Lawrence Lessig scares a room of liberals

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75 Responses to “Lawrence Lessig scares a room of liberals”

  1. Tetsubo says:

    donniebnyc – I agree with you here. I also consider myself a progressive. I hold many traditional ‘conservative’ values but mostly progressive ones. I want the best and most effective form of governance for America. And unfettered capitalism isn’t the answer. We need to protect the interestys of the voter over the interests of corporations. People over profit. But the people can’t bribe politicians in the manner that corporations can. And with the new SCOTUS ruling freedom of speech is now ‘freedom of who speaks loudest’. And nothing speaks louder than limitless money…

    Fifth – That is some funny right there. :) I’ve always viewed the libertarians as a parasite on the body of America politics. Without a functioning nation they could never survive on their own.

  2. d913 says:

    I don’t think any of the arguments made in the vid can be supported by any real evidence. At least with regards to legislation introduced or sponsored in congress, there have been as my Democrats as Republicans who support remedying the fair use and consumer rights provisions of the DMCA. Or at least, there’s no significant difference between conservative and liberal on this issue with regards to actual action to change.

    The overall idea that “conservatives” embody notions of “fellowship” or “ecology” any more or less than liberals do is just pure rubbish. Or at least, the track record from the last 100 years or so with regards to civil rights and greenhouse gasses isn’t very convincing.

    The thing that should be scary to a room full of liberals is that this guy can make a muddled and weak presentation like this one and still be a professor at Harvard.

    I do like videos with gratuitous edits to Wikipedia, though.

    • Anonymous says:

      I also found the lines drawn to “connect the dots” of how republicans understand and encourage the notions of community and resource conservation laughable. Mr. Lessig could have done his audience a favor and zeroed in faster on what his nebulous point was.

      It truly is strange to see such a childish presentation from a professor at one of America’s (supposedly) finest schools. But then again, fields of academia that require at most an opinion and rhetoric to support it tend to attract the mediocre.

  3. Julien Couvreur says:

    Lessig always seems inches away from the proper solution, which is simple and elegant: repeal copyright laws.
    I wonder why he shies away from it.

    The arbitrariness of copyright laws should be a clue that they don’t rest on solid ethical foundations.
    Worse, the utilitarian argument fails too. See Patents and copyrights: do the benefits exceed the costs?

    • middleclass says:

      “Lessig always seems inches away from the proper solution”

      As are most progressives (see above) he is firmly set in his middleoftheroadism ways. In the “2007 tour de force” linked in the OP he decries “extremism” on either end of the copyright debate, showing preference for arbitrary laws that are simply more to his liking.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is nothing wrong with copyright law in and of itself. There is value in ensuring that the person or group that actually went paid the cost and effort of producing a work is able to be reasonably compensated for it without needing to compete with people that would simply take their work and sell it for less.

      The principal issue with copyright law is that its length has gone in completely the wrong direction. Life + 70 years makes no sense when the act of publishing and distributing media now takes seconds, as compared to 1790 when the copyright term was just 14 years. Today, 3-5 years should be more than enough to ensure reasonable compensation (and of course, there is nothing to prevent somebody from continuing to use and sell their work after their copyright has expired, they just aren’t the only ones allowed to do that!).

      The second issue is that making derivative works the exclusive domain of the copyright holder causes a huge stifling of innovation. Either people break the law and we get cool remixes like those shown in Lessig’s talks, or we end up with little room for public participation. Thankfully, in a lot of cases, there is a “look the other way” attitude that many companies take in regards to the creation of derivative works. (For example, fan art/fiction is technically a violation of copyright, as asinine as that seems.)

      Copyright can exist, and it can do what it needs to do well. There’s no need to abolish it; it just needs to be fixed.

      • Julien Couvreur says:

        Anonymous said: “There is value in ensuring that the person or group that actually went paid the cost and effort of producing a work is able to be reasonably compensated for it [...]”

        Of course, but that’s an insufficient case. Let me offer a parallel to your argument: there is value (to the producer) to gain competitive advantage (such as monopoly power) on the marketplace via lobbying and regulation so they don’t get copied and competed with so quickly.

        Copyright is fairly recent in history, and creators were fairly compensated before that (even though their work was being copied, re-used and remixed quickly).

        More importantly, you have to look not only at what is seen, but also the unseen. Copyright (and patent) laws favor arbitrarily one activity over an other. Yes, some people benefit, but other people loose too.

        There is no proven net benefit, on the contrary (dead-weight cost for enforcement).

  4. Dave Bill says:

    Thanks for posting Professor Lessig’s talk. All the other talks from TEDxNYED will be posted to the TEDx YouTube site within the next two weeks. They will be posted here: http://youtube.com/users/tedxtalks

  5. Powell says:

    Wow that was good. Intellectual honesty in bucket loads. I will definitely be checking out more of Professor Lessigs work. Groovy power point skills too.

  6. cymk says:

    Awesome video, though I’m not sure the picture Prof. Lessig paints for conservatives holds true across the board (though I wish it was). For all their talk of ecology (social or otherwise), once applied you get greedy companies calling in favors to those same conservatives, making their cries of “ecology” pointless; they fall all over each other (conservatives and liberals) making money and paying back those favors garnered from the election process.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Real good, stimulating and awesome.

    However, there should be distinction between “Conservatives/Republicans”, as illustrated in the video and “Libertarians”.

    Lessig first uses the contradictions between the church-going and market-centric sides of more typical conservatives and then segues into “remix culture”- which is dominated by a more Libertarian culture.

    He uses Walt Disney- an avid Republican- as the poster child for “proto-remixing”, failing to recognize that Republicanism of a more “Goldwater-era” has a much closer and stronger relationship to Ron Paul Libertarianism than it does to post-Reagan Neo-Conservativism.

    HOWEVER, this is still very-very stimulating- to say the least.

  8. ArghMonkey says:

    1. Talking about dems of the past with our values of today is silly.

    2. Libertarians arent as bad as every cons (see neo-cons, the religious, the mentally ill).

    3. Even the bible has 1 or 2 good ideas but why accept 90% garbage for 10% good?

    There is very little good that comes from conservatives, lets not pretend that they are decent people.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think Lessig is missing the point about Disney and republicans. Disney was not a great creator or remixer; he was an awesome cheater and editor. He took control of others ideas and used them for his own gain. He basically was looking off of someone else’s paper and writing down the answers as his own. In my opinion and experience, that is essentially what republicans do. They are not firm believers in originality or creativity, but when something original or creative comes their way, they do their best to control it and mold it in such a way as to make the world think that the ideas and innovation are their own.

  10. Anonymous says:

    QUOTE:
    “Awesome video, though I’m not sure the picture Prof. Lessig paints for conservatives holds true across the board (though I wish it was). For all their talk of ecology (social or otherwise), once applied you get greedy companies calling in favors to those same conservatives, making their cries of “ecology” pointless; they fall all over each other (conservatives and liberals) making money and paying back those favors garnered from the election process.”

    And this is different with liberals in charge how?

    Lessig’s got half the picture with his movement to eliminate corruption in politics but he misses the main point… the more government, the more corruption. The more dollars to be gotten from the government, the more influence peddling.

    Simple logic.

  11. adamnvillani says:

    Thus far, with Enron, AIG, and lots of other corporations that violated existing regulations, the government isn’t exactly the panacea you seem to think they are.

    So because existing regulations are weak, we should just get rid of them altogether? Huh? Oh yeah, I’m sure Enron and AIG would have been MUCH quicker to reform if they were left to their own devices. And Ken Lay would have convicted himself and volunteered to go to prison before dying suddenly.

  12. Unanimous Cowherd says:

    As a democrat who like Lessig in his youth was once a Reagan republican, I completely get this. The democrats I know do value community, freedom, sharing, and so forth — but somehow that has not been communicated clearly enough to my representatives.

    Perhaps it is time to write some letter…

  13. sing it, baby says:

    Honk if you have a sinking feeling “Community, Freedom, Sharing” will be the 2010 year bumper-sticker.

  14. Enoch_Root says:

    As a conservative that used to be liberal I find this really hilarious. Lessig does an awesome job of skewering the “oh har har conservatives are so stupid and don’t care about culture” meme that permeates a lot of American culture. Its obviously a much bigger topic of conversation than that talk. His use of religion (or specifically church) in America is very apt. What is amazing about religion in free societies is how much it does without the ability to force anyone to join or give. Yet millions and millions of dollars a year flow through religious organizations and you get things like this, this and this (just to name a few I am familiar with). Harnessing that mindset and the libertarian streak that many conservatives have is a great policy and a good lesson… especially in a room of monoculture political perspective.

  15. thinkjose says:

    You probably have more conservative readers than you think. Mostly lurkers I would assume.

    Excellent presentation as usual by Lessig. Also shows that it’s hard to pin people into one of two categories. I may be conservative but I share similar liberal views on many issues. That’s why I vote for individuals not a single party.

    I will try to lurk less and engage more often.

    Thanks

  16. Anonymous says:

    “The arbitrariness of copyright laws should be a clue that they don’t rest on solid ethical foundations.”

    There are two camps of people who realize this:
    1) The successful entertainment industry lobbyists
    2) The informed citizen who has spent time contemplating the necessity of copyright laws.

    Now ask yourself, ‘who is more likely to get legislation passed in their favor?’
    ——————
    “Lessig always seems inches away from the proper solution, which is simple and elegant: repeal copyright laws.”

    It’s unfortunate that such a simple solution doesn’t yield enough $$$ for corporate interests to make this suggestion viable. Either his inner republican or the burnout from losing his battle over DCMA has Lessig shying towards the ‘reform’ path because it’s the ‘safe bet?’ If he were truly a champion of freedom he’d be calling for abolition, instead of compromising on how the government can allow companies to control our culture.

    But hey, at least the man helped found CreativeCommons

  17. greengestalt says:

    IMO, Libertarian = LiberTINE…

    It’d be funny if it was just “Anarchy for rich people, doood.” but it’s not, it’s just a modernized non perversion focused version of Sade’s philosophy. Which sounds cool, but it’s not. Note he was so for people not being responsible for old silly traditions when for instance he was arrested for hiring a hooker (on a Sunday and blaspheming as much as screwing her) but relied on the police/his station to protect him from the “Common Man” such as when a man found out he’d used his daughter and tried to shoot him. For all it’s pages and pages of RandDroidian gibberish, Libertarianism is just the “Smithers” worshiping “Mr. Burns” hoping to be allowed into the upper class and the harder he can sugar coat the suck-up the better.

    And this guy talked a lot without saying anything. He’s just spreading propaganda and anti-Obama smears.

    If he really was doing anything, he’d have when he got to McCain pointed out the obvious, how ironic it was because McCain himself supported the copyright issues that were later turned against him on YouTube. That is, anyone crying “It’s MINE!” is believed first, so any troll can get anything taken down, even if the original artist approves -or- it’s TOTALLY original content. Because, if they don’t, the site becomes a “Criminal Partner in Copyright Infringement” and lots of the “Right Wingers” would LOVE to take YouTube down in a second by quickly obtaining a multi-million dollar judgment against a company with assets they could seize.

    Really, the 90s are over and “Libertarianism” is the zombie monster that needs a headshot before it bites anyone else.

  18. mneptok says:

    There’s a huge gulf between “conservative” as a political ideal and “neo-conservativism” as a political practice in the US.

    I am right-wing. FAR right-wing. So far right-wing that I get really, really nervous when anyone talks about monkeying with the core values set forth for the US in our founding documents.

    These days that makes me a Libertarian, not a Republican.

    The Bush-style conservatives are happy with a huge government that happily invades and erodes the privacy, self-determination, and other core freedoms essential to the principle beliefs of the Founders. I’m not. Look at the inherent mental disconnect most neo-cons have WRT abortion rights versus gun rights.

    Think on this. Anything you give government control over eventually becomes the Department Of Motor Vehicles. With all the associated bureaucracy, waste, and inefficiency.

    We have a choice. Create a government so large and so powerful we live in fear of it becoming a self-perpetuating megalith, or keep government so small that it lives in fear of us, the citizens.

    If you prefer the latter, guess what, you’re conservative (and probably Libertarian). And if you want it to happen, be willing to take on a LOT more personal responsibility. Stop turning to government to try to solve everything.

    Flame on.

    • Anonymous says:

      We have a choice. Create a government so large and so powerful we live in fear of it becoming a self-perpetuating megalith, or keep government so small that it lives in fear of us, the citizens.

      If you prefer the latter, guess what, you’re conservative (and probably Libertarian). And if you want it to happen, be willing to take on a LOT more personal responsibility. Stop turning to government to try to solve everything.

      I don’t believe that there is a strong correlation between the government’s size and its corruption or oppressiveness. Take a look at this table. Haiti and Singapore are indistinguishable from a government spending perspective, and I’d bet anything that Singapore(16%) feels more oppressive than, say, Sweden(58%).

      Now, clearly there is a correlation between the size of a corrupt government and the amount of damage it can do. But that’s not the same thing.

      I’d like Republicans and Democrats to get firmly on the good-governance bandwagon. But I don’t think there is any hope for the Republicans (or the libertarians for that matter) because the more obviously corrupt and incompetent government is, the better their “shrink government” message plays.

      Also, if you go to Transparency International, you’ll notice that many of the governments we think of as “government megaliths” have minimal corruption.

      France has a “bigger” government than we do, but judging by the size and violence of their anti-government demonstrations, it’s hard to argue that the citizens of France live in fear of their government.

      Finally, you could gut our government spending by ending Social Security. But that would have a trivial effect on the size of the federal bureaucracy. For the amount of money involved, it just doesn’t employ that many people or have that many rules; it’s a small government program that seems huge because its purpose is to move money around.

      From my ground-eye perspective, Social Security takes about $10/week from my paycheck, and in exchange society promises me that — whatever else happens — I probably won’t spend my last years eating out of dumpsters. Yeah, I feel so oppressed by that.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you prefer the latter, guess what, you’re conservative (and probably Libertarian).

      Except that’s not true. There are lots of movements generally considered left-wing liberal, but are centered around community involvement rather than encouraging big government. The “left” have as many differences of opinion as the “right” on that.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Anything you give government control over eventually becomes the Department Of Motor Vehicles. With all the associated bureaucracy, waste, and inefficiency.”

      That’s like saying every private enterprise eventually becomes Enron. Around the world, government-run healthcare consistent proves to be twice as efficient as private-run (that is, delivering the same outcomes at half the cost) and that’s just one example. It’s not black and white.

    • donniebnyc says:

      I am left-wing. Far left-wing. I call myself progressive, not liberal. It may surprise you to hear that I, too, believe the government should fear its citizens rather than the corporations that wield such enormous influence over every legislator in this country.

      I, too, believe in personal responsibility. I think we diverge on the extents of the power of personal freedom and responsibility. And on the usefulness of good government versus bad government.

      Think on this. Under Clinton, FEMA was well funded and well managed. It worked and was used as an example of a good crisis management agency around the world. Under Bush, FEMA was starved in the name of small government and the reins were handed over to a fool. We all know how that worked out.

      Example two: My personal power has limits. I cannot stop a corporation from dumping toxins in a river or the water table. That requires the power of all concerned citizens acting through the government.

      The libertarian outlook sounds good on paper and in slogans but in practice leaves the citizenry at the mercy of unfettered capitalistic excesses.

      • mneptok says:

        I am left-wing. Far left-wing … I, too, believe the government should fear its citizens …

        IME, people think of political ideology as a spectrum with two ends. I’ve found that in reality it’s somewhat circular, and the far-right and far-left meet on a LOT of points at 180 degrees from the “gubmint can fix it!” crowd.

      • middleclass says:

        “The libertarian outlook sounds good on paper and in slogans but in practice leaves the citizenry at the mercy of unfettered capitalistic excesses.”

        What are these excesses in relation to copyright? Libertarian property rights would empower the citizenry by making copyright (and patents) unthinkable. If I act to protect a copyright I hold, I am asking the government to use force to stop another person from arranging their own property in a certain manner. This is clearly in opposition to the idea of absolute property rights.

        In your own example, the libertarian outlook would ask why the owner of the river/land does not take legal action to protect her property from damage. If you own the damaged property, then your personal power would be very great in this situation.

        So yeah, that all sounds great on paper, but in practice? Where do you live that the libertarian outlook is practiced I want to move there.

        • donniebnyc says:

          First, I did not say government is perfect. It certainly is not. I think copyright was working fine before the DMCA. Since then, things have been going downhill quickly.

          In the case of the dumping in the Hudson River, who exactly is the individual owner that ought to have sued GE?

          I officially rewrite my last sentence to read:

          The libertarian outlook sounds good on paper and in slogans but in practice WOULD LEAVE the citizenry at the mercy of unfettered capitalistic excesses.

          Happy now?

          • middleclass says:

            I never claimed or implied that you said or thought that the government was perfect. You think it isn’t and so do I. You did express a negative view of the “libertarian outlook” and, now, what its effects WOULD be so I sought to flesh out the form of such an outlook so that it would be more clear what you are standing against.

            I asked what you thought the capitalistic excesses were with regard to copyright, you pointed to the DMCA and while I would classify that as government intervention and therefore antithetical to capitalism we can agree that it is a bad policy. I expressed a libertarian view of copyright in my earlier post, and disagree that things were “working fine before DMCA”, though that era was certainly preferable.

            In response to the pollution question I, too, was really talking about what a libertarian outlook WOULD look like, and if you look at the Hudson there is a lot of private property on either bank so why not the river itself? A “libertarian outlook” doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for public property, suggesting that someone would likely own that and other rivers and would have a vested interest in protecting them through legal action. So, in response to your question there is unfortunately no owner that ought to have sued GE because the river is currently public property.

          • donniebnyc says:

            Here is the fallacy of libertarianism in a nutshell: “someone would likely own that and other rivers and would have a vested interest in protecting them”.

            Who could afford to “own” the Hudson River? You? Not me, I know that much. A river would be owned by an entity with enormous resources, like, oh I don’t know, a huge corporation, perhaps. (Even if that means buying it from the riverbank landowners.)

            So, now that GE “owns” the river, I suppose that in your libertarian utopia free from the shackles of public ownership of natural resources and government regulation, that however much dumping GE chooses to do is their right because they “own” the river.

            As I previously stated, sounds good on paper, but in practice it would leave us at the mercy of corporations, who as we all know can always be trusted to do what is in the best interest of the general public.

          • mneptok says:

            If GE owns the river, the shareholders still own GE. If GE is found to be working against the public good, and the general public knows that the only recourse is their own action (or inaction), then they will sell shares. The value will decline. More shares will be sold. And the feedback loop completes.

            When people feel that there is a government there to to protect them, they will, quite naturally, do less to protect themselves.

            And to believe that every Libertarian does not want a Federal Highway Administration, an EPA, a DOE, etc is a pretty narrow view. Many Libertarians are very pragmatist. You can update government to match the times without wholesale abrogation of Constitutionally defined liberties and governmental limits.

          • Anonymous says:

            If GE is found to be working against the public good, and the general public knows that the only recourse is their own action (or inaction), then they will sell shares.

            Maybe I don’t understand how the stock market works, but I always thought that if someone is selling shares, someone else must be buying them.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I always thought that if someone is selling shares, someone else must be buying them.

            Common sense has no place in a discussion on economics.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why do the shareholders whose children do not have three heads (because they live far from the river) sell shares? It’s profitable to dump pollutants into waterways instead of treating them and making them safe.

            What happens if GE is a privately held company? What recourse do the people who are being poisoned have? They get to sue GE? GE has lawyers that are, to a good approximation, infinitely superior to what a working family can afford.

          • Julien Couvreur says:

            We could discuss the libertarian approach to physical property. But assuming you agree that physical property and intellectual property are quite different in nature, let’s stay on the topic of IP.

          • middleclass says:

            It is possible to own natural features in distinct parcels. For instance, Sugar Mountain in the Blue Ridge range is not owned in its entirety by one guy with a ton of money but by hundreds or thousands of individuals and corporations big and small. The same can be said of most other features which people consider distinct like mountains, canyons, plains, lakes, valleys, peninsulas etc. Who can afford to buy a whole valley? Not me! So the chances of someone or something owning an entire river is slim. But for the sake of argument let’s say that GE buys the whole friggin Hudson and starts dumping away. Well the Hudson does not exist in isolation but will inevitably run up against property owned by another entity. In this scenario GE has the property right to pollute its river, but if that polluted river should impart pollution to neighboring properties than the owners of those properties would have a strong case against GE even under current law, to say nothing of a court with strong respect for property rights.

            Another feature of this scenario can be that the US government has ceased shelling out trillions of dollars for weapons and so GE is reliant on consumer goodwill for its existence and therefore is very much at the mercy of “us”.

            Corporations do not always act in the best interest of the general public but absent government granted monopolies and privileges (copyrights and bailouts among them) they are at the mercy of the market.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            if that polluted river should impart pollution to neighboring properties than the owners of those properties would have a strong case against GE even under current law, to say nothing of a court with strong respect for property rights.

            So, government by lawsuit.

          • donniebnyc says:

            So what you advocate is that we sit in our libertarian ivory towers waiting to see if corporate behemoths like GE (and their shareholders) will do the right thing. Really? How incredibly naive.

            It’s 2010 and we already know the answer to this. They don’t care. They will act in any reckless manner so long as they make a profit. Try reading a newspaper from the last two years.

            It makes more sense to prevent corporate bad acts before they occur through reasonable regulation. Thereby preventing the costs of lawsuits and cleanups and needless recessions.

            It never ceases to amaze me how libertarians can be so pollyanna-ish. The liberals and progressives get painted with the bleeding-heart, kumbaya label but it is actually we who understand human nature and know that it needs regulation.

            We are supposed to be rational beings. It is your survival of the fittest mentality as applied to human society that make me dismiss libertarianism as little more than personal selfishness writ large.

          • mneptok says:

            It’s 2010 and we already know the answer to this. They don’t care. … Try reading a newspaper from the last two years.

            Are you talking about corporations, or the government regulators you put so much faith in?

            No one is saying “No regulation!” It’s just a question of who does it.

            Thus far, with Enron, AIG, and lots of other corporations that violated existing regulations, the government isn’t exactly the panacea you seem to think they are.

    • Anonymous says:

      department of motor vehicles is pretty good!

    • smammers says:

      When you say “core values set forth for the US in our founding document” and “other core freedoms essential to the principle beliefs of the Founders”, exactly which values and freedoms are you referring to? I ask because I’ve been hearing this phrasing thrown around a lot lately (mostly by Tea Party/Fox News types) but nobody ever seems to elaborate on what that means or want to admit that the founding fathers might have been wrong about certain things — there’s a reason they built in an amendment process, after all.

      • mneptok says:

        The Bill Of Rights is a good place to start.

        Fox News types will label, ostracize, and demonize anyone that expresses opinions that differ from their own. For example, try deconstructing the Patriot Act on The O’Reilly Factor.

        But the Patriot Act is rife with examples of sacrificing personal liberty for a little security (or none at all). And we all know the famous quote.

        Regardless of your views on 9/11, I think it’s safe to say that the real damage done to this country and its image to others has been done in response to the act, and not the act itself.

        When you’ll turn your free society into a surveillance proto-police state, the terrorists win.

  19. adamnvillani says:

    Where is the protection for minorities (not just ethnic minorities, but any minority group) under libertarianism? And how can a libertarian be sure that the interests of a corporation line up with the interests of the public?

    You mention a feedback loop, but who is to say that that feedback loop is the most efficient way of getting things done, or even works at all?

    Analogy time: If Joe Blow shoots me in the leg, I suppose that instead of having them be arrested and charged with a criminal offense, I could instead start a campaign to inform the public that Joe Blow is a bad person who shoots people in the leg, sue Joe Blow for depriving me of the use of the leg and the medical expenses incurred, etc., but you know what? It’d be a lot more just if we just made it against the law to shoot people in the leg.

    How is this different from a corporation polluting a river? It should be illegal to pollute a stream (above a certain threshold) regardless of whether the people downstream are poor or wealthy.

    Market-driven solutions are great starting points for policy, and there’s no reason to have a government do something if a market can take care of the problem just as well. But markets are not perfect. Transaction costs exist. Information is asymmetrical.

    In a transparent government, I have rights as a human being. Under corporate power, I only have rights commensurate with my spending power. I prefer the former to the latter.

  20. WizarDru says:

    While I found his talk interesting, I also found Lessig being a tad disingenuous to make his point.

    ACTA is not an Obama initiative…it was started in 2007. I find it immensely disappointing that Obama hasn’t done anything about it (especially given his support for net neutrality, in words at least, during the campaign).

    Sonny Bono was a moderate Republican. Showing a picture from TV Guide from 25 years prior to his election doesn’t change that. If Newt Gingrich stumps for you…you’re a Republican.

    McCain doesn’t champion fighting the DMCA, and it’s a misrepresentation to claim otherwise. His Campaign sent plenty of letters to Youtube when their videos with potential fair use violations were removed, as per DMCA requirements. But what has McCain done since his failed election attempt about the DMCA? Nothing. What had he done prior to it? Nothing. Had it not directly affected his livelihood, he never would have said anything (and let’s be honest, it was his campaign team, no McCain himself.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t Republicans who agree with Lessig or that he’s not spot-on about many Democrats (Clinton gave us the DMCA, after all). But I think he’s twisting some stuff in knots to support his thesis and it doesn’t hold water under scrutiny.

  21. lewis stoole says:

    i like the message, and he gives a good lesson on how to make an engaging powerpoint presentation, but the republican/democrat/conservative/liberal comparisons/contrasts are stretched, cut, cropped, stretched again, then stapled back together with perplexing results.

    how can he infer that the republicans of today hold the same values as the abe lincoln and teddy roosevelt republicans of yesteryear? which then highlights the confusing and inappropriate branding of republicans and democrats as being synonymous with conservative and liberals, respectively, when the spread is more complex and the meaning has been devalued by incongruent actions over the years. speaking of which, the big media consolidation and copyright extension happened during a republican dominated congress/senate with a pro-corporate democratic president who preached bipartisanship (kind of like the guy we have now who i would not describe as definitively liberal). what happened to the checks and balance? were they in agreement? it seems to me that when it comes to big corporations interacting with the two party system, any conservative or liberal ideals are tossed out the window in favor of wall street and mega corporate super powers. to paint this as a dichotomy of conservative vs liberal doesn’t really make sense.

  22. adamnvillani says:

    So, government by lawsuit.

    And public relations campaigns and macro-level economic pressure. Libertarians present this as a good thing, weirdly enough.

    How it looks to me (I first got it in Milton Friedman’s chapter on dealing with racial discrimination in Capitalism and Freedom, but I’ve seen it many times since) is that libertarians are aware that there would, at least initially, be negative effects of a purely market-driven society. But since they’re averse to government intervention, they disregard government solutions to market failures and instead go through the mental exercise of how a market solution to the problem might exist, no matter how convoluted the pathway to this solution might be. Once they’ve jumped through these mental hoops (as we can see middleclass doing with the polluted river above), they feel they’ve proved their point.

    But they’ve in no way proved that their market-driven solution is better. It may require a tremendous amount of legal power. It may require a tremendous amount of time. It may never happen at all if the number of people who benefit from a situation is greater than those who are harmed by it, even if the total harm outweighs the total benefit. They’ve only shown that a market solution *might* be possible, not that it is a particularly *good* solution.

    Unless, of course, you stipulate that any solution involving government intervention is bad and to be avoided at all costs. But that would be begging the question — you can’t demonstrate that market solutions are better than government solutions if you begin your analysis by declaring government solutions to be bad.

    • Julien Couvreur says:

      adamnvillani said: “But since they’re averse to government intervention, they disregard government solutions to market failures and instead go through the mental exercise of how a market solution to the problem might exist, no matter how convoluted the pathway to this solution might be.”

      Is government centralized use of force? Is central decision making is slow and out of touch with local matters? Does government restrict freedoms?

      If yes, or at least you consider those points, then the burden of proof is on supporters of government regulation (whose bias exactly mirrors your description).

      Let me illustrate: in the late 19th and early 20th century, politicians feared the apparition of monopoly power (so-called “natural monopolies”). There was little actual evidence in support of this fear and all economists at the time were against such regulation. Without proving their case, politicians preemptively appointed monopolies under pretext that the government would temper their monopoly power. This led to “controlled” monopolies in gas and phone utilities, resulting in poorer service and higher fees. (ref The Myth of Natural Monopolies)

      My point is, if you advocate government intervention due to alleged “market failure” (and by that I don’t mean compared to the idealized and unrealistic neoclassical assumptions), then you need a solid case that government can and will do a better job.

      In the case of IP laws, such a proof of net benefit was never presented.

  23. ab3a says:

    Look, I am a big fan of pragmatic, thoughtful applications of ideas. I don’t care who classifies the ideals or who advocates them. What I care about is that they work.

    Since the Internet based technologies are a new application, I think that we need to figure out how to make the ideals fit the reality. Were we to focus strictly on left leaning or right leaning ideas, we’d miss half of our opportunities to get things right.

  24. Anonymous says:

    What Lessig says about ‘conservatives’ in the context of making his argument in the video is just as applicable, to say… anarchists.

  25. middleclass says:

    “there are places for the market and places where the market should not exist, where we should be free to enjoy the fellowship of others”

    Lessig gets both markets and freedom wrong. An aspect of society where a market “should not exist” (i.e. is or should be legally prohibited) cannot cannot be said to allow for freedom. His position seems confused.

  26. Julian.Sanchez says:

    I should probably observe that, flattered as I am to be quoted so approvingly by someone who’s been such a profound influence on my thinking, I doubt too many folks at Cato really think of themselves as “conservatives.” And while I think we have some regular churchgoers in the bunch, support for criminalization of prostitution is pretty thin on the ground. (I’m all for helping and sharing, but Will Shortz has a lock on my Sunday mornings.) Which is just to say, there’s substantial diversity among folks commonly placed on “the right,” and some of these points are primarily applicable to different subgroups.

    If you’re looking for a point of contact that cuts across many of those subgroups, the place to look might actually be Hayek. Much of what he says about emergent order in market societies (in, e.g., “Rules & Order”) is highly applicable to contemporary arguments about intellectual property and broadband architecture in networked societies.

  27. MB says:

    Yeah, Middleclass? How about a market in human slavery?

    • middleclass says:

      I said that prohibition of a market necessarily curtails freedom, not that all markets allow for universal freedom.

      Slavery is an interesting and probably unique case where freedom of property for one party obliterates the freedom of another. From a perspective which prizes freedom and what might be called libertarian property rights it is a given that individuals have absolute self-ownership, so a market in human slavery could be consistent with the principles of freedom if it were the case that all slaves had sold themselves into slavery, as is their right.

      • Anonymous says:

        That idea has so little to do with what almost anyone means when they say “freedom,” I am amazed anyone would use the same word. It reminds me of how China is a “People’s Republic”.

      • MB says:

        Ah. Slavery is freedom. I get it now.

    • Bevatron Repairman says:

      Well, I’m certainly for a market in the enslavement of strawmen.

  28. jesseewles says:

    It gets confusing when we resort to labeling and debating ideology instead of discussing specific issues. If the city wants to build a bridge or a hospital or whatever, it should be decided by a digital referendum through our computers.

  29. Stephen says:

    Lessig is apparently unconcerned with the truth.

    • Matt Katz says:

      Stephen – “Lessig is apparently unconcerned with the truth.” This requires a bit more explanation.

      If I disagree with you, I might say “Stephen is apparently unconcerned with good argumentation.” I should give some sort of warrant for my argument. Else, the debate devolves into mere contradiction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

  30. Anonymous says:

    the left blames the right & right blames the left . Is there a group that blames themselves?

    Although I would label myself as progressive, I think I’m in the camp that blames the system (including ourselves). I believe the system is designed to work when we have a participatory republic. it doesn’t work without participation.

    1) less than half the population votes . problem of apathy
    2) (this is just a guess) less than half of them know what they’re voting for. For example , if the average voter is given a quiz about their candidate’s stance/history or the details of a proposition , they will fail. problem of ignorance

    The left has not done anything constructive for a long time, and the right has been able to slowly destroy the system from within. Under these circumstance, I’m pretty pessimistic about what our system can achieve. I’ll be glad if we could maintain what we have.

    • watchout5 says:

      I’d like to be the first to blame myself, well, not really myself, because in a real democracy if you ever asked me if I wanted something like this 70+ year copyright terms of course I’d say no, but I’d bet myself or my family would have supported candidates in the past who pushed for these regulations. We don’t live in a democracy, but a republic, we elect people and cross our fingers that they do the people’s work, it doesn’t work out.

  31. Ambiguity says:

    I have literally never been able to figure out if I’m conservative or liberal (I’m rather centrist on economic issues, libertarian on social ones), so I’ve never been a fan of that particular two dimensional conception.

    Regardless, Lessing does good work and gives a good presentation. Thanks for posting this!

  32. TheOuroborus says:

    To quote a famous movie line… “You keep using that word (Conservatives), I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Smartest guy? Hardly. I had a much more enlightening conversation this morning with my cat concerning how much food to put in his bowl.

  33. Anonymous says:

    The problem with direct democracy, however well applied, is that while it may work well for simple things (“we need a hospital”) it works shockingly badly for anything more nuanced (“we need a hospital that treats homeless crack addicts”). As soon as the majority starts voting on anything that only affects a minority, you’re on a road that leads to that boot, crushing that human face, forever.

  34. Axx says:

    I’m sorry, but I thought that video was ridiculous. The take home message seemed to be in two parts, and correct me if I’m wrong in this: 1) Copyright law should be thought about carefully and reworked, and 2) conservatives are not the left’s enemies in this matter.

    Well, no shit. I’m pretty sure he’s preaching to the choir on 1), and as for 2)…did anyone assert that conservatives can’t understand fair use? Why is he even bringing party politics into this at all? He even manages to obscure this second issue by only talking about individuals from each political party whose example support his position, proving…what?

    I apologize, but I found little noteworthy in this vid.

  35. Fifth says:

    “probably unique”

    Nope.

    “From a perspective which prizes freedom and what might be called libertarian property rights it is a given that individuals have absolute self-ownership, so a market in human slavery could be consistent with the principles of freedom if it were the case that all slaves had sold themselves into slavery, as is their right.”

    Looooool.

    • middleclass says:

      Are you laughing at the part about self-ownership or the right to contract?

      • Fifth says:

        Oh no man I wasn’t laughing at YOU. I was laughing at um, that OTHER thing. Please, continue to expand on your view that we are not truly free unless we are slaves, I would absolutely love to hear more from you on this topic. I mean that! No really, honest!

  36. Fifth says:

    Q: How do you discredit a libertarian?

    A: Let them keep talking.

  37. Stephen says:

    So you’re saying the government should not have prosecuted the perpetrators of the Enron fraud because that doesn’t prevent it from happening in the first place? Huh?

  38. cymk says:

    The problem with conservatives and liberals is the human attention span; our need to have “yes and no” options. For the last 200+ years we have been working on homogenizing ourselves as a culture, and limiting ourselves to “either/ or” choices in every way possible. Conservative or liberal; black or white; republican or democrat; right or wrong; terrorist or patriot; all of those terms are highly subjective and cover topics too broad for their original definition.

    Instead of having Right, Left, and every varying degree of right and left that we can define; we should split into multiple parties conservative, liberal, democrat, republican, liberal, idiot, genius, green, brown, purple, etc…the names we choose don’t matter. The significance we assign to them matters; the respect we give them matters.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just out of curiosity, is this need for colours besides black and white the reason you’re called cymk?

      • cymk says:

        No, merely pointing out the absurdity in the names we give political parties and the mindlessness with which we try to group “like” parties together into one giant mass of crap.

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