Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When it is so easy to share, people will do it. And whether or not that sharing should be bound in some sense by other forms of obligation is largely irrelevant. 
I was too simplistic in my diss of Lessig. The problem, and it is a problem, is that he tries to build a unified field, a gestalt of law and meaning, and it's impossible to do so (forgive my sloppiness I'm a bit drunk.) He's still under the influence of his old boss, the reactionary fool Antonin Scalia. Lessig is a neatnik. Modernism is full of them—many of them near autistic in their behavior and ideas (an old theme of mine)—and there is no way to neaten up an untidy world without destroying it: no way to construct a system that succeeds in describing the whole of experience.

I make a painting. I give it to my children. They give it to their children. Let's say for purposes of argument that it's a great painting (that I'm a great painter.) Is there a limit to the copyright? Does the painting ever fall into the public domain? Should it? 

What is the difference between art that exists as reproduction, as event, and art that exists as isolate, as thing? My painting is my intellectual property. If I sell it or give it away, it becomes the property of someone else. Does it become that person's intellectual property as well? That is a subject still being debated.

I have no problem with Creative Commons, I have a problem with the thought that it resolves every problem. As I said below, the fight over downloading is extra-legal. It is illegal to download pirated data. But a crime that is so easy, and for which there is a philosophical defense in the idea and moral ideal of sharing, means that something new has to be constructed to respond to the new reality. Lessig is trying to construct a modern moral doctrine, a totality (he shares this interest with Scalia) I stand in opposition to such things.

My interest is curiosity and its defense. Wealth is not an interesting subject and neither, with a few exceptions, are the wealthy. So why all the mechanations: this market crap? The right to own property is not the same as the right to make money from it. My children and grandchildren, or more likely my nieces, nephews, and friends' children should get to keep what I give them. Whether they should have the right to get rich off it is another issue.

This is not an argument for or from doctrine. It's more of a benchmark and doctrines tend to involve arcane detail. The defense of progressive taxation is not a doctrine, except to its enemies at Cato and AEI. When a thought is a commonplace it's more than a doctrine, and the best defense of file sharing as I said above is the fact of it. This could be a defense of barbarism but it isn't. I'm not defending the mob, but it can't be ignored, any more than one can ignore changes in language. You can't ride a wave, but you can surf it.

I can't get this out of my head. The sense that it is possible to be outside of history, outside of the "organic process" was one of the bloodiest mistakes of modernist thought. And now the riposte: the thought that intelligent human design plays no part. [Although the intellectuals who argue thus claim the same authority as their fathers.] From the vulgarity of activist determinism to the vulgarity of passive determinism in one hundred miserable years. Dawkins existence, as a symptom, was predictable. That's cruel irony.

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