An Open Response to Peter Sunde

Dear Peter:

I read this morning on Motherboard that you have “given up your fight for the Internet.”  This is the second time I’ve come across a public statement in which you say you are throwing in the towel on the ideological principles you, your partners, and your political allies believe were manifest by operating The Pirate Bay. And it’s the second time I’ve been motivated to respond.

The aspect of your recent statement that I find most striking is that one of your core complaints about the Internet we have today—the money-for-nothing Internet—is actually aligned with many of the same criticisms that I and my copyright-supporting colleagues have of the business models that tend to dominate Silicon Valley enterprises.  But the thing you clearly don’t get, Peter, is that this is the Internet you helped create.  You say the following:

“Look at all the biggest companies in the world, they are all based on the internet. Look at what they are selling: nothing. Facebook has no product. Airbnb, the biggest hotel chain in the world, has no hotels. Uber, the biggest taxi company in the world, has no taxis whatsoever.

The amount of employees in these companies are smaller then ever before and the profits are, in turn, larger. Apple and Google are passing oil companies by far. Minecraft got sold for $2.6 billion and WhatsApp for like $19 billion. These are insane amounts of money for nothing. That is why the internet and capitalism are so in love with each other.”

In a sense, you’re exactly right.  The stock market valuation of these companies is insane and most likely toxic. Many of these Internet giants that produce neither goods nor jobs nor any real progress, are designed predominantly to cannibalize what already exists in the market; and they entice investors with short-term ROI while creating no apparent long-term value.   But Peter, this is the culture you and your colleagues promoted.  This is what comes of evangelizing the idea that it’s okay to exploit other people’s investment of real labor and real capital in goods and services that would otherwise have regenerative value. And exploiting these types of investments is precisely what you and your colleagues did with The Pirate Bay.

At least part of the Internet you don’t like is what comes of preaching to a whole generation that they can have whatever they want, free of charge, as long as it’s just a mouse click away.  And indeed, we are lately seeing the wheels come off that naive (and frankly predatory) idea. As the leaders of Pandora and Spotify begin to see that “freemium” isn’t a business model; as Facebook’s video service “freeboots” the promised ad-share value out of the pockets of YouTube creators; and as the global network of pirate sites is revealed to be a malware-infested and sophisticated black market that preys on individual consumers, you seem to have missed the point, Peter. The “fight” you lost is not with the MPAA and the principles of real capitalism—but with the unfettered greed you helped foster on the Internet you asked for.

Capitalism isn’t really the problem. Done right, capitalism is by-and-large how a truly free society prospers.  And I believe that in my country—which is both free and capitalist—we have unfortunately regressed since the late-20th century in striking the right balance between the free market and necessary boundaries imposed upon that market. As a result, we have fostered a dangerous state of wealth consolidation and a corporate influence on public policy almost matching that of the Robber Barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These forces are fueling a reactionary and populist trend in my country’s politics that you have stated you hope gets worse quickly so the whole capitalist system fails fast, so that people like you still have time to “fix” the world.  You say that you have failed, Peter, and you have. But you don’t understand why.

You do not recognize that you and your friends already ran a computer model on the world you envision and watched it fail.  Yet, you have learned nothing from your experiment.  You say, “I know Marx and communism did not work before, but I think in the future you have the possibility of having total communism and equal access to everything for everybody.”  This may be one of the most revealing statements that an evangelist of the “pirate ethos” has ever made.  Because, Peter, you have already personified—even dabbled in—the worst ills of capitalism that Marx accurately identified, but you are also mucking about in the absurdity of communism to which Marx was entirely blind.

As founder/operator of The Pirate Bay, you became a rapacious capitalist, exploiting human labor and rejecting certain legal boundaries designed to protect the rights of that labor.  Marx warned against this kind of exploitation, and he was right.  But in your persistent belief that technology alone—like Marx’s abolition of private property—will naturally create “equal access to everything for everybody,” you are as naive as Marx in that you forget to do the rest of the math. You fail to ask the question, “Who is going to produce the everything to which everyone is entitled equal access?”

Perhaps you forget that Karl Marx lived a great deal of his life sponging off the generosity of his pal Friedrich Engels, much as you perhaps still don’t seem to understand that The Pirate Bay only existed by sponging off the works of filmmakers, musicians, etc.  And even as you admit defeat in what you believe was a fight for the soul of the Internet, it’s interesting that you do not see a parallel between the collapsed Soviet Union and your failed experiment in media piracy. Both quite expectedly transitioned from a centralized—perhaps even idealized—form of labor exploitation to what is now a broadly distributed network of corruption and organized criminal activity.

I realize that your native Sweden is among the most socialist nations in Europe, that it enjoys a very high standard of living due to its unique fortune to maintain a golden balance between socialist and capitalist policy. I also recognize that a belief that “communism could still work” is a popular notion among many millennials, including some number in the United States.  But I strongly believe this sentiment is partly due to pure naiveté; it is partly a reaction to our failure to reign in the worst abuses of capitalism; and it is partly the result of your generation growing up spoiled by all the free stuff available via your digital toys.  (And that last part is your fault, Peter.)  While I do believe my country might learn a few things (e.g. in areas like education and healthcare) from our more socialist cousins in Europe, there is always a danger in failing to at least understand whence things come, whether we’re talking about a habitable planet or a work of fiction or even those digital toys themselves.

In fact, the computer or smart phone in your hand, which has so profoundly shaped the world view of your contemporaries, would not exist without the very systems you hope come crashing to a halt so that you can presume to “fix” them. I know I cited these details in another post, but do you even know what’s in an iPhone, Peter?  Five metals that have to be mined in places like Chile, Peru, South Africa, and Australia; eight rare earth minerals, nearly all of which are mined in China; human labor performed in conditions of varying degrees of decency and depravity around the world; global shipping protected by international navies; stevedore and trucking and other labor regulated by various local unions or other systems of commerce; and a staggering array of international trade agreements and treaties, all so you can have a device on which you may tweet that you hope we have a “total system collapse.” Really?

Like so many people in your generation, Peter, you have passion and you have talent.  But if you want to change the world, you first have to grow up and get real about how it actually works.

© 2015, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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47 comments

  • do you even know what’s in an iPhone, Peter?

    Coltan (columbite–tantalite) is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of cell phones, it is mined in the Congo and is responsible for the prolongation of the war there and the destruction of the Mountain Gorillas habitat. I’m often amused to see environmentalist slackavists chattering away on iPhones and Androids.

    http://www.cellular-news.com/coltan/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coltan

  • Amen….very clear reasoning guys…

  • The trick to getting rich quick used to be OPM – Other People’s Money. Now it’s OPI – other people’s infrastructure. Über, Airbnb, Pandora… Aggregating wealth without contributing genuine economic value.

  • There’s one problem with your reasoning, that you see “communism” as a choice, as a political alternative just like any other one in the realm of bourgeois politics, when in fact it is nothing like that. Communism is “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things”, is in much of its part an economic process that is already under way and will eventually manifest itself with the collapse of the capitalistic mode of production and the establishment of common ownership of the means of production. It appears as a total collapse seen through the eyes of the current system, but it is nonetheless inevitable.

    • Well, Grigor, if the only flaw in my reasoning is that I fail to recognize that communism is inevitable, then the flaw in my reasoning is that I still have hope for humanity. I’ll accept that.

      • In The Soviet workers paradise, workers on collective farms were expected to be motivated and play their part to work hard and care for the farming machinery tools etc.to improve the state, leading to a workers paradise.
        What the commissars (Masters) found was tractors etc. were being left broken down, stuck in the mud, and even just “out of gas” in the fields….”It’s not mine or my responsibility”, “I don’t own it”, “I’m not making payments on it!” etc.
        No Ownership!……Who cares?…..”Is not my job!” – Freddie Prinze
        Add Tyranny and we get the complete failure of communism….Western people, people formerly under a communist nations boot over 50, generally hate communism because they lived through the end of the Soviet era and lived through it’s abject failure and death and the rise of a free’er Russia, the break up of the Warsaw Pact, and the rise and mastery of their new capitalism!
        Capitalism will also, so deeply suck, if we don’t have rules for all (especially banking regulations) so we have a slightly more level playing field.
        The Communist nations people listened to State post copyright classical music and state regulated pop/Rock/Propaganda music vs The West, were we have copyright and a free-ish expression in our music which the Russian people graved and could be punished for listening to! ie. The Beatles.
        No one got paid for the great underground protest music made in the Wars pact nations! To play or sing these songs could mean the gulag, work/reeducation camps and even death.
        Youth tend to glamorize Communism and see it as more fair and equal…..
        Nope! There’s always someone “more equal”, in every system ready with a boot, a truncheon, a surveillance system and reams of propaganda to stop all those nasty anticommunist thought and yearnings!

    • To paraphrase the badger in “The Once And Future King” – “Enslaving people to either party or State seems to be an odd first step to making them free.”

      But lets relate to economics. Marx (also Adam Smith, and John Locke )was an advocate of the labour theory of property. That property was the application of labour upon some natural resource. People here would say that the intellect is a natural resource just as water or land is, and its application gives as much rise to a claim of property as ploughing the land gave rise to a homestead property right. Indeed it was this Lockean principle of property that lead to Copyright being enshrined in the US constitution and why Europe attaches inalianable moral rights as well as economic rights to intellectual property. Marx would have held along with Proudhon that intellectual property was freedom, whilst physical (Capitalist property) was theft. And according the Proudhon the later is indeed impossible.

      Lets say we are looking at someone fashioning a stone tool some 20,000 years ago. The stones are to all intent and purposes infinite, there is no value as such in rocks. The value comes once work has been performed on it to turn it into a tool. If someone now comes along and takes that tool the maker has lost something, even though there are still plenty of other stones from which he could fashion another tool within a short period of time. How is this different from some one that takes a day or so to create a song, which is then expropriated and used without rewarding the maker. After all he may be able to create a new one in another day or so?

      You have a very poor understanding of Marxism, Communism, and Property.

      • Well summarized, John.

      • I didn’t quite get how you came to the conclusion in the last sentence. In my comment i wanted to clarify that communism, as used by Marx and not by paranoid americans, refers to an economic process that (according to Marx) is the inevitable consequence of the mode of production in which we live.

        A lot of people make this incorrect identification of communism with the system that existed in the Soviet Union or other “proletarian dictatorships” across the world, when no body, in the Soviet Union or any of this countries, ever claimed they were living in communism.

        Communism is not the state owning everything, or censoring free speech, or killing people for what they think, since in a classless society there is no state, and no ruling agency entitled to kill people or tell them how to think. But first and foremost, communism is not a “political alternative”, meaning you don’t propose it in elections and expect people to like it.

        Anyway, i’m not going to give a lecture on communism, but just to answer your question: taking the 20000 year old piece of stone is no stealing since its maker as long dead, the tool is of no use to anybody, and you are taking an example from a period of extreme shortage and huge amount of socially necessary labour, and comparing it with a phenomenon from our times which are characterized of material abundance and socially necessary labour approaching 0 ever faster.

        And yeah, we communists wouldn’t pay the guy who wrote the song for his labour, since a. we have no money to pay anyone, and b. art should not be made for cash (i mean, this is completely another topic, maybe unrelated to communism, but don’t confuse the music industry with art). When you give everyone according to his needs, then everyone could do whatever they like (with some material and physical constrains of course), and the profit motive would be a materially impracticable, hence any institution build upon its premise (property rights in this case, material and intellectual) must fall.

      • You’ll find I am not some ‘paranoid american’ and still have a CPGB membership card (though not up-to-date), as did my father. I’v used that self same “No true Scotsman” argument myself some 45 years ago. Its bullshit.

        Again it seems odd that in order to defeat Capitalism one must start out by robbing value from musicians, authors, photographers, film-makers, and other small individuals.

        The Anarchist Kropotkin has this to say:

        take the petty man who deceives his friends, who lies at every step to get out of somebody the price of a pot of beer, or from sheer love of brag, or from cunning. Take the employer who cheats his workmen to buy jewels for his wife or his mistress. Take any petty scoundrel you like. He again only obeys an impulse. He seeks the satisfaction of a craving, or he seeks to escape what would give him trouble.

        We are almost ashamed to compare such petty scoundrels with one who sacrifices his whole existence to free the oppressed, and like a Russian nihilist mounts the scaffold. So vastly different for humanity are the results of these two lives; so much do we feel ourselves drawn towards the one and repelled by the other.

        And yet were you to talk to such a martyr, to the woman who is about to be hanged, even just as she nears the gallows, she would tell you that she would not exchange either her life or her death for the life of the petty scoundrel who lives on the money stolen from his work-people. In her life, in the struggle against monstrous might, she finds her highest joys. Everything else outside the struggle, all the little joys of the bourgeois and his little troubles seem to her so contemptible, so tiresome, so pitiable! “You do not live, you vegetate,” she would reply; “I have lived.”

        Take heed that if you deceive, lie, intrigue, cheat, you thereby demean yourself. belittle yourself, confess your own weakness beforehand, play the part of the slave of the harem who feels himself the inferior of his master. Do this if it so pleases you, but know that humanity will regard you as petty, contemptible and feeble, and treat you as such. Having no evidence of your strength, it will act towards you as one worthy of pity– and pity only.

        http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/AM/anarchist_moralityI.html
        ——————————————————

        You my friend are no Communist, no Anarchist, no Revolutionist, not even a slacktivist.

      • Your analogy only works if the supply of a particular intellectual product is finite. In the case of a stone tool, if the tool is stolen then the maker must expend further work to replace it. If a poet writes a poem on a sheet of paper and then the paper is stolen, then the situation of the maker and the poet is analogous. However, if the thief makes a wood cut of the poem and then makes thousands of copies, the poet has lost nothing except an unprincipled opportunity to gain through FALSE scarcity.

        If the supply of suitable stone/flint for tool making is infinite and other makers come to make replicas of the original maker’s tool, again the original maker has lost nothing except an opportunity to gain through FALSE scarcity.

        There are two major categories of intellectual property. Information intended for utility and information intended for entertainment. In both cases, the cost of distribution is near to zero.

        The basis of entertainment is that consumers willingly reward the entertainer when they are entertained. If the work is not entertaining, then the artist will not be rewarded. Traditional pay-for-access models stiffle this clear impulse, and reduce the ease with which new artists can gain the attention of patrons.

        Information intended for utility also has this patron impulse, as well as an ethical conundrum surounding the cost of withholding information (artificial scarcity of information) that others could build upon. Copyright in this context retards the progression of science and technology very very strongly. There is no moral high ground when arguing for patents, as any retardation of this process results in needless loss of life and the unnecessary wastage of untold man-hours.

      • Paul, your response to John only holds up if you have no understanding of the labor involved in producing the works protected by intellectual property in the first place. That distribution is “near zero” is a fallacy but entirely irrelevant even if it were accurate. The whole “false scarcity” argument has been manufactured out of pure selfishness and ignorance. The point is not how “easy” it is to copy the hammer but how the hammer got made in the first place. Failure to understand that is a failure to understand the most basic economic principles–let alone moral ones. Everything else you’re saying about IP is just theoretical gobbledygook you’ve heard others say but could not support with even the most rudimentary historic precedence. You want to see real scarcity? Remove IP rights and watch what happens.

      • The scarcity is in the creation. Craftsmen arose in different fields because people appreciated what they created such that compensated them so that they did not need to go tilling the soil, hunting in the woods, or foraging in the hedgerows.

        If the compensation is no longer there then your creators are going to go back to the equivalent of tilling the soil, hunting in the woods, and foraging in the hedgerows.

        You have no evidence that ‘pay-for-access’ a) stopped new artists gaining patrons, or b) that the absence of ‘pay-for-access’ has resulted in more new artists gaining patrons. Your statement is simply wishful thinking.

        Regarding your utility paragraph Thomas Jefferson said that he was astonished how much inventive endeavour was unmasked by the Patent Act, how many people came forward with new inventions.

        Like all freetards you seem to be focussed on distribution costs. These were always the least of the costs involved in bringing IP to the public. The largest cost of a LP back in the 1960s wasn’t based on the cost of vinyl pressing and transport to record shops.

      • Let me present this other analogy. A train connects two places A and B the ticket price is $10 and there is a someone at station A to collect the fare and give out the ticket. At some point in time it becomes possible to have an electronic/ digital ticket. However, it is easy to copy the digital ticket over time a large number of the travelers on the route do just that. They argue that because the ticket is digital and there is no cost in duplicating it, and the train was going to B anyway, so $10 for the fare is excessive and it should by rights be near $0.

  • Pingback: Newhoff respond's to Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde - Vox Indie

  • You say “Done right, capitalism is by-and-large how a truly free society prospers.”

    Done right, the same can be said about Communism, done right. But the problem, neither have ever been done right. And I suppose, the way you see Communism as a doom scenario, the way people say they want capitalism to fail, it’s about how they’ve gone wrong.

    Let’s just say, the current state of the world is not ideal. It could be far worse, of course, but still, it’s far from ideal. Wealth is unequally distributed. We produce enough food to feed the entire planet, but people are starving because they can’t afford it. So, please don’t tell capitalism is freedom. No, capitalism is freedom for the rich. I would like to see a world with freedom for all. And in that respect I support the idea of a basic income. Just as a temporary phase, as a transition to a society without money. A world where everyone is “rich”, a world where one can be free, not held back by the lack of money.

    I can imagine that would be a world full of art. The poet, the painter, the singer, can spend their time on their art, no worries about paying the rent and all. I can imagine the crime rates will drop, there is no need to steal. Getting rid of money will provide freedom.

    • Andre, I can certainly understand frustration with capitalism. But I cannot understand this renewed fascination with communism. It is an brutally naive idea that cannot be “done right.” At its core, it is anathema to freedom because, in order for society to function at all, everyone must agree as to how our labors, ideas, etc. must serve society. And those who do not agree can only find themselves oppressed. It is as though those who espouse communism don’t have the story of the Soviet Union to look to as a cautionary tale. There is no ideal. There is only the fairest possible system. The practical reality is that while you chase your unattainable ideal, the strongest forces in the world will simply destroy you. There are millions of people who do no come anywhere near sharing your dream of “freedom for all.”

    • No communist state has ever shown any signs of “withering away”. People are hungry in places like Sub-Saharan Africa because the land is too impoverished to support anything other than subsistence farming with the constant threat that climatic conditions will result in crop failures. Lack of infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, sewage treatment, fuel, and electricity, are another factors that keeps these people in poverty. Roads and railways that move from the interior directly to the coast and do not cross the country as the main point in Colonial times was to get the mineral resources and cash crops directly to the ports.

      Addressing any of these factors requires a strong central Government you cannot implement a vaccination program to eradicator something like Polio, or Smallpox without one. As witnessed when Government breaks down these diseases re-emerge.

  • This was so stupid my hear hurts!

  • Brilliant response! Bravo!

  • I thought this was a great response until the arguments regarding Capitalism vs. Communism began. I think we’ve seen very clearly how deeply flawed American-style Capitalism is as well, and how incredibly damaging it is to society and the natural world. We can absolutely discuss the hypocrisy and terrible logic inherent in the “sharing economy” as it currently stands – but this article takes a turn that does the argument no favors. I’d in fact argue that the “sharing economy” is as much an illustration of Capitalism’s grim recent turn as it is a foreshadowing of some Tech-Communist future.

    • What we have with the “sharing economy” isn’t so much like Capitalism or Communism, it is much more like Feudalism.

      • I agree with the comparison to feudalism. But my response to Nick is that the answer to what is wrong with “American-style capitalism” is not communism. I allude to this in the post, but I believe capitalism in principle is still sound, even though it has always required boundaries to keep it humane and sustainable for a whole society. Those boundaries ultimately take the form of some sort of regulation, but I think they begin with a cultural shift in values, which then mandates the necessary regulations. What’s wrong with American-style capitalism is, I believe, what happened to American values in the 1980s; and today it’s a Tower of Babel. Whether or not the next generation can shift its thinking to support healthy capital models rather than steam headlong into collectivism — which will really result in technological feudalism — is a big question.

        With regard to the necessary cultural shift, I am intrigued by the concept of Regenerative Capitalism as espoused by these folks: http://capitalinstitute.org.

      • As an outsider, I don’t think that you will get collectivism within the US. The problem is fragmentation, there is no clear sense of belonging to any dominate grouping. What is the current US citizen’s attitude towards labour unions? You have the current bunch of youth ordering up Uber cars, content to book BnB rooms at places with no fire escapes or food hygiene certs. A group that honestly believe that they can research a topic via the doodling of fools on Google and wikipedia. This is not a generation that will man the barricades, and face riot police. The present day MLKs would be chalking up success by the number of facebook likes they get.

      • You’re absolutely right, John. Many American millennials pay lip service to collectivist ideas while simultaneously reflecting a very selfish form of individualism. Hence, they’re a rather inscrutable bunch when it comes to their “real” political views. In fact, I’ve lately come to view many of them as having broken off into discussion groups, excluding one another based on certain identity roles, so they can talk in “safe spaces” about the importance of inclusiveness. Hence, my reference to their collectivist instincts is really not about a social order I’d expect them to achieve, just an illusion they’d buy into while not noticing the technocrats’ rise to feudal lordship.

      • To David’s point that the answer is not communism, I would agree, and I’m definitely not implying that. What I am saying is that capitalism can be as flawed as communism – no system is “natural” or “perfect” – they’re all human created systems, and we need to tend them as such. Many believe capitalism is a system designed to ultimately fail, much like communism – it just doesn’t work over a long period because it’s designed to be abused. Capitalism leads to the gathering of money (and thus power) over periods of time until you end up with oligarchic systems. Thus far we’ve had to break up these systems every few generations (we’ll have to do it again soon), which tells me the system is flawed. A system wouldn’t have to be constantly “checked” like this if it actually was good on its own. So I’m merely saying that capitalism shouldn’t be the focus of your argument – you can destroy the Pirate Bay argument as you did in your first paragraphs without ever getting into a waaaay messier conversation about capitalism. There’s a reason the youth now are hating capitalism – they’ve been raised in an era filled with clearly disgusting abuses of it.

      • Nick, in general I agree with you. I assume you read Sunde’s post, but the comments about communism come from him of course, not out of the blue. The reason I cited his quote in this context is that I believe the fundamental flaw in idealizing communism parallels the lie that piracy is “sharing.” He’s still banging on about equal access for everyone while not acknowledging the labor he is exploiting. This is at least a little reminiscent of, “You are now proud turnip farmer of the people, Comrade.”

        I agree, and reference in the post, that part of the next generation’s rejection of capitalism is that they have grown up into one of the periods in which it has again run amok and needs a new Teddy Roosevelt, as it were, to whack it back into place. And the second part of the post is very much aimed at this segment of millennials–many who actually live relatively privileged lives–who are veering off into collectivist ideology without even acknowledging how the world works and whence the things they have come. It’s a weird version of the cycle of capitalism that you accurately describe. During the age of the Robber Baron, the exploited worker was a hard-labor coal miner getting bullied by Pinkertons and rallying to unionize while being labeled “communists” by the ownership class. Now, it seems like we have a fair number of rather well-to-do, middle class college kids with a world of opportunities in contrast to their great-great grandparents, saying “Dude, capitalism has failed. Crush the state.” And the truly funny (or not) thing is that the technology in which they place so much faith is making the only class of true oligarchs we have even more powerful.

      • Thank you for your responses David! I had not read his response, but just did, I have to sheepishly admit. I now see that you were responding to his direct line of argument. That said, I still feel that you’re maybe pushing too hard on the correctness of capitalism.

        I suppose maybe I’m a bit young myself (early 30s) so don’t have the life experience you do, but at the end of your last response you get into some logic about the youth of today that I’d like to comment on – I don’t think we necessarily have it as good as you think. I grew up fairly well off but am not wealthy now and will never be – I’m in mountains of debt due to student loans and some personal loans from my 20s which were admittedly very stupid, but offered up on a silver platter to young idiot me (something done very purposefully by lenders). I will never own a home like I’m “supposed to” as a good capitalist, I have no desire to do so because money has already crushed me and my main goal is to just get out from under that burden if at all possible. This is the reality for much of the people I know in my generation. We’re living just fine (I don’t worry about food, etc), but we have no financially liberated future to look forward to like we were led to believe we would as children.

        Furthermore, capitalism and our objection to it is not just about our own lives, it’s about the destruction and slavery it inspires worldwide. We have entire societies indentured to us in the name of capitalism, making our clothing, our phones, our everything, and living in the pollution that is the inevitable outcome of our rapid, disorganized growth. Have you been to a third world country? We are allowed to have our quality of life on the backs of slaves. I know they may get paid so aren’t technically slaves, but come on… we all know what they are, and we all allow it to happen in the name of capitalism.

        I’m not saying communism is the answer, but I am saying that there are very good reasons to heavily question capitalism, and it can’t be brushed away as youthful ignorance.

        Regarding technology, I think thoughtful youth are aware that the tech guys are not the heros they were thought to be in the 00’s and 90’s (hence the show Silicon Valley making fun of this very point) – they are the new oil barons.

      • Nick, thank you for your thoughtful responses and for not being offended by my generalizations re. your generation. As the father of three millennials, I care very deeply about all of the issues you cite. In fact, there are several posts on this blog addressing the financial promises and lies facing your generation. As I mentioned earlier, I strongly believe the problem you’re all seeing–the shrinking market, the debt, and the environmental abuses–are all about a cultural shift that I largely blame on the Reagan years (cue fresh haters). The 80s were a turning point in capitalism that really emphasized short-term profit, stock value at all cost, conspicuous consumption, etc. rather than building anything sustainable. This was a prelude to deregulation of the financial markets, which led to all the underhanded nonsense that came to a head with the near-global crash in 2009.

        It’s a damn mess, and for better or worse, it’s mostly going to be your generation that gets to either fix it or make it worse. My strong hope is that if thoughtful people like you can focus their attention on what’s really broken without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, that there are solutions. I don’t know if you checked out that link I posted in an earlier comment to the Capital Institute, but I really like the way these guys think. It’s called regenerative capitalism, and it’s all about transforming the way investors look at the use of capital to build profitable, yet sustainable, regenerating enterprises. In other words, a cultural shift rather than a radical leap into the hazards of communism, etc.

      • Didn’t mean to say “his response” in the initial paragraph, meant his interview. Also, please know that I agree with you that he’s full of shit, haha. I’m just taking issue with the part of the argument related to economic philosophy. His own beliefs on what he apparently stands for seem completely distorted. I’m a musician and content creator by the way.

      • Noted David! I’ll check out that link, I had not read it yet. I hear you re not tearing down the house because of the problems – often a measured path is the best. Thanks again for your really thoughtful responses, I enjoy a good political conversation online that doesn’t degenerate into name calling, haha.

      • Thanks for being part of the conversation, Nick.

  • Advances in neuroscience are going to change the way we look at political ideas sometime this century. One of the big debates in neuroscience is whether free will actually exists, or whether it’s an illusion. This is not a philosophical debate, but one based on the measurements provided by brain scans. It’s not fringe science, it’s mainstream science. If there is no free will, our perception of how we relate to the society we live in will have to change radically.

    • How will our perception change if we don’t have the free will to change it?

    • I would argue that even if neuroscience could prove that free will “does not exist” per se, that the so-called illusion of will is still up for philosophical grabs. And of course, in practical terms, there are no political regimes based on determinism that are not nightmarish to imagine. So, whether it’s illusory or not, the will of the subjugated, oppressed, or enslaved to not be so has a tendency to manifest quite tangibly.

  • Singer/Songwriter

    The laborer is worthy of his hire.

  • As far as the music industry goes, I’ve always believed a stream is a “performance” and a download is a “mechanical sale.” How complicated can that be? I’ve never understood why the Copyright Tribunal and the Dept. of Justice have never moved forward on that premise to begin with. I’ve also always believed they should prosecute all thieves of copyrights! No mercy for pirates of intellectual property! Their “arguments” ring hollow and are meaningless. They are open thieves, pure and simple. If the record industry (just as one example) would have continued to sue individuals AND companies who practiced and invited infringement directly or indirectly, from the beginning, that would have been the best “education” the thieves and everyone else, young or old, could have received. And it should still keep happening in my opinion. The internet is no different from any other medium. They simply keep stating that it is. And that is UTTER BULLSHIT.

  • Dear Peter, please take no notice of these reactionary Capitalists. They are just jealous of your free thinking! Also, please send me the digital details of your bank account as I wish to share them online. I may make a “collage” of the bank account details of other notable online pirates and share them with the world (digital only). Any funds raised by gaining access to these details will be shared back with you at the “streaming” rate of 0.00001 cents on the dollar! Let us dig the communal fields of ignorance together in drab clothes while listening to “State” music on a wind up gramophone Comrade!

  • Well, we can leave the universe of philosophy and return to the universe of harsher realities. Please take note of the remarkable differences between North and South Korea before you tout the wonders of communism. Communism fails because it run counter to basic human nature; capitalism has existed for all of recorded history because it’s a reflection of human nature, i.e. the instinct to survive, and a sort of selfishness that goes along with that. The bane of capitalism is the egregious inequality that it always produces, and how that economic inequality has a dangerous tendency to rapidly expand without sane limits. Thusly, capitalism has always had the seeds of it’s own destruction within it. Marx and Engels were not evil, domineering men. I have read the Communist Manifesto several times [I have a copy], and it’s clear that it was an all-out attack on the unrestrained and thoroughly corrupt capitalists of the mid-nineteenth century, and not a call for a massive destruction of freedom. Unfortunately, it had exactly that effect.

    It had that effect because an all powerful central government with the power to seize the fruits of everyone’s labor, and then divide those fruits up according to the infinite wisdom of the distributors, always required a ruthless central authority to impose it’s will upon the teeming, laboring masses that might take some umbrage at their efforts being seized by the overseers, and given to those that they consider undeserving. For that reason, and a smothering bureaucracy, communism has never succeeded for any length of time as a viable economic system.

    We do not live in a blue world or a yellow world-we live in a green world of various and ever changing shades of that color. The USA does not have an entirely free enterprise system, and China and Russia do not have an entirely communist system. We are all living under some ever-changing hybrid system that is always evolving.

    Capitalism has been around since the start of recorded history because, like gravity, it works. Often not very efficiently, and always not fairly, but it does simply work. If it didn’t work, humanity would have developed another system of enterprise.

  • I’m not a communist or even a socialist, but I am a bit of a Marxist when it comes to studying revolutions. Marx and Engels are best useful for analysis of the material world as opposed to solving the problems of the material world. And their discussion of dialectic and synthesis is handy, which if pressed I could draw comparisons with Richard Dawkins’ concept of memes from natural selection as a way of explaining how ideologies develop. Taken with a pinch of salt, good can come of it. As long as you know when to take parts of libertarianism into perspective too.

    What we should all aim to do is find the revolutions in the revolutions. With these fights over copyright, I am a bit of an exile – there’s no side I find worth taking:

    The pirate “movement” seems to be only sustained by rationalisation of not paying their dues to artists, which is bound to collapse as it is doing right now. Though some may be changing their minds due to changing circumstances, that’s the nature of class struggle when those rebels become the establishment. When the circle completes again, I’ll still be exactly where I am. Here’s my mini revolution-in-the-revolution: those complaining of “freebooting” on Facebook are now in my eyes taking the role of those who will suddenly obtain true faith in copyright’s ability to protect the unprotectable. So they are now my new opposition. They may be changing their beliefs, but I am certainly not, as my arguments for getting rid of copyright hold regardless of who has the role of my opposition. Google may even become a massive copyright-enforcer one day, in fact I am certain of it, but it changes nothing for me.

    In regards to freebooting, Facebook has done what Google has not and eliminated the ability to search for pirated videos, meaning that YouTube celebrities cannot even search for where the piracy is happening for them (and in the space of the first 24 hours where the revenue will peak the most). I had been saying for ages that getting people to remove links to the piracy doesn’t eliminate the piracy itself, and that if you get what you want by making tech firms take (and keep) down all the links, it would come back to bite you. Looks like I’ve been right. What are we going to do? Make the piracy be out in the open for artists to whack-a-mole police as before, or hide it and keep artists ignorant of the piracy in the name of keeping it “minimal”? This is what happens when we fall for the greatest myth of piracy, that it is somehow caused by corporations from the top-down. The truth is it is caused by the masses of pirates from the bottom-up. And as long as that is true no amount of “going after the big fish” will stop them. This cartoon shows what I mean (“the people don’t know their true power”): http://bit.ly/1QRWfre . Pirate websites would not exist if people would not use them. That sounds so elementary but it is worth stressing again and again. Understand it and you’ll understand a lot of what actually drives piracy and why it persists.

    The “balancers” who want reformed copyright to satisfy both crowds don’t really solve the inherent contradictions within copyright. Lawrence Lessig and folk like him can’t square the fact that protection of pure copies must logically lead to protection of tiny parts of those copies, ergo even remixers and translators must be resisted. CGP Grey, though I love him and his videos to bits, makes the same mistake. Both Creative Commons and Open Source also don’t do much for me as they both depend on copyright to function too.

    The pro-copyright advocates I suspect are afraid of facing up to the fact that their fight is a futile one. I only just recently had a pro-copyright guy flat-out agree with me when I said that enforcing copyright would be like enforcing the sterling currency if JPEG £20 notes were legal tender. But immediately afterwards, he said “but we still have to try”. As if even a 1% success rate from copyright law would still make it all worth it. I can’t see how this mentality can be reasoned with: not if it can’t consider the plausibility of assurance contract paywalls and its approximate counterpart revolution behind Patreon and IndieGoGo (forget Netflix and Spotify), the plausibility of trademark’s ability to tackle all moral issues without copyright and some economic issues, how this changing shift away from pirate mentality is occuring without any credit given to copyright legislation; and not if it fails to ask where exactly comes their mandate to draw the line between “idea” and “expression” when so many line-drawing censors of history have repeatedly failed, their moral implications of denying foreign-speakers their right to read works, their answer to derivative artists’ rights to fruits of labour, their preparation for the future where scarcity is only set to get much much worse, and many more.

    And the side that is my “wing” – the copyright abolitionists – are not even to my satisfaction. Stephen Kinsella nitpicks on the overlap between physical and intellectual property too much and too shallowly without answering the fruits of labour question directly, and I am suspicious of his borderline libertarian-anarchist thinking. Many others too easily say “get rid of copyright” without giving attention to the real problems of artists’ labour (I won’t quite say “property”, because “I made it therefore I own it” doesn’t quite suffice due to the fact that the Subway worker wouldn’t own the sandwiches he makes), and I have struggled to find historical copyright abolitionists to my liking – when I can find them at all, they seem to be rare.

    Though I don’t feel lonely. My background has led me to pick disagreements with everybody I can and never take sides.

    I actually don’t think copyright ever will be abolished – that might sound rather pessimistic in the face of what I’ve just wrote but I don’t see my side succeeding. Copyright is too seductive because the illusion of intellectual property – something that by definition is all in the mind – is an illusion that will prevail all too easily when hours and hours of elbow grease is invested in expression, and as we’ve seen even the rebel generation will give in to temptation and start supporting it themselves. I won’t, because one thing the good bits of Marxism teach you to beware of is your own motives. Reason and argument should be put before feelings and changing circumstances. Another good thing it says is people don’t act according to their politics: they instead act according to their interests (which are unfortunately, often selfish).

    I hope though my interests have been nothing other than reason, skepticism and argument for its own sake here, and most importantly to know the arugments of the other sides, so that new syntheses can spring from all kinds of unseen theses and anti-theses. Not all Marxists let the communist blots of his work consume them.

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