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  1. I don't mean a disproportional reaction, so my example wasn't a good one. I meant, would the use of force be justified as a reaction to patent or copyright infringement that occurs outside of an Objectivist society? Let me set up a fanciful example. City A is set up on Callisto as the perfect Objectivist society. City B is set up on Ganymede that is mostly Objectivist, except that it has no intellectual property. If members of City B are able to copy intellectual property from City A, and then sell replicas within City B, or use it in technology in City B, do you believe City A has the moral right to use (judiciously applied and proportional) force to stop it? Why not? What makes it different than a policeman within City A imprisoning a member of City A for doing the same thing? If the difficulty is the practicality of taking force to another society, then imagine that City B is also perfectly pacifist with no military defenses and no way to stop a small raid. It's not about if you could (like with China, you can't without creating bigger problems), it's whether you would assuming that you could. I disagree with the source of rights. To me, they derive from how it is rational to agree not to cause harm to others so that they won't cause harm to me. It's the Golden Rule. Greg Perkins wrote, "...the essential basis of property is not scarcity-- it is production." Again, to me, if we lived in a Star Trek universe and I could duplicate your orange without causing you to lose yours, then you have no right to exclude me from the duplicated orange. Since we don't, and since the only way to gain your orange is to harm you by taking yours away from you, then it's in my rational interest not to do so (so that someone else doesn't steal my apple). It has nothing to do with production, so the entire theory of Perkin's on how to set up the duration of IP doesn't exactly resonate with me. Finally, to me, I don't really see a difference between information that I come across from natural sources (discoveries) versus information that I come across from man-made sources (the internet). Maybe you would call me a pure narcissist because the only morals I recognize are those that are in the interest of what I value. Anyway, I don't think disagreement over premises will lead to anything productive, so it's probably best if I don't participate here. I am still interested to know, however, if my hypothetical society would have to defend itself from your hypothetical society!
  2. After reading Greg Perkins essay, I can only say two things. First, he is much more eloquent than I am in framing my own arguments at the beginning, and second, I disagree with the basic premises of his arguments, and a disagreement over premises doesn't lend itself to a good debate because you're just talking past each other. I do wonder if Objectivists feel they would be justified to for example, invade a country like China that doesn't protect intellectual property and to destroy the means of the people who are infringing on IP there, for example by distributing boot leg Western movies within China with Chinese subtitles?
  3. In the physical property example, I have taken something you had away from you. You don't have it anymore. In the intellectual property example, we both have it. You still have everything that you had before I copied your design. Destroying someone's means of subsistence in and of itself is not immoral, otherwise creating a backhoe that replaces ditch diggers would be immoral. I could be in China and never physically be closer to you than 5,000 miles, so to "defend your property by force" you would, physically speaking, need to be the aggressor and invade and attack me. However, is that really morally justified? Grames, thank you for the links and I apologize for making a duplicate thread. I looked through this sub-forum but not that one. I will read Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal in the near future. Jake Ellison, thank you also for the link to the other thread. I realize my understanding of the Objectivist arguments in favor of IP is flawed, and that is why I looked and posted in "Questions about Objectivism". I did not mean to misrepresent it as a strawman argument, my representation of it at all was only to explain the limits of my understanding of it. In retrospect I should have searched the other sub-forums besides this one. I did not realize that this had been already addressed to the point of people being tired of talking about it. I didn't see a thread about it at all on the first couple of pages in this sub-forum. I am sorry for the mistake. Should I delete this thread?
  4. Well, Disney Corporation is still benefiting from the copyright to Mickey Mouse as if it were the person of Walt Disney. That seems to make it less than impossible. Isn't Atlas Shrugged still copyrighted material? I've read that Leonard Peikoff is Ayn Rand's legal intellectual heir. Is he receiving royalties? Editted: Okay, it's a semantic mix-up in terms of what value means. Granting what you say, however, I still don't understand how the fact of an objects existence gives the creator control over any replica elsewhere in existence, whether for one second or twenty years or forever.
  5. I forgot to say, that I still don't understand how that gives it value from a source other than the valuer. I am under the impression that the source of any value in an object is the object's usefulness to me, not the manner in which its usefulness was created (natural or man-made). The difference in value between pure water and patented Coca-Cola is everything in how I feel about them and nothing about how one is the product of a genius.
  6. DavidOdden alluded to this when he asked, "If you could get away with it, would you steal a government vehicle and sell it for cash on the grounds that you were taxed?" Would you consider that justified? I don't think I would, speaking only for myself. Personally, the moral dilemma to me here is that the money is the taxed productivity of anyone, not necessarily myself. In theory I would like to return it to the government to fund other legitimate purposes, such as the military, police, or courts, or to be refunded to tax-payers otherwise. In reality it won't be. This is interesting, and now it makes me question my current intent to call the VA on Monday and attempt to return the money, out of my deliberately misplaced good faith in the government to act legitimately. Thank you for the quote, it is a new idea for me from Ayn Rand. I had assumed the moral action was not to participate in the welfare state whatsoever, until it chokes you to death, but that sounds a little too close to self-sacrifice.
  7. Property rights are transferred to heirs after death. What is the reason that makes intellectual property different? Why should a patent be limited to 20 years and a copyright to the author's death? Why can't they be transferred like all the rest of the property, indefinitely? The only arguments I've seen against that are utilitarian, in that it would be absurd for Ayn Rand to have to pay the intellectual property heirs of Aristotle in order to publish Atlas Shrugged, and be prevented from doing so if they refused. (I don't mean that as a straw man, but as an absurd example. A more realistic one would be, if Mickey Mouse is intellectual property, what is the reason that eventually he will be in the public domain instead of indefinitely transferred to Walt Disney's heirs for the next ten thousand years?)
  8. This is a timely article on federal overcompensation. "Average pay $30,000 over private sector" http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/...nterstitialskip There are some counterarguments such as the claim that the government preferentially hires higher skilled workers, but I think the trend is towards overcompensation due to unions and no incentive to economize. As an aside to my above post, I would also say that the use of illegitimate government services is also ethical, if not desirable if it is at all avoidable, because it is done under duress since private options are either limited or non-existent as a result of those services. (ie roads, municipal services, transportation, schools).
  9. The Hippocratic Oath, legal ethics, and the best kind of political leadership can be characterized as long-term self-interest. As a doctor or lawyer, it is in my personal best interest to command the utmost trust from my patients and clients. This is accomplished by very strictly adhering to a code that makes them comfortable bestowing their trust in me. In the long run, a prestigious reputation goes hand in hand with professional success. Doctors and lawyers may even form a voluntary association whose purpose is to safeguard the reputation of its members by ensuring that they all adhere to their strict code of conduct, or be expelled. (Alas, the modern versions of these associations are farther and farther from this.) As a political leader, it's in my ration self-interest in the long-term to create the society that I want to live in as one of its individual members. (Alas, the incentives of modern socialized politics make the modern politician into a deliverer of pork to his constituents.) Is the threat of jail the only reason that prevents you from stealing from your neighbors or murdering your competitors, if you are the strongest among all of them? It is not for me. The rule of might makes right isn't always in the best interest of the mightiest. Even if I am the mightiest, I may not always be so. Even if I am always the mightiest, the weaker may band together and their collective might may bring me down for good. It is in everyone's best self-interest to "treat others as you would expect to be treated", because the more rational and moral individuals that there are, the more secure and safe each one is. This is how I view moral behavior as in the rational best interest of me and myself alone, and how I define what is moral in the first place. People are generally not so thoughtful as to follow (or even know) their best self-interest in the long-term over the short-term. Sometimes they mistakenly believe that force (or guilt) can make them more successful than they otherwise would be.
  10. I think I understand what you mean, but the value of a person's work is subjective depending on what their employer is willing to pay them. It's 'objective' value would be its market-clearing price in a free market of workers and employers. That's difficult to judge and impossible to know without a free market for the price to clear in, though. If I understand what you mean in this way, then I agree with you. The lack of a truly objective measure of their work's value is what I meant by 'working under duress', as well as the lack or paucity of private alternatives in his line of work.
  11. First a disclaimer. I understand that Ayn Rand held the respect for intellectual property as a basic tenement of Objectivism. I understand that it is a conviction of Objectivists here (by definition). I don't wish to ruffle feathers by "trolling" or even trying to change your convictions, necessarily. The purpose of this post is to understand how intellectual property and private property rights can be reconciled, because the inconsistency in my understanding is what prevents me from claiming myself to be an Objectivist also. If I can't understand how to reconcile the two, I will let sleeping dogs lie, and not try to stir up a further storm, so to speak. I don't mean to be confrontational although it is easy to be perceived as such when questioning a core conviction. My intent is to be amiable, pleasant, and in search of new insights from people I respect a lot! My question is, in practice, how can intellectual property exist without interfering with private property rights? Definitions as I understand them: intellectual property : property that is immaterial and intangible, and is the result of original creative thoughts, such as patents and copyrights private property rights : a resource that an individual has exclusive control over its use, deriving from his physical claim over an unclaimed resource, and his improvements on it, or a voluntary trade of such to him My definition of private property rights is a little weak, but it's the best I can come up with for the moment. I assume that the rights you hold over your property include manipulating it how you see fit, without actual harm to others. You can build a house on your property but you can't build a dam that floods your neighbors. I want to get trademarks and plagiarism out of the way, also. The way I view their regulation is that they are covered under fraud. Using someone else's trademark or ideas and claiming it as your own is fraudulent, just like misleading someone into signing a contract they don't understand makes the contract void. That aside, the problem that I have with the very existence of intellectual original creative ideas as a form of property is that by definition it implies a reduction in the rights of the owners of physical private property. For example, suppose the nursery song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is the copyrighted material of person A. Person B hears the song, but copyright prevents him from writing down the words and selling piano sheet music using the song. Person A is making a claim over person B, preventing him from putting his ink on his paper, even if it acknowledges that the lyrics are by person A. In the real world, in this case for practical reasons the legal restriction in the United States would be on the selling of the sheets of music, but if economics and state were separated, the restriction would necessarily be on the use of person B of his private property. Another more relevant example is downloading music. (Another disclaimer: I actually don't listen to any music, so I don't do this, but I currently don't see a moral reason not to. I have indeed done so with books.) My hard drive is a magnetic disc with hundreds of billions of individual magnetic sections. Each section can be magnetized one of two ways to represent either 0 representing off, or 1 representing on. The specific patterns of 0's and 1's in sequence are used by the computer as information to do things, such as playing music with all of the sounds of the song represented by that specific pattern. Copyright law makes it illegal for me to arrange my hard drive into specific, copyrighted patterns. The copyright holder is exerting a claim over my private property. This is where I take issue with copyright because all of a sudden someone else is making a claim on my property. Downloading music is the reception of electric or (or optical) signals through my modem and recording them on my hard drive. There is no physical loss of any other party, and no physical gain for me. A final example is regarding patents. If someone creates an original invention or method of doing something, I am prevented from inventing it myself, or from incorporating it into what I do with my own property. The patent holder has prevented me from performing specific actions with my property. He is making a claim over my property as well. ---------- I have seen two arguments in favor of the existence of intellectual property and of laws enforcing respect for them. The first is utilitarian, which I understand but which I don't agree is a moral reason. The second is the purely moral argument, which if I'm not mistaken is the argument Ayn Rand put forth, but I don't really understand it. First, the utilitarian argument is that society is better off as a result of patents (and to a lesser degree, copyrights). Society here must mean everyone else except the potential violators of patents because if everyone were truly better off, it would be in the best interest of everyone not to violate patents. I therefore don't accept the utilitarian argument as a valid moral argument because I don't care about everyone else, I care about myself. My morals guide me in my own best interest, not society's. Further, I distrust utilitarian arguments as a source of morality. Specifically, I put forth the example of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. He uses utilitarian arguments to construct a very nice and neat morality in favor of liberty that is very much in agreement to myself and to Objectivists; but at the end of his book, when he puts his utilitarian arguments in practice in Applications, he finds justification for very anti-liberty state controls on prostitution, gambling, trade of certain products, etc, as well as social controls on things like marriage. The purely moral argument put forth by Ayn Rand is, in her own words from Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal, page 130: "Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind." http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/patents_...copyrights.html However, my understanding of this breaks down completely at the following point: "...law declares, in effect, that the physical labor of copying is not the source of the object’s value, that that value is created by the originator of the idea and may not be used without his consent..." I thought the source of value was not innate but subjective, and that this is what allows trade to be profitable for both parties in the first place. This seems to argue that an idea has an innate value, set and controlled by the author, but only for an arbitrary amount of time..? (I haven't read that particular work of hers yet; it is on my extended reading list in the future, but if it contains the complete answer to the contradiction in my understanding then I will make it the next book I read.) A man obviously has the right to the product of his own mind, but how does that right allow him to deny me the future use of the products of my own mind, as demonstrated above? In other words, how does it allow him to dictate through the force of government the terms on which I am allowed to sell piano sheet music, arrange the magnetism of my hard drive, or to use my property to build things? My argument is that physical property is matter which the law of conservation of energy requires that the gain of it between one of two parties requires the equivalent loss of it from the other party; and knowledge cannot be property because the gain of it requires no loss anywhere whatsoever. Therefore its gain and use implies there will never be harm done to another party in and of itself (assuming the actions using it it are not a harm), and furthermore there is no moral reason for exclusive control of it to any party at the limit of any other party. Specifically, if I can freely observe knowledge through the viewing of copyrighted material or reverse engineering a patented technology, it seems to me that no one else may lay a claim on what I do with my own property using my own mind. There is certainly the loss of potential income derived by exclusive control and enforcement of intellectual property by government, but I don't see the moral rationale for either restricting my use of my property or requiring me to give up some of my property to you through forceful extortion for information that I was able to get freely. ---------- Thank you for reading (and I hope this does not get me banned!). I'm looking forward to reading more in detail about the Objectivist position and how it handles the necessary limits on private property rights in a moral way. At the very least I hope to gain a real understanding of the argument, and I may even be led to change my mind on this as a result. Rand was not one for making fallacious or inconsistent arguments, after all.
  12. I agree that in this example, the action of returning the car to the corporation would be clear because there is a moral relationship. (A private corporation loses if you perpetuate the fraud, even if you didn't initiate it.) The first part of my problem is that there isn't really a moral relationship. Imagine that no matter what action you take, Chrysler Corporation will not receive that car, nor compensation for it. (The second part of the problem is trying to find out how in the world to return it, which I will undertake after the weekend.)
  13. $1,100 will not make a significant difference to me, so if they did it would not be a problem to let it go. This is really just an exercise in thought on what the right thing to do is, if there is one. I never want to put down my morals in the first place, but I am wondering if it is even possible to be moral in relation to the government if there is no relationship between my action and the person whose taxes actually produced the wealth in question. If it doesn't, then the situation might be described as morally nihilistic; it doesn't really matter what I do, morally. The money will go to me or it will go to someone else with no claim to it either. The persons with the claim to it will never get it as a result of anything we do. Short of founding a self-financed Ragnar Danneskjöld fund out of windfalls, I guess. No. Well, I don't think so. I think I wouldn't because I would rather be productive. Modify the scenario slightly, and lets say the Cash 4 Clunkers program had been made permanent. As a car dealer, would you accept $4,500 from the government for every vehicle you sell in exchange for a turn-in, or would you go out of business because that's immoral and it's not feasible to sell cars at a $4,500 disadvantage to your "competitors"? ----------- On Monday, I will call the Department of Veterans Affairs office that handles the GI Bill. I will tell them that the school changed my tuition after the semester ended and retroactively refunded me the difference. I will ask how to refund the money to the VA. However, I am sure that they will tell me that since the government simply paid the bill it was handed at the time, they don't see a problem and that I should keep the money. It may not make a difference to the taxpayers anymore whether or not I keep it, but I'll pretend it will and attempt to return it to them unless I'm unable to return it. In a broader sense, are we morally responsible for not accepting "unearned" compensation from the government, even if the members of the government want us to? I mean if running a public high school is not a proper function of the government, then is it moral to be a public high school teacher and receive that salary? In this sense, what is the moral difference between someone receiving a welfare check and someone receiving a salary in a government position that shouldn't exist? Common sense makes it obvious there is a huge difference, but what is it based off of? Or, alternately, is it actually really the same thing and only different by degree, meaning that conscientious people should not work for the government (except in the military, police, and courts). I think the teacher, like the above car dealer, is still producing value because his position would presumably still exist in a free market, but he is doing so under duress (since the free market has been almost entirely displaced). I think that people of high ability and self-esteem will be repulsed to working in such situations (even more than they already are by the bureaucracy). What about working in a legitimate function of the government that is compensated excessively, for example a corrections officer who is systematically scheduled to work "overtime" at 150% of his pay, instead of the union allowing more guards to be hired? Should he try to turn down the extra 50% if he thinks it's excessive? It's not even legal not to be paid overtime, no more than it is not to receive minimum wage. How does he determine what is excessive if the state (influenced by the prison guard union) pays a quarter million a year in overall salary, benefits, and overtime? Thinking about questions like these make me wonder if it matters at all what I do here, considering our system of government and how it will have zero effect on the actual producers of the wealth no matter what I do.
  14. If you're not interested in general examples as tools to examine a real one, then the actual dilemma is explained in the bottom half. Putting down all of my thoughts took much more space than I had anticipated. Case 1: You are in the queue for rations in a communist society. You receive more than your allotment of meat, perhaps because the official mistakenly thought you are married when you are single, or for any other reason. Assume that you are able to leave with it and be sure that you won't be discovered or punished. Is it an immoral fraud to passively accept this mistake, or are you obligated by honesty to report it? Case 2: You receive an overpayment in the mail from the government in America, in payment for a legitimate function of the government, as an American citizen. Assume that if you passively accept the mistake it won't be discovered (it's not a tax refund). Is it an immoral fraud to passively accept this mistake, or are you obligated by honesty to report it? Case 3: You purchase a soda from a vending machine, but two are accidentally dispensed. What, if anything, do you do with the extra soda? I think the moral behavior of case 3 is to treat it similarly to a salvage situation. It's clearly between two private parties (you and the vending machine operator), but the other party has made a mistake that you cannot reasonably rectify. The vending machine operator presumably knows his machine will occasionally make mechanical errors and has proceeded to establish his machines anyway. The expense to correct the mistake would exceed the value of the mistake, both to you and to the vending machine operator. It makes the most sense to treat the extra soda like abandoned property and claim it. In case 1, moral relationships between men have broken down because of the interposition of the state in the economy making it impossible to act morally. Although an individual somewhere in that communist country produced the meat, you are not able to pay him for his productivity. It is fraudulent to accept more than your meat ration, however the premises of the situation make defining it as a fraud nonsense. The "fraud" and the ration itself are purely artificial constructs of the state meddling in the economy. In this case I think it makes sense to treat it as a survival situation that cannot be handled by normal rules and to take anything you can get. It's case 2 that bothers me. My emotional, instinctual reaction is to treat it similarly to case 1 because the state's involvement in my everyday life is ubiquitous and tends to distort the situation closer and closer to case 1. The state pays me to go to a state school, I get there on a state bus driven on a state road, etc. In an Objectivist society, in my situation only the state paying for my education would be legitimate and only as a special case that I will explain. ---------- I am going to school by using the GI Bill, after serving four years in the military. I consider it to be legitimate compensation for working in a legitimate function of the government because it's something that is codified in law just like military basic pay rates, housing allowances, uniform allowances, etc, are. It was a primary reason for deciding to enlist in the first place. I think it's as legitimate as getting a pension or any other benefit above a salary from a private company. I did have to think about it for a while though because receiving a check when I'm not actually working anymore bothered me a healthy amount, and that's a good thing. These are the facts to the situation. The amount that the government overpaid is over $1,100. I am in my first year of college (at 23). The school I am attending initially charged my tuition to the government as out-of-state instead of as a resident (there are lower rates for residents). I am actually a resident of the particular US state that I live in, so after discovering they were charging me as out-of-state by default, I brought the paperwork to prove my residency to the school. Now at the end of the semester, it seems the paperwork has caught up because not only did they change my residency status, they retroactively refunded the difference between resident and non-resident tuition. However, instead of refunding the government, they wrote a check personally to me. It's a case of the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. For clarity, keep in mind the government's budget and the schools budget are very much independent entities, even if that doesn't make sense at first. This money was produced and taxed by an individual in this country (technically a very small fraction of the sum of all the productivity and taxation), and it's immoral to accept their money in excess of the legal compensation for my own services to them while I was in the military. That much is clear to me. However, there are two things that are inclining me to do so anyway. First, the level of the state's intervention in the economy has grown to the point that there may not even be a tangible relationship between accepting/not accepting the money, and taking/not taking money from those individuals. Take for example the actions of Congress after realizing TARP would "only" lose $141b instead of $341b and fighting over how to reallocate the extra $200b windfall of money in another way instead of reducing spending in the first place. To the taxed individual, does it matter anymore where his money goes if his tax burden will be the same no matter what? It's slowly becoming a shade of accepting extra meat rations like in case 1. Of course this is what's wrong with our society today; "the government takes my money anyway so I'm going to get as big a piece of the pie as possible." I am not about to go apply for welfare or vote for it, but it's how many other people justify it when they don't have a moral framework that can identify that kind of limit. This is all also made slightly more complicated because this is a state school, because the situation becomes ever less clear with the more state actors involved. The situation may have been different in a private school. The second and more practical problem is that there may not even be a way to return this money to the state in the first place. The state, as far as it is concerned, has not overpaid. It received a bill, I successfully completed all of the classes, and it paid the bill. To the government I won't become a resident of that state until the next semester. To the school, I was a resident at the beginning of the first semester. Take my word for it that the government will get its money every time if it believes it is owed anything or has made a mistake in payment. However in this case their computers do not calculate that, even though they obviously have. Anyone I ask at the school or the Department of Veterans Affairs will most likely have no idea how to return this money. They will most likely tell me I am crazy for trying to give the government an extra $1,100 of what is now "my" money. This problem makes the situation similar to case 3, except with the government operating the machine. There is an extra $1,100 that is floating around with no one to return it to. Even if I could return it though, I don't think it would even matter and I would just be throwing it away without a good reason to. What do I do? What can I do, anyway? It may not even be possible to refund it, but if I don't cash it, it sits in the school's account, and they have the least claim to it. Do I accept this as a fortunate and rare windfall resulting from a difference in how two government entities perceived a bill? Am I responsible for trying to reconcile two different interpretations of the same bill between two government entities? If the situation were the other way around and the school charged me that extra $1,100 and the government only compensated them for in-state tuition, I would simply be screwed out of that money without a recourse. What do you think?
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