Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GNU License for Hardware
From: craig@jcb-sc.com
Date: 19 Oct 1999 17:00:55 -0000

>>>>>> "craig" == craig  <craig@jcb-sc.com> writes:
>
>    craig> So, rather than go down that rat-hole, I'd like to point
>    craig> out that the difference between giving *my* food to my
>    craig> neighbor is that I end up without that food.
>
>This is an economic argument, not a rights argument.

No, it isn't.  Unless you want to explain to Christians, Jews, and
Muslims everywhere that Moses was talking purely about economics
when he gave us "Thou shalt not steal".  That ought to go down
real well -- "Stephen Turnbull claims Moses was an entrepeneur,
not a man of God".

>    craig> Once I have possession of those seeds, I should have a
>    craig> natural right (one I cannot sign away) to share them, or
>    craig> the seeds that come from their fruits when they grow, with
>    craig> anyone else.
>
>Physical possession (as in theft) confers none of those rights.

But ownership *does*, and, even though ownership is generally viewed
as *practically* a matter of what society itself recognizes as being
a matter of what is owned by whom, it is *also* a very strong,
consistent attribute of one's own personal sense of rights...and
wrongs.  I certainly know whether I own something, independent of
what society tells me at any given time, because I have a strong sense
of my own rights as given to me by God.

And our teaching little children not to steal, and to share, is
hardly a mere "economic argument".

If you disagree, and if you believe the artificial construction
called "intellectual property" is no different from physical
property that may be owned in terms of whether its ownership
can be said to derive from natural rights, then I can't see how
you can claim *anything* to be a natural right -- they're *all*
based on economic arguments one way or another.

>Even
>legal possession of a physical good need not: Monsanto (I think it is)
>has developed a means by which seeds can be treated so that the fruit
>of the seeds contains seeds which are sterile.

Which is irrelevant to my argument, of course, because I was talking
about *rights*, not *opportunities*.

(Obviously I can have the *right* to share the seeds of the watermelon
I purchased with my neighbor -- a right I argue I should therefore
not be able to sign away in a legally binding contract -- but not have
the *opportunity* to do so if I purchased a seedless watermelon in
the first place.)

If you stop thinking about the actions or behaviors of physical
objects, such as software, fruits, etc., and think purely in terms
of *human* behaviors and the issues revolving around what we do and
don't allow human A to require or disallow human B to do, then *maybe*
you'll be able to talk about rights vs. opportunities.

After all, rights, properly viewed, are purely a matter of what
humans can be allowed to do vis-a-vis other humans -- whether they're
viewed as being granted by God, being granted to animals by humans,
being extended to an alien species by humans as if they were humans,
etc.

>If the right to the fruit of the seeds and the right to the fruit of
>the fruit of the seeds can be physically separated, I see no reason
>not to separate them legally in theory, and consider the benefits
>(positive as well as negative) to society of doing so.

So since your testicles can be physically separated from the rest of
your body, we can separate them legally in theory, and consider
the benefits to society of denying your desire to not be castrated;
or to not reproduce; or to reproduce; or with whom to reproduce; or
whatever?

Please.  Rights of humans are not subordinate to the divisibility
of material objects.

>Goodbye natural right.

Ditto for free speech, since, in theory, human beings can be raised
without having learned any means of expression.  Or they can be persuaded
to take a medicine that, among many unintended-but-known-and-nasty
side effects, includes an artificial side effect introduced by the
manufacturer to prevent complaints and lawsuits about the others:
the shutting down of the ability of the individual to speak (again,
in theory).

Therefore, by your reasoning, there's no *natural* right to free speech.

And, in theory, human beings can be created that don't know how, or
even about, taking advantage of freedoms (such as of movement, choice
of occupation, etc.), through a combination of genetic engineering,
surgery, medication, and psychological conditioning.

Goodbye natural right to not be a slave.

Sorry, but I'm talking about *actual* rights, not "things Stephen
Turnbull believes are always automatic anyway".

>Nor does this address the issue of source.  What is your natural right
>to the "source code" of the seeds?  Please address your request to
>"God" <creator@creation.com> and CC me; I'd like to see Her response.

Having the natural right and being able to exercise it are obviously
*not* always, in every instance, both present.  (Besides, I hardly
need to *email* God; He speaks to me constantly, it's purely a matter
of whether I'm listening.  Those I know have done a particularly good
job doing so most of their lives seem to have no confusion between
natural rights and economic arguments, and they consistently refer
to property as being *ownable* by virtue of their writings about how
to treat property, whether one's own or another.)

You seem to conclude that there is therefore no such thing as a natural
right at all, or so few of them that I doubt they'd be considered
of any worth.  (Well, that's the point I guess: if they *were* of any
worth, you'd claim the arguments for them being natural rights were
mere "economic arguments".)

But the main *point* of discussing a natural right is to consider whether
human A can be *legally allowed* to control human B's behavior in some
way.

I suspect any "natural right" worth discussing in that context will
turn out to have, at least in theory, some means by which human B's
behavior can be controlled a priori by some combination of lack of
education, lack of material resources, or lack of completeness of
mind and/or body (vis-a-vis a typical human) on the part of human B.

It seems you look at that situation, which results in human A having
no *need* to exert any actual control over human B, as invalidating
the concept of "natural right" in that instance.

>    craig> But a strong central marketplace is a *natural* result of
>    craig> market forces.  It needn't be buttressed by reducing
>    craig> freedoms, clarity, and simplicity, even though those might
>    craig> offer short-term resilience to some *instances* of a
>    craig> central marketplace.
>
>No.  Markets are an artificial construction; their operation subject
>to careful definition of property rights.

They *can* be, but they aren't always.  There were markets 10,000,
20,000, even 100,000 years ago, because there was trading.  If you
want to claim that whatever trading was done up to, say, a million
years ago was subject to a "careful definition of property rights",
go ahead -- but I don't see what you'd achieve by doing it, even
if you could offer evidence for it.

Or, you could address the *point* I was *actually* making, which is
that there is no real need for *government* to allow vendors to enjoy
more intrusion on the rights and expectations of citizens than
is necessary for local markets to function, even if doing so would
help prop up certain central marketplaces.  This is sometimes
phrased as "my right to make a profit", or some other such blather,
and is the basis for "intellectual property", which always amounts
to ensuring people get fresh copies of information from a central
source rather than from their neighbors, who can easily make those
copies for them without intruding at all on any centralized resource
(such as bridges, roads, etc.).

E.g. we accept that, while inside a room where an auction is taking
place, the mere raising of our hand could well be interpreted as
entering a legally binding contract to purchase an item at a given
price, even though, most everywhere else, that action is perfectly
normal and has no such connotations.  The promoters of a strong
central marketplace could, in theory, wish to extend the boundaries
of their auctions to include areas that aren't so clearly marked.

That works only if some government enforces the notion that, in those
areas, hand-raising is just as legally binding as it is in a room
clearly designated for auctions.

That constitutes an erosion of rights and expectations of citizens,
since, now, the chances of accidentally being considered to agree to
purchase an item have gone much higher.

There's no need for government to support this interpretation, however:
it could say that enforcement will apply only to areas clearly marked as
auction rooms and cordoned off such that people who enter are required to
explicitly confirm their awareness of the nature of the room.  I.e. the
status quo, or a clarification of it.  Therefore, no enforcement of
auctions held in spaces perceived as public spaces.

That hurts the purveyors of this theoretical large-scale auction -- but
*that* is *purely* an economic problem, has nothing to do with rights, and
therefore the government need have no concern about solving it via an
erosion of rights and expectations of citizens.

If the large-scale auction is an idea waiting to happen, its purveyors will
find a way to make it work without intruding on rights and expectations --
even if somewhat more expensive -- and still do well.

And that is, for example, what the free-software movement has accomplished,
despite appearing to be nearly weaponless against the constant
encroachment of proprietary-software "values", all designed to
promote the feasibility of central markets for proprietary software
over the rights and expectations of ordinary people (e.g. that
they'll actually be able to use, and share, so-called "free software"
as they'd expect).

>    craig> So there is really no need, and therefore no reason to
>    craig> permit, artificially increasing the frictions involved in
>    craig> sharing food, seeds, *or* software among neighbors, while
>    craig> the *costs* of doing so are huge.
>
>You want to talk economics, that's a different thread.  Where are the
>_rights_?

If I'd wanted to talk economics, I would have *said* I wanted to talk
about economics.

I instead *said* I wanted to talk about rights, and you decided to treat
me like a child who has no clue about the meaning of the word "right".

Fortunately, even a 2-year-old has more understanding of this issue
than you do, because most 2-year-olds quickly learn one very important
word, regardless of the degree of omnipresence of the "artificial
constructions" and "marketplaces" in their culture, and they use
that word over and over again:

  "Mine!"

If you are willing to discuss natural rights as inherently including
property *ownership*, then please revisit the email I wrote, because
it *did* contain salient points, regardless of how willing you were
to hand-wave them (a habit you seem to have -- my goodness, if you
aren't willing to accept basic tenets of what constitutes rights,
then why in the world do you intrude upon conversations among people
that *do* accept them? have you nothing better to do with your time?
could you please spend your time jumping into discussions about,
say, how to best compose music, and tell them all about how there *is* no
such a thing as music, art, thought, etc., and leave us alone?).

If you're simply not willing to discuss *anything* as if there's
*any* reality vis-a-vis natural rights, then why did you ask the
question in the first place?  Were you playing us all (especially
RMS) for suckers?

Please let me know, because if I don't get a *good* answer to these
questions, I'm going to give up responding to your posts entirely,
as it appears to be a huge waste of time to do so.

        tq vm, (burley)