Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 14:27:38 +0900

>>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <> writes:

    Ben> The simplicity of the problem is exactly what makes slave
    Ben> labour more feasible, IMO.  Because the problem is simple, it
    Ben> is easy to tell who is shirking, and therefore who to whip.
    Ben> With more complex environments it is much harder to decide
    Ben> how much someone is working, and therefore harder to make
    Ben> them work hard.

This is a plausible argument[1], but not one you had presented so far,
although you alluded to it.

For the rest, you're still generally making the same set of mistakes
you've been making all along.  You make no attempt to deal with the
"jump off the Moon" metaphor; did you miss the point?

ObRef "[term] considered useful" thread:

    Ben> Furthermore you've neglected to point out that an immediate
    Ben> consequence of freedom was that a third of the blacks simply
    Ben> refused to work - a fact which greatly diminished the
    Ben> productivity of the region.

That's a misuse of the word "productivity", which is measured by
fixing resources and measuring increment to output, or fixing output
and measuring reduction in resource requirements.

This is a classic example of why we should educate people in the
proper use of technical terms such as "productivity" and "intellectual
property," rather than avoid their use.  Of course I didn't point out
that after the war the resources available to plantations were greatly
reduced---my point crucially depends on the availability of
essentially the same resources, and thus I used "productivity" in its
technical sense.  If you make a counterargument based on dramatic
reduction of the available resources, and call that "a loss of
productivity", we're simply not talking about the same comparison---
and you have no way to understand that, because you don't have the
vocabulary to even express the difference!

    Ben> Those attempts are not exactly new.  (/me whispers
    Ben> "utilitarianism")

"Not exactly new utilitarianism" was shown to be bunk by Arrow's
Impossibility Theorem and related impossibility theorems.  The modern
utilitarianism requires substantially more sophistication, because it
denies consequentialism and thus works on meta preference, ie,
preference on the process of arriving at an economic outcome rather
than preference on the outcome per se.

> Footnotes:
> [1]  For all you agnostics, deists, atheists, and/or Satanists, who
> are lacking a sense of humor, that's a metaphor, OK?

    Ben> Was that specifically directed at me [1]? :-)

    Ben> [1] I am an atheist, and often have trouble realizing when people are joking.

No, actually it was directed to somebody who made a comment about not
accepting The Word as gospel offline.  I haven't noticed you lacking a
sense of humor; you talk to me, after all!

[1]  I basically accept the argument.  However, interestingly, it
turns out that at least at one plantation which kept detailed records,
the overseers did not whip for shirking, at least not even-handedly.
Rather, the slaves who were whipped most often were trouble-makers in
other ways, and also significantly more productive than average.

I also wonder whether it's any harder to supervise assembly-line work
than cotton-picking.  Fogel claimed that slaves were often promoted to
relatively responsible positions as bookkeepers and procurers which
are clearly harder to supervise.  It is very unclear what is going on
here!  (Cf Guttmann's book.)

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        Economics of Information Communication and Computation Systems
          Experimental Economics, Microeconomic Theory, Game Theory