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By: Troy Worman Mon, 17 Jan 2005 18:05:23 +0000 You really don’t like Bill Gates do you?

By: Max Lybbert Thu, 13 Jan 2005 21:18:12 +0000 I agree with you, Relentless. To a point. Gates is known to say inflamatory things, and has called his own executives communist for wanting to give away free things. He’s just spouting off at the mouth.

I like open source because I see it as a free market question (or rather, a free market solution to a free market problem [monopolized software and the relevant lack of innovation]). People in my camp often like open source more than Free Software, and people outside my camp prefer Free Software.

By: Relentless Thu, 13 Jan 2005 13:50:44 +0000 I�m doing my best to avoid having a debate about the last two Presidential elections and instead to try and keep my comments here germane to the topic of the original blog post.

Only in so far as it relates to the statements by Bill Gates that open source is tantamount to Communism, there is little doubt that Mr. Gates sees the distinct difference between Communism and open source. There is no doubt he understands that more malleable intellectual property rights do not create an unchangeable economic trajectory toward “collective ownership” and the overthrow of capitalism.

More importantly, it would be foolhardy to think that Mr. Gates is somehow unaware of the hysterical connotations the American Public associates with claims that something is tilting us toward Communism.

My point all along is not that “red staters” are stupid, my point is that Gates is not stupid. He isn�t misunderstanding what open source is about. He isn�t presenting a countervailing world view with a different set of underpinnings aimed at creating a better society.

He is, albeit shrewdly, seeking to frame the question in such a manner so as to preclude the kind of debate that serious people with differing views ought to engage in with regard to intellectual property rights.

Those who brush off his comments are no better than those who take them to be some kind of altruistic attempt to reach a better end result. He is, as his track record clearly demonstrates, only seeking to smear and pigeon-hole those who have views that would erode his personal wealth and powerbase.

It is our job to elevate the discussion, to strip away the idiotic labels of communism and of greed that both sides wrongly seek to employ. Had Lessig stated anyone against open source is just being greedy id have been just as agitated as I am by Gates comments that anyone who is pro-open source is some kind of communist.

Gates ought to be ashamed, not for his views or for defending his fortune, but for sublimating his views and seeking to defend his fortune with disingenuous labels he himself knows to be both false and unduly inflammatory.

By: Max Lybbert Thu, 13 Jan 2005 13:08:17 +0000 I finally have a chance to reply. I’ve been busy for the last few weeks, so the days of ten replies on three posts are long gone.

First to Alex:

Getting drugs from Canada is not about buying Canadian-made drugs. The Canadian government buys drugs to resell through its medical care system (or it puts a price cap on drug prices, I’m not sure which, but in the end the difference doesn’t matter). Canada also buys drugs from countries and companies not approved by the US FDA. The proposals to buy US-made drugs from Canada are simply an attempt to free-ride on the system. Drug companies would likely respond by limiting drugs sold to Canada, or raising prices on drugs sold to Canada. So it’s no surprise that Canada doesn’t want this on a large scale. I don’t know what Canada could do if the US went ahead — I’m not sure if the WTO would handle this.

If the US system is broken, it should be fixed in the US. I am not opposed to fixes, so long as repurcussions are looked at. Fewer new drugs may not be such a problem, because many new drugs aren’t as effective as old ones. The problem, of course, is that it’s impossible to determine how effective a drug will be before spending lots of money on research.

I figured you were referring to the Iraq war, and I can’t argue that the war hasn’t had an effect on the safety of the soldiers involved, but all wars do.

/* I think its easy to say with the torture, the bombing and killing of civilians, the privatization of the whole country, that the average Iraqi is happy to make us pay if they have the chance.

Perhaps it is easy to say, but I don’t think that has any effect on my safety. There may be a case that the military is overextended, but the countries with the ability to attack have no motive, and the countries with a motive don’t have the ability. North Korea may not be able to attack the US, but it can attack South Korea or Japan. However, South Korea and Japan both have sufficient forces to handle any attack on their own unless China gets involved. Since China has stopped shipping oil to North Korea for a few days as a way of pressuring it to negotiate with the US, I don’t think that’s likely.

There may be more terrorists in the world today, but that is hard to really know without attacks. It’s a he-said/she-said problem.

/* I don’t know if you can tie Palestinian bombings to Iraq. I have never seen evidence of this.

Well, Iraq isn’t the only possible factor. The IDF has built large portions of the wall it’s working on, and that has definitely had an effect. However the incentive to attack because Saddam would send a fat check to your survivors has disappeared.

/* I don’t know how to feel about Libya, I guess its a good thing. Although I don’t think Iraq had anything to do with it.

Given that Ghadaffi he was afraid of the US before actually surrendering to the US, and handing over his WMD operations (which the US now has), I think there’s a connection.


/* [On the war on drugs:] “Will increasing supply of drugs make you more safe?” Yes, by lowering the prices, there will no longer be the mass amount of violence over drugs. (It sounds like you agree with me here too from your point about Vioxx, etc, but I’m not sure).

There isn’t as much profit in illegal drugs as there once was, but violence hasn’t gone down. The days of $5,000/once crack are over, but that didn’t lead to less drug-related violence. When I was in high school ten years ago, most students bought pot $5 at a time. I don’t think the dealers ever made much profit off that. Since high school students today have roughly the same amount of spending money, I doubt that dealers are making any more than they used to. Sure, they spend it on flashy items, but I don’t think all that much money is there.

I believe most prohibited drugs are too dangerous to not ban; just as silicone breast implants are banned decause of the health risks. However, instead of quibbling over which drugs aren’t as dangerous, I chose to use FDA regulation as practical evidence that legalizing (and regulating) drugs won’t help.

Illegal drugs are currently regulated as drugs, and are illegal because the health risks don’t outweigh the health benefits. Legalizing drugs would involve regulating them as food (like herbal supplements are). That regulaation has many safety problems, and the FDA continually states that it doesn’t have the money to enforce the regulations that do exist. Since regulation is defined as requirements that people wouldn’t follow otherwise, legal drug prices would increase over black market drugs, and we’d be back to square one.

If drug purity sounds like a red herring, let me assure you that I used to work with an ex-convict who would raise pocket money by selling a flour mixture that looked like crack. No, he didn’t have repeat buyers, but yes he did exist.

By: Rob Wed, 12 Jan 2005 20:11:57 +0000 Max Lybbert bloviated (I love that word):

But the corporate tax cuts had a specific purpose: to free up money so that corporations could produce more. Some corporations did that through hiring, many did that through technology upgrades. However increased supply (with constant demand) leads to lower prices (and, yes, increased profits, but still with lower prices). Lower prices are in my economic self interest.

Also, some (many?) corporations used their newly “freed-up” tax money to give out huge bonuses to their upper management. Don’t forget them…and aside from the corporate tax cuts, how about the non-corporate tax cuts? Yes everyone got a tax cut; but the richest people got more of a tax cut in total dollars than those less fortunate (in many cases, their tax cut was more than my total salary). Where did that money go? Not to defense or law enforcement or health care or scientific research, all things the government provides. So while tax cuts may appear to be in my parochial economic self-interest, the resultant loss of services is almost assuredly not. Not a problem, the administration didn’t cut services much; instead, they simply let the deficit balloon out of all comprehension, told us “deficits don’t matter” and pretended we could have our cake and eat it too. Those chickens will start coming home to roost (how many metaphors can Rob squeeze into one post) when foreign governments decide to cease propping up our economy by financing our monstrous debt. At that point we’ll be in for a rude awakening.

It is well-known that Social Security will need major cuts by the 2040s

Oh, so? Certainly it’s a well-known assertion. But is it true?

Bush wants to make it possible for me to invest some of my money so that I can pay for my own retirement as well. That sounds like something in my economic self interest.

Sure, if you’re a Wall Street investment guru (or you know one). Regular schmucks like me who don’t know beans about stocks are going to lose our shirts; what’s Bush’s answer for us? And in the meantime, we’re diverting a significant chunk out of the SS system which will bring its insolvency date much closer; is that what we want to be doing? It’s like strapping on a parachute (how about a simile this time) and jumping out of a plane that is gliding along towards an emergency landing; if the parachute works, great, if it doesn’t, you’re in for a nasty smack you could have avoided by staying on the plane. Much better I think to stay on the plane and try to glide it in safely, especially if the plane is otherwise sound and has a decent pilot aboard.

By: Alex Wed, 12 Jan 2005 14:27:48 +0000 “Canada opposes this.” I haven’t heard that they oppose it, but I’m sure they are worried that they will run short of supply if the US consumer is added. But I believe the US vendors will lower their prices as a result of the competition. Also, Canada opposed the Iraq war since they and most others knew there were no WMDs or ties to al Quaeda. Their opposition didn’t stop this administration before. War must trump health in their view.

I think we are in agreement on the tax breaks. I find it very curious how the right tends to attack the left by calling them communists (hi Bill Gates). Meanwhile, the right is happy to do un-capitalistic things like give huge subsidies for inefficient corporations.

I was implying the Iraq war in particular. The main part of my point was that the war does nothing for US citizens. And that if it does anything, it makes us less safe. I think its easy to say with the torture, the bombing and killing of civilians, the privatization of the whole country, that the average Iraqi is happy to make us pay if they have the chance. In the meantime, what does Joe and Jane American get out of it? Just a huge bill. I don’t know if you can tie Palestinian bombings to Iraq. I have never seen evidence of this. I don’t know how to feel about Libya, I guess its a good thing. Although I don’t think Iraq had anything to do with it. The war on drugs doesn’t have to be a war. Its like the war on terrorism to me. There will never be an end to either of them, by definition. We have to be smart about this, and war is the least tactful way of going about it. “Will increasing supply of drugs make you more safe?” Yes, by lowering the prices, there will no longer be the mass amount of violence over drugs. (It sounds like you agree with me here too from your point about Vioxx, etc, but I’m not sure)

By: Max Lybbert Wed, 12 Jan 2005 12:55:39 +0000 Looking over my reply to Alex, I realized that I ignored tax breaks to the tobacco industry. As a rule, I oppose targeted tax breaks, and would support efforts to repeal them. Republicans only use them to get Southern voter support.

The subsidies come from a quota system that can only be ended with a buyout. My in-laws have been waiting for several years for this to happen.

I would also like to see an end to subsidies and tax breaks that keep family farms open. I know it sounds callous, but if you can only remain in business because the government props up your prices, then the market is trying to get you to change businesses.

Should we have kept human switchboard operators around after there were better ways to do the job? My aunt had one of those jobs, and made decent money plugging in wires to connect people to whom they wanted to talk with. However computers do a better job at it, and my aunt was able to find a different job that required the same amount of intelligence and paid just as well. I can’t understand why the government works so hard to encourage people to use inneficient business methods.

By: Max Lybbert Wed, 12 Jan 2005 12:46:40 +0000 OK, I must admit that my math last night was wrong. I don’t know why I figured I would retire in 2060. Under current law, I will retire right about 2050. I truly believe that will inch up in the next forty years.

In response to Alex:

/* Allow US citizens to get prescription drugs from Canada

Canada opposes this.

/* Stop subsidies/huge tax breaks for the tobacco industry

This will entail a buyout of rights. In other words a large one-time payment. I support this, especially since my in-laws will receive a good amount of money for the rights to their tobacco farm. I believe the President supports this as well.

/* Stop paying for wars that do nothing but make us less safe

Can you propose any such wars?


Iraq? How much less safe are you now that there is a war on the other side of the world? Did you factor in Libya’s decision to stop funding terrorism? How about the sudden drop in Palestinian suicide bombers who no longer get money from Saddam?

The War on Drugs? Did those drugs pass the same levels of quality control that ephedra, Vioxx and Celebrex did? Would an increase in supply of unsafe drugs make me more safe? How?

/* Allow medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies (which was forbidden in Bush’s Health Care Bill)

This would be good for my economic self interest, so I have to give it to you. That is, if we both don’t believe the drug companies when they say that the reduced profits would result in less money for research. And we both have to ignore Lessig’s position that high-priced drugs in the US can pay for low-priced drugs in Africa (or Canada, for that matter).

By: Alex Tue, 11 Jan 2005 21:56:01 +0000 I don’t know about Democrats, but how about just a couple proposals from people who are left of center:

-Allow US citizens to get prescription drugs from Canada
-Stop subsidies/huge tax breaks for the tobacco industry
-Stop paying for wars that do nothing but make us less safe
-Allow medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies (which was forbidden in Bush’s Health Care Bill)

By: Max Lybbert Tue, 11 Jan 2005 21:29:30 +0000 WARNING: VERY LONG POST

Relentless, I’m not mad that you went snooping around. Many of my comments here are meant to try to draw people out of their echo chambers. I just couldn’t remember linking to that particular post.

On the larger issue, I truly believe that voting for Bush is in my economic self-interest, and I am far from rich.

/* The Bush tax cuts have proven to be huge corporate gains to companies and their primary shareholders… and little more than a few hundred dollars petty cash to the average citizen.

Did you notice that little part (of my original post) where it said more people pay no tax or “negative tax”? The numbers were the same ones Kerry used during he campaign, BTW. Since the AMT is meant to make sure rich people pay tax, those paying no tax (and negative tax) are poor. Paying no tax or negative tax is in my economic self interest.

But the corporate tax cuts had a specific purpose: to free up money so that corporations could produce more. Some corporations did that through hiring, many did that through technology upgrades. However increased supply (with constant demand) leads to lower prices (and, yes, increased profits, but still with lower prices). Lower prices are in my economic self interest.

The unemployment rate when Bush took office was low (and Clinton does deserve credit for that). Everybody who was looking knew a recession was coming or had already come. You may recall that Bush campaigned on tax cuts to stave off the recession (and to starve the government beast), but sold the cuts as a way to recover from the mild recession.

I have a book by Charles Schwab about investing. During the ’90s, Schwab said that it is his experience that business cycles run three years. So a recession starting in early 2001 should have lasted until 2004. Lo and behold, even with the collapse of the WTC (and its associated infrastructure), that’s what happened. Did the tax cuts get us out of the recession? I don’t think so, although I do believe they kept us from applying the brakes to a weak economy. Staying out of the way of a recovering economy is also in my economic self interest.

Oh, and today’s unemployment rate is almost equal to what it was when Bush took office. That incredibly low rate is also in my economic self interest.

I’m in my mid-twenties. It is well-known that Social Security will need major cuts by the 2040s, and since I won’t be able to retire until the 2060s (under today’s rules), there won’t be anything around to fund my retirement. In other words, over the next forty years, I’ll pay for everyone’s retirement but my own. Bush wants to make it possible for me to invest some of my money so that I can pay for my own retirement as well. That sounds like something in my economic self interest.

And that doesn’t even take into account what I originally linked to: the fact that the Social Security Trust Fund is “invested” in US Treasury Bonds. There is nothing wrong about bonds, but realize that we are talking about the government borrowing money from itself, and making assumptions that it will pay back that money in the future.

And we have less than ten years until the government needs to start making good on those bonds to keep Social Security solvent. Where will the money come from? Perhaps we could repeal those Bush Tax Cuts. Then again, the government was borrowing from the Trust Fund long before the tax cuts were passed. In other words, the tax cuts aren’t the problem, and repealing them won’t save the system. What proposals are Democrats floating around that are in my economic self interest?

By: Alex Tue, 11 Jan 2005 18:09:28 +0000 I’d like to put out a suggestion (I see Ed Lyons mentioned it above): If you use Internet Explorer to browse the web, switch to Firefox.

It’s one direct way to stop supporting Bill Gates.

By: Relentless Tue, 11 Jan 2005 15:35:44 +0000

Yes, Gates is trying to use bad labels to sway public opinion without a real debate, however it isn’t a new tactic, and it isn’t targeted at all those dumb “red staters.”

Mr. Lybbert,

I did look over the link you posted (and much of the other “information” provided on the site). I’m not entirely sure citing someone who refers to their intellectual opposition as “dillweeds”, “quacks” and “dudes” would really be the best way to argue that “red staters” are intellectual on par or superior to “blue staters.”

Setting the source itself aside for the moment, there is little doubt that many areas of the country voted patently against their own economic self-interest in the last election and in the 2000 election as well. The Bush tax cuts have proven to be huge corporate gains to companies and their primary shareholders… and little more than a few hundred dollars petty cash to the average citizen.

One might argue with a straight face that voting for Bush even against economic self-interest was a prudent thing to do because other issues were more important to the voter, but there is no question that vast numbers of rural poor citizens cast votes (if Diebold is to be believed) for a candidate that clearly did more to harm them than help them financially. One needs look no further than the unemployment rolls to see this phenomona. A man with no job voting for the same President to be re-elected is akin to a football player with no helmet and a serious concussion voting for the same team equipment manager next season.

Tell me Gates is a genius, tell me open source *is* communism, tell me steadfast support of existing trademark provisions is essential to a capitalist society and motivating innovators…. but dont tell me that Bush has the economic interests of the rural poor in the red states anywhere on his radar screen… and dont even attempt to insinuate that Gates is giving an honest accounting of what he believes to be best for the country and the world…. not because id disagree subjectively but because the objective facts simply wont let you pass the laugh test with those arguments.

Gates is seeking greater wealth, without regard for innovation for invention or for inclusion. Those 3 little “I” words scare him just as much as the “C” word scares those red staters he is trying to agitate.

Pitch-forks and torches are not the way for the masses to decide whether open source is a hopelessly defunct ecomonic ideal or a wave of enlightenment capable of lifting the world economy and expanding the pie large enough for all of us to take a bite.

Honest discussion with an open mind is the only way to discuss open source… and “catchgirl” clearly doesnt have that or a grip on the facts.

By: wolli Tue, 11 Jan 2005 05:32:28 +0000 Most people speaking here seem to have trouble differentiating “communism” from “the system that existed in the Soviet Union”. I posted a longer article in my blog about how the BSA, the RIAA, and their likes have actually started to resemble the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Union — in a way.

By: Tayssir John Gabbour Tue, 11 Jan 2005 03:20:09 +0000 Incidentally, when people say “communism,” they usually are criticizing “democracy.” Democratic, participatory structures stand in contrast to the dictatorship top-down model, which I’m sad to say is the model over 99% of huge public companies are built on.

By: Tayssir John Gabbour Tue, 11 Jan 2005 03:15:26 +0000 NYT article on IBM creating a new “patent commons”:

“I.B.M. executives said they hoped the company’s initial contribution of 500 patents would be the beginning of a ‘patent commons,’ which other companies would join. I.B.M. has not yet approached other companies, Mr. Stallings said.”

I didn’t know IBM was so communistic. Now, that 500 is less than 1/6 the patents they gained in 2004, and it’s nowhere near time to break out the bubbly stuff. But that certainly adds the punchline to Microsoft’s comments.

Will some claim that IBM’s “hurting” intellectual property holders with this “cynical” move? That’s the response to expect when someone does something which doesn’t fit the normal pattern for extracting profit.

By: Jack Stephens Tue, 11 Jan 2005 00:03:18 +0000 Is Gates merely “red-baiting” when he refers to “communists”?

The “Free Culture Manifesto” (!) at, linked from the site for Lessig’s book of the same name, begins:

“The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure.”

And is not opposition to “proprietary structures” a defining theme of communism?

By: Max Lybbert Mon, 10 Jan 2005 22:26:28 +0000 Zephyr, I remember reading that article, but to be honest, I can’t find where I posted to it, so I really can’t remember what point I was trying to make.

Yes, you’re right that putting down something like “did legal work for the ACLU” does imply something about your political views. If you choose to include it on your resume, you should recognize that. But, in an environment where the professors constantly talk about not wanting to kill any student viewpoints, does it make sense for those same professors to block the hiring of a qualified candidate because of “incompatible” politics?

Lessig is rightly proud of his clerkship for Judge Posner, and Renquhist is proud of his clerking for the Supreme Court (I can’t recal which justice he clerked for right now). Should a law school professor have to put down “clerked for an unnamed Supreme Court judge” on his resume if the judge happened to be recognized as one of the more conservative on the bench?

By: blaze Mon, 10 Jan 2005 21:58:28 +0000 Ed Lyons -

Most people here are familar with Lessig’s arguments. And they are strong and good.

Unfortunately, optics often reveal the conflict he is having with his fundamental philosophy and the lack of clear declaration that the rights of the creator are sacrosanct are showing that Lessig is not sure who to trust. Does he trust the community (ie: the process) or does he trust the creator?

And this is *exactly* why Bill Gates can easily and successfully bait Lessig (which should be obvious just by his poorly worded rebuttal).

What Lessig must come to terms is that he must trust that some creators will give away their technology for free.

Some of the greatest creators in the world just dig it when people use their work and they get zero monetary compensation.

However quite a few of these Creators want to see other people forced to give any modifications away for free.

Forced being the keyword here.

In order to force other people into an action when they utilize your content, you need to have ultimate respect for the desires and intentions for the original creator of those works.

Again, the desires of the original creator are sacrosanct. When we start weakening regular copyright law all we are doing is weakening the GPL, Creative Commons, and what not. In fact, GPL makes the argument itself – it relies on strong copyright (the rights of the creator are sacrosanct).

The problem you see, is that Lessig does not shout out that he trusts the creators. He does not shout out his trust that they know when to Copryight, GPL, or Creative Commons something .. the impression he leaves is the one that Bill Gates is pouncing on.

I personally believe that Lessig *does* trust creators of content. Unfortunately, he’s not making that 100% clear .. no doubt because he doesn’t want to offend his buddies in the FSF camp. This is a terrible mistake. Stallman is dead wrong – software does not have to be free:

Some software does, some software doesn’t. Empower the creators and let them decide.

By: zephyr1256 Mon, 10 Jan 2005 17:10:35 +0000 Max, I just read the article you linked to about hiring bias for teaching positions in law schools, and I was noticed this line of interest:

Applicants with conservative lines on their resume — an Olin fellowship, Federalist Society membership, or, heaven help you, a Scalia clerkship — thus tend to be passed over no matter how sterling the rest of their credentials may be.

Now obviously experience like a legal clerkship(which doesn’t necessarily imply that you share beliefs with a justice you worked for, I think, but potentially could get you flagged) is something that is relevant to such a resume, and I’m not sure about the others listed. Generally, putting controversial items on a resume, like campaign work for a party, is a bad idea on resumes(unless it is directly relevant and you know that it will help you), because you don’t know what biases the person who reads your resume may have(and especially if you know any such biases are likely to be negative).

I will say I do not know what people(of any political slant) put on their resumes when applying for such positions, including what people who get the positions have on their resumes, but I do know that my little resume handbook does recommend specifically avoiding controversial items where possible. Another important point is that resumes should not be too long; if adding irrelevant controversial memberships and indicators of political affiliation makes your resume stretch on to a third page, you’ve likely shot yourself in the foot because the resume is too long(again, I don’t know if this applies to many conservatives’ resumes that are getting rejected, but it gives another reason to avoid controversial items).

By: j Mon, 10 Jan 2005 16:47:03 +0000 Gates can’t be escaped from, although this may be a solution:

By: Ed Lyons Mon, 10 Jan 2005 16:26:11 +0000 How can there be comments *here* agreeing with Gates’ position? To dismiss all people who disagree with the corporate holders of intellectual property as being against private property or profit is absurd. To insist that the only way to create value from ideas is to grant IP protection is also unjustified. There are certain technologies that require massive investment to be valuable (such as tech that would be useful in space tourism). But why does a song or computer code need such lengthy protection? Oddly enough, the incredible technology of space ship one will only be protected for a small fraction of the time of a Britney Spears song. Microsoft has computer code that will be protected by copyright until 2080. Will your great-great-great grandchildren be running Windows 98 on an 85-year old Pentium III? Will they be listening to “Ooops, I did it again?” using Version 2 of the Windows Media Player on that machine? Does this make sense to anyone?

Professor Lessig has spilled much ink showing alternatives to the system we have now and I find it strange that readers of this blog do not understand it.