April 23, 2012. World Book and Copyright Day

Today I am joining the celebration of the World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) a yearly event on 23 April, organized by UNESCO to promote readingpublishing and copyright. The Day was first celebrated in 1995 and in 2012 the UK World Book day was celebrated on March 1, 2012.[1]

As part of my celebration I am sharing with you some quotes from one of my favorite books.  This year I have chosen the book “The Law” written by Frederic Bastiat.  The book was first published as a pamphlet in June, 1850  and later became widely read in Europe and the world.

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” ― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

In The Law, Bastiat states that “each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property”. The State is a “substitution of a common force for individual forces” to defend this right. The law becomes perverted when it punishes one’s right to self-defense in favor of another’s acquired right to plunder.

Bastiat defines two forms of plunder: “stupid greed and false philanthropy”. Stupid greed is “protective tariffs, subsidies, guaranteed profits” and false philanthropy is “guaranteed jobs, relief and welfare schemes, public education, progressive taxation, free credit, and public works”. Monopolies and Socialism are legalized plunder which Bastiat emphasizes is legal but not legitimate.

If you are interested in reading more about this ideas here are the links to the book,

The Law (English Edition) via Amazon.com

La Ley (Spanish Edition) via Amazon.com

La Loi (annoté) (French Edition) via Amazon

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Protect IP Act and Internet

A copyright protects a men’s mind contribution in The purest form: ie. in the the origination of ideas. This protection allows for men to freely decide what to do with his creation: give it for free, authorize some uses of it (Creative Commons), prohibit any use of it, sell the rights to the use of the idea.

Now, this recognition of Intellectual Property automatically gives to the owner a value that he can exchange for a specific amount of money and/or recognition. To the owner, this may be the stimulus for which he made the effort of creating and innovating. Also, there are many other retributions and stimulus for men to create. F.A. Hayek mentions that it is for the sake of creation that some intellectuals work and not only for the $. He made a valid point and usually this creator give for free or with some free of charge rights the use of their ideas (via CC like in this blog).

I was shared a video that claims that,

“PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting “creativity”. The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites– they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.”

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.”

Now, censorship is “the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.” You could argue that it is censorship what government officials do when they put fines or take to jail those who are violating copyright rights. But also, you can argue in a higher hierarchy that yes, the officials are taking your right to “disseminate” speech and knowledge because you are violating the rights to property of other members of society. (Remember that private property is stil one of the rights that Americans haven’t managed to completely destroy… but after Patriot Act passed, anything is now possible and the socialization of Property is soon to happen there if nothing changes.)

Now the fallacious error of this video and of the claim of those who consider that Acts like this are violating men’s right to Speech can be found in the initial argument: “PROTECT IP Act is breaking internet”

Why is this fallacious?

It is a false argument because it starts by considering “Property as a non essential characteristic of the entity “Internet“. ie. They start by giving for granted that Internet lacks property rights and that it is only “Internet” when access is collective and a so called public good”. Now, the property rights or non property rights of internet are accessorial characteristics that are determined in context. For example, a chair could have different colors and still be a chair; internet could have private rights in some things and lack property rights in others but still be Internet.

Just as in radio-telecommunication spectrum legislation; If someone (a company) pays the rights of use of internet from other company or government grant and this company decides to restricts the access to the network, connections, websites, etc they have acquired a right to do so.

This private right to do whatever you please in your website enables you to do anything except violating other people’s rights. Since we still consider IP to be an inalienable right, those websites that violate it should be held responsible. That would not be censorship but the recognition of a violation of rights done by a website. That is what the PROTECT IP Act aims to do.

Occupying Wall Street for the wrong reasons

The group “The 99 percenters” (also known as the 99%) assembled in Wall Street to protest against the corporations of the United States that have benefited from the privileges granted from government through lobbying. They say to be tired of the social and economic inequality in their country.  Somehow, they consider Corporations to be the one’s to blame for this inequalities.

Now, lets hold on for a second and consider what are they protesting against and who’s to blame. Then, lets try to explain what and whom should be really blamed before continuing this protests.

What they say to be protesting against:

What are the really protesting against:

  • Social inequality: Is in fact the cultural and educational differences of those who know more than others.
  • Economic inequality: Is the result of those men who earn a salary that is higher than others; or of those who own a business and make more earnings than others.
  • Lobbying: Is the act of influencing decisions made by officials in the government in favor of some industries, unions, or groups of society.
  • Corporate greed: Is not to be confused with the profit that an entrepreneur earns in his ventures.  Greed should better be understood as the result of living and satisfying one’s wants wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. Corporations that profit with the privileges granted by government are the only ones to be attacked and denounced; not those entrepreneurs who took risks and invest their savings.

These “99 percenters” are confused.  They think that Corporations are to be blamed for the economic and financial crisis that started in 2008 in the U.S.  However, it is their government and their bureaucrats that through Congress ad the FED enabled for the crisis to happen.  This protests should have been taking place in front of the White House and the Senate instead of Wall Street. (Check this video of some of the protests in Wall Street agains the FED)

It is not all the rich and wealthy who benefit from government privileges.  The ones who did are to be blamed. But more so, the one’s to be blamed and taken to justice are the the government officials who created the legislation that ensures that corruption and impunity continue without being punished.

As Fréderic Bastiat, the journalist and philosopher from the 19th. Century, once said:

The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

How has this perversion of the law been accomplished? And what have been the results?

The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy. (…)

But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.

This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

I invite you to continue reading Bastiat’s wonderful book “The Law” online. I am myself, have read it for dozens of times and consider it one of the most enlightening works ever written. Spanish versión: La ley por Frédéric Bastiat [PDF¨]