Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All Men Are Created Equal Not

My apologies, but Thomas Jefferson was wrong, perhaps just this once.  Not [all men are created equal].

(I won't split hair over whether it should be all men are not created equal or all men are created not equal.)

You must have heard of this anecdote before: if every possession in the world today were confiscated and then divided out equally among every living person, after ten minutes, the whole world will be unequal again, assuming everyone acts rationally.  There will be the Bill Gates'es who would successfully trade their bottle caps for medals.  There will be others who would give away their farms for something trivial, trivial as in trivial to you and me.

The ugly and yet beautiful fact is that the world functions because of inequality.  If all men are equal, the world grinds to a complete halt.  Life freezes, and, if the equality is really maintained, everyone drops dead.

Society works because everyone places a different value on the same thing.  It all started with the first kids.  When Cain wanted a beef steak to break the monotony of his vegetarian menu, he exchanged some of his onions to Abel for a part of a cow.  Cain must have reasoned that that part of a cow was worth his onions, and similarly Abel thought that the onions was worth that part of his cow.  If Cain and Abel had come to the same evaluation of the onions and the same evaluation of that part of a cow, both would have died of some food poisoning and there won't be you and I to discuss this subject today.

If David and Goliath were equal, their fight would have ended in a stalemate.  But as history has recorded, David slayed Goliath.  That is a confirmed inequality.

... to be continued later ...

Related: My three heresies.

Heresies of Economics

These are my private laws of economics:

  • Heresy #1: People respond to incentives
  • Heresy #2: People respond differently to (the same) incentives, and this creates a functioning society.
  • Heresy #3: Not [All men are created equal].
I have an advanced degree in Economics from the School of Hard Knocks.  I missed many classes.  But as there was no government in the School of Hard Knocks, I decided to award myself the degree anyway.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Respecting Intellectual Property

If IP owners want everyone to treat their IP just like any other property, then perhaps they should start by treating their IP just like any other property.

First (not in any order of importance), the freedom to use IP should be similar to the freedom to use all other property.  When you buy a chair from Ikea, you can do anything you like to it.  Sit on it.  Put things on it.  Use it as fuel for a BBQ.  Even if Ikea does not sell chairs but only rent chars, you are free to do whatever you want with a chair, as long as you are able to return it, less fair wear and tear, at the end of the rental period.  But when you buy Mac OS, you are not permitted to install it on non-Apple hardware.

Then, we should also be free to transfer ownership of the IP with the same ease to transfer ownership of other property.  If someone threw his old TV set out of his house to let the garbage collector pick it up, in most jurisdictions, people are free to pick it up and do whatever he likes with it, including using it to watch TV programs.  If someone damages his music CD (physical property), hard luck and he must pay again to get another copy of the CD.  But as a license to use the music cannot be damaged, an owner of the license must be free to transfer his license when he has no use for it.

Next, trading in parts and components should be similar to other property, that is, they are available because it is practical and cost effective to do so, not because only when the owner does not veto it.  You can buy a steering wheel of a Toyota car without having to buy the whole car.  You must be able to buy/sell a copy of Mac OS without having to buy/sell a Mac computer.

Lastly, notwithstanding that, in all non-communist countries, the selling price of anything is the highest price that the buyer can bear, the selling price of IP should bear some relationship to the cost of the IP.

If you exploit and drive people to the wall, expect people to think of creative ways to escape the bondage.  Once IP owners treat their IP like other property, people all over will naturally respect (or not respect) IP like all other property.