Copyright, the Bible and Shakespeare

The Canadian government has introduced changes to our copyright laws and hopes to have it passed by the end of the year.  This gives me an opportunity to repeat my line about copyright.

If the Romans had had copyright then we would not have the Bible.  If the Elizabethans had had copyright we would not have Shakespeare.  If we didn’t have copyright our literature and entertainment  would probably be more dynamic and rewarding and provide a living for many more writers, artists and entertainers.

How to increase economic equality

Here’s another prescription for getting the economy back on track, this one from Robert B. Reich, the former secretary of labor, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.”

The economy won’t really bounce back until America’s surge toward inequality is reversed.

I’m not certain this would restore us to the golden age of prosperity but it would certainly ease the human pain of the downturn.

One way to deal with inequality would be to try to move the economy closer to the perfect competition ideal because in perfect competition there are no profits and therefore everyone would be equal economically.

Here are some things we could do. (yeah, right)

– Basically rescind all economic legislation most of which works to restrict competition so that some people can make profits.

– Do away with patent and copyright legislation

– Give subsidies to consumers rather than producers.

– End most licensing requirements.

Who’s to blame and what do we do about the economy?

One thing of which there has been no shortage during this economic crisis is words with lots of scapegoats and ideas as to what to do.  Here’s my attempt to summarize.

Who is responsible for this mess?

The two favorites are greedy Wall Street bankers and incompetent politicians who aren’t following the policies which would most benefit the speaker.  The bankers may be greedy and the politicians may be incompetent but are they any more so than their predecessors who ruled during the golden age of prosperity?

The next groups to blame are those who won’t approve stimulus spending and those who object to spending cuts. Sometimes both groups are blamed for refusing to compromise.

Others who can be blamed are the ratings agencies who gave false assurances,  those making negative statements who are thus creating a negative feedback loop and those who spreading lies to create profit opportunities for themselves.

What can we do about the economy?

One approach is to cut government spending especially that which benefits poor people or those whose finances are precarious..  Of course we don’t want to cut government spending which finds its way into our own pockets.

The second approach is to stimulate the economy.  There are several ways of doing this including government spending, creating more money (quantitative easing and the National Infrastructure Bank) or encouraging exports and restricting imports to protect jobs. We could also use people with DBS degrees (the D stands for doctor) to convince us there is no real crisis and everything will be okay.

Now here are the answers to these two questions in the view of the author of this blog.

We are all to blame.  The basic problems is that humans have used up a lot of resources, especially those that are easily accessible,  and most of us have had a part in this.  Most of us have had nice homes, designer cars, interesting vacations, frequent restaurant meals and lots of other things.  Most of us have been demanding high returns on our pensions and savings.

So what should we do about the crisis?

If the problem really is with the resource base,  stimulating the economy will only make things worse and socking it to the poor is mean – and many more  people are likely to join them.

Therefore my vote is that everyone should be expected to accept a lower standard of living starting with those with higher than average incomes supported by taxpayers (most of whom get their high incomes from belonging to a union in a monopoly field) and those with high incomes resulting from legislation that restricts competition.  This includes people whose income comes from copyright and patent legislation and those whose income is protected by licensing requirements.

It is my fear that not enough of us care enough about our neighbors for this to actually happen.

So there you have it.  This post has added 489 words to the economic hot air.

The two worst things to happen to music

This guy is not a musician and only a small scale listener.  However having married into a family of musicians dynamics have required that I attend a number of musical events, some of which I have enjoyed more than others.

I have decided the two worse things to happen to music were the invention of the amplifier with 13 buttons for louder and copyright legislation.

We used to have as a neighbor a retired music professor who said, “If you can’t play it well, then play it loudly.”  Unfortunately he retired before the current crop of musicians took their training.

If we didn’t have copyright then all the money which currently goes to the superstars and the record companies would be available  to support all those professional quality musicians who currently work in other fields.  Young musicians would focus on learning to play or sing well rather than chase the almost impossible dream of becoming a superstar.   They may not earn great livings but they would probably survive and we as music consumers would enjoy the intimacy of live performances in small venues

Counterfeit drugs

The Economist recently ran an article on the evils of counterfeit prescription drugs and the ways companies (and governments and the Vatican) are trying to stop them. Fake drugs can make diseases worse and can even be fatal.

Somehow or the other we all have to find a way out of this world. Sometimes one thinks the health care takes advantage of the emotions surrounding this issue to exploit people.

It may be that the fake drug trade indicates the extent to which drugs are beyond the means of so many people. .The drug companies are concerned about the “lost revenue” from so many sales they would not have in any case because of the high costs.

One of the features of perfect competition is perfect knowledge – about production techniques as well as about prices. Therefore we should be hesitant about patent and copyright legislation.

One of the arguments for copyrights and patents is that it encourages innovation. However, if the Romans had had copyright, we would not have the Bible. If the Elizabethans had had copyright legislation we would not have Shakespeare’s plays and music students have told me the same applies to classical music. I have even read that the British industrial revolution happened in spite of patent legislation because it was not effectively enforced.

If we were to repeal copyright and patent legislation drug prices would come down, there would probably be more new drugs, especially for the most serious diseases rather than those of the rich peoples of the world. We might also have some incentive to prevent disease by living a healthy lifestyle.

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