000 times. My old band I Over E had one of its songs stolen by a band in New York. I/E also had its music receive about 20 downloads per day. This site receives about 30 hits each day. I gave an essay to V2: The Voluntary Voice for free. I’ve got a game that I’ve made, but which isn’t finished, available for free right now. I’ve got a book I’ve written that represents nearly a decade of work for free right now.

Yet you’ll also find this scattered across everything I create:

It’s a KoPiMi that means, basically, I waive any and all Intellectual Property claims to any and all of my creations. For fuck’s sake, while I was selling a book on Amazon, I personally uploaded it to The Pirate Bay and gave it away. And yes, it did sell–clearly, people wanted it.

I don’t demand that all creators go as far as that. No creator is really required to personally help people get their content for free. But no creator has the right to stop it, either. If I go through the trouble of self-publishing a book and begin selling it on the street for $8 each, and Dickhead Bob buys a copy, hurriedly photocopies all the pages, slaps the copies into manilla envelopes, and begins selling those photocopies for $2 each, I have no right to stop him. How could I? I was the one who sold him the book. He can do what he wants with it.

I could argue and appeal to people’s better nature. “Look, I was the one who wrote the freaking thing. I’m the one who deserves payment for it!” Evidence suggests that this would actually work. People tend to get pissed off when one person tries to sell something that someone else made. Don’t believe me? Watch how people have reacted to idiots trying to upload Minecraft–which we’ll discuss more in a moment–onto Steam Greenlight, hoping to cash in on its noticeable absence to make a quick buck for themselves.

Note: I didn’t quickly see the Minecraft video, but there it happens to World of Warcraft, to exactly the same widespread response.

Ah. Here we go.

Because the videos are in playlists, they’re not linking correctly. It’s video #112 and #41.

Speaking of Minecraft, if you happen to think that only some Popularity Threshold will warrant a person’s opinions on Intellectual Property as legitimate, then it’s hard to get more popular than the blockbuster PC hit that is and was Minecraft. Maybe my arguments aren’t valid because only 74 people downloaded my game, or because only 112 people have downloaded my book, or because only 2700 people have browsed my free site in the past five days. Maybe that’s just not enough to say, with any certainty, that someone would be willing to pay for it if it wasn’t free. Then again, clearly someone is, and at one point I was actually making like $42 a month through Patreon. So…

Anyway, Notch himself, creator of Minecraft, is on the record as not giving a shit about Intellectual Property. You know what? Ed McMillan, creator of The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy, both of which are also extremely popular, says exactly the same thing: “We don’t really care.”

Notch stood on the floor of a MineCon event and told people to “just pirate it” if they couldn’t pay for it. His words: “…just pirate it.” On top of that, though, Minecraft freaking has a free demo version. He didn’t say “Download the demo version if you can’t afford it.” No, he said, “Just pirate it.”

If you have some kind of popularity threshold that has to be met before you’ll take someone’s rejection of IP seriously, then you’re not going to find someone who has made something much more popular than freaking Minecraft.

Minecraft.

The game that fucking redefined video games. The game that has sold more than one hundred million copies. It has sold 2/3 the amount that the freaking Sony PlayStation 2, one of the most successful gaming consoles ever, has sold.

For more perspective:

Super Mario Bros., in all its various forms and re-releases and updates and Virtual Console releases, has sold about forty-million copies. Considering that’s probably the biggest game of all time, with an icon so popular that even people who don’t play video games will recognize him, it’s saying something that Minecraft has outsold Super Mario Bros. by a margin of 5:2.

How about Jim Fucking Sterling, Son himself, the person whose videos I was initially building from? All of his content–all of it–is available 100% for free. And though he doesn’t like it if you use an AdBlocker to view his videos, he understands why, and he doesn’t hold it against you if you do. For example, I’ve posted a lengthy response on his video about AdBlockers, and yet he follows me on Twitter. Don’t get me started on ads, though.

Despite the possibility–and the ubiquity, especially among his audience–of someone using an AdBlocker to watch his video without earning him any ad revenue, he still posts them. You don’t have to contribute a fucking penny to view his website, to watch his videos, or to listen to his podcasts. In effect, he relies on the Honor System, and, you know what? It works exceedingly well for him. As he points out, have you seen his Patreon lately?

So the statement:

It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want.

… is certifiable bullshit. If I don’t count, then surely Jim Sterling does. If Jim Sterling doesn’t count, then surely Ed McMillan does. If Ed McMillan doesn’t count, then surely Notch of Minecraft does. And if Notch doesn’t count, then your threshold of “how many people want it” is so high that it’s irrelevant and meaningless, because the only game that has outsold Minecraft is Tetris, and Tetris has been ripped off and bootlegged in so many ways it’s basically a genre unto itself. Repeat: Minecraft is the #2 best selling game of all time.

Although that gap between #1 and #2 is fucking insane. Nearly 500 million for Tetris? Holy sh–

You’re like little squalling babies, endlessly whining. I have nothing but contempt for you and anyone else with this attitude.

Well, considering I’ve done nothing that resembles squalling or whining, it’s hard to imagine why your contemptible, vitriolic comment of insults wouldn’t qualify but a well-received and very successful article arguing against IP does. But there’s nothing here for me to retort, so I’ll leave it at that.

Moving On To Another Criticism

My analogy about replaying the game a second time constituting a violation of the publisher’s Intellectual Property did go too far, and itself became a false equivalence. I apologize for that, and thanks for pointing it out. You are correct–that went too far and didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Another Criticism Via Reddit

While I agree that IP law needs a lot of improvement, I have to comment on the idea to compare video games to cars.

In my opinion this comparison is utter nonesense. There are two big differences between cars and games:

  1. While you play a game, it’s value for you decreases. Meanwhile the game’s value for other people is not affected by you playing at all. This is obviously not true for cars whatsoever.
  2. While it takes a lot of materials and physical work to build a car, reproducing a game just takes a couple of clicks and a little work for your computer. You cannot just clone a car.

Therefore comparing these two seems rather pointless to me. Even if they would be similar however, I would find the mindset “We should treat X like this because we’ve always treated Y like this.” being far from optimal. What we should think about is why things should be treated in certain ways. What behavior do we want to (dis-)encourage with our treatement/our rules?
Having IP lawas for example can possibly encourage people to create unique and enjoyable content (be it games, movies, books or whatever). It also can encourage people to try to trick and abuse the system.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to all these questions. I just want to point out that it is not that simple as just applying the same laws we use for cars to games (or movies or books etc. especially in their digital form).

To be clear, I am not being cowardly; I addressed the criticism in the Reddit thread. If someone wants to critique something I’ve said, that’s great–it’s how ideas evolve–but this also means that my reply has to be open, too. So I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote on Reddit:

1. You are wrong here. The moment you drive a car off the lot, its value plummets. Because of wear and tear, each additional mile further lowers the value of the car. They have value to the owner for different reasons (the car because of travel, the game because of enjoyment), but it’s still the case that each moment spent using either one means that is one moment that can never be used like that again.

For example, I’ve often lamented the fact that I can never read the Harry Potter books “for the first time” again, nor can I play FF6 “for the first time” again. Those first experiences were unique, powerful, and special, and no subsequent revisit has come close to capturing it. Their value has certainly plummeted for me, and I’m not even sure I still own all the HP books. This is 100% true for vehicles, as well. Even the best vehicle will only get to about 300,000 miles. It has longer life and its value is larger, but the same rules still apply: every time you drive a car, its value most certainly does decrease.

2. This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone a few months ago about the replicators in Star Trek. Or with 3-D printers, the first real-life version of replicators we’ve yet made. I don’t see any reason that a person won’t be able to 3-D print a vehicle in a few more decades (though tires and other parts might still have to be purchased rather than printed), which will render your point moot. This is mostly a matter of technology. Once upon a time, it wasn’t as easy to just copy a book, either–it took a scribe hundreds of hours to produce a copy. Then the printing press was invented, and the amount of work required to produce a copy became drastically reduced. Now I can make a copy of a book with a few button presses.

2a. That said, the “copy” produced via the computer with a few clicks is a poor copy of what was purchased, which is what my point about feelers was supposed to call attention to. The only copied CD I ever owned–seriously–was A Perfect Circle’s Thirteenth Step, and I went to great lengths to get a high quality label printed for the copied version, and it still wasn’t up to par. Nor did it come with the booklet. Copied/cracked games often create their own problems, too, in addition to not being able to receive patches or purchase DLC, and these downsides have to be acknowledged. It’s not as simple as a couple of clicks to truly produce an accurate copy of a video game. It’s just not that simple. What one makes a copy of are files (which, incidentally, is necessary for installation of the game anyway, since installing a game from a disc literally creates a copy of that game), but those files don’t constitute nearly the whole package that was purchased.

Edit: It replaced all my numbers with “1”. Sorry.

Edit2: Continuing from the actual first point, a car with 120,000 miles on it doesn’t have anywhere near the value that a car with 12,000 miles on it has. Why? Because a car’s value lowers with each usage, and that usage is typically measured in “miles traveled.” Time itself is also a factor, as even a 2003 Mustang that has been sitting in a garage with only 5 miles on it won’t have anywhere near the value that it had when it was brand new. Really, the fact that a 5 year old game has about 5-10% of its initial value while a 5 year old car has about 25% of its initial value completely nullifies your point. If cars didn’t lose value with usage, then a 2007 Chrysler would be worth exactly as much today as it was in 2007, but that simply isn’t the case. Cars depreciate with usage, too, and often drastically–it’s generally said that even driving a car off a lot causes it to immediately lose a few thousand dollars in value, though, having never bought a new car, I can’t verify that. Regardless, it’s demonstrably true that cars depreciate in value with usage.

Edit 3: No more edits, I promise.

Since I’ve defended my points, and fairly represented the criticisms raised–they were copied/pasted directly, after all–I’m going to leave off here and wait on further objections to be brought up, if any are. Thus far, nothing has been said that truly holds up as a dispute to anything I said about IP and video games in the previous article, except that my “second playthrough” argument failed, and I’ve now rectified that. The reason that argument fails is that, while it’s true that we’re colloquially told that we’re sold “an experience,” that is just a colloquialism for saying we were sold “a license that allows us to have the experience.”

How Intellectual Property Poisons Video Games

I’ve just watched the Jimquisiition video “Circle of Strife,” which I’ll provide a link to here—just… just click that to go and watch it and subscribe to Jim Sterling, if you haven’t already. He does great work for the average gamer and is well worth watching. In his video he discussed the adversarial, mutually parasitic, mutually antagonistic relationship between Gamestop and game publishers, and I have nothing to critique there, of course. I do, however, want to discuss how we got into this situation in the first place, because the root of the problem doesn’t lie with Gamestop; it lies with publishers.

Going all the way back to square one, this mess began because it is simply assumed that publishers are entitled to be paid twice for a single copy of a product. Because they make this assumption, they hate Gamestop, who doesn’t provide game publishers any revenue from the sell of used games. This is a matter on which the gaming public appears to be roughly evenly divided, with some people simply asserting that of course EA deserves a cut from Gamestop selling a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition on Xbox 360, and with others… who actually agree with that premise, but who assert that launch-day DLC and later DLC allow the publishers to effectively be paid twice for the product, because DLC isn’t transferable.

Jim Sterling, of course, addresses all of these issues regularly. Launch Day DLC is a particular pet peeve of mine, and I’m in wholesale agreement with Jim about how the abuse of DLC, existence of pre-orders, and incestuous, adversarial relationship between publishers and Gamestop are hurting gamers. Unlike Jim, however, it’s my contention that there is a single root cause to all of these problems.

Intellectual property.

Now, rather than railing against Intellectual property generally—I’ve done this in podcasts that are no longer available, but even so I’m not going to retread the same old ground—I’m going to draw a direct line between intellectual property and the publishers’ sense of entitlement that they are due for two payments for a single instance of a product, and how this mentality, this entitlement, has led directly to the issues that Jim Sterling fantastically addresses.

It’s immediately apparent that no one is entitled to being paid twice for something that they’ve sold. If, for example, I sell you a vehicle for $3,000, and you go on to sell that vehicle to someone else for $4,000, absolutely no one in their right mind would contend that I was due any additional money from you, or from the person who bought the car from you. Having sold that property to you, and been duly reimbursed with an amount that we agreed was fair, our business is concluded and my property claims on the car are null. It is, in effect, no longer my car.

Intellectual Property, as a duplicitous way of allowing people who have created a thing to maintain ownership after the point of selling it, would dictate that, if I had been the one who invented this car—thereby making it my intellectual property—then I would, in fact, be due compensation. It is every bit as asinine as thinking that, if I sold my Chevrolet Impala to you for $3,000, then I needed to give a cut of that to Chevrolet. It’s utter nonsense; Chevrolet has already been paid for that Impala. Whether I bought the car from someone who bought it from someone who bought it from someone who bought if from Chevrolet, or whether I bought it directly from Chevrolet, Chevrolet produced one car, and they were paid for one car. What happens after that isn’t their concern—unless a warranty is transferred, but that’s an unrelated matter—because they made one car, they were paid for one car, and they relinquished all ownership claims over that car.

In what lunacy-filled doublethink could they possibly be entitled to being paid again?

Yet when we take this analogy and transfer it directly to video games, suddenly this simple logic is thrown out the window. But it shouldn’t be, because EA has still produced one copy of the game. There is one disc, one box. The retail world isn’t my area of expertise, but whether you buy the game from Wal-Mart, Gamestop, or some EA storefront directly, the fact remains that they produced one copy of the game, and you purchased it. You became the owner of that game, and EA relinquished all property claims regarding it.

Whether you go on to sell the game to me for $15 isn’t EA’s business, because they have already been paid for that copy of the game. Selling it to me does not create a second copy of the game, because there is still only one copy—ownership of it is transferred from you to me, and in return you have received a payment that we both agreed was fair.

“But you now get to enjoy the game! Hur hur hur! And EA didn’t get paid for two people to enjoy it!”

This is, in essence, the argument of intellectual property, that EA didn’t sell an actual, physical copy of the game, and that they instead sold “an experience.” It’s immediately apparent that this is—how shall we say?—absolute bullshit. So if my wife and I purchased a video game, EA would be entitled to two payments if we both attempted to play it? By this argument, sharing is stealing, under any and all circumstances. It’s as asinine as it is fallacious. If EA sold an experience to me—the experience of playing the game—then what am I selling when I take the game to Gamestop? I’ve had the experience. By this logic, even replaying a game that you own constitutes theft of EA’s digital property, because they sold an experience—one. If you cannot transfer ownership of that experience to Gamestop, or to someone else, without somehow violating EA’s Intellectual Property, then playing through the second game constitutes exactly the same violation.

This is the mindset that EA and other publishers have, even if they wouldn’t be willing to call attention to this gigantic logic pit. They want you, the gamer, to be on-board with the idea that they deserve payment twice for a single copy of a product, because then they can shove all kinds of shit like pre-orders, launch day dlc, obtrusive DRM, and DLC cut directly from the game into your face and you won’t immediately reject it, because, like they want, you’ll begin from the assumption that these are justified practices undertaken to help them curb losses from when the “experience” they sold is unrightly transferred from one person to another. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s not like the big AAA publishers are sitting in board rooms together devising plans to rip you off. They don’t have to, because their interests are all aligned, and because so much of the gaming press is willing to do their work for them.

You see this everywhere, and it takes on forms obvious and subtle. Take, for example, how even discussing emulation can result in a ban from a game’s Steam forum. This has reached a point where otherwise ordinary community members will proudly initiate posts warning everyone that discussion of emulation is against the forum’s rules. Why? It is a perfectly legal solution to a long-time problem. But it doesn’t matter why; it’s just taken for granted, and from there it’s propagated: emulation is bad because it steals money from developers. That’s right, downloading an emulator and ripping your own copy of Final Fantasy from an NES cart steals money from the publishers who are trying to sell you a second copy of a game you already own. And you’re not allowed to discuss it openly, nor are you allowed to call attention to the fact that, with very few exceptions, emulation is vastly superior.

Just look at the Mega Man Legacy Collection. Of course, you’ll find there such a thread warning people that it’s against the rules to discuss emulation. Even though the Legacy Collection is buggy, borderline broken, with terrible controls and graphic filtering options, and even though FCEU and JNES both emulate the six NES Mega Man games faithfully, accurately, and without crashing, you’re not even allowed to talk about how you can rip the NES games directly from your NES cartridges and play them bug free and error free, for free. And obviously a publisher has the right to police their forums—when the people hosting that forum, Valve, have given them that right—but it’s hardly a unique circumstance on the Steam forums.

Watch any YouTuber who does video games, and if they ever mention that forbidden E-word, they will immediately follow it or precede it by saying, “I don’t encourage emulation.” Why the hell not? It’s a perfectly adequate solution to an obvious problem. The reason, of course, is that they don’t want to be crucified by publishers and their attorneys who have convinced themselves and the rest of the world that Intellectual Property is somehow a thing, and that it means that they get to maintain ownership over things that they have sold and ostensibly transferred ownership of.

From that one, seemingly innocuous assumption that is alleged to exist to ensure that developers, artists, and musicians are financially motivated to produce content, nearly everything that has gone wrong in the past twenty years in these industries has directly stemmed. It’s beyond the scope of this article or video or podcast or however I publish this to get into every single result of the intellectual property sickness that has infected entertainment, but people were producing art, music, and plays for centuries before Intellectual Property was a thing. And going all the way back, there were people selling what we would call bootleg copies, but the artists continued their crafts, because that’s what artists do and because there have always been ways for artists, musicians, playwrights, and authors to ensure that they are fairly paid for their work.

Intellectual property is preventing the evolution of the video game industry. For example, musicians throughout the world have repeatedly lost their freaking minds in history. First, it was over blank cassette tapes and the ability of people to record songs aired over the radio. They couldn’t sue there because television studios had already attempted to sue in the 80s against VHS and the ability of consumers to record programs and watch them later; since the Supreme Court ruled that consumers could record television, it was obvious that the legal precedent would result in a lost case for the music industry against blank cassette tapes. Moving forward, it happened again when people began ripping CDs and burning CDs. Then again when Napster arrived and widespread sharing took off. Rather than adjusting to these changes and shifting their focuses to live performances and rather than providing incentives for people to purchase the CDs over bootlegs, the music and movie industries instead went after piracy.

One has to look only to the recent Tool albums to see exactly how this sort of thing can be addressed without overstepping one’s bounds and claiming ridiculous ownership of things that have been sold. Tool’s latest album, Ten Thousand Days, included a weird bifocal thing and a collection of images that produced 3D effects and couldn’t simply be photocopied. It was encouragement to buy the actual album, in the same way that 1980s video games often included “feelers” that couldn’t be so easily bootlegged.

But instead of doing any of this—instead of doing anything to improve the gaming industry and actually entice consumers to buy their products by using feelers and other bonuses not cut from the core game, the video game industry has taken the same path that the music, television, and movie industries took before it. Rather than attempting to evolve and better themselves to present consumers justifiable reasons to purchase games new, rather than used, they find it easier to throw a bunch of bullshit at us.

The video game industry should look again at Hollywood and the music industry to see how well that worked out for them. And then they should come down from their drug-induced highs and accept that they aren’t entitled to be paid twice for one copy of a product and that, if they want people to buy their products new, then they have to offer a valid incentive that makes it worth it to the consumer to buy it new, instead of simply threatening and attacking people who buy used.

 

Anarchism in Video Games

Putting aside legalese shenanigans to play a game I like to call “Not Being a Stupid Twat,” we have to ask ourselves a few very important questions: What is Intellectual Property? What does it do? What roles does it serve? Is it necessary?

The shortest answer would be that it is a ploy by buyers to maintain ownership of property after having sold it, it serves no role beyond that, and it is completely unnecessary. This is actually a point that I’m making in the upcoming work What Steam Greenlight Teaches Us About Anarchy, which my Quora profile mistakenly cites me as the author of–while I am the author, “it” doesn’t quite exist yet. I got pulled onto other projects and the anarchist book featuring Steam Greenlight got pushed to the backburner.

For those unaware, Steam is a video game distribution platform for PC. For the most part, it is phenomenal–it serves a role that has been needed for a very long time. It’s so ubiquitous that you’re not likely to find a game that wasn’t made by EA that doesn’t run in tandem with Steam’s service. It allows multiplayer, achievements, chat, friend systems, refunds, and it is a storefront for buying games–on top of that, there are weekly sales that, for a while, will have you very excited. Then you’ll realize that this storefront is primarily filled with games that are uninteresting and uninspired, so it hardly matters if Ton-Ton’s Great Adventure goes on sale at 90% off from $1 to ten cents.

steam-greenlight-thumbs-upAdditionally, Steam is a platform for first-time developers to get their games onto the Steam store–yes, this created the previous problem that I mentioned, the abundance of mediocre games. A development studio or individual pays a flat fee of $100 and then can upload their game’s screenshots and videos for people to vote on. If people like it, it will be “greenlit” and ultimately accepted onto the store. If people don’t, then… Well, Jim Sterling has a great series called “The Best of Steam Greenlight” that is worth watching. Please note that the title of the show is sarcastic. You want his newer series Greenlight Good Stuff if you want to see games that are actually good.

The system has almost no oversight from Valve, and a number of interesting things have resulted. Unless there is a blatant violation of Intellectual Property–like if someone uploads World of Warcraft as their game–then Valve is not going to bother with it. Even this is unnecessary, though, because masses of people who browse Steam Greenlight hate one thing more than they hate anything else…

People uploading someone else’s work.

Hardly a week goes by that some dumbass doesn’t upload Minecraft or some other notable indie game that isn’t on the Steam store. In some cases, they just completely misunderstand how the system works, but we have to marvel that someone would be willing to spend $100 to learn a lesson in how we handle property in the digital world. In other cases, they’re just stupid and genuinely think that they can get away with it, that they can slide Minecraft in under the radar and no one will notice, and then millions of people will buy it and they’ll laugh all the way to the bank.

However, it’s not really of significance why these people do it. Our focus lies in the reaction that people have to it, because it substantiates a long-held libertarian idea that intellectual property is not necessary for a number of reasons. First, if I have written a book and someone has bought a copy, and then made a bunch of photocopies of it and started selling them, then the overwhelming majority of people would reject the person’s photocopies, and would instead buy the book directly from me, even if that meant a substantial increase in price. Steam Greenlight is real world evidence that this is, indeed, the case.

Someone else really attempted to upload World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King–yes, really… Someone really, honestly did that–and a private server that they were attempting to build. They estimated that classes and abilities were “about 1% working.” Let’s keep in mind that this is not a thing like www.itch.io or Newgrounds, where startup developers post their games for people to check out for free. This was someone’s actual attempt to sell their product–a 1%-working Wrath of the Lich King.

Needless to say, the people who regularly frequent Greenlight were not amused and did not approve. Why would anyone pay for a shoddy, inferior experience where only 1% of abilities even worked–considering that none of the classes in the game even has that many abilities, we can infer that this means that 0% of the abilities actually worked, but a few kinda-sorta-did–when they could instead pay a reasonable fee to Blizzard?

Indeed, we can look back to Blizzard and the Nostalrius Server incident for yet more examples of our favorite two things overlapping: video games and free market concepts. For a very long time, Blizzard–the makers of World of Warcraft–have abjectly refused to run “classic” servers from previous expansions, saying that after the nostalgic thrill wore off, players would lose interest and it would prove to be nothing more than a waste of money. All evidence is to the contrary, though, and I confess that I would gladly return to WoW to play WOTLK once more. I didn’t buy Warlords of Draenor until it was on its last patch, leveled to 100, got a few pieces of arena PvP gear, and promptly lost interest; I haven’t bought Legions and am not going to. I am as finished with World of Warcraft as I have ever been finished with anything.

So some people got together and released a free server of classic, original World of Warcraft. I’m not going to go into the full story–because you probably have heard it–but when Blizzard dropped the hammer on the server, the reaction of players was enough that I have chills on my arms just thinking about it. Thousands upon thousands of players logged in and went on a slow, quiet death march, touring the server one last time in a gigantic group–an actual community, not the instanced bullshit the game has since become–and saying “Goodbye.” Blizzard still has not implemented any servers dedicated to previous expansions, but they will use the full might of the law to prevent anyone else from doing it.

The problem here is the same one that plagues Steam Greenlight: intellectual property laws. A distaste for stealing is not the problem. We should react vehemently when some jerkwad tries to claim Minecraft as his game and sell it. There is everything wrong with that, and we should tell that person to fuck off. We should not however, go get the Big Bad Policeman to put a gun to the guy’s head and make him fuck off. Of their own accord, people reject plagiarism–it is of no surprise that being caught plagiarizing will sink a person’s academic career.

However, all of this is not the only thing Steam teaches us about anarchy. In addition to showing us exactly how anarchy functions without a supreme overlord making all the ultimate decisions, Steam also shows us that the masses of people simply are not ready for that.

One of the most common threads among Jim Sterling’s videos–and his fans–is that Valve, the people who own Steam, needs to step in and implement some kind of quality control, to stop the sludge and trash from getting through. Let’s return to a previous trait of Greenlight, though–a game can only get through if people vote for it.

Thankfully, Valve has thus far refused to step in. To my mind, they have implemented quality control, by allowing consumers to choose what is and isn’t worthy of going through. However, this has not stopped countless people demanding that Valve step in to keep games like Little Girl Simulator from being greenlit. It’s a literal example of “I don’t approve of this, so I want an authority figure to step in and make it go away, even though other people clearly approve of it.” It’s worth pointing out that Little Girl Simulator is just a stupid game where you play as a little girl running around a boring environment–there’s nothing sexual about it.

When you point out to these people what they are saying, they reject it. “I’m not saying it should be removed because I don’t like it! I’m saying it could be removed because it’s low quality crap!”

This is obviously circular.

circle1Pointing out to them that clearly, someone likes it and approves of it–by definition–has no effect, either, and just makes them bring up another argument. “But now it’s going to appear on the store page, where unsuspecting consumers will see it and think it’s a good quality game!”

Perhaps, but this is why we have user reviews on the Steam page itself. I suspect most people would not buy a $5 game they’ve never heard of, if it has Mixed reviews–or Negative reviews. Anything short of “Mostly Positive” will likely cause them to reject it. And if we’re talking about a $60 game, then any idiot who drops $60 on a game they know nothing about, have never heard of, and that just randomly appeared on the store page is probably consciously aware that they’re rolling the dice and may lose. It’s no one’s job to protect the gambler from losing.

“But you can’t expect an ordinary consumer to be that diligent! They shouldn’t have to be that diligent about what they buy!”

Well, they don’t have to be that diligent, do they? Because people like you will gladly police the Greenlight page and keep truly inferior products like Kill the Fag from making it through to the store. So they don’t really have to worry about that, do they? Because there are plenty of people out there who gladly take up the role of watchdog.

Would anyone buy a brand new car without doing any research into it? Would anyone drop $27,000 on a brand new car without even looking on Google to see if the car had any reported problems? Of course not. No one in their right mind would drop that kind of money on a product without looking into it at all, except someone who had some sort of agreement/warranty with the dealer that left them on solid ground anyway. But if someone is spending just $27, suddenly their innate desire to not piss away their money evaporates?

So what we’re really discussing here is at what threshold, according to some people, a person should be able to pay out a certain amount of money with there being no risk involved. This is, obviously, a stupid point and a red herring; risk is always involved, whether you pay $1 or $100. I’ve bought plenty of Hershey’s chocolate bars that turned out to be white, old, and inedible, basically throwing away 75 cents. Should I run screaming to an authority figure to protect me from the evil store that sold me a bad candy bar?

This is a serious question.

At least, it’s as serious as the question, “Should a gamer run screaming to Valve to be protected from wasting $3 on a shitty game?”

Furthermore, Valve has a refund process built right into Steam. You can get a refund for any damned reason you want, as long as you have had the game for less than 2 weeks and have played it for less than 2 hours. If a person buys a $3 game on Steam that turns out to be total shit, then they’re likely to figure that out with plenty of time to get it refunded.

Consumers on Steam are protected, double-protected, and triple-protected. There are the watchdogs who downvote inferior quality games. There are Steam user reviews. There is a refund process that could be more lenient with the “time played” but is otherwise fairly reasonable. Even then, if you have good enough reasons, Valve has given people refunds after playing for more than fifty hours.

18 months-ish ago, I bought Tomb Raider 2013 for $20 on Steam. I enjoyed the game. Three days later, I had 7 hours played, and Square-Enix released the Tomb Raider bundle on Steam. You could get Tomb Raider 2013, all its DLC, and literally every other Tomb Raider game ever made, plus all the DLC for the ones that had it, for $20. You read that correctly. The game that I paid $20 for–which included none of the DLC–was included in the bundle with all of the DLC, and with ten other games, for exactly the same price.

I was livid.

Because there’s no warning when a publisher is about to release a bundle or a huge sale. Games go on sale for 50% off, 75% off, 90% off all the time, and there’s no way to know when it will and won’t happen. I bought Batman: Arkham City for $20, and a week later it was on sale for 75% off, at $5. It happens with new releases, too–it’s not just older games. The Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remasters released on Steam at $30 and immediately came with 20% off, knocking the price down to $24.

Though I’ve lost a lot of money already with games going on sale or being included in bundles randomly without any warning, this Tomb Raider one was too much. If I’d simply waited three days, I could have gotten eleven games and 24 pieces of DLC for the same price that I paid for one of those games, but I had no idea that it was a good idea to wait a few days. I contacted Valve and filled them in. I contacted Square-Enix, pointing out, “Just FYI–I am a reviewer of an aggregated site, and I do, in fact, review lots of Square-Enix games.”

Valve refunded the purchase, even though I’d played for 7 hours and wasn’t eligible for a refund. The money was added to my account, and I purchased the bundle instead. I am not the only person with a story like this, and Valve is always extremely reasonable. In fact, there probably isn’t a company in the world as anarchistic and pro-consumer as Valve. Square-Enix told me to fuck off, for all intents and purposes. Nordic Games, when I contacted them about Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition not even working when I was seriously trying to review it, never even replied to me. That is what I expect from corporations.

What’s the difference with Valve? Why is Valve so pro-gamer, when so many other companies are antagonistic of their consumers?

Well… gamers constantly hold Valve’s feet to the flames.

Those irritating watchdogs who want to overstep their bounds and have the state step in to force their standards onto everyone else–even though people clearly disagree with them in numbers great enough to be consequential–are also the reason that Valve doesn’t “pull an EA.” It’s fine, of course–as I’ve written before, watchdogs are good. We need them. There’s nothing “not very libertarian” about being a watchdog of an industry, a corporation, or a product. So watch on, watchdogs.

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that choosing to be a watchdog gives your preferences any more weight than anyone else’s.

One of the more insidious aspects of Steam is that it is wholesale guilty of the initial problem. It does not sell games to players. It leases them, per license agreements, EULAs, and TOUs. You do not own any of the games in your Steam Library. You are leased them by Valve, dependent on whether or not you abide the rules they lay out. You have been turned into a glorified renter, and Valve maintains ownership of the games in your library “because Intellectual Property.” This, too, is something being discussed in the anarchist work, because we’re going to wake up in a few more decades to find that we don’t own anything, that everything is leased to us, dependent upon whether we obey the sellers’ rules.

The How and Why of Anarchy, Part 2

While Part One discussed primarily the advantages of a Free Market and stacked them against the “advantages” of Interventionist Economics (Keynesian economics), Part Two shall focus more on the Government itself, and not its economic methods.

Let’s return to our definitions from yesterday:

  • The State is the collective governmental body which oversees a given society. The State is a collective whole which, in the United States, consists of the Federal Government, all of its branches, and all pseudo-governmental agencies such as the Federal Reserve.
  • The Society is the collective body of People. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that Societies do not require the existence of a State; the existence of a Society is independent of whether or not the Society has a Government. Any group of people of any size who work together, whether voluntarily or by being forced, is a Society.
  • Once a Society has a State over it, the two collectively are the Nation. That is, the Nation is a Society and its Government.

In addition to noting that this creates within a Nation two distinct bodies (the Government and the People), one other fact can be drawn: Societies create Governments, but Governments do not create Societies. To understand this, we must go back a very long time, to the foundations of Society and then the foundations of Government.

Thomas Paine wrote in “Common Sense,” that:

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which, would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness, will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations, and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right will have a seat.

But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increase likewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present. If the colony continue increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of the representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number; and that the elected might never form to themselves an interest separate from the electors, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often; because as the elected might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government, and the happiness of the governed.

It would be intellectual dishonesty to say something along the lines of, “Surely you wouldn’t argue with Thomas Paine, would you?” But that’s just as well. We don’t have to use only Thomas Paine’s words to explain the origins and nature of Government. We can also turn to Murray Rothbard, who wrote:

The State, in the words of Oppenheimer, is the “organization of the political means”; it is the systematization of the predatory process over a given territory.[4] For crime, at best, is sporadic and uncertain; the parasitism is ephemeral, and the coercive, parasitic lifeline may be cut off at any time by the resistance of the victims. The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively “peaceful” the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society.[5] Since production must always precede predation, the free market is anterior to the State. The State has never been created by a “social contract”; it has always been born in conquest and exploitation. The classic paradigm was a conquering tribe pausing in its time-honored method of looting and murdering a conquered tribe, to realize that the time-span of plunder would be longer and more secure, and the situation more pleasant, if the conquered tribe were allowed to live and produce, with the conquerors settling among them as rulers exacting a steady annual tribute.[6] One method of the birth of a State may be illustrated as follows: in the hills of southern “Ruritania,” a bandit group manages to obtain physical control over the territory, and finally the bandit chieftain proclaims himself “King of the sovereign and independent government of South Ruritania”; and, if he and his men have the force to maintain this rule for a while, lo and behold! a new State has joined the “family of nations,” and the former bandit leaders have been transformed into the lawful nobility of the realm.

It should be demonstrated amply by this point that Societies do, in fact, create Governments and that no Government has ever created a Society. Furthermore, written in the Declaration of Independence itself is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Let us say no more about whether Societies create Governments or Governments create Society. It is abundantly clear, by reason, by evidence, and according to the words of some of the greatest governmental thinkers in the history of mankind, that Societies create Governments and not vice versa.

Therefore, a Government cannot exist without a Society, but a Society can exist without a Government. If Societies create Governments, then it is logically inescapable to recognize that at some point there was a Society which had not yet created a Government; in order for a Society to create a Government, there must first be a Society with no Government.

Okay, You Made Your Point. Now Move On. This is Getting Boring.

Governments, by all reckonings, exist as a method for acting out the Will of its Society. When Society decided that the Government shall act to preserve “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness,” they created a Government with the goal of ensuring these things. The Government was created as a means of achieving the end, and the end was the preservation of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness. This does not mean that Government is the only means of achieving this end, nor does it mean that Government is the best means of achieving this end.

It is important to think back to the founding of the United States. We basically had 13 independent and small nations who agreed on these things: “We need a method to protect our Lives, our Liberties, and our rights to Pursue happiness.” That is the extent of their needs and it is the extent of our needs. We need nothing more than a method of protecting these three things, and, indeed, anything beyond these three things can come only at the expense of these three things. I.e., in order to protect our “right to health care,” the Government must sacrifice our right to pursue happiness, since we cannot “pursue happiness” without the financial backing to do so, and in order to protect our “right to health care,” the State must take a portion of our money to pay for the health care (as opposed to letting us pay for the health care ourselves).

If the Government which governs best is one that governs least, then the Government which doesn’t exist must be even better than “best”. It’s difficult to get into this topic without expounding the principles of the Free Market. 

Let’s consider, then, that it is our goal to establish a means of protecting our Lives, our Liberties, and our right to pursue happiness. Before we can do this, though, we must examine in detail what these three things mean. This is obvious: in order to establish a means of protecting our Lives, we must understand what is meant by “our Lives” and what is meant by “protecting.”

Life

Any being which is living has the unabashed right to continue living. Once something has life, no force on Earth can legitimately take that right away, expressed in killing the person in question. Not even Society has the right to take life. Neither does the Government have the right to take life.

It must be clarified that any action which an Individual could commit that is clearly morally wrong is generally perfectly acceptable when it is done by the State. Murder is an example of this. When an Individual murders another, the punishment is occasionally quite severe*. But when the State does it, either through war, assassination, or the death penalty, it is considered to be perfectly acceptable. This is a Moral Hazard. Let it be clear: if an action would be morally wrong if committed by an Individual, then the action is morally wrong if committed by the State. The fact that the State is doing it does not make morally wrong actions suddenly morally right; it means only that we’re allowing the State to get away with things it should be punished for.

Theft is yet another example. If you broke into a bank and stole a bunch of money, and then donated all of that money to various charities, your Robin Hood attempt would still land you in prison. But when the State breaks into your wallet and steals a bunch of money, and then donates all of that money to various State-run charities, it is suddenly considered to be morally right. Again, just because the State does it means not that it is somehow morally right; it is still morally wrong.

Theft and Murder? You Create Slippery Slopes, Anarchist Shemale, and I Think You Know It

It is not a slippery slope or exaggeration, though this is often the counter to the statement that Taxation is theft. But, just as religious proselytizing always ultimately comes back to the threat of eternal damnation, so do Government actions always ultimately come back to the threat of force. As much as Christians talk about God’s love and forgiveness, under all of that is Hell and eternal damnation, forming the underpinning of the entire system. After all, if that threat wasn’t there, then they would have no need to preach to anyone and there would be no reason to actually follow the system. A religion which doesn’t involve eliminating a threat generally gets no converts–see Buddhism for a terrific example. But by underpinning the entire framework with the threat of eternal torture, Christians give themselves both a motive and a weapon to instill fear and help convert non-believers. Like it or not, underpinning the whole of Christianity is the threat of eternal damnation, and without that threat Christianity would be irrelevant.

In the same sense, everything that the Government does is ultimately backed by threats. Taxation, for example, involves some pretty severe threats. What happens if you don’t pay your taxes? You go to prison–Federal prison. And, as bad as State Prisons are, Federal Prisons are rumored to be much worse. Not only does the Individual not get a choice when it comes to Taxes, but if the Individual contests the State’s attempt to steal their money, then the Individual is punished with imprisonment and/or severe fines. Underpinning the entire Taxation system is the threat that if you don’t pay, you will be subjected to massive punishments. The State might as well be holding a gun to your head and telling you that they will shoot you if you don’t hand over your money, especially since 10 years in a Federal Prison will leave a person with a shattered mind**.

So Taxation is theft; moreover, Taxation is theft at the point of a gun, wherein refusing to hand over your wallet will result in extreme penalties and punishments. But let’s return to the issue at hand: the protection of Lives.

If the goal is to protect our lives, then there are a few examples we need to think about in regard to our current Government. Firstly, we must consider the Draft. How can we believe that the Government actively protects our Lives when it has the authority to send us off to fight and die? This is a direct contradiction. Nowhere in the Constitution does the Government have the authority to take our Lives from us, and this is so obvious it doesn’t need to be pointed out. The idea that the Government could take our Lives from us runs contrary to the most basic of human rights: that the Individual owns himself. If the Government can, for any reason it desires, conscript us and send us of to die, then we are, in all honesty, the property of the Government. Let it be known that the State does not own us.

We must also consider the numerous wars we have fought in the 20th century, all of which resulted in the deaths of Americans, and most of which would not have caused a single American death if they hadn’t been waged. No American would have died because of the Korean War, for example, if the State hadn’t sent Americans to fight in Korea. The Korean War was never a threat to American security. The War in Iraq is a more recent example: Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the American People. Terrorism was not present in Iraq and the Iraqi Government had no way to threaten the American People; they didn’t have anti-aircraft weapons, they didn’t have long-range missiles, they didn’t have ICBMs, and the record shows they didn’t have “biological and chemical weapons.” If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, no American would have died because we didn’t invade Iraq. But because we did invade Iraq, thousands of Americans did die, and we increased the Muslim world’s hostility toward us. Muslim terrorists all rally around the cause of getting America to withdraw from the Middle East, and the greater our presence in the Middle East, the greater the presence and threat of terrorism. This is a fact which even the CIA has recognized. Our Middle East invasions are pissing off the Middle Eastern People, and we react to their being pissed off by invading more Middle Eastern nations, thereby pissing them off even more. There are only two ways to solve the Middle East problem: withdrawing completely from the area or completely conquering the entire area and oppressing all dissent–and this would be distinctly anti-Liberty and anti-American.

So how is the Government “protecting our Lives” when the State is singlehandedly responsible for both sending Americans to die and taking actions which result in a large portion of the world being very pissed off at us and very hostile toward us? After all, the catalyst of 9/11 was known for a fact to be our presence in the Middle East. It’s not our “freedom” or our “values” or “their religious insanity” that causes them to hate us and want to kill us. These are just pieces of propaganda put out by the State to convince us that the Middle Eastern People are our enemies because they hate us. It is far from the truth.

Take note, America: Muslims in the Middle East do not hate us because we are free, because we have this value or that value, or because we don’t share their religious conviction. They hate us because of what our Government has done and is doing and because we are allowing our Government to do it. They don’t hate us because we’re free, because we have sex on television, or because we listen to Lady Gaga. They hate us because we’re allowing our Government to invade them, to tear down their governments, and to dictate to them what they can and can’t do. We would not tolerate this if someone did it to us. If the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China invaded and conquered the United States, abolished our Government, and told us that we had to put in place a Communist Government, how would we react? We would hate the Russians and Chinese who had allowed their governments to do this to us. And since we couldn’t fight in legitimate battles against the Russian or Chinese militaries, we would have no choice but to resort to terrorist tactics to achieve our goal of self-governance and independence.

The actions the State takes is not protecting the Lives of Americans, and the actions of the State usually threaten, either directly or indirectly, the security of Americans. We are in greater danger now that we have ever been. Americans travelling abroad frequently pretend to be Canadians. It is not very safe for Americans to travel abroad in the first place, and this is even in countries that are officially allies of the United States; there is a reason more American women disappear in European nations than do European women. Our arrogance and self-righteousness causes us to be valued more highly among people who like degrading and humiliating others. I’m sorry–that is a fact. And it is our Government’s fault.

Liberty

No one in their right mind can accuse our Government of protecting our Liberty. Not much needs to be said about this. Our Liberty has been under attack for more than a century, and we have recently been attacked through unconstitutional legislation (the NDAA2013, which abolished our right to a trial, for example) and through bureaucratic regulations (the EPA has the authority, though none of its workers were elected by the People, to act unilaterally and make whatever regulations it wants, regardless of the damge done to the People, in the name of “protecting the environment”).

All of these things are done in the name of one cause or another, and it is here that we went wrong, because somewhere along the line, we concluded that the end justifies the means. And it doesn’t. It never has. It has been known for centuries that sacrificing Liberty to ensure Security destroys both Liberty and Security. And yet the sacrifice of Liberty is frequently justified by the allegation that it must be done to protect us. We need the NDAA2013 to protect us; we need the State to be able to arrest and detain Americans indefinitely and without a trial so that the State can protect us from terrorists. We need the Patriot Act to protect us; we need the State to be able to listen on every conversation, hack into every email account, read every Facebook post, and intercept every text message so that the State can protect us from terrorists. We need the President to be able to make Kill Lists and use UAVs to kill American citizens because we need the State to be able to protect us from terrorists. Somehow, the State convinced us that we need to be protected from ourselves and that, in order to protect us from ourselves, they had to have unquestioned power to control us, to watch us, and to do whatever they want to us. The fallacy of this is obvious: how can they be protecting us by harming us?

The Pursuit of Happiness

statue of libertyTo honestly and sincerely pursue happiness, one must have Life, Liberty, and a few other things. One must have the right to own property, for example. But in the United States, our right to own property is non-existent. We don’t have the right to own property; we only have the right to RENT property. Even when you have paid off your 30 year mortgage (which you were a fool for getting), you still don’t OWN your home–you still only rent it. You must pay Property Taxes, and if you don’t pay those Property Taxes, then your home is taken from you and you are evicted. That is renting. If you owned the home, then you couldn’t be evicted from it and the State would be Stealing it from you if they tried. But you’re renting, so if the State evicts you and takes your home, it isn’t considered stealing.

Taxation in general amounts to purchasing the State’s permission to do something or own something. The idea that we now pay for the rights for which our ancestors fought and died is ridiculous. Our ancestors did not fight and die so that we would have the right to buy the State’s permission to live in our homes, and our ancestors did not fight and die so that we would have the right to buy the State’s permission to drive or flush our toilets. We have fallen so far from having the right to pursue happiness that the right to pursue happiness has become “the right to purchase the right to pursue happiness.” If you want to do something, there is almost certainly a Tax involved. If you want to drive, you must purchase a Driver’s License, thereby purchasing the State’s permission to drive. If you want to drive your own car, you must purchase a License Plate, thereby purchasing the State’s permission to drive your own car. If you want to buy a lightbulb, you must pay a Sales Tax, thereby purchasing the State’s permission to buy a lightbulb. All through America, the only way to do anything is to first purchase the State’s permission to do it. And that is not the “right to pursue happiness.” It is the right to purchase the right to pursue happiness.

The Founders would never have consented to such a system–nor should we. The State was not designed to require us to purchase its permission to do things. We must purchase the State’s permission to marry, to own a home, to drive, to buy a car, to have electricity, to have a cellphone… All of these things have Licenses or Taxes attached to them, and if you want to do them you must either buy the License or pay the Tax. If you DON’T, then the wrath of the State will fall on you, punishing you (often) more severely than you would have been punished for murdering someone.

What part of this is supposed to represent the right to pursue happiness? What part of the Government’s actions is protecting our right to pursue happiness? The Government does nothing to protect this right. In fact, the Government works against this right, allowing us to purchase the right to pursue happiness–but if you don’t purchase the permission, then you don’t have the right to pursue happiness.

The Society and the State

A failure to recognize Individual Responsibility has caused many Americans to identify themselves with the State, to share in the State’s successes and to draw pride from the accomplishments of the State. As Murray Rothbard points out in “Anatomy of the State,” most people have an intense love for their homeland. But because we don’t recognize Individual Responsibility and because Americans largely draw their self-esteem from the accomplishments of the State, many Americans have become Nationalists. Often, people identify themselves and borrow pride from the accomplishments of the State because they have no accomplishments of their own and borrowing the accomplishments of the State still allow them to feel superior and prideful without their having to actually do anything.

“We’re the greatest nation in the history of the world!” and other similar exclamations all allow the individual to feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and greatness without any effort on the part of the individual. The individual gets to be terrific, great, and unrivaled simply because they are a member of the nation in question, and the Individual doesn’t need to do anything in order to feel terrific, great, and unrivaled. The Individual doesn’t have to become educated, successful, or anything else, because the Individual can always borrow from the accomplishments of the State and fill themselves with pride simply because they are underneath that wonderful mechanism. The Individual needs to do nothing in order to be filled with pride, a sense of accomplishment, and success.

This has done great harm to the notion of Individual Responsibility by preventing many Americans from wanting to take responsibility for themselves and their own situations. After all, if we acknowledge Individual Responsibility, then the State gets all the credit for its accomplishments and they cannot, since they did not contribute to the accomplishment, feel any pride or receive any self-esteem from the accomplishments of others. This is the reason most people now loathe the idea of Individual Responsibility.

They need to draw self-esteem and pride from the accomplishments of the State mechanism because they have no accomplishments of their own from which to draw self-esteem and pride. Indeed, the most vocal fighters against Individual Responsibility are generally people who have accomplished nothing and who have nothing for which they can be proud. And, in contrast, the most vocal fighters for Individual Responsibility are generally people who who have accomplished something and who have something for which they can be proud.

As long as people can draw self-esteem from identifying themselves with the State, Individual Responsibility cannot take hold. And, as I demonstrated in part one, a person’s identification with the State is built on contradiction and logical fallacy. We are not the State; we cannot, therefore, share in any of its accomplishments or have any pride whatsoever in anything it does–nor any blame for anything it does. The State is a body external to its Society, and individual members cannot, therefore, take any credit or blame for any of the State’s accomplishments or wrongdoings.

If you work for a corporation, then you can take pride in the accomplishments of that corporation and you must take blame in the wrongdoings of that corporation, weighted proportionately to the role you played in the corporation and the amount of influence you had to prevent or further the actions in question. But being the subject of a State is not the same as being an employee of a corporation. As I demonstrated, we don’t have any real authority over the State and the State is not us. The State is an entity over us, of which we can become members, and which does, from time to time, consist of people who are held by our desires. But this does not serve to adequately justify any identification of “ourselves as the State.” We cannot, then, take any pride in its accomplishments or any punishment for its wrongs.

We need Individual Responsibility, and not just because it will drive the people who suddenly lose the ability to draw pride from the accomplishments of the State to themselves work harder and make accomplishments of their own. We need Individual Responsibility because it is the only way to reaffirm Liberty and to curb our Nationalist tendencies. Liberty and Individual Responsibility are inseparable.

An Individual’s Subordination to Society

It is also often alleged that the Society’s needs outweigh the needs of the Individual. This is only possible because we have taken this abstract, unidentifiable notion that is the Society and we have given it needs, desires, and other characteristics, none of which can be justified or demonstrated. It may or may not be “for the good of Society” for Individuals to sacrifice this right or that right, but what is overlooked is the obvious fact that the Society consists only of the Individuals which comprise it, and, as such, anything that is detrimental to any of those Individuals is, therefore, detrimental to Society.

Society is not some external thing that has needs, desires, and other characteristics. It is just a term we use to label a mass of Individuals working together voluntarily for mutual benefit. The Society does not have needs, desires, and other characteristics; there is no such thing as “the good of society” and there is no such thing as “the needs of society are more important than the needs of individuals.”

This notion that we are selfish if we do not subordinate ourselves to the non-existent body called Society is a logical fallacy and a misidentification in exactly the same vein as those people who identify themselves through the State–it is just in reverse. Individuals do not identify themselves with Society, and this could be because Individuals instead identify themselves with the State. It is also because Individuals consider the State to be the mechanism which protects Society and makes it prosperous, even if it can only do this at the expense of the Individuals who comprise that Society. The very idea is preposterous and easily refutable. It’s as preposterous as the claims made in Vietnam that, “In order to save the village, we had to destroy it,” and George W’s more recent claim that, “In order to save the Free Market, I have abandoned Free Market principles.”

This type of Doublethink is unworthy of any People. We cannot benefit Society by harming, in any way whatsoever, the Individuals of which that Society consists. No, we are not the Government, but we are Society–at least in the sense that anything is Society. But, really, Society as an entity doesn’t even exist. There is no Society to which we are or should be subordinate. There are only Individuals. And no one has the right to make any Individual make sacrifices to benefit other Individuals, even if “more Individuals” would be benefited than harmed. 

It quickly comes back to a matter of Liberty and the notion that the State has the right to force a minority to do what the Majority thinks is right. The Majority, having become convinced that Society exists and that it is the right and duty of the State to harm Individuals, if it must, in order to benefit Society, force this notion on the Minority, and this is morally wrong. Forcing anyone to do this or that because one thinks it would be morally right for others to do this or that is never morally right. It is morally wrong to force someone to do something, and the notion that it is the right of the State to harm Individuals in order to benefit Society is exactly this: the notion that it is the right of the State to harm Individuals in order to benefit other Individuals. It is Taxation and Welfare all over again.

All Related

As it hopefully has been demonstrated, all of these things are related, and they all ultimately stem from the failure of Individuals to take responsibility for themselves, their decisions, and their actions. This failure has resulted in Taxation, State-sanctioned murder, the loss of rights, the loss of Liberty, the loss of our right to own ourselves, the loss of property rights, the tendency of Individuals to identify themselves with the State rather than identifying themselves with themselves, and the notion that the Individual is subordinate to the non-existent Society.

I have here demonstrated that Taxation amounts to Theft and the use of force, that State-sanctioned murder is still murder, that we have lost numerous rights, that we have lost substantial amounts of Liberty, that we have lost the right to own ourselves, that we have lost the right to own property, that Individuals have the tendency to identify themselves with the State, and that many Individuals believe that the Individual’s needs and rights aren’t as important as those of the Society’s. I have also explained why all these things happened. The inability of Individuals to take Individual Responsibility has led to all of these things, and taking Individual Responsibility is, at this point, the only way to reverse any of these trends–and all of these trends need to be reversed.

In Part One, I demonstrated the basic principles of the Free Market and how Welfare programs do more harm than good–and how State-run Welfare could easily be replaced by the much more efficient and productive Free Market. I also demonstrated in Part One that we are not the Government, so if you need clarification on why I assert that we have no right to claim the successes of the State as our successes, then refer to Part One for that clarification.

In Part Three, I intend to address Anarchy, what it means, and how it functions. In short, I plan to explain what a Society which has no State looks like and how a State-less Society handles things likes murder, theft, and other things that are considered morally wrong. I will also explain how an Anarchic Society does not mean lawlessness or chaos, nor does it mean that we would have no ground on which to stand in punishing murderers, thieves, and rapists, that these are pieces of propaganda put out by dishonest intellectuals to cause people to reject Anarchy out of ignorance.

 

* Sometimes the death penalty is given. I am not an advocate of “eye for an eye justice” and I don’t think that murdering someone in punishment is any more morally right than the actions of the murderer. Moreover, the evidence shows that the death penalty is used disproportionately to harm minorities and, particularly, black Americans. This is the very reason why Ron Paul recanted his position on the death penalty. It was absurd to hear people accuse Ron Paul of being racist, considering that his position on marijuana (and other drugs) is that outlawing these substances has disproportionately harmed minority communities and resulted in a disproportionate amount of black Americans being imprisoned for decades over trivial offenses that harmed no one; and considering also that Ron Paul ceased his support of the death penalty when he learned that it is used most against black Americans and that white murderers are sentenced to life in prison more often than death and black murderers are more often sentenced to death instead of life in prison. Ron Paul objected both to the death penalty and drug laws because they harm black Americans disproportionately; how can anyone justify calling him a racist?

** The American Prison System is fucked and is a bastion of evil and tyranny. In order to fix it, we must reassert the rights of criminals. Yes, they committed crimes–but they’re still People. However, because of wording in the Thirteenth Amendment, once a person is guilty of a crime, they can and do become Slaves to the State:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. [emphasis added]

Slavery is never morally acceptable, and you should be able to agree with that. Involuntary servitude and slavery are never acceptable, no matter what a person has done. And this issue is more serious than you’d think, considering that we’ve given the State the sole authority to dictate what is and isn’t a crime and we’ve also allowed the State to run trials. In the modern American Justice system, trials are not by a jury. People instead receive Trials by the State. Let me explain.

We still have jury trials in most cases in the United States and it is up to the jury to deliver a verdict of Guilty or Not Guilty. However, Jurors are now sworn to deliver a verdict “according only to the evidence” and this means that whoever decides what evidence is allowed and what evidence isn’t ultimately is in control of the verdict. By taking this oath, Jurors ultimately become as predictable as computer programs: feed the information to them and they will deliver a result which depends entirely upon the information you feed them. As surely as 2x + 4y = 22 when you feed in the information that x = 3 and y = 4, the jury’s verdict becomes Guilty or Not Guilty when you feed in certain information. Having sworn themselves to consider only the evidence, Jurors will deliver a verdict that can be predicted with precision and certainty, so long as certain evidence is given to them. 

And who controls what information is allowed to the jury and what evidence is not? The State controls what evidence is admitted. Judges are part of the State apparatus, and many judges have agendas, as demonstrated by the FISA Courts and the revelation that many of these judges have an interest in simply approving whatever requests are made. Judges are not members of the People; they are members of the State, of the Judicial Branch. The State includes all branches and all quasi-government agencies. It is an inescapble conclusion that the Judicial Branch is part of the Government, because… well, the Judicial Branch is a part of the Government.

As such, we are allowing the State to dictate what evidence is admitted into trials. Since Jurors are sworn to deliver a verdict that depends entirely on the available evidence, the State ultimately controls what verdict is delivered. If Jurors deliver verdicts based only on the available evidence, then whoever controls what evidence is available controls the verdict. And that is where the American Justice System has gone wrong. Let ALL evidence be admitted, and let the Jury decide what evidence is valid and what evidence is not. We must not allow the State to control verdicts by binding Jurors to oaths and then restricting whatever evidence they desire. That is not a trial by Jury; it is a trial by the State using the Jury as a method of carrying out the State’s wishes. Juries, in effect, unwittingly become Puppets of the State. I urge you, my fellow Americans, to add the addendum to the oath that you will deliver a verdict according to the evidence “only under the condition that all evidence, no matter how tangential, is admitted.” If we do not require this, then we allow the State to dictate the verdict. And, in the long run, this will yield very bad results. This is, after all, how most Chinese trials go: the State doesn’t allow evidence that would go against the verdict the State desires. We already have a mechanism in place which will allow our own Government to do just that. We need to dismantle the mechanism before the Government “starts” doing this (if they haven’t already–we wouldn’t know, after all, if we weren’t being given relevant information because someone had an agenda and wanted to see a specific verdict).

Anarchy’s Benefits, Part 1

I wrote this about two years ago, I think; it’s a five-part series showing, more or less, how I evolved from “Libertarian” to “Anarchist,” as I went into the idea with the plan of tearing the idea of anarchocapitalism to pieces. But I quickly realized that, far from being unstable, it was absolutely brilliant, and by a wide margin the best solution.

In the following blog, a few things need to be clarified and defined.

  • The State is the collective governmental body which oversees a given society. The State is a collective whole which, in the United States, consists of the Federal Government, all of its branches, and all pseudo-governmental agencies such as the Federal Reserve.
  • The Society is the collective body of People. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that Societies do not require the existence of a State; the existence of a Society is independent of whether or not the Society has a Government. Any group of people of any size who work together, whether voluntarily or by being forced, is a Society.
  • Once a Society has a State over it, the two collectively are the Nation. That is, the Nation is a Society and its Government.

Note that this creates two separate bodies within any nation: the Society and its Government. This seems to contradict the general perception and “common knowledge” that, in a democracy, “we are the government.” Indeed, I’ve said in the past that “we are the government,” usually as a way of allocating blame properly to the People who allow its Government to do something which is morally wrong (such as the imprisonment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War 2). It has come to my attention, thanks to the work of Murray Rothbard, that this is nonsense. We are not the government, and this is readily apparent when you consider the use of force by the government to achieve its ends.

If we are the government, then nothing the government can do to me counts as making me do something against my will. If we are the government, then if the government kills me, it is a suicide. “But, Anarchist Shemale, you’re making a logical fallacy! If you are conscripted and sent to fight in Iraq against your will, it still is ‘the government’ forcing you to do it–it’s not you volunteering to go (for obvious reasons). You’re only a small part of the government, as is each of us.”

Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head, and the counter here demonstrates that we are not the government after all. If we have 100 people in our Nation, and 5 of those people in a democratically elected Government, then if those 5 people force the other 95 to fight in the army, it doesn’t count as the 95 people volunteering, because “we are the government” means, really, that “we elect our leaders.” It doesn’t mean that we actually are the government; it means only that we, in theory, can impact the government substantially through the use of Representatives, or that we can actually ourselves “be” the government by being ourselves elected. It is, of course, now possible (thanks to the Internet) for a true Democracy to actually exist, but this point is irrelevant to the topic at hand. We are not a Democracy; we are a Republic with democratically elected representatives. There is a substantial difference, but I’m not going to explain it.

But there is no justification for equating “having a representative” with yourself being a “part of the government”; it is a false equivalency. Having amount of influence over Representatives doesn’t guarantee or imply that our desires will be catered to, and no one expects it to mean that. There are too many People with too many different opinions for this idea that “we are our representatives” to hold any weight. Even if a given representative always had 99% of their people in agreement with the representative, then there is still a 1% minority that is clearly not the government, and any disagreement with the majority is going to be unaddressed in a democratic republic.

Representatives, furthermore, want to get re-elected. For one reason or another, Representatives almost always want to be re-elected, and, as their constituents are much more localized and concentrated than a Presidential candidate’s, there is considerably more accountability for Senators and Representatives to abide the will of their constituents. Presidents very rarely have to worry about what the majority of Americans want: they can only be re-elected once in the first place, and a 51% majority of Americans means nothing in the American System–see the 2000 Presidential Election, wherein the Electoral College thwarted the will of Americans and hardly a ripple went through our nation. It is for this reason–the desire for re-election–that Representatives and Senators always listen to the 51% and the 99% and never the 49% or the 1%.

Anyway, Representatives generally obey the will of their constituents, and the only reliable way they can do this is by frequently polling their constituents, holding town halls and other meetings, and just generally knowing their area and what the majority of their constituents want. There’s no need for Roger Wicker to poll Mississippians to learn what the majority thinks about gun control, but he (and other representatives) will gladly send out probing emails and hold town-hall-style meetings to learn the desires of their constituents and act in accordance.

The problem is obviously that, even if it was the case that Representatives consistently polled their constituents to learn what the majority wanted (something they obviously don’t do), and acted as true Representatives by always making their decisions in accordance with the results of their polls, then what we have is what Plato recognized as Democracy’s greatest failing: a dictatorship over the few by the many.

Representation is, then, fundamentally flawed. Even if we did have a true Representative System (which we do not) and even if our representatives did constantly learn our desires (which they do not) and act in accordance with our desires (which they do not), then the system is still one that is not to be desired by any lover of freedom and liberty (and it is not); it is an unjust tyranny over the few by the many (which it is). In such a system, whatever 51% of the People tell their Representative to do is what their Representative does, and the other 49% have to go along with whatever is decided.

Any system which has the inherent capacity to alienate and violate the rights of almost half of any Society is fundamentally flawed and undesirable. The only difference between the Representative System and the despotic system of kings, nobilities, and fiefs, is that the Ruling Caste is made up of a larger portion of the People. Their power over others, however, is equal; in a Representative System, any Majority has the same amount of power over the Minority as King Henry VIII did over England. And that is a flawed system.

In order to address these flaws and to safeguard the American People against the Tyranny of the Majority (which the Founders understood as a problem, as this fundamental problem of Democracy had been recognized since Plato) they chose a Democratic Constitutional Republic. The Majority would choose the Representatives, and the Representatives would then act in accordance with the Majority, so long as they did not violate the constraints placed on them by the Constitution. After all, if the Constitution did not restrain the power of the Majority over the Minority, then nothing would stop Congress from declaring that all Red Headed woman (or any minority) (or all women who think that women should be allowed to vote–this is said only to point out that minorities also exist because of ideological and philosophical differences, not just because of racial and other physical properties) would forced to work as concubines for the President and Supreme Court Justices. The Majority (which can be an ideological majority, such as those who think women should not be allowed to vote) simply cannot dictate the Minority, because if they do, then the Democracy is no different from the Monarchy.

The Constitution has clearly failed. Not only has the Constitution’s value been lost to the complacency induced by time, thereby allowing the state to take for itself far more power than was ever intended, but the failure also allowed the Majority to take for itself far more power than was ever intended. If the Majority of Americans support Welfare and Taxation, then there is no chance of Welfare and Taxation to ever be repealed or undone, even though this means the Minority who is against Welfare and Taxation will have the right to private property grossly violated in the process and will, in effect, become slaves of the State.

If the Majority of Americans support the President’s claim that he can send the military to police the world without a declaration of war by Congress, then the President effectively has that power. In modern America, small disputes and trivial issues often have it pointed out that the Majority doesn’t have the right to enforce its beliefs onto the Minority, but when it comes to fundamental questions of policy, there is no debate and the Minority’s opinions are thrown out the window (under one misunderstood or deliberately misapplied label or another), and the Minority is told that it simply has to put up with whatever the Majority wants to do, often because “we put these people into office.”

Again, Welfare is a terrific example. It is automatically presumed by the Majority that Welfare for the Elderly (in the form of Medicare and Social Security) is a positive and desirable thing and that, at most, we just aren’t currently doing it right. The Majority has no intention of discarding either of these systems unless it is to replace them with better [government]*^* systems. The idea that it is the duty of the State to steal some portion of the productivity of the Working Class and redistribute the confiscated wealth among a non-Working Class is assumed, and no questions which would dispute this assumption are tolerated with any amount of honest consideration. Moreover, in regard to Social Security and Medicare, it is automatically assumed that if we did not have these systems, then the Elderly would starve, become homeless, and go without medical treatment. The past 10,000 years of Society are completely disregarded by these beliefs. 

In no Society in the history of homo sapien have we allowed our Elderly to be stripped of their homes, their possessions, their health, and to starve to death [It should also be noted that the United States is the only country in the world which worries about this happening, because we are the only country in the world which is so out of touch with reality, decency, and common sense that it’s even a possibility]. Our species has always cared for its elderly and its sick. The idea that we should abolish Social Security and Medicare is not the idea that we should allow the Elderly to go untreated or starve to death; it’s the idea that the current Social system we have in place to take care of them is not working (and is morally wrong) and that we have, in the past, used better systems–and we can use better systems today.

Libertarians do not dispute that we have a duty to take care of the Elderly. In fact, no one disputes this. What we dispute is the idea that it is productive to allow the State to force people to do this when history has shown, for thousands of years, that Societies voluntarily take much better care of the Elderly than any State ever could. If you feel that it is your responsibility to contribute to the well-being of Elderly People who you don’t even know, then private Elderly Welfare charities exist for you to do just that. However, the vast majority of Americans would not labor under the hopelessly utopian fantasy that it’s their moral duty to take care of random strangers; most Americans instead would consider it their duty to take care of their own Elderly relatives (and perhaps any neighbors who may need it). And having the 15%+ of their income back in their hands–instead of the State’s–to be used for any purpose they want, including caring for their Elderly Relatives, would certainly make that a lot easier.

Moreover, the Free Market handles these things in ways that we can demonstrate now without theorizing about what Americans would do without Medicare and Social Security to act as Moral Hazards. The next time you are shopping, ask the clerk whether they offer a Senior Citizen’s Discount. You will almost always receive a, “Yes.” What is this phenomenon, if it is not the Free Market taking steps to care for the Elderly? 

Indeed, it is so common for a place to offer a Senior’s Discount that I’ve seen the Elderly become outraged when they visit a place that does not offer such a Discount. We will only see more of this if we dial back our taxes by eliminating Medicare and Social Security. If corporations are willing now to give 10% discounts to the Elderly and that is with the State taking huge portions of everybody’s money, then when you make the State stop stealing that huge portion of their money, their profit margin increases; with an increased profit margin, they can give Seniors greater discounts. To that end, every business would have its profit margin increased–giving them funds to bring more employees up to full-time, to use the latest technologies, to hire consultants to improve efficiency, to hire more workers, and to, if they so choose, provide their employees with extra perks (thereby allowing them to attract better workers), and this includes those companies not offering a 10% discount to Senior Citizens.

What sounds better to you? Forcefully stealing 10% of everyone’s money in order to give money to the Seniors or letting everyone keep their money and spend it how they wish? Before you answer, you should keep in mind a few things.

  • At least thirty cents of every dollar spent by the Federal Government is eaten by waste, inefficiency, fraud,and bureaucracy. For some departments and systems, this percentage lost to waste is higher (Medicaid being a prime example–up to 50% of money allocated for Medicaid is lost to waste). http://www.smpresource.org/docs/The_Sentinel_May2012_HBABCs_Fraud_Estimates.pdf lists that Eighty BILLION dollars of Medicare money is lost to fraud each year. It is extraordinarily difficult–if not altogether impossible–to be defrauded of your money when you are personally spending it on your grandmother’s doctor visits and prescriptions [or giving it to her to do it herself; it doesn’t matter].
  • It follows that, by median estimates, a family would really need to spend only 70 cents for each dollar spent by the Federal Government to take care of these things.
  • Moreover, because of the reproductive nature of humans and family structures in American Society, there are typically two to three working adults available to split the financial burden of an Elderly Relative. This is because the average American has 2.5 kids (in the past, this was actually much higher). These kids will get married, which doubles the amount of people from whom the financial resources can be drawn. A typical woman of 75 will have five working children, and zero to ten working grandchildren, all of whom can voluntarily chip in to help take care of Gran-Gran^^*.
  • Because the State will not be sucking away 10% to 35% of the income of these family members, if we assume an average salary of $25,000 (accounting for working teens and young adults), then between five adults, that is $12,500 that can be used to take care of Grandma. And since they can get with that $12,500 the same amount of care which it would have taken the State $17,857 to accomplish the same thing*, ol’ “Gran-Gran” might not be doing too badly after all.*^^
  • The above $12,500 is acquired simply by allowing adults to keep their own money and to spend it on whatever they choose. No American Family would allow their Grandmothers and Grandparents to go without medical care. Nor would any American Family allow their Grandmothers and Grandparents to starve, go homeless, or anything else. However, this figure ($12,500) does not include the incredible jump in wealth and prosperity which the entire country would experience if we accepted Free Market Principles (including a commodity currency). Competition creates wealth. 

It’s important to remember that when we talk about getting rid of Social Security and Medicare, all we’re saying is that the responsibility to care for your grandparents… should be on YOU, not us. I have my own grandparents I would take care of. So do you. There’s no reason you should be taking care of my grandparents–who you’ve never met–and there’s no reason I should be taking care of your grandparents.

We’re simply saying: GET RID OF THE MIDDLE MAN. Because the middle man is incompetent, wasteful, bureaucratic, inefficient, naive, and can only accomplish his tasks through theft and the use of force. We aren’t telling you to let your grandparents starve or be untreated for illness. We’re saying: TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN DAMNED GRANDPARENTS. 

Social Security and Medicare amount to this: The State steals money from you and then uses that money they stole from you to take care of your grandparents. Does that seem right to you? Does that seem efficient to you? Does that seem like a good idea to you? No, no, and no. It makes thousands of times more sense for you to take care of your own grandparents. If the State stops stealing from you, then you’ll have the free money to do just that.

Counter 1: What About Old People Who Have No Family?

In the rare event that we come across an Old Person who has no family who can take care of them, then we must rely on the benevolence of Society to care for that Old Person. What is the issue with this? If there was a private (“private” in the sense of “not related to Government”) charity to which you could donate some of your money, wouldn’t you do it? Even if you are a complete dick and wouldn’t donate $5 a month to such a charity, there are still churches and secular institutions that collect voluntary contributions and would do it anyway. No Church would allow its elderly members to go without health care or starve or go homeless. And there are many secular institutions that would be just as appalled by the idea. And that’s only necessary if you yourself wouldn’t contribute–plenty of people would. And it would be entirely voluntary.

When you stop stealing from people, you find out that people don’t need motivation to do the right thing. People don’t need a reward to entice them into giving $5 a month to a charity that provides health care to the elderly. And when you stop stealing from them, and you’ve stopped forcing them to do things that you believe would be morally right for them to do, then they have more money they can use to make these contributions. And if your concern is being morally right…

Then you have no justification for supporting Welfare systems like Social Security and Medicare in the first place. It may be morally right to contribute to the care of the elderly. But you must remember that you believing it to be morally right doesn’t give you any authority to force other people to do what you think is morally right. And that’s precisely what the Taxation/Welfare system are. “If it’s morally right for me to contribute a portion of my money to the care of the elderly, then it must be morally right for me to FORCE everyone else to contribute a portion of their money!”

See? That logic doesn’t hold up, does it? Forcing people to do what you think is the right thing… is never itself the morally right thing to do. Forcing someone to do anything is always morally wrong, and it doesn’t matter what exactly you’re forcing them to do. Forcing someone to do anything is morally wrong. And if you can’t agree with that, then you are the reason that Liberty has died. It’s a simple statement.

If you support Medicare, Social Security, or any other form of Government Welfare (including Obamacare), then don’t bother to comment this post unless you begin your comment with, “It’s morally right to sometimes force other people to do something.” If you comment to dispute any part of the Welfare discussion and you do not begin your comment with that sentence, then whatever else your comment says, it will not be approved. You have been warned**. 

It is a false equivalence that “doing the right thing” is morally right, so “forcing someone else to do the right thing” is also morally right. In a Free Society, the use of force is loathed, detested, and contrary to the principles of Freedom. This is where the Non-Aggression Pact enters the picture. In a Free Society, the Non-Aggression Pact is critical to the continuance of Liberty and Prosperity; it is, simply, an acknowledgement by Society and all its Members that it is morally wrong and unacceptable to initiate any form of violence. It doesn’t mean you can’t fight back. It means only that you can’t start fights. 

I can’t speak for everyone, but even with the State taking about 45% of all my money (being a small business owner, I am hit really hard… You wouldn’t believe it. Quite often, by the time the money reaches me personally, it has been taxed three or more times), I still make contributions to charities: The Mises Institute, the Foundation for Rational Economic Education, the United Way, the Animal Liberation Front, The Pirate Bay^*, and the Campaign For Liberty. The key thing to note is that I and I alone dictate and decide to which charities, organizations, and causes I give my money. The State doesn’t get to decide I should give amount of money to the Mises Institute, and you don’t get to decide that I should give amount of money to whatever cause you support–even if that cause is caring for Senior Citizens who you don’t personally know.

Voluntary Yields Greater Success Than Force

In fact, Force yields almost no success. We see this all over the world. When the World Bank steps in to a third world country with the intention of “ending poverty,” two things always happen. This has been documented and demonstrated over and over and over. Any time the World Bank steps into a country with the intention of “ending poverty,” poverty ALWAYS increases and the wealth gap between the rich and the poor ALWAYS increases. Well, not “always.” But the success rate is like 3%. I don’t remember. You can watch the documentary “Zeitgeist: Addendum”*^ if you’re curious about the World Bank and its ineffectiveness.

Knowledge of this general failure is also causing many people to speak out against Obamacare. If the State intends to lower the costs of health care or health insurance, then the only way it can accomplish this… is by getting the health out of the fields. Ooh… That was really bad. I’m sorry about that.

The best way to lower the costs of health care and health insurance is not to pass laws but to repeal laws; the way is not to intervene more in the health care field, but to intervene less. Ron Paul has noted on many occasions that in American Government, Failure is Success. While I’m not going to devote the time today in explaining what has caused the costs of health care to skyrocket, the blame lies almost entirely on Government intervention in the health care field in the first place. And when the Government’s failure to do any good was obvious and resulted in insanely high health care costs, what happened? The People demanded more intervention by the Government! “Hey, you fucked this up by messing with it! Now mess with it more and try to fix it!” Have no doubt, America. The Affordable Care Act will NOT help average Americans get health care. It will do the EXACT opposite of everything we want it to do. And when it fails, the Government will tell us that they need to intervene MORE in order to fix the even MORE broken system that THEY broke. If Obamacare is meant to bring health insurance to more Americans who currently don’t have it, then you know with certainty that in a few years, people who NOW have health care will NOT have it or the health care’s value will be so low that they might as well not have it.

It’s not that the Government can’t do anything right. It’s that if they want to do something right, they have to try to do something wrong. And if the Government wanted to do something wrong in the health care field, what would they do? What’s the most wrong thing they could do about the insanely high health care costs? That’s right: they could back completely the hell out of the health care field. Doing nothing is the most “wrong” thing they could attempt to do. And, interestingly, when it comes to any matter dealing with economics, having the Government do nothing will always lead to the right thing. Having the Government do nothing (“do nothing” includes ceasing all interventions in that market) will lower health care costs, because it was only ever regulations and restrictions that drove them up in the first place. Get rid of those regulations and restrictions, and what happens?

That’s right: Health Insurance becomes a matter of INSURANCE again. No one in the United States considers health insurance to be insurance. And that’s what caused the problem. We became convinced–mostly by lobbyists of huge insurance companies who benefited from the regulations–that we could use our health insurance for every trivial thing. Got to do a routine checkup? Good–you’ve got insurance. Got to get some penicillin? Good–you’ve got insurance. Got to get a physical? Good–you’ve got insurance. And yet… we all know that this attitude would break every other insurance market out there. Moreover, attempting to apply this attitude to any other type of insurance would quickly put us back in our place.

If you attempted to use your auto insurance over every trivial thing that happened, your insurance company would deny most of your claims. And if they didn’t deny your claim, they would raise your monthly premium. And if they didn’t raise your monthly premium, they would drop you entirely and no longer cover you. That’s why people don’t try to use their auto insurance when they run over a nail or when they have a fender bender. People tend to use Insurance only for emergencies. And that is what Insurance is for.

But, no, when we turn to health insurance, suddenly it’s okay to use the insurance for stupid stuff. And do you know why it’s okay to use your health insurance for trivial, non-emergency things? It’s because Government Regulations prevent health insurance companies from denying your claims; it’s because Government Regulations prevent health insurance companies from raising your monthly premium; and it’s because Government Regulations prevent health insurance companies from dropping you. Government Regulations have tied the hands of health insurance companies and have prevented them from using the methods of Insurance. Because insurance companies had to be so careful to avoid looking like they raised your prices or dropped you out of discrimination or because you developed a chronic illness, they could only offset the losses they suddenly incurred from everyone using their insurance for trivial matters by raising everyone’s prices. And doctors and hospitals returned by raising their prices; we’ve known for more than a decade that when you tell the doctors you have insurance, they are far more likely to run expensive diagnostic tests on you. All of this combined together to raise the costs of Health Insurance, and all of it happened because of Government Regulations and Government intervention in the Free Market.

And you expect me to believe that more Government Regulations and more Government intervention in the Free Market is going to help the problem? No, America: the problem is only going to get worse. The more the Government intervenes, the worse the problem will get; the worse the problem gets, the more the Government intervenes. At some point, the system will become so broken that there are only two choices: Socialized Medicine or a return to Free Market Principles.

And we will choose Socialized Medicine. Because we are terrified of the repercussions of the Free Market; we’ve been brainwashed into believing that Free Markets are dangerous and that we need Government Regulation to protect us from the corrupt corporations. And they point to places like Monsanto to evidence this.

Let’s Use Monsanto As an Example

Monsanto does a lot of really fucked up things, but let’s focus on its soy beans. Monsanto makes the poison Round-Up and they also own the copyright (see below–I’m vocally anti-copyright) on a special type of soybean that has been genetically modified to be resistant to Round-Up. Monstanto has a 97% market share in the soybean supply market; 97% of farmers who grow soy get their soybeans from Monsanto. Monstanto also requires that all farmers return their beans at the end of the season and unleash hell onto any farmer who doesn’t. Monstanto has people cruising through Iowa and other states every single day to find anyone who is violating any of their copyrights. They are ruthless and farmers simply cannot fight against them.

What is the root problem here, though? Is it Monsanto? Or is it the copyright law and the inability of farmers to purchase other soybeans of equal quality from other corporations that wouldn’t be so evil? Exactly. What Monsanto is doing is clearly wrong, but the farmers have no one else to whom they can turn. Monsanto has no competition, and Monsanto has no competition because of Government intervention in the free market. In a Free Market, not only could the farmers keep the beans that they purchased (actually, they’d be able to keep the offspring of the beans they purchased, but they should be able to do that, too), but any enterprising individual could buy some of the beans from Monsanto and become a supplier himself. Rest assured that if Monsanto had competition, they would not be Evil. And the only thing preventing Monsanto from having competition… is Government Intervention in the Free Market. The Soybean market is begging for competition. There is a huge gap for a non-evil corporation, and those 97% of farmers, all of whom hate Monsanto and consider it the most evil corporation in the world, would immediately switch to the new competitor and would tell Monsanto to get fucked.

The Free Market would solve the Monsanto problem almost instantly. It wouldn’t take more than a year. Within a year from the end of Government Intervention, Monsanto would simply be a bad memory.

“But What About All the Employees? What About Their Copyrights?”

In answer to the question about copyrights, look at what Monsanto’s copyright has caused! If you’re ignorant on the subject, watch the documentary “Food, Inc.” It addresses the evils of both Monsanto and Tyson, both of which are steeped in absolute Evil. If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say that Monsanto and Tyson are steeped in Absolute Evil, then you really need to watch the documentary, because Tyson provides almost all of the poultry you consume and some of their practices are unforgivable–even to non-vegans and non-vegetarians, Tyson’s actions are simply Evil. And Monsanto… They’re the single most evil corporation on the planet.

What is keeping these evil corporations in power? Surely none of us would choose to work with or for an evil corporation if there was a non-evil competitor. No matter how much money we save by working with Monsanto, if there was competition, everyone familiar with Monsanto would abandon the corporation instantly. The only thing keeping these evil corporations in business is the fact that they don’t have any competition. The Free Market DEPENDS on competition and the idea that everyone is free to compete on a level playing field with everyone else. This competition creates Abundance, Productivity, and Prosperity in ways that we cannot imagine. They also destroy Evil. Monsanto couldn’t be evil if there was competition, because no one would work with them and their evil ways if they could avoid it.

So what about those employees? Yes, what about the people who are actively taking part in the absolutely EVIL practices of Monsanto? What about these people who are knowingly and willingly committing acts that any sane person recognizes as evil or, at the very least, despicable? 

In case you missed the subtlety, FUCK THEM. I can’t be nice about this. If a corporation routinely does Evil and competition rises and, by not being evil, threatens to put the Evil corporation out of business, then let the fate fall upon them which they set for themselves. Let them reap what they have sown. Let them sleep in the beds they have made. Let them lie in the graves they have diggen.***

You’re not really arguing for the continued existence of an evil corporation, are you? 

“No, Anarchist Shemale, But Not All of Monsanto’s Employees Are Evil”

Then they shouldn’t be working there. It’s that simple. If you’re taking any part in evil actions, then you are committing evil actions. It’s that simple. If your corporation is doing things of which you do not approve, then you leave that corporation. And in a Free Market, where Competition, Liberty, and the Right to Property are the reigning principles, then you will have other corporations for which you can work. If you choose not to leave, then you’re choosing to commit actions of evil–in which case you deserve the unemployment that will fall on you when the non-evil corporation takes all your clients.

“But… That’s… That’s…”

That’s what? That’s making people take responsibility for their own decisions and actions? How inexcusable and barbaric of me! Yes, I believe that an individual bears the responsibility for their own decisions and actions and that they should, therefore, receive whatever consequences result from those actions and decisions. I don’t believe that people who comply with evil should be able to avoid the consequences of that, no. I believe people should be accountable for the things they do. And, like it or not, if a person chooses to stay and take part in the evil actions of a corporation, then they are choosing to take part in evil. There’s no way around this logical connection. And, having chosen to take part in evil, they should face whatever Free Market consequences fall on them for that.

And, since it’s a Free Market, anyone who doesn’t want to take part in evil actions can leave and go to a different corporation–to one that isn’t evil. And, since it’s a Free Market, anyone who doesn’t want to make an evil corporation richer is free to do business with a competitor (so long as they don’t violate any contracts into which they entered voluntarily and without coercion). And, since it’s a Free Market, Monsanto would no longer be able to corner the market, maintain a horrendously unfair advantage, and would no longer be able to stifle all competition with lawsuits and the theft of property.

To Be Continued…

This blog simply lays the framework of the Free Market and clarifies what the Free Market can do and how it does it. Understanding the role and power of the Free Market is critical if we ever want to prosper or be free again. There are four principles here that must be inviolate and that must be understood before we continue, so if any of these four principles are still unclear to you by the time you’ve finishes this blog, please leave a comment (this supersedes the requirements noted above) so that I can clarify. These four principles are:

  • Liberty / Individual Responsibility (they go hand-in-hand)
  • Right to Private Property
  • Right to Contract
  • The Free Market and Competition

If these four principles are clearly understood, then go on to “Anarchocapitalism Part 2″ to continue my analysis. Note that I have not written “Part the Second” yet and will post a link as soon as I do. Probably tomorrow. Maybe not. In a few days, for sure. Part the Second will focus more on the “anarcho” part, whereas this Part focused mostly on the “capitalism” part. Part Three will likely explain the concept as a whole, putting parts one and two together. 

* I think I did that wrong… Well, if the math was done incorrectly, you still get my point.

** I despise euphemisms and dishonest intellectualism. If you stand in support of any Welfare system, then you think it’s morally right to steal from someone so that the money can be spent on what you think is the right place for it to be spent. This is why this blog has this requirement: to force you out of your dishonest intellectualism and euphemisms and make any would-be-commenters face what it is they really believe. Yes, Taxation is force. It is, therefore, theft. Yes, Morality is subjective (and one of the tenets of our nation is that no one’s morality may be forced on another person), and as such, it is not an Objective Truth that it’s “morally good” to care for the elderly. That means it’s your system of morality that dictates it’s morally good to do so, and someone may have a system of morality which does not agree with you. There is no difference between Taxation to pay for Medicare and taxation to pay for abortions or taxation to pay for gay marriage. They are all stealing from others to pay for the actions that someone else thinks is morally right–and anyone who disagrees has their opinion completely discarded and is forced to go along with the system anyway, despite their beliefs. This is the very definition of tyranny. 

^* I read a book last night called, “Against Intellectual Property” by N. Stephan Kinsella that, I am pleased to say, presented a cogent, economical, and Libertarian argument against the entire concept of Intellectual Property. As an artist (and musician… and fiction writer… and poet… and non-fiction writer… and game designer… and world designer [D&D3.5/Pathfinder]…), I’ve argued against Intellectual Property and asinine copyright laws frequently in the past, but I never had anything other than Reason to stand with me on the subject. Now I have Economics, Liberty, and the Right to Private Property on my side in standing against the entire idea of Intellectual Property. As I’ve said numerous times in the past, I don’t download music/games/movies/whatever because I’m against rewarding artists for their effort and creativity. Once I experience a piece of art in question, I, like almost every other downloader, will not hesitate to pay the artist for the work. When I downloaded Orcs Must Die! 2 and found it to be one of the funnest games I’ve ever played, I immediately purchased the game, even though I “technically” already had it.

I believe that the asinine idea that we can copyright sound waves, patterns of light frequencies displayed in a specific manner, and strings of words and prevent others from accessing them fully (even if they purchased them) is related to our asinine belief that we can make Nature illegal. When we made shrooms (psilocybin cubensis), marijuana, and peyote illegal, that is exactly what we did: we made Nature illegal. What arrogance! Nowhere in America is our arrogance displayed more clearly than in our attempt to make NATURE illegal. And the idea that a pattern of sound waves can similarly be owned by an Individual is equally arrogant–or a string of words or an assortment of particles that reflect and absorb different frequencies of light arranged in a specific way. It’s asinine and arrogant.

*^ Zeitgeist: Addendum is the last of the documentary series that I would recommend, and I really don’t recommend it fullyZeitgeist was a terrific, powerful, and eye-opening documentary (despite its flaws and exaggerations), and it has a Companion Guide which can be downloaded if you want to fact-check it (you should want to). However, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward just went completely off the rails and the series went from attempting to spread information to attempting to spread Communism. Don’t get me wrong: I actually don’t object to Communism out of ignorance (and I don’t object to it entirely; I object only to our attempts to mix Capitalism with Communism and Socialism). But the Zeitgeist Series has become a launchpad for Communist tendencies and Communist goals. It is no longer worth watching. Peter Joseph’s agenda is no longer to spread truth or information; his agenda is now to spread the idea that Communism would solve the world’s problems. And it is THAT to which I object.

*^* It should be noted that Libertarians and Free Market advocates do, in fact, propose an alternative system which would replace Social Security and Medicare. It is, though, a voluntary system, and not a system that achieves its ends through the use of force, violence, coercion, and dishonest intellectualism. People who advocate the Government providing Welfare are, in fact, asserting that they’d rather force people to do what they think is right than they would allow people to choose to do what they think is right. We propose a Free Market System that relies on volunteers contributing in goodwill, instead of relying on Government Guns to force helpless subjects to do things, often in spite. The notion that only force can effectively provide the needy with care is absurd and proven wrong by the whole of human history; force has always been inferior as a means of achieving goals which could also be achieved through strictly voluntary means. The great success of our military has much more to do with the fact that it is all volunteer (for the moment) than it does anything else. Career soldiers who entered the military of their own volition are much more effective warriors than are those who were forcefully conscripted.

*** That is meant as a joke, but for some reason… “diggen” seems like it should be a word. So does “embiggen” (to make bigger), for that matter–“embiggen” was (created?) popularized by The Simpsons. And judging from Google Chrome’s spellcheck feature, “embiggen” is now recognized as a legitimate word. I propose “diggen” should receive the same treatment. “I dug a hole” and “I have diggen there before.”

^^* No, I don’t and have never called any of my grandparents “Gran-Gran”.

*^^ Especially since in a society where Individual Responsibility is recognized as a thing critically important, Gran-Gran would have used her 401k effectively and combined it with an IRA or two to save up plenty of money through her 45 years of working and would, as long as inflation didn’t steal all her money (which it is, in the U.S. economy), be quite capable of taking care of herself. But if not–hey, what are friends and family for?

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In closing, I’d like to ask a few questions. Do you really believe…

  • that allowing competition would be a bad thing in any market or sector?
  • that changing the length of a foot or yard could somehow make a piece of wood longer? That’s what our money system effectively is and does. A Dollar is simply a foot; it’s just a measurement of labor and resources. That’s it. It has no purpose or value beyond that. Those who believe that creating more money (the Fed, Congress, and others who support Quantitative Easing and other inflationary schemes) will create more wealth believe that changing the length of what we know as a foot or yard will somehow give us more wood when we measure it. The fallacy of this is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be pointed out. No matter the size of a foot or yard, the amount of wood we have will not change. No matter the value of a dollar, the amount of resources and productivity we have will not change. Dollars cannot create wealth any more than inches can create wood.
  • that we can trust our Government to do anything?
  • that it’s better to let the State steal x% of your money to spend on something than it would be for you to keep x% of your money to spend it yourself on that same something, eliminating the middle man?
  • that the State has any purpose other than acquiring more power and securing its continued existence?
  • that you are the Government? …or even that the Government cares about you?
  • that Democracy is a good thing?
  • that Regulations serve as a better safeguard against evil corporations than Competition?