Monday, September 19, 2016

To Oppose Intellectual Property Rights Is to Oppose Private Property Rights at Their Very Foundation

Stuart K. Hayashi

Private property is wealth. As inventions and innovative expressions of ideas are the foundations whereby new wealth is created, private property rights, as such, are the result of intellectual property rights. I argue in defiance of the assumption that the only true private property rights are over tangible units of new inventions, such as smartphones. What is ignored in that assumption is that we would not be able to wield these tangible units of new inventions -- our smartphones -- if not for the inventor’s legal ability to control and exercise ownership over his or her design of that new invention, that new smartphone.

Many people who call themselves "libertarian" would scoff at the above paragraph as absurd. What I just said is anathema particularly to those influenced heavily by Murray N. Rothbard or even by Chicago-school economist Arthur Plant. After all, reply the enemies of intellectual property rights (IP rights or IPRs), were there not codified private property rights in ancient Sumeria? When John Locke said that the homesteader's improvement of the land for human usage is what gave the homesteader the right to that land, was Locke not speaking about a right that predated any conception of intellectual property rights?

My response is that when you recognize the homesteader's right to the land he improved, you are recognizing an intellectual property right in a relatively primitive form. And John Locke at least implicitly understood this; hence his defense of copyrights. Moreover, it is misleading to say that because the ancient Sumerians talked about private property without formally recognizing intellectual property rights, that it follows that ownership over objects and land is somehow a philosophic precursor to intellectual property rights.

The Right to Homestead Land As an Early Implicit Recognition of Intellectual Property Rights
First, when a homesteader lays claim upon a parcel by improving it, we should recognize which of his faculties is most responsible for that improvement. To make a piece of land livable, it's not as if the homesteader simply goes through physical motions. He doesn't randomly plant a shovel into the ground every which way; he doesn't dig a hole and then randomly go to another spot and dig. The homesteader needs a plan. The homesteader first has to plan on how the land is to be improved. He must plan where to dig ditches. He must make a plan if he is to forge a cabin; he must select which types of trees to use (there are variations in species). He must make choices in what crops to plant. If he installs an irrigation system, he must determine where to place specific pipes.

When you, as a homesteader, convert unclaimed wilderness into a homestead that is habitable for you, it is not primarily your physical motions that are responsible for this, but the actions of your mind. The homesteading of land is an early example of how X becomes your private property on account of how you have employed your intellectual labors to making X into something of value -- that is, something for human enrichment. The homesteading of land is an early form of intellectual property rights.

Didn’t People Already Have a Night-Watchman-State Liberal Idea of Private Ownership Before There Was Any Recognition of IP? Doesn’t That Mean Private Ownership of Land and Tangible Items Is Natural, Whereas IP Is Some Aberration? On Both Counts, No
What about the point of how the idea of private ownership in land and objects existed in ancient Sumeria, predating the idea of intellectual property? That does not refute any contention that intellectual property is the fundamental. Recall that the ancient Sumerians' conception of private property rights was relatively primitive -- definitely more primitive than the conception that what John Locke pioneered in and which the American colonies developed.

The constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State conception of private ownership over land -- the most appropriate conception -- is actually relatively new, having been pioneered by John Locke and developed in the American colonies. Their idea is that you own the land outright. That is, as long as you aren't impinging upon anyone else by force, you can do whatever you want with your own land. And that includes your being able to sell it to a willing buyer.

True, never in history has any government been fully consistent in recognizing the Night Watchman State understanding of land ownership. Even in the colonial period and in the nineteenth century, the USA had some irrational restrictions on what you could peaceably do on your own land. But the difference is that when the American colonies applied Locke's understanding, they recognized that your right to do whatever you wanted with your own land, peaceably, should be recognized as the default. That is, even in the American colonies, people believed in restrictions on what you could do with your own land -- even restrictions that ultimately initiate the use of force -- but they recognized that if you advocate such restrictions, the onus is upon you to argue for such restrictions. It's not the case that the onus be upon the landowner to explain why he ought to be free to do what he wants peaceably on his land. Even in the early days of the republic there was eminent domain, but the homesteaders' claim on his land was still the default position, and anyone agitating for eminent domain had to make his case.

That's the relatively new development. In ancient Sumeria and Greece and Rome, the the default was for the government to have complete control. Even if you were a wealthy landholder such as Cicero, the idea was that you should have that control only at the permission of the State. That is why Cicero spoke of how he was worried that, even in his own time, politicians kept using the power of the State to redistribute control over land. That you traditionally didn't have complete peaceful control over the land you "own" was even more apparent in England from the Middle Ages even on into the nineteenth century. That's why you can read about so many ridiculous rules about inheritance in historic novels such as Jane Austen's. Until the 1800s, it was even illegal for a widow to inherit her husband's land if there was another male in the family who outranked her when it came to a "chain of command" in terms of who can inherit what. It was classical liberals like Elizabeth Barrett Browning (a free trader) who had to get that law changed.

However, as Dale Halling has pointed out to me, the ancient Romans were beginning to have some idea of intellectual property; they were starting to recognize a form of copyright. As William Blackstone says in Commentaries on the Law in England:

The Roman law adjudged, that if one man wrote any thing on the paper or parchment of another, the writing should belong to the owner of the blank materials meaning thereby the mechanical operation of writing, for which it directed the scribe to receive a satisfaction; for in works of genius and invention, as in painting on another man’s canvas, the same law gave the canvas to the painter. As to any other property in the works of the understanding, the law is silent; though the sale of literary copies, for the purposes of recital or multiplication, is certainly as antient as the times of Terence, Martial, and Statius.

Therefore, no, that many people living in times prior to the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution had some conception of private ownership over land but barely any conception of IP, doesn't prove that private ownership over land is very basic and obvious whereas IP is somehow some corrupt derivative of that idea. Rather, as people gained a more coherent understanding of what private property rights truly are, people increasingly came to accept, intellectually, both IP and the constitutional liberal republican  Night-Watchman-State interpretation of land ownership.

You Should Own Tangible Units of New Inventions But Not IP? It’s IP That Made Possible Those Tangible Units of New Inventions
In what period in Western history did the West finally begin to produce great wealth -- when, after 100,000 years of starvation being the norm for humans, starvation actually became the exception in the West? It was in the period starting in the high Middle Ages and then Renaissance and coming into even greater force during the Industrial Revolution. This is not a random coincidence. The first patents were recognized during the high Middle Ages and Renaissance, and it was during the Industrial Revolution when patent law matured, becoming sophisticated enough for consistent and more uniform application.

We have heard this straw-man claim that the first letter patents in the high Middle Ages were granted for monopolies on trading cards and such. That is actually not true. The very first patents in the high Middle Ages and Renaissance were indeed for inventions. Galileo was familiar with patents; he studied up on them when he developed his improved telescope. Patents were also a form of deregulation. At the time, many medieval guilds restricted the number of people who could practice a trade; that was one means whereby they discriminated against Jews, barring Jews from almost every trade except moneylending. One way that monarchs were able to get around this was to award patents to foreigners -- allowing a foreigner to enter the kingdom and practice a particular trade even without having to join the guild. It was only later when Queen Elizabeth tried to raise revenue by demanding kickbacks from companies to whom she awarded patents. Queen Elizabeth's corrupt practices don't say anything about the justness of patents per se.

Consider how production improved because of James Watt's model of the steam engine. Watt's model made possible the locomotive and the steamboat. Consider how John Deere's steel plow and Cyrus McCormick's mechanical reaper improved farm production. All of these men said that investing their time and effort and capital into developing their particular models of their particular machines would not have been worth it if not for their being able to protect their models through patents. This is what caused the explosion of wealth of the Industrial Revolution.

The creation of new wealth is what made possible our ownership over tangible objects, such as smartphones and electric toothbrushes. But what made possible the development of these tangible items was the intellectual labors of such inventors and engineers as James Watt and John Deere and Cyrus McCormick -- labors that would not have been rewarding to these men if not for their ability to safeguard their labors in intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is indeed what makes possible our ownership over tangible items like smartphones and electric toothbrushes.

Locke’s Homesteading Principle and the Resource “Scarcity” That IP Addresses
When you recognize Chester F. Carlson's rightful ownership and control over his model of a xerographic photocopier, you take Locke's homesteading principle to its logical conclusion. Suppose you went to previously uninhabitable land, and then, through your planning for five years, made it a suitable habitat for humans. And then the government said that this land is still public domain -- still the commons -- and therefore everybody else ought to be able to trample on your land and live on it free? And suppose it was said that if you used force to keep these trespassers off the land, that would render you the bully? You're the real-estate bully? Even Murray Rothbard would admit that you, the homesteader, are the victim.

But the same principle applies even more strongly to Chester F. Carlson's development of his model for a xerographic photocopier. He labored for over five years on his model. Patent-haters cite Chicago economist Arnold Plant in saying that recognizing Carlson's IP doesn't address any preexisting "scarcity" of resources, but that is untrue. Carlson invested hours each day on this when he could have put those hours to use working at a job that would provide him steadier income and more job security. Carlson had to expend natural resources and machinery for research and development to test his model -- natural resources and machinery that existed "finitely" and could have gone to other uses. Now suppose that, after Carlson developed his model of xerographic photocopying, the government said that all-comers -- all firms that already had more capital than Carlson did -- could pirate his model.What if the State told Carlson that his model was public domain and still in the commons? And what if it said that if Carlson used lawsuits to protect the value he created, that it would prove him to be a "patent bully"? Carlson's efforts then would have been for naught, just as a homesteader's efforts would be for naught if he retained no power to drive trespassers off his improved land.

Moreover, other inventors who saw that Carlson was unable to control and profit from his creation would correctly conclude there is no reason for them to create other new models, just as future homesteaders would see no reason to improve any land if the land they improved was still considered "public domain." Unimproved land is not "scarce" -- all of Antarctica is uninhabited -- but improved land is "scarce." Likewise, vague general ideas are not "scarce," but practicable models for new methods of wealth creation are "scarce," as are the tangible resources invested into the development of these new models. If you cannot have exclusive private ownership over the land you improved, there will be a much greater "scarcity" of improved land. Likewise, if you cannot have exclusive private ownership over the specific new model of wealth creation you developed, then such helpful new models will be developed ever more rarely in the future. And the fewer inventions we have in the future, the fewer improved tangible products we will have. We all like to brag about having smartphones, but we would not have smartphones if inventors could not claim ownership and control over their specific original designs of smartphones.

The abolition of intellectual property rights would mean that if I try to charge a licensing fee to those who use my original designs, the fee I charge could be no greater than $0.  This chart shows what would happen to the quantity of original, practicable designs produced in the future.

John Locke himself had some understanding of this, which is why he supported copyrights. Your being able to copyright your original artwork -- which would not have existed if not for your investing your “scarce” time and “scarce” labor and “scarce” art supplies -- is the application of Locke’s homesteading principle to a still more essential part of life and wealth creation.

Yes, to recognize intellectual property rights is to apply Locke's defense of private property rights in general. And to denigrate intellectual property rights as invalid is to fail to uphold, as a consistent principle, Locke's defense of the origin of private property rights.

Addressing Straw Man 1: “Monopolizing” the Industry
At this point, the common rejoinder from Rothbardians goes, "But if you own your homestead, you don't gain a monopoly on all the real estate in the country. But if you have a patent on the brassiere, then you monopolize the entire market on brassieres for 17 years." That's a straw man, because a patent does not claim ownership over a vague general category of product; it claims ownership over a new aspect of functional design in a particular model of product.

In 1914, Mary Jacob Phelps patented a brassiere. In 1921, Mary Dresbach patented a brassiere. In 1927, William Rosenthal -- cofounder of what would become the Maidenform Company -- patented a brassiere. Note that these are all in intervals shorter than 17 years. What happened was that when Mary Jacob Phelps patented her design -- which consisted of two cloths tied together -- she did not claim ownership over this whole category of product; she only claimed ownership over her own design. William Rosenthal pioneered in developing the underwire bra. Mary Jacob Phelpls's patent did not preclude the Maidenform Company from selling its own type of bra. No, patents do not give anyone a monopoly on a whole industry or general category of product.

Addressing Straw Man 2: “I Invented It at the Same Time You Did, But Only You Get the Patent!”
That is also worth noting when people talk about simultaneous invention. Patent-haters like to say, "What if someone comes up with the exact same invention as you at the exact same time, even though neither of you knew what the other was doing? Only one of you will get the patent, thereby unfairly screwing the other party."

 That is another straw man because, while separate parties, working independently, can hit upon the same general idea simultaneously, they do not arrive at the exact same precise design simultaneously. The model for an integrated circuit that Jack Kilby developed at Texas Instruments was not exactly the same as the model that Robert Noyce developed for Fairchild Semiconductor. When two companies go to court over patents, it is usually over the "overlap" -- that is, the area where the two designs are very similar. What often happens is that the contesting firms agree to "pool" their patents -- they place their patents into a single trust. That was the arrangement to which Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor both agreed with respect to the integrated circuit.  The "simultaneous invention" talking point therefore fails to demonstrate the wrongfulness of the institution of patents.

I cannot go over all the straw men propped up by patent-haters. But it should suffice to say that intellectual property rights are indeed the foundation whereby we gain tangible forms of wealth that we claim as private property. To say, "Private ownership over tangible items is legitimate but you do not have a right to control and profit from your design of a new type of tangible item," is to engage in the stolen-concept fallacy. To be against intellectual property is to be against the principles that make possible our ownership over tangible units of new inventions -- and therefore to be against private property rights per se.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oliver Stone Tells 'Wired' Magazine That Edward Snowden 'Admired' Ayn Rand? Hmmm...

Stuart K. Hayashi

First off, please don't take this as an unqualified endorsement for Oliver Stone.  I consider many of his actions in the public eye to be terribly misguided.  He spread a lot of misconceptions about market economics with his 1980s motion picture Wall Street and also in his propagating Howard Zinn's silly revisionist history about how U.S. institutions in general are all founded on exploitation (with the usual equivocations between "big business" and "imperialism").  Moreover, as I type this, he is presently floating around a conspiracy theory that the Democratic National Committee is only pretending to have been hacked by Russians. -_-

As for Edward Snowden (who, by the way, worked very close to a place where I ate about three times a week), I overall appreciate the hard decision for which he is most famous (or "notorious").  I definitely do not agree with all of his Tweets. Indeed, I think he sounds heavily influenced by Glenn Greenwald and even Greenwald's friend Noam Chomsky.  However, I am overall grateful for his public disclosures on what the NSA was doing.  On a cost-benefit analysis, I would rather he make those disclosures -- even the ones that allegedly put national security at risk -- than for him to have sat on the information and made none of those disclosures. I would hope that if I were in his place, I would have taken the same actions.  What he did took a lot of courage, and -- whatever mistakes he may have made -- I salute him for his overall choice.

Anyhow, this is from an interview that Michael Hainey conducted with Oliver Stone for Wired magazine to promote Stone's new movie about Snowden:

Michael Hainey: "There’s a line inspired by Ayn Rand in the film: 'One man can stop the motor of the world.' Is Snowden a Randian?" 
Oliver Stone: "He admired her. [Hmmm, I wonder if him using past tense rather than present tense indicates a change... —S.H.] He was definitely libertarian in his origins. He was an admirer of Thoreau and the original Tea Party. Those men broke the law and started a revolution. Breaking the law can make sense when it’s for a greater good. To me, this is the basis of the theme of the movie—a young man with an extraordinary conscience. And people lose that conscience. I saw this in Vietnam—people gave up their self-sovereignty to a larger authority."

My father would not dispute Mr. Stone's point about Vietnam.  My father was drafted for Vietnam around the same time he started reading Atlas Shrugged, and he thought that the government's insistence that he sign his draft card—as if there was something consensual about this conscription—eerily paralleled the part in the story where Hank Rearden is blackmailed into signing a "gift certificate" to the State, as if that was voluntary.  (My parents never became Objectivists but were fans of Ayn Rand's long before I was born. But that's another story for another time. ^_^ )

Despite my misgivings about Mr. Stone's politics and, worse, his conspiracy theories, I was planning on seeing his Snowden movie.  This news definitely has not caused my interest to recede.

My Self-Indulgent Anecdote That Only Indirectly Relates to the News Above ^_^
Although Snowden worked near an eatery where I dined regularly, it appears the closest I came to meeting him was on Valentine's Day of 2015 when I attended a conference under the auspices of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Audience members were able to submit questions for Snowden to answer via live feed.  To my chagrin, my question was not chosen. :'-(

Probably the closest I will ever get to having a selfie with Edward Snowden (answering questions via live feed on the screen behind me)

Although I didn't get to interrogate Mr. Snowden, I did meet, face-to-face, his attorney from the ACLU, Ben Wizner.  At Amy Peikoff's recommendation, I asked Wizner what he thought of the Third Party Doctrine and whether it would be overturned, as the Third Party Doctrine is cited to rationalize mass surveillance as constitutional.

Mr. Wizner replied that civil libertarians are making a lot of progress against the Third Party Doctrine, and that, "I think the Third Party Doctrine might be on its last leg."  However, he made it clear to me that even if the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Third Party Doctrine, that would not be the end of mass surveillance, as the NSA would easily cite some other rationalization to keep mass surveillance going.

In any case, despite my disagreements with Mr. Snowden and Mr. Stone, I am quite impressed by what Mr. Stone told Wired magazine . . . even if Mr. Snowden later tweets that he "grew out of liking Ayn Rand" and hates her now. Hee-hee.  ^_^  My fascination with this topic has not diminished.

My Open Letter to Southwest Airlines Regarding Gary Johnson's Inclusion in the Presidential Debates

Stuart K. Hayashi

As Southwest Airlines is one of the sponsors of the U.S. presidential debates, this is an e-mail I wrote to Southwest Airlines's advertising section with respect to Gary Johnson's inclusion in the proceedings. (I couldn't fit all this in that form that the company wanted me to fill out online.) If you can, I urge that you use snail mail on the debate sponsors. E-mails are easily filtered or deleted, whereas it would have a more dramatic effect if a huge mountain of envelopes is dumped on their desks.  The contact information for the debate sponsors is over here. To paraphrase the YouTube vlogger LeoPirate, “Let’s affect the debate sponsors where it matters most: in their wallets!” (But be courteous to them in the written messages, of course.) ^_^


Dear Southwest Airlines,

Aloha from Hawaii! I am writing to you with respect to your company's sponsorship of the upcoming Presidential debates. I recall from business school that when Southwest Airlines began, it was an upstart challenging an entrenched oligopoly of three airlines that dominated southwestern routes -- an oligopoly that used its position to attempt to squeeze Southwest out of the market in attempt to quash any chance on Southwest's part to compete. To the relief of us all, Southwest prevailed. Today, with respect to the presidential debates, there is a similar situation. And this time, Southwest has an opportunity to vouch for the contender that is at risk of being unduly excluded.

Although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have earned their places as their party nominees, the public is understandably distressed by the prospect that these will be the only two presidential candidates featured in the debates. These are the two most polarizing candidates in decades. Given the strong public disappointment in those options, the American electorate is agitating to hear new and different voices, such as that of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

For that reason, if debate sponsors such as Southwest urge that the Commission on Presidential Debates includes Mr. Johnson in the debates, it will have enormous positive effects. More voters would be given a voice and a choice, thus helping the debates live up to their purpose of serving the constitutional republic. It would be historic, as this would be the first inclusion of a third-party candidate in almost a quarter century. The television ratings would be higher than they otherwise would be. And, in the eyes of the consuming public, this would reflect very well on sponsors such as Southwest: such sponsors would be helping the debates live up to the principles of the American republic's founding. By contrast, if Mr. Johnson is shut out of the debate, and only these two polarizing, deeply divisive figures are left on stage, the disappointment would be so great among voters that the ratings will be lower than they otherwise would be, and we will continue to hear ever louder discontented complaints that we live not in a republic or a democracy but under an oligarchy -- not unlike the oligopoly that tried unsuccessfully to squeeze Southwest out of the market.

There is much evidence to support the idea that inclusion of Mr. Johnson in the debates would spell higher ratings, more public goodwill for the sponsors, and benefits to the republic in general. Suffolk University conducted a poll for USA Today asking, "If a third-party presidential candidate is certified by a majority of state ballots, should he or she be included in the debates this fall?" 76 percent answered yes to this question. And Gary Johnson qualifies in that category -- after much hard work on the part of volunteers, Mr. Johnson has secured a place on the ballot in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. -- rendering him one of the only three candidates who can receive votes from every state.

When Gary Johnson is mentioned by name, respondents say he should be included in the debates. Morning Consult found that 52 percent of voters favor his inclusion. Those findings are corroborated by Quinnipiac University's survey. Quinnipiac found that 62 percent of likely voters favor his inclusion. And among likely voters aged 18 to 34 -- a much-sought-after consumer demographic -- 82 percent want Mr. Johnson's inclusion.

Inclusion of Mr. Johnson in the debates has been urged by former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, and Mitch Daniels -- the last of whom is presently a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

For the sake of this republic, higher ratings, and reminding the American public -- and the world at large -- how much the debates' sponsors care about giving everyone a voice and a choice, it would be most beneficent to urge the CPD to include Gary Johnson in the first, second, and third presidential debates, and to include Mr. Johnson's running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, in the the vice presidential debate.

Thank you very much for your time, and for the service you provide to us Americans.

Stuart Hayashi
Mililani Town, Hawaii

Monday, September 12, 2016

It Doesn't Matter That 'the Universe' Doesn't Value Me; I Remain Metaphysically Significant By the One Meaningful Standard

Stuart K. Hayashi

There is a common philosophic musing that generally goes this way:
We human beings like to think we are so special and accomplished, but we should be humbled by the fact that the universe does not care about us. The universe existed billions of years before we evolved, and it will be around billions or trillions of years after we are gone. We have been to the moon but once, and have not explored even one percent of the universe. We are nothing; we are puny; the Earth will go on, but we won't.

There is a famous George Carlin bit on YouTube that says that; it is also the message of the song "Dust in the Wind" (good music; not-so-hot lyrics).

That viewpoint is most frequently espoused by atheists, and yet those who espouse that viewpoint hold onto a premise that is a vestige of religious belief: it is the assumption that for humans to have value and meaning, humans must be esteemed by some other entity grander than humans. In the case of many believers in Abrahamic religions, for humanity to have meaning, humanity has to be regarded as meaningful by God. Therefore, if there is no God, humanity has no meaning.

Atheists who espouse the viewpoint I described in the beginning hold onto that premise. They, too, assume that for humans to have meaning, humans must be esteemed by some other, grander entity -- here, they substitute God with the universe. And they recognize that the universe does not esteem humans. Therefore, they conclude, humans are metaphysically meaningless, ultimately a blip. That is, these atheists agree with many Christians that for humanity to have meaning, humans must be valued by God. These atheists then say there is no God there to value humans, which therefore precludes the possibility of humans having value.

Here is the problem with that: even though these atheists recognize that the universe does not and cannot value humans literally, they are still being anthropomorphic in assigning, on an implicit level, human psychological traits to the universe. They still assume that for humans to have value and meaning, "the universe" must behave like a human in valuing this species. That is, they set this arbitrary standard whereby they proclaim that for humans to have value, "the universe" has to behave psychologically like a human capable of valuing humans. Then, since "the universe" is not psychologically capable of valuing humans, they proclaim that humans cannot have value.

 That game is rigged, very much in the way that socialists set arbitrary standards for the human species and, upon finally observing that humans do not abide by such ridiculous standards, conclude that the human species is just congenitally disappointing. In the case of the humans-have-no-value people, they set an arbitrary standard for "the universe" to meet (the standard being "Does the universe value me?"), and, upon noticing "the universe" does not value humans, expresses the rueful conclusion that Existence itself is empty and disappointing.

Here is what they miss: my significance is not contingent upon "the universe" acknowledging that it "values" me. The reason "the universe" does not care is that it has no capability of caring. However, a specific class of entities within the universe are capable of caring: sapient organisms.

For an entity to be capable of caring about anything, it must be an organism possessing volition. That which is of detriment to the organism's life is a disvalue; that which furthers or enhances the life of the organism is a positive value.   That organism, capable of volition, examines what it does and does not value, and then accordingly takes action to obtain and secure positive values while avoiding disvalues. "The universe" cannot value me; I can value my place in the universe. I am not to be judged by "the universe's" standards; the universe has principles -- natural law -- but the universe makes no judgments; it has no capacity for making judgments. By contrast, I am capable of making judgments.  The universe, as such, is not teleological; a sapient organism within the universe is teleological.

I do not care a whit that the universe will not care once I am dead; it is meaningless when someone says that the universe's indifference indicates that the universe "regarded" me as useless the entire time. "Usefulness" and "uselessness" have no meaning to any entities but volitional organisms. What is of significance is that, as I remain alive, entities within the universe are useful to me, and that the entire universe itself will be rendered useless to me once I am dead. The issue is not whether I am regarded as useful to the universe; the issue is whether I can regard anything in the universe as useful to me.

I ask not what I can do for the universe. I ask what the universe can do for me.

Here, the proponents of the "universe doesn't care about you" slogan frequently reply, "Then you are conceding that value is entirely subjective, as everything is in relation to you, the subject." Subjective is a misleading term in this context, as it implies "capricious" or "arbitrary." When every value is judged according to what it does for me and my life, those evaluations remain objective. The object- in "objective" refers to the objects I am evaluating, and the -ive refers to the relationship between those objects and me, the subject. When I judge an entity to be an objective value to me, it is because the object provides value in its relationship to me.

Thus, those who say, "Why doesn't the universe care about me?" are asking the wrong question. Instead, one's life is the standard by which one judges the universe and everything in it, and one must ask oneself what in the universe one cares about.

Yes, people shout at me, "The universe does not care about you!"

To that, I can only reply, "There is no reason for me to care that the universe doesn't care." ^_^

Friday, September 09, 2016

Donald Trump Applauding the Same Idea That Breitbart News Denounced in June

Stuart K. Hayashi

In June of this year, Breitbart News denounced Congressional Republicans for what it judged to be leniency toward undocumented immigrants.  The piece began,
Thirty House Republicans voted with Democratic legislators to let the Pentagon recruit illegal aliens, and also grant them American citizenship, even though the Army and other services are pushing tens of thousands of Americans out of the services. 
The Republicans joined the Democrats in voting against the amendment [that] would have excluded illegal aliens, especially aliens granted ‘deferred prosecution’ by President Barack Obama, from the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program.

On September 7, Donald Trump voiced agreement with this very same idea for which Breitbart castigated those Republicans.  (I learned this news from the attorney Matthew Kolken; you can see Kolken's original tweet about it, and my tweets in reply, over here.)
Audience Member:  "Do you believe that an undocumented person who serves, or wants to serve, in the U.S. Armed Forces deserves to stay in this country legally?" 
Trump:  "I think that when you serve in the Armed Forces, that's a very special situation and I could see myself working that out, absolutely. [ . . . ] Now, we have to vet those people, vet very carefully -- everybody would agree with that -- but the answer is that that would be a very special circumstance. Yes.  Thank you."

I have a question:  will Breitbart give Trump the same amount of flack that it gave those thirty Congressional Republicans in June?

Thursday, September 08, 2016

For Gary Johnson to Propose That the State Address Vaccination and Global Warming Is Not, In Principle, Against Liberty

Stuart K. Hayashi

As I type this, Gary Johnson is getting flack for saying, "What is Aleppo?"  But I want to address something that has been bothering me for a while.  Gary Johnson was quoted as saying that mandatory childhood vaccinations do make sense and that he might consider that the government should charge coal and oil companies a "fee" for their CO2 emissions.  Many of my libertarian friends balked at this, proclaiming that Gary was conceding here that the State ought to initiate the use of force.  While I don't agree with the exact way he said that these matters should be addressed, the truth is that the government having policies to incentivize childhood vaccination and penalize industrial CO2 emissions are not, in principle, initiations of the use of force.  Rather, for the State to refrain from addressing these issues would actually amount to the State allowing private parties to initiate the use of force.

Initially Gary tweeted, "No to mandatory vaccination."  Later Reason magazine quoted him saying the following:  "I've come to find out that without mandatory vaccines, the vaccines that would in fact be issued would not be effective.  So … it's dependent that you have mandatory vaccines so that every child is immune. Otherwise, not all children will be immune even though they receive a vaccine."

He is referring to the principle of herd immunity.  The idea is that even if you are vaccinated, if only a minority of the population is vaccinated -- say, 40 percent -- then everyone in the population is at risk of a pathogen, even people, such as yourself, who have been vaccinated.  By contrast, if 99 percent of the population is vaccinated, then even those who have not been vaccinated are protected.  Therefore, it is not sufficient to say, "If you want your kids vaccinated, vaccinate them, but if you don't get them vaccinated, that's OK."  If you refrain from having your children vaccinated, you put not only your own children at risk but everyone else's as well.

Here is an explanation of why that is, from Shane D. Killian. No, he is not a Paul Krugman-type Democrat.  He is a Murray Rothbard-styled anarchist but, unlike many anti-vaccination libertarians, Killian is well-informed on this issue.

Later Gary seemed to retract his defense of mandatory vaccinations.  I think his position is that this is not within the authority of the federal government; it is up to each state government to decide if it is a state that will mandate childhood vaccinations.

As for the issue of carbon fee, Gary notes that, yes, CO2 emissions from heavy industry do contribute to global warming, causing the warming to intensify by a margin that would otherwise not be there.  Gary suggested that to disincentivize CO2 emission and incentivize these firms to switching to energy sources that emit less CO2, an industrial firm be charged a "fee" by the government according to how much CO2 it emits.  Subsequently Gary said that when looking into it, he did not find the economics to be feasible, and therefore he is retracting his suggestion.

I actually think that Gary's positions made more sense prior to the retractions.  For the government to refrain from addressing communicable diseases and industrial CO2 emissions is for the government to allow specific private parties to get away with harmfully initiating force on other private parties.  My area of disagreement with Gary is the way in which he suggests the government should address these issues.  In both of these matters, I think the Coase Theorem should be applied.

If I Refuse to Have My Children Vaccinated for Pathogen X, and Then They Transmit Pathogen X to Your Children, I Have Initiated Force on Your Household
Instead of having command-and-control mandates forcing everyone to be vaccinated, I think individuals should be held civilly liable if they transmit diseases that they could have been vaccinated against.

For example, if I refuse to have my household vaccinated for measles, and then my child contracts measles and inadvertently transmit it to your child, that is an inadvertent initiation of force against your household, just as it would be if I drove recklessly and hit you with my car. Therefore, you should be able to file a lawsuit against my estate for damages, such as the medical expenses my household's transmission of measles imposed on you.

And having been vaccinated would serve as a legal defense. That is, if my children were vaccinated for measles and you tried to sue my household anyway for having transmitted measles to your household, I could defend against your suit in court by pointing out that my household has already been vaccinated.

If I refuse to have my kids vaccinated and, as a byproduct, it increases the likelihood of then transmitting a pathogen to your kids, then my household has cut its own costs by imposing those costs on your household. If you sue me over this, you are transferring those costs back to me. That is the application of the Coase Theorem to public health, and this is how I think widespread vaccination can be incentivized without a command-and-control mandate that every child be vaccinated.

Some people have told me that they don't like my idea because it's too difficult to prove Household A transmitted a specific virus to Household B. But bioethicist Arthur Caplan has pointed out that officials at the CDC are actually improving in the ability to pinpoint the source of an epidemic.

It might be difficult for them to prove who gave who the flu, but they have identified Patient Zero in the case of the Disneyland measles outbreak and they have identified Patient Zero in the case of the most recent ebola outbreak. Therefore, as Dr. Caplan has argued, this idea has more scientific plausibility than critics are giving it credit for.

Now, when it comes to liability, there is an issue of whether the exact person who transmitted the pathogen is a minor or legal adult. If I refuse to have my kid vaccinated for measles, and my kid gives another kid measles, then, as long as my child remains a minor, I am the one held liable. However, if my kid was never vaccinated, and then grows into an adult and gives measles to a kid, then my son or daughter -- now being an adult -- is the one who can be held liable.

If Fossil-Fuel Industries Can Emit CO2 Unimpeded, They Minimize Their Own Costs While Imposing Those Costs on Other Private Parties, Thereby Initiating Force
A similar phenomenon occurs with respect to industrial CO2 emissions. The government having a policy to discourage industrial CO2 emissions would not be an initiation of the use of force. Rather, for the government to allow industry to emit CO2 into the atmosphere, unimpeded, would be for the government to allow fossil-fuel industries to initiate force inadvertently upon private parties.

Scientists do not expect the scary Hollywood movie scenarios to come about with respect to anthropogenic climate change; it is extremely likely that the industrialized nations will survive this. However, property damage will result from climate change within the next 200 years, such as in cases where land that was once arable will no longer be arable. Waterfront properties that were once inhabitable will be threatened. Climate changes anyway, but the intensity of this will increase by a margin that wouldn't be present if not for the contribution from heavy industry.

To the extent that CO2 emissions from industry contribute physical harm to people, that is not caused by the free market but by the tragedy of the commons. The fossil-fuel industries profit privately as they emit CO2, but the climate is treated as a socialistic commons wherein everyone can admit their CO2 in spite of the harm this will inflict on private parties. The fossil-fuel industries' profits are internalized but the costs are externalized. The coal companies could reduce CO2 emissions by gasifying their coal, but they refrain from doing so because, on a cost-benefit analysis , they judge it is not worth it. The free-market privatization solution is to bring private property rights back in, transferring the costs back to the firms that were externalizing their costs.

Here, environmentalists normally say, "That's why we need command-and-control cap-and-trade on carbon credits." But there is a more individualized solution: civil law. If farmers' crops and owners of waterfront property are harmed by climate change, and scientists can demonstrate that the harm would have been by a smaller margin if not for industries' CO2 emissions, then those private parties can pool their resources to file civil suits against the CO2-emitting industries.

A normal rejoinder here is, "But the people hurt most are in the Third World. How can they sue U.S. companies in a U.S. court?" There is a federal statute that allows for that. It is called the Alien Tort Claim Act. It was invoked in the Unocal case where Unocal used slave labor in Indonesia. The former slaves threatened a lawsuit. They invoked the Alien Tort Claim Act, saying they would use this law to sue Unocal in a U.S. court. The case was settled, but Unocal would not have settled so easily had it not recognized that it was indeed feasible for the ATCA to be used in this way.

Once the externalized costs are transferred back to coal companies, they will find that it is now cheaper for them to gasify coal than to pump out as much CO2 at their present rate.

I do recognize that Gary Johnson dislikes using the courts and civil suits to transfer costs back to the industries that are inadvertently initiating force through their emissions; he prefers the EPA. Still, I think that, to the extent that fossil-fuel industries are causing climate-related harm, that is a problem of socialized costs, and that private parties invoking their private property rights is the solution.

Thus, I do not think that states mandating vaccination or for the federal government to impose a carbon fee or carbon tax would be the best course to take. Nonetheless, too many libertarians insist that freedom consists of parents refusing to vaccinate their children and for heavy industry to emit CO2 unhindered, as if both cases do not inflict physical damage on other parties. Those actions do inflict damage and are initiations of force. Therefore, while Gary has been erroneous with respect to implementation, he is more correct than his libertarian detractors in his saying initially that the government ought to change the way in which it handles these issues.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Choosing America

Stuart K. Hayashi

If you have seen the drawings of mine that I have uploaded onto Instagram, you might have noticed my conspicuous method for signing each piece.

Every drawing says "Stu's Art" on it.  Below that is usually two weird symbols.  What are those? Stars?  Those are supposed to be trees.  That is Japanese kanji.  My last name, Hayashi, means "the woods."  Those two trees represent "the woods"; they are my family name written in kanji.

I have been told that, technically, it is not proper for me to write my Japanese surname in kanji, as I was born outside of Japan.  Japanese katakana is used for foreign, non-Japanese words (and for the names of monsters, such as Godzilla/GO-dzi-lla).  Technically, I am supposed to write my Japanese family name in katakana to let people know I am not a native Japanese person.

That got me thinking:  I do believe in American exceptionalism. Margaret Thatcher pointed out that most nations are founded on "history" and not "philosophy." By this she meant that thousands of years ago, some tribe split off from a bigger tribe, fought off neighbors, and drew a border around its territory. The nations were established by a shared kinship, a shared blood, even if those countries are now trying to get away from that by promoting what they believe to be a "multiculturalist" policy.

By contrast, the American republic was different from inception.  As Leonard Peikoff observes, "America is the only country in history created not by meaningless warfare or geographic accident, but deliberately, on the basis of certain fundamental ideas." Those fundamental ideas were a specific philosophy: the individual rights of man, as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. This document said that what established this republic was not blood but adherence to a philosophy based on liberty, the principles of the Enlightenment.

We remember Bono saying, "Rock star preaches capitalism. Wow. ... But commerce is real. ... Commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid. Of course we know that. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse. It's not just in their interest; it's in ours. It's in our national security interest." In that very same speech Bono showed he understands what the United States of America is about:
...America is an idea, isn't it? I mean, Ireland's a great country, but it's not an idea. Great Britain's a great country, but it's not an idea.  That's how we see you around the world... as one of the greatest ideas in human history. Right up there with the Renaissance... right up there with crop rotation… The Beatles' White Album... That idea, the America idea, it's an idea. The idea is that you and me are created equal...  
The idea that life is not meant to be endured, but enjoyed. The idea that if we have dignity...if we have justice...then leave it to us, we can do the rest.  ...
This country was the first to claw its way out of darkness and put that on paper. And God love you for it. Because these aren't just American ideas anymore. ... You've brought them into the world. It's a wide world now. I know Americans say they have a bit of the world in them. And you do. The family tree has a lot of branches. But the thing is… the world has a bit of America in it, too. These truths… your truths… they are self-evident in us.
My Japanese teacher from high school is the one who told me about how native Japanese would think that I ought to write my surname in katakana rather than kanji.  She also told me that I could move to Japan and become very well assimilated -- even try to mimic the dialect of the region I live in -- and I will still never be considered fully Japanese, as I was born in a foreign land. I have been told that you can be a gaijin who lives in Japan for forty years, and everyone you know there can love you genuinely -- you still will not be Japanese in their eyes. It is said that you can choose to live in Japan but that you cannot choose to be Japanese.  Insofar as that might be true, that is Japan's loss.

By contrast, you choose to be American. You can be born elsewhere, and speak with a strange, heavy accent for the rest of your life. When you exercise independence and go about your life peaceably, people in America and elsewhere recognize you as an American in spirit.

The United States of America is the republic of choice -- including the choice on whether or not you choose America itself.

In a video interview titled "What Is the Alt Right?", I heard Theodore "Vox Day" Beale tell a fawning Stefan Molyneux that since the late nineteenth century, this has been the USA's weakness. To him, the recognition that you choose to be American "is absolutely abhorrent, because what it's saying is that America's historical people [whites] and America's historical culture [which Vox Day conflates with whites] doesn't exist." He says it is great that "if you were to move to Italy, and you were to get your Italian citizenship, you would still not be an Italian" -- and that that attitude is what the United States should adopt.

The reverse is the case. As Baroness Thatcher observed, this sanctification of your freedom of choice is exceptional in the best manner possible.  That you choose to be American is the glory of America.

The section on Bono was added on September 22, 2016 The quotations of eugenicist racist Theodore "Vox Day" Beale were added on December 6, 2016.

Friday, September 02, 2016

There Is No Freedom to Be Rational and Wise Without the Commensurate Freedom to Be Peaceably Stupid

Stuart K. Hayashi

September 2 was the date on which Ayn Rand began writing Atlas Shrugged.  Therefore, Happy Atlas Shrugged Day to youuuuuuuuuu!  ^_^

This is quite an exciting time.  Yesterday, a tremendous crowd of people marched in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, to protest dictator Nicolas Maduro.  Karl Marx was wrong -- the masses revolt against socialism.

Now I want to address something else.  Back in August, I noticed an exchange on Facebook concerning Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson's advocacy of legalizing marijuana.  One man, who claims to support free markets and deregulation, huffed that he looks down upon those who spend so much time espousing the need for marijuana legalization.  This man said that smoking pot is self-destructive and therefore only flaky people engage in this sort of activism.  He wrote, "My greatest concern is that if this is one of the important things for some people, the liberty to do stupid stuff, then it's pretty much over."

The implication there is that your priorities are misguided at best if you are fighting for someone's right to do something unwise, even if that unwise behavior results in physical damage only to the person who chooses to partake in that behavior. The idea is that instead of fighting for someone's right to be stupid, we should be fighting for someone's right to exercise wisdom and be productive. But the truth is that there is no freedom to be wise unless there is a freedom to be peaceably unwise.

By Denying Them Ownership of Their Deaths, the Soviets Denied Them Ownership of Their Lives
The degree to which you have legal control of your own life can be gauged by the degree to which you have legal control over your death. In the gulags, some prisoners were so horrified by how they were treated that, as a last act of autonomy, they tried to starve themselves to death. Thus, the Soviet guards force-fed them. The Soviets would not even let these prisoners own their own deaths. The Soviets knew exactly what message they were sending: if you own your own death, it implies you own your life. Bey depriving you of the right to die, they deny you the full right to your own life.

To Ban Religious Belief Is to Deny Your Right to Come to Know If You’re Atheist
Likewise -- as I have stated earlier on this blog -- if you do not have the freedom to be religious, then the truth is that you actually do not have the full freedom to be an atheist. If you live in a society where you can be any religion or have no religion, then you have the ability to weigh your options. You can study Hinduism and judge whether or not you believe in it. But let's suppose that the government outlawed any belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, etc. -- you could not even talk about religious beliefs and weigh them. If that was the case, how would you truly know you are an atheist?

If the State forbade you from believing in Buddhism or studying it, you would not know for certain that you disagree with Buddhism. By contrast, if you are free to practice any religion you want peaceably, and free to study all the religions, and then you judge that you disbelieve all religions, then you know your atheism is genuine. Most people who proclaim, as adults, to be atheist, reached such a point because they lived their lives for years under a specific religion and, reflecting upon their experiences, ascertained that continuing to believe in religion was not really doing it for them. You are fully free to be come to grips with your atheism no more than to the extent that you are fully free to believe in a deity.

If the State Banned Peaceable Choices It Deemed Unhealthy and Unwise, How Would We Ascertain for Ourselves What Is Unhealthy and Unwise? 
 Now let's consider rationality and wisdom. If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably seen me rail very disapprovingly against what I judge to be quack medical treatments. I think that people who partake in these quack medical treatments are doing something unwise. I think that when you pay money for acupuncture or chiropracty on yourself, you are, at best, wasting your money. 

 But it does not follow from this that a government based on a rational philosophy would outlaw a consenting adult from receiving an acupuncture treatment. I have seen many scientists in pro-GMO and Skeptic groups on Facebook proclaim that, in the name of reason, people should be protected from wasting their money on foolish medical treatments.

I say that these supposed advocates of reason do not actually understand reason; they definitely do not understand the learning process whereby humans exercise the rational faculty. Few of these Skeptics would deny the truth in Benjamin Franklin's observation, "Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom...", but that is because those Skeptics have not adequately considered what that principle entails. Freedom of thought includes the freedom to think unwise thoughts, and even to act on them peaceably. Wisdom entails freedom of thought, and the freedom of thought results in some people thinking and acting wisely . . . and also results in many people doing the reverse. Moreover, there are many cases where someone growing wise is the direct result of his having thought and behaved unwisely.

 Rationality starts off as an inductive process. That is, we first learn from observation and experience. Those are our most powerful teachers. I was not lactose intolerant as a child, but, upon becoming an adult, I became lactose intolerant (that is actually common for Asians). Therefore, it would be unwise of me to drink milk without taking a lactase pill. How did I learn that that would be unwise? It was because I drank a lot of milk and had bad reactions, and eventually I had to contemplate the possibility that while I was not lactose intolerant as a child, I had become intolerant as an adult. Sometimes you learn indirectly what choices are unwise. I observed the bad consequences of alcoholism from other people and therefore chose to conduct myself differently.

Those Who Ask for the State to Compel Rationality in Citizens, Show That They Don’t Know What Rationality Is
Some supposed advocates of reason seem to say, "Well, now we know what is healthy and unhealthy. At this point in the history of science, we already know what we need to know. Therefore, we should have the State ban what we know to be unhealthy. We know what types of foods and beverages and ingredients are unhealthy. By denying anyone the opportunity to make an unwise and unhealthy choice, we make everyone rational by default. By compelling the rational choice, we have made everyone rational." 

 That is foolish. It is not rational but rationalistic. Notice that the conventional wisdom among doctors about what sort of food choices are healthy or unhealthy has changed greatly over the past fifteen years alone. And fifteen years ago, health officials issued their same dubious pronouncements with the same level of confidence as those who presently ask the State to legislate our health. 

 The principle holds: it is only by allowing people the freedom to make peaceful-but-unwise choices that we learn, from observation and experience, which peaceful choices are unwise. It is through the freedom of making choices -- wise, peaceful-but-unwise, and sometimes a combination of those -- that we learn which choices are wise. And it is through that process that we exercise rationality and learn to be wise. Thus, any attempt to "compel reason" -- by using the force of law to deny people the freedom to make allegedly unwise and unhealthy choices -- amounts to such a perverse caricature of reason that it becomes the worst attack on reason. I hate quack medicine and consider it irrational. But to outlaw an adult from choosing quack medicine for himself is a greater irrationality, for it assaults the very methodology by which we learn what is wise versus unwise.

The Initiation of the Use of Force As the One Form of Stupidity That Must Be Banned By Law
There is but one type of irrationality that the law must prevent:  the initiation of the use of force.  I believe that if a man tries to rob or rape others, that is irrational and ultimately self-harming.  Should a man try that, it is not merely that others will rightfully retaliate.  There are other reasons why this is irrational and self-harming.  First, a man who makes his living through preying off of others will be left helpless when he runs out of victims.  Also, a man who lives off of preying on other people is ultimately dependent on the victims, rendering him ultimately weaker than his victims.  Psychologically, that is untenable, and that is why a man who starts off dabbling in just "small" violations of the rights of others will usually become more psychologically unhinged as this process of corruption continues.

For people to exercise their rationality to satiate themselves, they have to be free from the initiation of the use of force.  If a man points a gun at me and says, "Give me your wallet! Comply or die!", I am not left free to exercise my own judgment; I am placed in a lose-lose situation where either I lose my life instantly or I lose the wealth I earned and need to sustain my life.  Thus, the violation of the rights of others is violently stupid, not peaceably stupid, and is the one form of stupidity that must be verboten by the State.

 For the State to deny you your right to death is for the State to impinge on your right to live. For the State to deny you the freedom to have faith in religion is for the State to deny you the full freedom to learn for yourself if, deep down, you are an atheist. And for the State to deny you the freedom to exercise peaceful-but-unwise choices is for the State to deny you the freedom to exercise the rational process in ascertaining what is wise. 

 Therefore, it is not petty or shallow for someone to fight for the legal liberty to exercise choices that are peaceful-but-unwise. By fighting for the right of others to be peaceably unwise and unproductive, you fight for the right to be to be wise and productive. And those who would denigrate our crusade to establish the freedom of others to be peaceably unwise and lazy as crusading for something that is shallow and petty, are those who do not understand the very means by which human beings rationally learn to be wise and productive.

On Thursday, July 11, 2019, I added the quotation from Benjamin Franklin about the freedom of thought.