Efficient arguments

July 16, 2011 at 1:08 am (Humans)

I. How ordinary people argue over issues:

A: Intellectual property protection is such a ridiculous thing. How do you justify charging $10 for a music album that costs next to nothing to produce*?

B: Wow, I can’t believe you said this. So you want to STEAL from honest artists*? Would you like others to steal from you too*? I think I might defriend you on Facebook.

A: Well, YOU don’t have to worry about buying stuff because you’re rich*. Not everybody is as privileged as you*. And record companies are too rich anyway. If they were honest, they could pay more of their profits to the real artists*!

B: Not stealing from others is not a choice, it is a moral duty*! “Thou shall not steal”*. You only think intellectual property is bad because you don’t want to pay for what you purchase**! You know who else forcibly took the property of others? Adolf Hitler.*

II. How economists[1] argue :

A: I detest intellectual property rights, for they limit the spread of innovation.

B: I support intellectual property rights, for they provide an incentive to innovate.

A: That is a good point. Let’s find some way of quantifying the benefits from providing incentives to innovate and the costs of limited innovation and compare their magnitude, then we shall know which of our opinions is more valid.

III. How sociologists argue:

A: Over the last few years there has been significant debate about whether intellectual property rights are desirable or even justifiable. Certain economists have argued that intellectual property rights may have some merit, based on their so-called “cost-benefit” mathematical model. But such mathematical models with their reliance on complicated equations and statistical jargon grossly simplify the realities which underlie intellectual property, in the context of an increasingly deregularized and privatized society which operates under the neoliberal doctrine of “free market” capitalism. (Althusser, 1965)  Indeed, seen properly in the context of the late-capitalist épisteme, intellectual property is no more than a metaphysical form of social coercion designed to benefit the upper middle-classes by protecting the status quo – hence the eerie resemblance of the ideology’s name to the classical belief of “property rights”, which had always been more concerned with protecting the physical property of the privileged rather than the mental property of the poor, thus justifying drastic cuts in education, arts and culture, even as the tax system is made to disproportionately favor the wealthy bourgeoisie.

1. Except for Steven Levitt. Here’s the Levitt argument: Is intellectual property protection a good thing? Well, how would my daughter feel about it?


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