Slashdot: Considering a Fair Penalty For Illegal File-sharing
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt, following up on yesterday’s announcement of the 1.5 million dollar verdict against Jammie Thomas:
“This week a federal jury handed down the verdict in the third file-sharing trial against a Minnesota mother of four who has been fighting against the charges brought by the RIAA since 2005. Understandably, a lot of people are outraged by this verdict and while reading through comments about the fine on some online forums, I saw some interesting opinions on how these fines should be assessed. The point that $62,500 per song is excessively high seems to be something that everyone can agree on, but what actually is fair seems to be a big point of contention.”(Link)
While I think this is a reasonable question, and think the penalties are absurdly large, Slashdot quickly descended into a chorus of “there should be no penalty; piracy should be legal” arguments with other people voting them up. It’s irritating and frightening to see technology sites decend into this kind of nonsense. It’s like being a store owner and seeing a majority of people arguing that they feel completely justified stealing everything they want from stores [insert thin justification here] – oblivious to the consequences to stores or society. Even worse, I sort of feel a kinship with tech-savy people, so it feels like a betrayal by people who should know better.
What I find most odd about the whole thing is how their judgment changes when some company benefits from piracy. Two days ago, there was a story on Slashdot about a cookbook that took a recipe from the internet. When this was discovered, the company responded with “everything on the internet is public domain; we did the original author a favor”. People weren’t too happy about a company earning money by taking a recipe from an individual and selling it. Yet, so many of the comments in the “Considering a Fair Penalty For Illegal File-sharing” article work equally well to argue for the company’s “right” to take and print up someone else’s recipe.
You are the fool that allows an idiotic fine like this to happen. Pirating music is not like stealing cars. I’ll repeat: pirating music is not like stealing cars. When I download a torrent, NO ONE LOSES ANYTHING. The publishing company doesnt end up with one less copy of the album on their hard drives, the artist doesnt lose the ability to play the song. I would never have paid for that album, and no one who downloads through me would pay for it either. No one loses anything. (Link)
Put into the context of taking someone’s copyrighted material and selling it (as the cookbook creator did):
You are the fool that allows an idiotic fine like this to happen. Pirating [recipes] is not like stealing cars. I’ll repeat: pirating [recipes] is not like stealing cars. When I put [someone else’s recipe in my cookbook], NO ONE LOSES ANYTHING. The [cook] doesnt end up with one less copy of the [the recipe] on their hard drives, the [cook] doesnt lose the ability to [make the recipe]. I would never have paid for that [recipe], and no one who [reads my cookbook] through me would pay for it either. No one loses anything.
Just because they downloaded does not mean that the product is worth paying for. Besides, this is completely irrelevant. Logically, pirates take nothing from anyone. The only argument that I’ve ever seen (and it’s a terrible one) is the “potential profit” argument. But, really, it’s impossible to steal money that only exists in the future of an alternate dimension where the artist/business made more money. Also, everyone in existence is ‘guilty’ of ‘stealing’ profit that others could, potentially, have had (you ‘deprive’ someone of potential profit merely by choosing not to buy a product). Our illogical capitalistic society is what needs fixing. (Link)
Put into the context of taking someone’s copyrighted material and selling it (as the cookbook creator did):
Just because [the cookbook creator used the recipe] does not mean that the [recipe] is worth paying for. Besides, this is completely irrelevant. Logically, pirates [like the cookbook creator] take nothing from anyone. The only argument that I’ve ever seen (and it’s a terrible one) is the “potential profit” argument. But, really, it’s impossible to steal money that only exists in the future of an alternate dimension where the artist/business made more money. Also, everyone in existence is ‘guilty’ of ‘stealing’ profit that others could, potentially, have had (you ‘deprive’ someone of potential profit merely by choosing not to buy a product). Our illogical capitalistic society is what needs fixing.
This would mean, of course, that the original creator of the recipe (or any writing, music, software, movie, etc) has no grounds to complain if some company takes their work and sells it.
Has it occurred to you that you are proposing the destruction of the value of human labor on a massive scale?
That’s what a labor market is like; you get paid for your actual labor, not the fruits thereof, or all the value that the fruits might yield.
If authors cannot sell many copies of their book (the fruit of labor) because people just copy the few that were sold, and then copy the copies, and so on, they’ll just change models or get a better job. Perhaps an author will demand payment up front — $10 per hour of writing, or something — and find that it works better, since no one yet knows how to copy him. (Link)
Put into the context of taking someone’s copyrighted material and selling it (as the cookbook creator did):
It’s perfectly okay for the cookbook publisher to take the recipe or any text written by any author, put it into a book and sell it. The original author should “get paid for your actual labor, not the fruits thereof, or all the value that the fruits might yield”.
How silly that a “lawyer”, of all people, can’t see through the illogicalness of his own statement.
Of course, this can be generalized to a lot more than cookbook recipes – the ultimate outcome being that companies can sell copies of music, books, music, whatever they want because “copying isn’t theft”, and “you can’t prove anyone would’ve bought it (at full price)”. At least there were a lot of comments in the cookbook article attacking slashdotters for their double-standard. Personally, I think the distinction between “free piracy” and “pirate and sell” is a bit of an arbitrary distinction, since most of the consequences are the same.
I’m the one who made the second comment.
“It’s like being a store owner and seeing a majority of people arguing that they feel completely justified stealing everything they want from stores [insert thin justification here] – oblivious to the consequences to stores or society.”
No, it’s like comparing copying data (text in this case) to depriving someone of something. See, the thing is, you don’t deprive anyone of anything by infringing upon their copyright. In order for that to do actual harm, the people who infringed upon copyright must steal the copyright holders money (that they already had), waste their time (specifically request that they complete a job for them and then not pay them), waste their resources, or deprive them of property that they already owned.
I’m honestly surprised that people can’t differentiate between actual theft (where someone is deprived of something), and copyright infringement. Even the law that these people defend separates the two.
It is illogical for to try to artificially limit the amount of data or information that is spread around. Think about it. If something can be infinitely copied without harming anyone, then why should we try to stop them from receiving the information? If a system requires that an artist try to extort people who have done them no harm in order to make a profit and continue producing content, then that system is fundamentally broken, not the pirates/people who infringed upon copyright. Stop blaming people who cause others no harm and start blaming the broken system itself.
My first thought when seeing your reply was wondering whether you are a reader of the blog, whether you Google your Slashdot comments to see if anyone anywhere has mentioned them, or if someone reading this post alerted you to this article. The first two seem pretty unlikely, so I have to guess it’s the third option.
Here’s the situation: copyright is a generalization of the patron system used in the medieval times; it allows for society to collectively fund the development of works. It has a number of useful aspects: if someone creates something not desired by society, society doesn’t pay (which is in contrast to, say, a tax-based system where people must pay; it also has the effect of pushing bad creators out of the system). If someone creates something desired by society, then the creator gets paid and could potentially make a living making more things (this has the effect of allowing the “good” creators continuing to create). It also means that only people who desire the work have to pay (which means I’m not forced to support musicians with my money if I don’t like the music they create).
The major problem right now with copyright is a long-standing problem known as “freeriding”. This means that people benefit from something despite not contributing when they’re supposed to contribute.
Just because I used a stealing analogy doesn’t mean that I think it’s exactly like theft. The “doesn’t deprive anyone of anything” is irrelevant in this context because I said “oblivious to the consequences to stores or society.” What are the consequences? Bankruptcy for creators and subsequently the loss of those creations by society and the pirates. The consequences are the same for both copyright infringement and theft.
The issue that most pirates like to ignore is the fact that everything has a development cost. Very often, this development cost is very large. For example, in my case, I spent over $100,000 to create my software. This leaves me in a position where thousands and thousands of sales need to take place in order for me to break even. Now, you can complain that “this isn’t anyone’s fault when they pirate”, which I would take as an acceptable answer if they had a lobotomy and were incapable of thinking for themselves or controlling their own behavior.
Perhaps you read too much into my statement.
No it’s not for exactly the reason I explained above. Under your system, we go bankrupt leaving you and the rest of society a lot poorer. In that sense, pirates are destroying the system they use. It’s like snake eating it’s own tail and believing “well, this couldn’t possibly go badly in the long run”.
Because of the development cost – the big elephant in the room that pirates want to pretend doesn’t exist.
Just because you want to justify the actions of free-riders doesn’t mean their actions are right. There is no “extortion” going on anymore than there’s “extortion” going on when doorman at a concert requires that you buy a ticket to get inside, or when an amusement park requires that you buy a ticket to ride the rides. (And before you complain about “limited space” at concerts and amusement parks, I’ll point out that they still require a ticket even on days when they know it won’t be sold-out.)
I sort of imagine pirates to be the kind of people who, if their three friends were going down to Miami to go on spring break, would insist on going, but not contributing to the collective cost because “if I didn’t go, you wouldn’t get that money; therefore going-but-not-contributing is exactly the same as not-going at all (and you can’t punish me for that)”. They would insist on riding for free in the rental car (“because there’s still space that you aren’t using”) and insisting on not contributing towards the hotel room (“because there’s a bed that’s only half-occupied”). But, his friends insist that if he’s going with the group he had to contribute equally. But the pirate just can’t understand why if there’s “extra space that isn’t being used” that he can’t get it for free, leaving his friends to foot the bill and not understanding why it’s irritating to them.
I’ve seen people comment on piracy about how they used to be total pirates, taking whatever they wanted, until they eventually had to admit that what they were doing was wrong – despite how much it pained them to admit it to themselves – because it meant they could no longer, in good conscience, participate in the free-for-all that got them lots of free stuff. I hope you’ll do the same.
Also, many creators will be willing to look the other way if you’re pirating stuff but you’re honestly poor and can’t pay for it. We’ll have a certain amount of sympathy for your situation and won’t see it as a loss since you can’t afford it. But, if you use the much more generalized “information should be free” type of argument, then we’ll turn against you because what you’re saying is that your situation – no matter how rich you are – makes no difference to whether or not you should pay. This is just another way of saying “everyone everywhere can take your work for free, and give nothing back, no matter how badly you need to buy food or pay the rent” – which is not only bad for us, but it’s bad for you, too.
“The first two seem pretty unlikely, so I have to guess it’s the third option. ”
In the digital age, it is largely obsolete and cannot replace fixing the broken business model.
Which I’m saying is illogical, since if you believe that it is possible to deprive someone of potential profit, and you also believe that doing so hurts them, not giving someone your money would also hurt them.
There’s no reason to contribute and buy things that are in an infinite supply just so that we can keep artificial scarcity in place and the current broken capitalistic society on life support. Pirates, again, aren’t really taking anything.
Which are also problems with people who decide not to buy a product. If they had bought the product, the artist wouldn’t have gone out of business, and therefore society lost an artist due to the fact that everyone (or at least a few people) didn’t give the artist their money (which was completely their fault, and not at all the fault of this poorly thought out capitalistic society).
I do consider development cost, but again, pirates aren’t taking anything. The author remains completely unaffected. Unchanged. Saying the pirate did harm to the author or society is like saying someone who decided not to buy the product harmed the author or society (neither gave the artist their money).
Under my system (you’re the one who said it), we would no longer blame people who harm no one for the failings of a society, introduce artificial scarcity, or allow planned obsolescence.
Which ones? Not me (as I’ve pointed out).
Just because you want to continue supporting a broken capitalistic society, that doesn’t mean what pirates are doing is wrong.
Except for the fact that they’re blaming the failings of a capitalistic society on people who logically do no harm in the first place. Forcing artificial scarcity and ultimately making artists and everyone else suffer anyway is not the answer. Attempting (at the very least) to fix the actual problem, however, is.
The only time I could see it ‘hurting’ someone is if someone paid for the ticket and someone that didn’t pay was using a spot while the place was completely full. Otherwise, no ‘harm’ was done.
That’s not a very good example because that is costing the person extra money. When pirates copy data, they’re costing the author exactly zero extra time, money, and effort. The only costs, as you mentioned, were the development costs, but I’ve already answered that.
There are many pirates who don’t actually think about the issue logically. I see many that use very poor arguments to defend themselves, and some even outright claim that what they are doing is ‘wrong’. That makes me somewhat sad.
I will, however, continue advocating that we fix this broken mess of a system instead of blaming people who logically hurt no one and introducing artificial scarcity (along with the slew of other problems that capitalistic societies seem to be plagued with). The first step is realizing that the system is broken, not placing blame on random people who do no harm to begin with just because they don’t shower someone with money for media that is in an infinite supply.
Oh, and here’s a link to an alternate system (possibly a consideration for the future) in case you decide to ask: http://thevenusproject.com/
Oh, and please note that I don’t actually discourage people from rewarding artists for their efforts. I’m merely saying that it’s illogical to claim that a pirate hurts an artist or society when the pirate never even interacted with the artist in the least (which means they remain completely unaffected by the actions of the pirate). ‘Losing’ the potential to gain something in the future is not harm, and if it was, everyone in existence would likely be ‘guilty’ of inflicting this non-existent harm upon others.
Nope, I still disagree. You avoided addressing most of my points. You avoided talking about my car analogy. You avoided my analogy to concerts and amusement parks. You avoided talking about the original problem that if your argument for piracy were correct, then you’d also have to agree that companies should be allowed to sell other people’s work – for example, Walmart and Amazon can print up all the books, music, software, movies, etc ever written and sell them without paying a dime to anybody (“because those companies haven’t deprived the original author of anything” – even though it’s blatantly obvious they’re enriching themselves while undermining his sales).
I already addressed your point about “pirating is the same as not-buying” argument with my car analogy. Just because you, as the fourth person in my car analogy, wouldn’t pay if you didn’t go on the trip doesn’t mean you should be allowed to go on the trip and not pay because “not going is allowed, and you get paid the same if I don’t go”. If that argument actually were true, then, logically, you should also argue that:
(1) You should be allowed into concerts for free as long as it isn’t 100% full because “if it isn’t full, I’m not depriving anyone of anything. And if I didn’t go, you wouldn’t get my money, therefore, not going is the same as going and not paying. Therefore, I should be allowed to go and not pay as long as there’s space.”
(2) You can ride on public transportation (buses and subways) for free as long as it’s not full.
(3) You should be allowed into movie theaters for free as long as there’s empty seats.
(4) You should be allowed into amusement parks for free as long as they aren’t full.
(5) You should be allowed to stay in all camp sites for free as long as they’re unoccupied.
(6) You should be allowed to stay in unoccupied hotel rooms for free as long as you leave the room in the same condition you found it in.
There are plenty of situations like this, but businesses shouldn’t let you stay for free because it would undermine their financial viability because paying customers would quickly realize how to game the system to get in for free when they would’ve otherwise paid.
You say “I do consider development cost, but again, pirates aren’t taking anything.” No, you never addressed the issue of development cost. You never came up with an answer as to how creators were supposed to pay off the large debts they accrue as part of the development cost, you just skip past the question and say ‘making a copy doesn’t cost anything’. Development cost and cost-per-unit are two different things.
In fact, my car analogy was actually pretty generous. If I walked up to a bus and told the bus driver “I don’t need to pay – and if the bus ever gets full, then I’ll get off – therefore, I’m not depriving anyone of any space or depriving anyone of a paying customer, and therefore, I (and logically, everyone else) should be allowed to ride the bus for free” – I’d rightly be laughed off. Yet, the situation is remarkably similar. The only difference is that you think you should be allowed to ride for free, and I can’t physically kick you off the bus. Once you and everyone else rides for free “as long as there’s at least one unoccupied seat” quickly leads to a situation where the bus (a business) goes bankrupt.
Your logic applied to subways is the same:
That’s the same thing with us, the people who create your software. You might talk about a “broken capitalistic system” but really it’s about a lack of moral backbone among people won can’t stop themselves from pirating other people’s work – and, instead of doing the right thing, they want everyone else to accommodate them.
If you want to respond, I recommend answering all three questions I raised:
(1) Should large corporations be allowed to sell all media (music, movies, software, books, etc) without paying the original author?
(2) Should people be allowed to use public transportation, movie theaters, amusement parks, concerts, camp sites, and hotels for for free as long as there is some unoccupied space?
If you answer “No” to either of these questions, then you’re being inconsistent. If you answer “Yes” to either of these questions, then you flunk basic economics.
(3) How do you keep creators investing large amounts of time and money developing things if everyone grabs it all for free? Unless society is tremendously generous donating their money, the only possible outcome is a loss of most creators (leading to less diversity and specialization), and most projects will be done on a shoestring budget (which means lower quality products for society). Result: everyone loses.
I really don’t see this changing, either, even if I was correct.
Actually, I did not avoid that one. I did, in fact, answer it.
Then let it be known from now on that if it doesn’t inflict monetary harm (or time), then I do not view it as harm. If someone sneaks into a concert or amusement park, no harm was done.
Yes, exactly. No harm was done, so I don’t see a problem with this either.
Yes, you should. No harm was done in any of those scenarios.
I don’t know how they’re supposed to pay them off, but you seem to be having trouble figuring out what my arguments actually mean. Is it the pirates fault that someone chose to put themselves in debt by their own will even though they never even interacted with them? No. It was their own choice, and the pirate had nothing to do with it. The pirate may have their product, but that is irrelevant because in getting the product, nothing the author already had was taken. As I pointed out above, the pirate has absolutely nothing to do with someone else’s debts.
Now, if they wish to see the developers make more products in the future, they should obviously pay them. But they’re not harming them by not doing so.
In our current illogical capitalistic society, I suspect so. But as I said above, no harm is being done, so I believe that you should have this right.
No, actually, I really do feel that our capitalistic society is broken. It’s not just for this one reason, either.
Corruption among the people’s own ‘representatives’, abuse of the environment for profit (if it’s less profitable to do something good for the environment, it will take a long time before it is done, and by then it is possibly too late), greed, planned obsolescence (making things to break at a specified point in time or making them cheap so they will eventually break so that you can turn a profit in the future), artificial scarcity (as with this), wars that are ultimately for profit, abuse of basic human rights for profit (such as people attempting to stop the corruption) or power (which leads to more profit), and abuse of animals for profit (fur and the meat industry, as there are alternatives to that such as in vitro meat, but they aren’t adopted because it isn’t yet profitable because it’s not yet done). That might seem like a relatively short list, but most of those things happen quite often in no small part due to artificial currency and the failings it promotes.
You also talk about the ‘right’ thing, but that is subjective and therefore useless to this conversation. We’re talking about harm and how our capitalistic society is failing, not your personal feelings on what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
Also, why are you assuming that I’m a pirate? I don’t believe that I mentioned being one, and just because I make arguments that a pirate would probably make, that doesn’t mean I’m a pirate. It just means that I agree with them.
Yes and yes. “Basic economics” is exactly what I’m speaking out against. I have no doubt that people would be unhappy with that because their flow of profits would go down, but as I said, that is a problem with this illogical capitalistic society, and I believe that’s what needs to be fixed for the betterment of the entire human race. The current system is simply not sustainable, for reasons I listed above.
As I said, I believe that the fact that artificial scarcity must be introduced to turn a profit is a failing with our capitalistic society. Logically, pirates aren’t doing any harm (nor is anyone in your examples), so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be allowed other than to keep our broken system on life support. When you’re criminalizing a majority of the population, there is likely a problem that needs to be addressed. A problem that can’t be addressed by criminalizing them further.
Easy, just make a good argument that your system improves society.
Good, I’m glad that you admitted to a position I call “copyright anarchy”. Virtually no one subscribes to this viewpoint, so you’ve just lost over 95% of the public reading this.
So, you admit that your philosophy results in a poorer society.
I can figure out why you keep using the word “capitalistic” since the word you’re looking for is “greedy” (as in “No, actually, I really do feel that our greedy society is broken. “). Greed is something universal to mankind, and which pirates are just one example of.
I don’t understand how any of that is relevant to the issue of piracy and the anti-copyright movement, unless you’re suggesting that the anti-copyright movement is just another example of greed.
Some people seem to have a big issue with “artificial scarcity”, but the problem is that their solution to it causes economic collapse for the people working in those industries, which results in a *real* scarcity which is much worse than the problem of artificial scarcity that is “being solved”.
First, the majority of the population is not pirating. Second, the act of working against piracy does not mean “criminalizing” them (the word is really just a scare technique). For example, you can give small fines to people pirating. Or, you can give no penalties at all to pirates, but attack the top-level systems that enable piracy (like eliminating popular sites like the PirateBay). Third, even if the majority of the population does something, it doesn’t legitimize it. Case in point: recently, it was reported in the news that 37% of men in South Africa have committed rape. It’s shocking, but are we supposed to believe that if that number was 51% that we can’t or shouldn’t work against the epidemic of rape in South Africa? No one in their right mind would reach that conclusion. Argument by popularity simply isn’t a good argument.
An article about rape in South Africa: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101126/ap_on_re_af/af_south_africa_rape
I also think one flaw in your thought process is the assumption that potential profit is a nonsense concept. You might’ve convinced yourself that it’s true, but virtually no one agrees with you, and they have good reasons for not doing so. I was thinking the other day, that if someone did a denial of service attack on Amazon over the entire month of December, causing Amazon to lose lots of sales, you’d regard that as “no loss” because it was only “potential profit”. Thus, under your system, denial of service attacks against online retailers result in absolutely no loss. This is a rather bizarre concept. Similarly, if I bought up all the land around a store and built a wall, preventing customers from reaching the store, you’d also regard that as perfectly fine because there was no “real” loss of revenue, only a “potential loss” of revenue. Thus, according to your thinking, neither of these cases result in “harm”, even though it’s pretty obvious to everyone else that it did.
I’ve already explained my reasoning. I’m against the use of artificial scarcity because it’s simply not needed, and any system that relies on it is flawed. If that isn’t convincing enough, then I don’t see your opinion changing anytime soon.
I admitted to wanting a completely different society that we have now, not just to the loss of copyright. Whether or not a majority supports me is irrelevant to the ‘facts’.
Was that ever being debated? Do you understand my arguments? I’ve been saying the entire time that that doesn’t matter because nothing was taken in the first place, and criminalizing people for victimless crimes just shows one of the many flaws in our current society.
Greed is a behavior, and one that can be changed. Pirates aren’t greedy, they just believe that their actions do not harm anyone else (which, as I’ve explained, they don’t) and that they should have the ability to copy information.
It’s not, I was pointing out more issues brought about by our society which utilizes currency.
Do you not understand that my entire argument has been against societies that utilize currency in the first place? This is what I believe needs to be fixed. If we just allow people to copy, the problem won’t truly be fixed, as artists will still be suffering because the system practically forces you to either earn worthless currency or suffer.
No, but everyone in existence is ‘guilty’ of the ‘crime’ of ‘depriving’ someone of potential future gain.
Really? Fining them with absolutely ridiculous fines for a victimless crime and involving police isn’t criminalizing them?
This still doesn’t address the reason why such a system should even be supported.
If you’ll read what I said, I stated that if a large amount of the population are being criminalized for something (directly or indirectly), you might want to see if something is wrong, not that it was factually okay.
As you said yourself, whether the majority agrees with me or not is irrelevant, so you didn’t even need to state that.
That depends. Does this damage their servers or require money to fix? If so, then there was actual loss. Loss of something that they already had.
Yes, but you still don’t seem to be understanding that what I’m actually against is the concept of currency itself.
In the first scenario, as I explained, there was harm done (most likely) in trying to fix the problem, which resulted in an actual loss of money (or time) that they already had due to the actions of another. In the second scenario, there was no harm due to the fact that they never actually had any of the proposed money in the first place. They lost nothing. They were completely unchanged. I realize that money and logic don’t mix, but I still don’t understand why so many people believe that you can lose something that you never even had in the first place.
As I said before, I advocate implementing an alternative system such as The Venus Project: http://thevenusproject.com/
The problem, I believe, is not with the artists trying to make money or the pirates, but the way society itself was built.
Complaining about “artificial scarcity” isn’t an argument, you have to argue for something better. My argument is simply this: yes, the current system allows for seats to be empty and software to go unused when it could be used by people for free. This is not an optimal situation. But, your “solution” undermines the economic system, leading to a collapse of those industries, leading to a real scarcity which is a worse condition than the one you’re trying to fix. You might as well be saying, “If only we could drive everyone out of business, then things would be great”.
No, you mentioned the venus project briefly. I watched twenty to thirty minutes of their video, but disagree with a lot of their assumptions about the world and humanity.
Yes, it is. Additionally, the act of copyright infringement is a victimless crime (for reasons I’ve already explained above).
That’s part of the point. Removing old, inefficient habits and making way for a better future. I never said that the optimal solution would be to make copyright infringement legal and call it a day, because as I said above, then it would be artists that would be suffering (due to our inefficient capitalistic practices, not because of victimless crimes).
Yes, but I believe I’ve mentioned how our capitalistic society is flawed quite a few times in my posts.
I wasn’t ignoring you, I just felt like I should go back and watch the video again since my memory is a little fuzzy now about the issues I disagreed with. I still haven’t re-watched the video, but based on what I remember:
As far as I can tell, they want an economy where everyone shares everything and people are just supposed to do work to help move society forward. (I remember them commenting that Einstein and the Wright brothers didn’t need a profit motive to do their work.) This struck me as potentially false (I thought I remembered the Wright brothers laid down a bunch of patents on their aircraft designs), and, secondly, kind of irrelevant. So what if smart scientists would continue to do work because they love exploring science. It’s not clear that it’s generalizable to the population as a whole or generalizable to other jobs like picking up other people’s garbage.
I’ve known people who have lived in these sort of hippy “share everything” kind of communes. One irritation was always that there were some freeloaders who wouldn’t do any work, but they’d show up for dinner each day and eat what other people created. The problem of freeloaders is an age-old problem, and I don’t see that issue solved in the Venus project. There’s also the issue of under-working or working on the wrong thing. Some people will work twenty hours a week and be done. Other people will decide that writing their own autobiography would be what humanity needs. One of my neighbors told me once that she needs to write her autobiography because she’s had so many interesting experiences in her life. My thought at the time was that her life probably isn’t as interesting as she thinks it is, and the fact that it happened *to her* probably makes it seem much more interesting than it is. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be working all day growing food or writing software and then giving my work to people me who are “helping humanity” by going and writing their memoirs or writing crappy music while getting high all day. As far as I can tell, there’s simply no quality control in the Venus Project system. Further, how do you get people to do the crappy jobs? Does anyone want to be a garbageman? What about a janitor? What about mowing lawns? What about being a nurse (who often spend more time than they’d like cleaning up other people’s bathroom accidents or giving sponge baths)?
We need people to do this work, and if there’s no profit motive, I think people will gravitate towards the “fun” jobs. There might easily be an overabundance of people trying to do the “fun” work – which really doesn’t help humanity. I think the profit signal is very important. What do I mean by “profit signal”? I mean that if we need X people to do job Y, then there are people willing to pay money for people to do job Y. If there’s not enough people doing job Y, then wages go up to attract more people to that job. If there’s too many people who want to do it, then wages go down causing people to shift to doing something else. Money acts as an important factor to get the right number of people doing the work. We don’t need a society where 50% of the population are musicians. In that case, most of those musicians won’t get paid so they’ll go do something more important for society. We also don’t want a society where 0% of the population are garbageman and janitors. We pay people to get people doing those jobs.
Right now, I live in an condo building with an homeowners association. There are times that we need particular jobs done (like painting over graffiti or changing lightbulbs or whatever). Most people (including me) aren’t that interested in doing these little jobs. Even though it amounts to maybe an hour or a few hours a month, almost nobody wants to volunteer to do the work. There are usually a few people who do volunteer to do some work, but it’s certainly a minority of people and the work is pretty light.
On the other hand, when we collect fees and pay some outside contractor to do things like mow the lawn, things get done. It’s the profit motive in action, and the failure of the volunteer system. I can’t imagine how badly the system would fail if we were asking people to volunteer to do twenty or forty hours of work each week.
Sure, there are issues and problems with the capitalist system, but I see a lot more problems with the Venus project system. At least as far as I understand that system.
It’s not clear because it hasn’t been put into effect yet. All there is so far is speculation. As for picking up other people’s garbage, that likely wouldn’t be necessary in a society where the general populace is educated and understands the importance of recycling and such.
The Venus Project presents but one implementation of such a system. For instance, it could have a government run almost entirely by the people, and ‘freeloaders’ (as in people who do nothing for society and are able to) wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to leech off of everyone else.
“Wrong thing”? There’s plenty of people working on the “wrong thing” right now. Things that do not benefit society in the least (such as sports). Not everyone needs to be working on something that directly benefits society in order for society to function (entertainment would of course be allowed), and society (perhaps a government) would likely keep track of what jobs need doing.
Tedious jobs would likely be replaced with machines, anyway. If possible, at least. Currently many jobs could easily replace their workers with machines, but due to “profit motive” and money, they do not want to fire their workers even if they could benefit society elsewhere.
Who it goes to shouldn’t matter too much to you. You would write software because you loved to write software, not for some pointless profit (or at least, that’s how it should work).
As I said, that is just one implementation of it. It is by no means set in stone and could be adjusted as needed.
People would likely take care of this themselves. Or, perhaps, there would be people who would rise to this challenge.
Well, numerous members of my family have said that they loved to clean, but I’m not sure how many people like that exist. It would likely end up being done by the people themselves.
There’s no need to hire someone else to do such things.
I would suspect that there are people who would fill in positions for such a job.
Your use of the word “crappy” is subjective, anyway (though I can’t possibly predict the outcome).
There’s the motive to help all of society, and without the social conditioning that states that you should work for profit, it may or may not be enough.
Aren’t there plenty of those types of jobs being done already?
So does society itself.
I don’t believe that this would ever happen. In order for that to occur, half of the populace must start taking an interest in making music (and people who do poorly at it would likely not want to).
I wonder if the lack of volunteers is due to the existence and current necessity of money itself and social conditioning.
Besides the fact that if current trends to continue, we’ll likely end up destroying not only ourselves, but exhausting numerous types of resources and the environment as well? It doesn’t stop at have problems: it is not sustainable.
It’s certainly not perfect, but I believe that it is far less destructive than capitalist societies.
Well, your responses have made me even more confident that my critique of the Venus Project was correct. As far as I can tell, it sounds like communism with a little bit of a futuristic spin. I’m also confused about your claim that everyone is supposed to just pitch in and improve society versus your claim that the government will get involved to put people into jobs so that the crappy jobs get done.
I also think this system has already been tried in a variety of forms – via communism, via hippie communes, and via other types of religious communes. Heck, the early Christian church had a system where everyone owned everything in common. I see these systems as ultimately failing because some people won’t contribute their fair share, and people always have a problem with people not contributing their fair share which leads to increased poverty and resentment.
I don’t know what you’re talking about. People get fired from jobs all the time and replaced by machines. It’s in the business owner’s profit interest to fire workers if they can be replaced with cheaper machines. Have you seen the number of machines that are involved in, say, the construction of cars? This is especially true in Japan.
It matters tremendously to me what other people are doing. If we’re sharing everything in common, then I want them working on stuff that needs to be done, not writing crappy poems or crappy music when we need more farmers or teachers.
“Rise to this challenge”? Sorry, you’re being tremendously vague here. You’re suggesting that there will be a bunch of people who will ride around on garbagetrucks all day, driving through alleys, picking up other people’s trash and bringing it to the garbage dump and we’ll have enough people doing this by their own free will to adequately handle all the trash people are putting out?
Sorry, but your answers fill me with even confidence that the Venus Project system can’t work.
There are different types of communism.
I never said that it would be forced.
No communist country has ever implemented something along the lines of The Venus Project. The same goes for these so-called “hippies communes.”
I already said that doing so wouldn’t necessarily be tolerated by society itself.
Hopefully this becomes more commonplace, then. We don’t need people doing jobs that could easily be done by a machine.
“Crappy” is highly subjective. Do you believe that all forms of entertainment will be done away with?
Possibly, but I don’t think the chances of that are very high. I’m not sure of a solution to this, but that does not mean that one does not exist.
It’s naive to assume that something can’t work because of the words of a single individual.
There’s not much I can really say. All I can do is hope that it actually is tested to some degree in the future to see if it would work.
Yes, it is subjective. But I think the capitalist system does a lot better job with it than other systems including the Venus Project. Here’s a few possibilities:
(1) The economic system gives food, energy, car repair, etc to everyone who calls themselves a musician.
Problem: There’s no quality control. Everyone gets rewarded even if it really is crappy music. (And by “crappy music” I mean that essentially none of the general public enjoys it.)
(2) The economic system gives gives no support to people who call themselves musicians.
Problem: Musicians, even good ones, can’t afford to continue doing their work full time which reduces the amount of time and practice they can devote to their craft. Result: less music and lower quality music because for 100% of musicians, it’s just a hobby.
(3) Have some government group decide which musicians get resources (food, energy, etc).
Problem: This puts a small group of people in charge of what’s considered good and bad. The governing body might be overly restrictive and conservative. The result could be a kind of cultural stagnation similar to North Korea, which is locked in the past. Hitler also thought “modern” music of the 1940s (like jazz) was decadent. Most likely the decision is made by old people who would quickly veto any new music style, preferring the styles of the past.
(4) Have individual citizens decide which musicians get paid by voting with their dollars. This is the most democratic version, and it fulfills an important goal of allowing the public to decide what music the public gets. It allows for new styles (rock and roll, jazz, etc) to enter into the cultural landscape.
Under our current capitalist system, we use #4, and it’s a good solution. It allows the “good” musicians to earn a living while allowing “bad” musicians to get drummed out of the field to do other work. Of course, “good” and “bad” are based on the popular public opinion. While we can dispute whether the general public does a good job of making that decision, I actually trust the public much more than any government official or any self-described judge of music. I don’t even trust my own personal judgment over music enough to make these decisions. If someone gets enjoyment out of music that I think is too “pop” or over-produced, well, too bad for me – other people are getting enjoyment out of it so who am I to judge that they shouldn’t have it? Under your Venus Project system, I presume you’d use system #1, which has too many problems.
Instead of defending the Venus Project’ system, you should take a step back and either create a workable solution without these problems, or drop the Venus Project idea altogether. It doesn’t make much sense fighting for a system that can’t and won’t work. That’s just a waste of time.
Yes, it did cross my mind that you might not be doing justice to the ideas of the Venus Project. I don’t know.
Capitalism doing a “better job” wouldn’t really be a good thing. As I pointed out above, the rate at which we are depleting resources inefficiently, littering the planet with pollution and garbage, and just generally destroying the planet and ourselves for our own greed is simply astounding. If another system is not adopted, I believe that we will likely destroy ourselves eventually.
Subjective. Just because a minority of the population likes something, that does not mean it is good or correct. However, as I said before, The Venus Project does by no means have only one possible implementation. You could take the idea and expand upon it to prevent things such as this, possibly leaving it in the hands of the citizens (or perhaps even a highly-representative government).
Solution: give the people far more power over the government than they have now, but not so much power that society is subject to the tyranny of the majority.
Considering most or all of the problems that I listed a few posts back are actually caused by the existence of money in the first place, I don’t really see another solution other than creating a society without money. As long as society functions on greed and personal gain, you will have problems such as that, and it will eventually collapse upon itself due to its inefficiency (probably).
Unless you can prove that something that has yet to be implemented won’t work merely by throwing around problems that you foresee, I suggest not pretending to know the unknowable. Wait until it has been tested or put into effect. Even with the supposed problems that could occur that you brought up, there is no reason that a system similar to The Venus Project “can’t” work because there is not only one implementation.
Considering I was talking about the production of music, your argument seems rather off-base. Besides, if your “solution” to environmental problems is to put humanity into a bad economic system that leads to widespread poverty, I don’t think you have a solution. All you’re doing is spinning economic collapse as a good thing because poor people consume fewer resources.
I’m saying that in a capitalist system, you need to find a few thousand people who “vote” for you with their dollars so that, you as a musician, can earn a living. In your Venus project system, everyone decides for themselves whether or not their own music is good enough. So, complaining that ‘just because a thousand people like your music doesn’t mean it’s good’ is a weak response when your answer amounts to ‘you don’t need to convince a single other human being that your work is good’.
By the way, the reason I said it reminded me of communism is because I see the government needing to force people into jobs because there’s a lot of work that people won’t really want to do. Also, I see the government needing to intervene to manage the economy (a centrally planned economy is also one of the other trademarks of communism). For example, when I think about all the work that gets done in the world, and I think about what jobs people would voluntarily do and how much time they’d be willing to spend on them, it seems like the economy would end up in ruins.
For example, let’s say I’m running a factory producing laptops. I need lots and lots of parts. Presumably, I try to make contacts with other people who will provide me with all the parts I need. I need motherboards, and CPUs, cases, screens, electrical cords, memory chips, hard drives, DVD drives, software, keyboards, mice, speakers, batteries, lights, etc. I go to my job each morning not to get paid, but just because I like spending forty or fifty hours a week putting together laptops, rather than lounging on a beach. My suppliers will send me the parts I need, which will get delivered by truck drivers who drive around delivering all this stuff because he likes driving trucks, delivering stuff. If any of the parts they send me are crappy, well, too bad for me. And if there aren’t enough people building keyboards to supply all of us who want to build laptops, well too bad for me again.
People will contact me and ask me to mail them a completed laptop. I will pass off the laptop to another truck driver who will make sure it gets there – just because he likes driving trucks delivering stuff. My suppliers will get their stuff (like the metals involved in the construction) from other people, eventually going back to some miners who work just because they like mining stuff. What if there aren’t a lot of people who want to do mining? What if we’re having a chronic shortage of Lithium (used in batteries), but no one acts on my complaints because nobody wants to volunteer their time to mine Lithium? Well, I guess the government will have to get involved to force people into mining so other people can build the electronics that get sent to me so I can give those laptops to all the people who ask for them.
I’ll get my morning coffee from coffeeshops where happy workers get up early in the morning to provide me with free coffee. I’ll get my food from people working in free restaurants who get their food from farmers just working for the fun of it. Will I have an incentive to build a website so more people can find me and ask for laptops? Seems like I’d be building a website so more people can send me requests to build more free laptops, which is just more work for me. And will I work forty or fifty hours a week? Or will I skip work some days? Will I go into work in the morning and then spend the afternoon and evening hanging out with my buddies at the bar? What about other people I work with? Will they be dedicated? Maybe I’ll ask them to come into work everyday and stop spending so much time surfing the internet so they do more than ten hours of work each week, and they’ll look at me and laugh, “Or what, you’ll fire me? Then you’ll get zero hours of work from me. I don’t need to come here at all, you know. It’s not like I’m getting paid, and I kind of enjoy staying home and playing videogames.”
I guess I just have a hard time believing that this can work. I foresee lots of jobs going unfulfilled. And the jobs people actually do, they’ll spend a lot less than forty hours a week doing them, resulting in a slower economy, less wealth and more poverty. I foresee a society where people are lazy and idle, like a poverty-stricken neighborhood where there’s no work. And I see resentment from anyone who works towards people who don’t work, but always want a handout.
Widespread poverty? Such as what we have right now, at this very moment? And what do you mean “widespread poverty”? How?
Also, depleting the planets resources, destroying the environment, warring for profit or profitable resources, employing planned obsolescence, and everything else I said above is not a solution, either.
Good music won’t just vanish because money does. I know it’s hard to believe, but musicians typically like making music.
Why do you keep using subjective words such as “good”?
I didn’t say force. I merely said that people wouldn’t let others leech off of them when they contribute nothing. Also, forcing people to work when they don’t like the work they’re doing is exactly what is happening now, only in the form of money.
No. Request more parts.
Then they will be requested. If people aren’t raised in a greedy society where everything they do must be rewarded with objects that they don’t already have, then I suspect that most people would want to help society.
That’s not surprising given the current hopeless state of affairs.
I don’t really know what else to say other than it needs to actually be tested before anyone can predict whether it will work or not. Either way, a solution other than capitalism needs to be made.
I haven’t felt like responding because I’ve already raised plenty of objections to your system. I don’t feel that they were adequately addressed, and your counter-arguments generally fell short of countering the issues I raised. At this point, I’m afraid I’m going to start repeating myself, and don’t think I’ll get better answers the next time around.
Your reply isn’t much help to me, either. I have no idea what objections I didn’t adequately address. But, then again, this entire exchange seems to be a waste of time. No one could possibly know if it would work unless it is tested on some level (which I’ve said). A few minor problems or a lack of people doing certain, specific jobs (if that happens) likely wouldn’t result in the death of such a system, though.
I disagree because we can use our knowledge of human nature and behavior to make a prediction about what would happen.
But there’s no real reason to believe that such a system could not work. Besides your minor complaints about people not not very specific, tedious jobs (such as cleaning, taking care of garbage, etc), there’s no reason that it would fall apart when you consider that society wouldn’t just stand by and let random people leech off of them. There’s all sorts of people right now doing extremely demanding jobs that require years of expertise (scientists, to name one example) that don’t get paid all that well.
Also, it’s harder to predict how humans would behave in a completely different system if the system they reside in heavily effects their behavior in the first place.
And how would society stop those leechers? The solution through the ages has been a money-based system — a system where work is rewarded with money which can be used in exchange for goods and services like food and shelter. We’ve seen cases of leechers throughout time – I’ve pointed to the cases where the early Christian church shared everything in common, but that fell apart (I’m guessing because of the problems caused by leechers). I also pointed out that hippie communities have the same problem, and I know people who got fed up with being the productive ones preparing the food, while some of the hippies would show up to eat but never help. This was one of the reasons they got fed-up with the hippie lifestyle and left. Saying “society wouldn’t just stand by and let random people leech off of them” isn’t an answer. It’s a vague hand-waving argument, and we already have cases in the past where the resentment towards leechers had *no solution* which lead to people leaving the system out of anguish.
I was thinking about whether or not there are already any examples of the type of system you describe. As I already mentioned, you might be able to look to cults to find this system instituted, because I presume some cults might simply share everything between members and avoid the exchange of money between each other. Although, some cults do bring money into the group with regular jobs. Plus, the cult’s prophet or leader might also instruct followers to work for no pay, and they’d do it because it’s what “god” wants them to do, so maybe it’s a bad example.
There’s also some native american tribes who get lots of money from casinos. Essentially, just by being born into one of those tribes, they get paid money each month – enough money to live on. I’d recommend looking at those groups to see their education level and productivity. I’d bet it’s really low, on average. (Although, I bet a disproportionate number go into investment so they can grow the tribe’s fortunes.) But, I’m mainly talking about regular jobs where the money they earn is a fraction of the money they receive through the tribe.
The solution, I believe, is simple. Society would simply not help them any longer. Oh, and, even if I didn’t have an answer currently, it would not mean that one does not exist.
Or, perhaps, one was just never thought of.
Oh, and it’s not just a system without money. It also utilizes technology to its greatest potential to eliminate as many needless jobs as possible. Unlike in our current society where some workers are paid to do pointless things easy enough for a machine, that would not happen here.
I’ve already explained why this doesn’t happen in capitalist societies – because capitalism finds the cheapest way to manufacture things. This is why developed countries have a lot of robots in factories (particularly in Japan), while China uses a lot of manual labor. The first world pays workers more money, so it’s more economical to use machines. Whereas, labor is cheap in China, so there’s more incentive to use human labor there.
“Over the last three decades automobile factories have become dominated by robots. A typical factory contains hundreds of industrial robots working on fully automated production lines, with one robot for every ten human workers. On an automated production line, a vehicle chassis on a conveyor is welded, glued, painted and finally assembled at a sequence of robot stations.”
“A Japanese robot demonstrates its ability to flip pancakes. The robo-chef, which has 15 joints and can take verbal orders from customers, cooks a variety of traditional Japanese foods. Researchers are devising a new generation of machines to handle kitchen duties and other consumer chores. ”
“A new generation of dextrous and capable humanoid robots are destined to replace factory line workers, their Japanese creators say.”
I’m not going to respond further, because I’m repeating points I made earlier in the thread.
But what you didn’t explain is how capitalism will fix the ‘problem’ once machines become advanced enough to do more advanced work (and effectively get rid of most jobs). We don’t need that many people fixing the machines (perhaps they could do that, as well). We can’t create a bunch of pointless, tedious jobs. Machines could do them. The remaining jobs wouldn’t have nearly enough positions to fill if all of the people who lost their jobs wanted them. And, if we hold back such technology (which, given human stupidity, I think is likely), then that would completely go against your point.
So perhaps you’re right. Maybe our capitalistic society hasn’t been holding technology back to satisfy itself. However, this will undeniably become a problem in the future (as would holding the technology back just to save inefficient workers).
Not this one.