Tag Archive | ownership

Socialism & Fascism

In a recent article, Robert Higgs made the argument that socialism is pretty much dead, and that fascism is instead the dominant economic policy on the globe. As far as I’m aware, this is my first exposure to Higgs, and I must confess: I’m not impressed.

First, it should be readily observable to all people that fascism and socialism are related, in the same sense that an orchestra maestro entails mastery of the musical pieces; fascism is the conductor’s mastery, and socialism is mastery of the song. It’s possible to be a master of the song without being a master conductor, but it’s not possible to be a master conductor without being a master of the song.

In classic logic terms, all bloops are bleeps, but not all bleeps are bloops.

This is because socialism is an economic policy, while fascism is what we would call governmental policy. It’s true that “fascism” is a notoriously difficult idea to pin down, and a lot of people mistakenly attribute “nationalism” as one of its primary tenets, but that’s a misattribution, a result of people focusing more on words than with the essence represented by those words. State supremacy is the hallmark of fascism. Through most of human history, this would have manifested as nationalism and the notion that the nation is the greatest; in more modern times, it manifests primarily as globalism, and the notion that a global government would be the greatest. However, regardless at what level the fascist pledges their allegiance (whether to the nation or to the globe), the primary hallmark is the same: the state that is in charge is supreme.

Everything within the state. Nothing outside the state, nothing beyond the state.

— Benito Mussolini

Socialism is an idea that prescribes state ownership of capital. To explain this, we must clarify the difference between capital and a consumption good. A consumption good is one that does not increase in value, one that, under normal conditions, only decreases in value (i.e., is “used up”). A consumption good is something that is used and ultimately discarded, and is not an investment. Televisions, cell phones, food, clothing, gasoline, and other similar items are consumption goods. Socialism absolutely allows for individuals within the socialist society to own consumption goods. Even the most diehard socialist isn’t going to advocate a system where Bob, having run out of toothpaste, can enter your apartment and help himself to yours. In the socialist apparatus, consumption goods regularly pass into ownership by consumers, where they are consumed, and the state merely creates, assigns, and hands out these consumption goods.

Capital, on the other hand, is held entirely by the state. Houses, land, vehicles, manufacturing plants, and similar items are the property of the state, and the state uses this capital to create the consumption goods and dole them out to the citizens. The state owns the toothpaste manufacturing plant and provides one tube a month to each citizen, in other words, and once that toothpaste is handed over, it’s generally considered that citizen’s toothpaste. The state doesn’t really care what happens to consumption goods, because they are consumption goods–even if Bob hoards all of his toothpaste and attempts to sell it on the black market, it’s just not going to give him enough capital to seriously challenge the state. Besides which, it has an expiration date–the day is coming that the toothpaste will be without any value at all.

When we discuss “private property” under the ideas of capitalism, we are not saying that individuals have the right to own consumption goods–this right is a given, and even the most adamant socialist isn’t likely to challenge it. Instead, we are saying that individuals have the right to own capital. Individuals have the right to purchase items that will generate a return on the investment, that will produce wealth. Under capitalism, an individual can purchase the glass, copper, gold, plastic, and whatever else is necessary in order to produce phones, which are then sold as consumption goods to other individuals for money, thereby creating a return on the investment. This model is obviously successful, and obviously creates a net benefit to society as a whole: some people get the phone, and one person is rewarded for their investment with more money.

But it’s not my intention here to point out that capitalism is better.

In fact, the requirement that individuals be allowed to own capital is in the name: capitalism. We could easily call socialism consumptionism, in fact, because it restricts the individual’s ownership of property solely to consumption items–to the phones produced, to the toothpaste, to the gasoline, to the food, and never to the facilities, rigs, or farms where these things are produced. Instead, everything of real value that can have labor added to it in order to increase that value belongs to the state.

Five hundred acorns are of very little value to me, after all. However, by adding my labor to them (by planting them, nourishing them, and watering them), I can turn them into 500 trees of considerable value. This is the essence of capitalism: taking a resource, investing in it, and seeing a return on those resources. In the socialist order, one would still be allowed to own acorns, in most cases, but the state would claim the trees as soon as they were grown, and would fine and arrest the person who planted them.

Socialism is state ownership and control of capital property.

Fascism is state control of pretty much everything, including capital property. The state cannot be supreme if it does not control the means of production (i.e., capital). This is why every fascist government that has risen has also been socialist, from Mussolini’s Italy to Hitler’s Germany to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea. Strangely, in his article, Higgs stated that North Korea is one of the few socialist nations in the world today. I have to marvel that this popular thinker doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, because socialism absolutely dominates the globe. In fact, North Korea is one of the few fascist nations in the world today, where the state openly controls everything from education programs to capital.

Similarly, we in the United States are much more fascist than we’d like to realize, and we’re entirely socialist. No American is allowed to own capital; the ownership of all capital is ultimately the American Government. In a capitalist order, a person purchases a house and the land around it, and then it’s theirs–it belongs to them, and they can do whatever they want with it, because they are the owner. This is not the case in the United States. In the United States, the person has an enormous list of things they are not allowed to do with the property, must petition for the right to do countless things that they supposedly have the right to do, and then must pay rent each year to avoid having the property taken away from them. Paying property taxes to the government in order to avoid having the government take the property away is not in any sense different from paying a bank note to prevent the bank from taking the property away.

Why should the government get money from you each year, just because you own a house and the land around it? It’s not the government’s house or land, is it? By inserting themselves into this process, lining up outside of your property with guns and soldiers and demanding that you hand over money or they will forcibly remove you, the state has usurped your ownership of the home and made itself the owner. We can use all the doublethink and cognitive dissonance we like, but the fact remains that this affair is known as “renting,” and not “owning.”

This is similarly the case for whatever manufacturing facility you own. Not only are you required to pay duties on thins that you import, but you must pay the government a portion of your profits regularly, because, if you don’t, they will take the manufacturing facility away from you. And, of course, you can’t just build a manufacturing facility in your backyard; you must acquire permits, many of which are exorbitantly expensive, and rely on getting the government’s permission for you to use “your” property in the way that you want in the first place.

This, to Robert Higgs, is “private property.”

What nonsense.

It would be no different if I came by your manufacturing facility once a month with armed goons and demanded a cut of your profits for “protection,” and made it clear that, if you didn’t pay, you would have an “accident” that would end with one of my people being installed as the owner of the facility. This is what the state does now, today, in 2017 Common Era, in the United States. The idea that this arrangement constitutes “private property” is demonstrably false, and has been demonstrated as so.

If that was your house, you could burn it down. If that was your house, you could add a wing without getting permission from the government. If that was your house, you could install your own septic tank. If that was your house, you could dig an enormous hole and create a pond. If that was your house, you would not have to pay someone each year in order to prevent it from being taken away from you. Instead, it is the state who decides whether you can have permission to add a wing, it is the state who decides whether you may install a septic tank (“No, you cannot, but you can pay $1,200 to this guy who paid us $3,000 for his license to do it.”), and it is the state who ultimately owns the property, who must receive a payment from you regularly, on top of all these other considerations.

The thing about ownership is that it means I can do whatever I want with my property.

Compare the ownership of capital in the United States–as most obvious in regard to houses–to the ownership of consumption goods. I can do whatever I want with the Linksys WRT54GL that I’m looking at. I can write my name on it. I can install DDWRT firmware. I can put it on whatever subnet I want. I can take it outside and smash it to pieces. I can unload sixteen 12 gauge shotgun shells into it. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, and I don’t have to pay anyone each year for the “privilege” of owning it. It’s mine.

That difference is critical to understanding the current state of the world. No, Mr. Higgs, socialism is not on the decline. It’s more powerful than ever, and more dominant than ever. If we do not take back the right to own capital, free of government regulations, government mandates, and government threats of theft, then the problems we face can never be fixed.

And all of this is without even getting into Intellectual Property, eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, and the millions of regulations that bear down on us every single day. Anyone who looks at this state of affairs and calls it “private property” is severely confused. After all, both socialism and capitalism feature the ownership of consumption goods. As such, the ownership of consumption goods cannot be a deciding factor in whether a society is capitalist or socialist–as it is contained on both sides of the equation, it is reduced:

Private ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Capitalism

State ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Socialism

Anyone can see that “private ownership of consumption goods” has nothing to do with it, and must be subtracted from both. What we’re left with is that “private ownership of capital = capitalism” and “state ownership of capital = socialism.” Seeing as Fascism is state dominance over everything, from medicine to education to capital to consumption goods (because, for obvious reasons, if the state manufactures the only toothpaste in existence, then the state controls who has toothpaste and who doesn’t, as opposed to capitalism, where a person who has pissed off Colgate can still purchase Crest).

Fascism is also alive and well, although the state that people want to be supreme over everything has moved up one level, for the most part, to globalism instead of nationalism. This is why I once made the point that national fascism is easier to defeat than global fascism, while I explained my support for Brexit and America leaving NATO and the United Nations. Although viewed as contentious, that statement is actually an obvious extrapolation of how local governments are easier to influence than federal ones. It is much easier to get my city council to do what I want than it is to get the federal government to do what I want, and much easier to get the federal government to do what I want than it is to get the world government to do what I want. There is also the reality that world government soldiers from Uganda and New Guinea will face no real hardship oppressing people in California, while soldiers from California will face some internal difficulty oppressing people in Arkansas, and soldiers from Tate County, Mississippi will face considerable internal strife oppressing the people of Tate County. Local > distant, in every conceivable way.

However, that fascists today are roughly evenly split between nationalism and globalism is of no concern. They want state supremacy either way. The global fascists simply want to create a higher level of government to be supreme and enforce their desires. In that way, the globalist fascists are more fascist than the nationalist ones. And, yes, there is a strong correlation between those who want a powerful world government that can dictate national policies and those who openly desire socialism; yet, even among the national fascists, there is a strong tendency for the state to control different aspects of people’s lives (marriage, sexual identity, drugs, whatever). The globalist fascists simply want to create a Big Joker, because they don’t like how the nationalist fascists have the Little Joker.

 

A Follow-Up About Intellectual Property

As a tongue-in-cheek gag, here is one of my free songs for you to listen to while you read my free article. Of course, I probably don’t count, but here it is anyway.

Most of the feedback regarding my previous article was positive, which is awesome, but one comment in particular here on the site deserves further scrutiny:

Great, just what the world needs, another anti-IP fanatic. The fact is, anyone who takes the trouble to create a game, or anything else, has the right to dictate the terms of its sale (or, if you don’t think the word “sale” covers a contract that stipulates conditions for resale, then use some other word). If you don’t like the terms, don’t purchase the product. It’s that simple.

But nooooo! People like you seem to think you can dictate terms of sale. It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want. You’re like little squalling babies, endlessly whining. I have nothing but contempt for you and anyone else with this attitude.

I’m not going to waste your time, though, so let’s just dive right into it.

“The fact is, anyone who takes the trouble to create a game, or anything else, has the right to dictate the terms of its sale (or, if you don’t think the word ‘sale’ covers a contract that stipulates conditions for resale, then use some other word).”

This seemingly obvious statement is actually of profound importance to the discussion, and the comment accidentally hit the nail right on the head. The very essence of my argument against IP–which you’ll find alluded to in follow-up comments in the above article–is that it turns us from Owners into Renters, much in the same way that property taxes have usurped our ownership of our homes and turned us into renters. And he would hand-wave this entire point away paranthetically, as though it’s not of much significance what we call such a transaction, when this is of utmost significance.

We don’t have to look hard to find the legal definition of sale, and it is provided here from The Lectric Law Library:

An agreement by which one of the contracting parties, called the seller, gives a thing and passes the title to it, in exchange for a certain price in current money, to the other party, who is called the buyer or purchaser, who, on his part, agrees to pay such price.

The first thing we must call attention to is that, despite the comment’s implication that selling something is a one-sided affair, it is, obviously, an exchange between two sides. We’re not actually talking about “buying” and “selling,” not in real terms; in real terms, we’re talking about a property exchange between two people, while one person has agreed to offer up a currency and the other has agreed to offer up literally anything other than currency. The person with the “anything other than currency” up for sale is colloquially called the “seller,” while the person offering up the currency is colloquially called the “buyer.” But in real terms, it doesn’t matter if I offer up $50 or two Dungeons & Dragons books valued at about that; it only matters if the person on the other end of the exchange agrees that my offer meets their price. Similarly, it doesn’t matter if they offer up some form of property–like a video game–or if they offer up $50 in cash, thereby making me the seller. It only matters that each side have something the other side wants.

We lose sight of this because our use of currency allows our economic actions to become pretty circuitous, but if I want to buy a new copy of Grand Theft Auto V, but I lack $50, I might take seventy-six games to Gamestop and sell them for $50, and then use that $50 to buy GTAV. In every real, useful sense I have participated in barter–I have exchange 76 games for one game. Currency allows multiple actors to be involved in this barter transaction, because the universally valuable commodity means that it doesn’t matter that Wal-Mart has no use or need for 76 used games, as long as I can find someone who does.

Nor does it matter if I worked for two hours to earn that $50, having bartered out my labor and time to yet another actor in return for the cash that I use to purchase the video game. Perhaps I cut lawns for a living, and cut two lawns for the $50. Ideally, I could simply cut Wal-Mart’s lawn, and they could provide me with a copy of the game, right? This is literally the issue with the barter economy, because there is no guarantee that “someone selling GTAV” will also “need their lawn cut.” Again, the use of currency allows us to sidestep the issue, by widening my possible customers from “just people who are selling GTAV” to “anyone with money.”

The point of all this is to say that buying/selling are not one-sided agreements. It’s so easy to lose sight of this, because, again, currency masks the true roundabout of our economy, but I’m still putting up something for sell. I’ve probably already sold my “something for sell,” and I probably sold it to an entirely different person, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wal-Mart wants my $50 just as much as I want their copy of GTAV.

There’s a thin line between being pro-market and being pro-corporation, this comment is safely on the “pro-corporatist” side.

“Call it something else.”

Indeed. This is literally the crux of anti-IP arguments, that it is not a transfer of ownership, which is legally mandated in what it means to buy and sell–to exchange property. Going back to our barter economy, if I trade my two D&D books for your new copy of GTAV, I lose any and all ownership rights of those D&D books, because they cease being my property; similarly, you lose any and all ownership rights of GTAV, because it has ceased being your property. It makes absolutely no difference if you don’t want two D&D books, so I’ve sold them to Random Joe for $50, and then I offer you that $50. In that event, my ownership claims of that $50 in currency have ceased to exist, because I have transferred ownership of that money to you.

By the arguments of Intellectual Property, I have just as much right to dictate how EA uses that $60 I paid them for Dragon Age: Inquisition as they have to dictate how I use my copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Why not? I worked for that money just as hard as they worked for that one copy of DAI. In fact, I probably worked harder, when it’s all said and done. But we reject that out of hand, without even taking the time to process the argument. “Of course you can’t tell EA how to spend the money you paid them for that game! You gave them that money! It’s theirs now!”

I mean, that’s it. That’s exactly the point.

So of course EA can’t dictate how I use the game, because they gave me that game. It’s mine now.

Licensing

They might attempt to pull legalese bullshit and sell me a license, instead of selling me an actual, physical object, and they do attempt this sort of thing, but it’s hardly of consequence, and it can be pretty easily dismissed.

For example, when Square-Enix released Final Fantasy IV on Android for $19.99, I contacted them with my proof-of-purchase and proof-of-ownership of Final Fantasy IV on Nintendo DS and requested a code for FF4 on mobile. It’s exactly the same game, with the caveat that some content has been removed. Square-Enix predictably replied that my ownership of the same fucking game on NDS didn’t entitle me to ownership of the game on other platforms. Don’t get me wrong–I knew they’d respond that way.

“Fine,” I replied. “So you won’t mind if I rip the cart to my phone and use a DS emulator to play it.”

Again, predictably, their response was that making backup copies is a violation of their Intellectual Property, at which point they informed me that they would–seriously–be forwarding the emails to some government agency piracy watchdog.

But my argument is unassailable, and that’s why the agency never bothered me. For one, we do have the unfettered and unrestricted right to make any and all backups that we want of anything that we purchase. Not only that, but it’s necessary that consumers have this right, so let me get a little technical on you for a minute.

Playing a Game Creates a Copy

Even if all you do is pop your disc into your Xbox 360 and play Final Fantasy XIII, you are still creating an instantaneous copy of that game. That’s right–simply by playing the game, you are creating a copy of it. This is because the “copy” of Final Fantasy XIII that you’d be playing is a ROM–it is Read-Only Memory. But in order for stuff to happen, it must be moved to RAM–Random Access Memory. Since nothing is ever erased from the ROM, ipso facto, launching a game copies the files from ROM into RAM, where they live instantaneously. It’s not of significance whether you create a permanent copy, a temporary copy, or an instantaneous copy; you are copying it either way.

This is the same reason that Microsoft Office comes with a gigantic EULA that allows you to make copies of the program–it’s necessary in order to even use it. To even use Office, you must insert the disc, which copies the files from the CD/DVD onto your computer.

This is also why I made and uploaded this video to Youtube, specifically to call attention to how abused our IP system is. By all rights, Nintendo should have viciously pursued me over this video, but they didn’t. Here I’ve posted a video showing the actual programming of the NES game Startropics.

That’s it. That’s the actual freaking game being played. That’s Nintendo’s programming that I’ve recorded and uploaded. It’s literally proof of piracy. It’s proof that I made a copy of their game, and didn’t stop there–I made a copy of their game and put it online to share with the entire world.

Picking and Choosing

So publishers regularly pick and choose when to apply IP laws and when not to. We can’t act like it’s this Holy Grail of Certainty and Unambiguity, because it isn’t. Not only does that video remain on Youtube–without being ContentID’d–but it will always remain on Youtube, because Nintendo doesn’t give a shit about their intellectual property. When it comes to the game and IP laws, the code for that game is their Intellectual Property. But they don’t care.

If you don’t like the terms, don’t purchase the product.

If only it were that simple. But, see, because of the state, Intellectual Property has a monopoly on video games, music, television, and movies. This is overlooked by this part of the comment. Intellectual Property wasn’t just “such a great free market idea” that every company adapted and every consumer loved it. No, it was strong-armed onto us by the state, and adopted as an anti-consumer measure to protect corporations who had stifled the competition.

This is a critical free market pillar: competition. Intellectual Property, as a solution to a problem, doesn’t have any. It’s the de facto solution, enforced by the state. Sure, I could sit here in my house and listen to any music, not watch any television or movies, not play any video games, and not read any books–for what it’s worth, reading a book also creates a copy in your head–but anyone who would demand such a thing has totally forgotten what it means to be a human being. There’s nowhere to go to escape from Intellectual Property. Even GOG, which takes a diehard anti-DRM stance, doesn’t fight against Intellectual Property.

This argument is nothing more than “If you don’t like America, then you can get out!

Hey, I don’t like living under the state’s monopoly, either. Why don’t I just choose to go somewhere that I wouldn’t have to live under the state’s monopoly?

Oh, wait.

Because there isn’t anywhere to go. Because the state has taken a monopoly, not just over me but over the entire planet. And so has Intellectual Property, thanks largely to Hollywood lobbyists having the United States Government enforce U.S. copyright laws in parts of the world that, you know, aren’t part of the United States–like in Sweden.

Yeah, it’s that easy. Just avoid Intellectual Property. Why didn’t I think about it before?

Probably because I’ve been awake for about 2 hours, and I’m already swimming in a sea of things protected and covered by intellectual property. Like the song I’m listening to right now. Like the web browser I’m using right now. Like the content platform I’m using right now. Like the social media platforms I was on earlier. Like the song that played on the radio as I drove to the store. Like the Newports that I bought when I was at the store.

Every single one of those things deals with Intellectual Property; it’s no exaggeration at all to say that we’re swimming in a sea of it, and this isn’t specific to the United States. Slowly but surely, everything has come to be protected by Intellectual Property, which, as I’ve said and countless others have pointed out, does nothing more than allowing someone who transfers ownership of an item to continue claiming ownership of an item after the point of sale.

People like you seem to think you can dictate terms of sale.

Garbage hyperbole unworthy of a response. Arguing against Intellectual Property is not even remotely akin to trying to dictate anything. Trying to maintain ownership of property that I have purchased is similarly not akin to trying to dictate anything. This actually reminds me of my post about transsexualism, where I had to actually point out to a Voluntaryist that preventing the state from forcing its definitions onto me is not equivalent to forcing my definitions onto the state, much less onto him.

That said, why don’t I have just as much right to dictate the terms of the exchange as the other party? If the other party and I can’t come to an agreement, then the exchange shouldn’t happen, but what lunacy is it to suggest that I have no right to dictate the terms of my side of the exchange? The only difference here is that Intellectual Property prohibits me from going to Wal-Mart’s competition. If I don’t agree with Viacom’s Intellectual Property terms, I can’t just pop down to the meth-head selling bootleg DVDs without risking the full might of the state coming down onto me; this is what I meant when I said that Intellectual Property has drummed out all the competition. It has. Intellectual Property has given the power completely to the person selling the item, and the person selling the currency is just SOL.

My options become to avoid it or to endure their terms, because there is no competition. And while, on the face of it, that seems at least somewhat reasonable, it’s no more reasonable than telling someone to stop driving on the roads if they don’t want to pay taxes. It’s not how any of this works. You’re proposing a free market solution–boycotting–to something that has long since stopped being related to the free market, thanks to government regulations creating IP and stifling competition. Free Market solutions only work when there is a free market.

Yes, if some company could step forward and say, “We’ll sell you these games completely, and they’ll be considered yours from now until the end of time,” they’ll fun into problems. Even GOG doesn’t go this far. Why not? Because if they tried to go that far, then all of the AAA publishers would stop providing GOG with copies of their games to resell.

It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want.

That’s funny to be posted on a free website that contains access to a free book, free music, free videos, and, until recently, free podcasts. And clearly “others” want it. I once created a script for RPGMaker VX that allowed actors with an Undead state to have healing turned into damage, and it was downloaded some 4,000 times. My old band I Over E had one of its songs stolen by a band in New York. I/E also had its music receive about 20 downloads per day. This site receives about 30 hits each day. I gave an essay to V2: The Voluntary Voice for free. I’ve got a game that I’ve made, but which isn’t finished, available for free right now. I’ve got a book I’ve written that represents nearly a decade of work for free right now.

Yet you’ll also find this scattered across everything I create:

It’s a KoPiMi that means, basically, I waive any and all Intellectual Property claims to any and all of my creations. For fuck’s sake, while I was selling a book on Amazon, I personally uploaded it to The Pirate Bay and gave it away. And yes, it did sell–clearly, people wanted it.

I don’t demand that all creators go as far as that. No creator is really required to personally help people get their content for free. But no creator has the right to stop it, either. If I go through the trouble of self-publishing a book and begin selling it on the street for $8 each, and Dickhead Bob buys a copy, hurriedly photocopies all the pages, slaps the copies into manilla envelopes, and begins selling those photocopies for $2 each, I have no right to stop him. How could I? I was the one who sold him the book. He can do what he wants with it.

I could argue and appeal to people’s better nature. “Look, I was the one who wrote the freaking thing. I’m the one who deserves payment for it!” Evidence suggests that this would actually work. People tend to get pissed off when one person tries to sell something that someone else made. Don’t believe me? Watch how people have reacted to idiots trying to upload Minecraft–which we’ll discuss more in a moment–onto Steam Greenlight, hoping to cash in on its noticeable absence to make a quick buck for themselves.

Note: I didn’t quickly see the Minecraft video, but there it happens to World of Warcraft, to exactly the same widespread response.

Ah. Here we go.

Because the videos are in playlists, they’re not linking correctly. It’s video #112 and #41.

Speaking of Minecraft, if you happen to think that only some Popularity Threshold will warrant a person’s opinions on Intellectual Property as legitimate, then it’s hard to get more popular than the blockbuster PC hit that is and was Minecraft. Maybe my arguments aren’t valid because only 74 people downloaded my game, or because only 112 people have downloaded my book, or because only 2700 people have browsed my free site in the past five days. Maybe that’s just not enough to say, with any certainty, that someone would be willing to pay for it if it wasn’t free. Then again, clearly someone is, and at one point I was actually making like $42 a month through Patreon. So…

Anyway, Notch himself, creator of Minecraft, is on the record as not giving a shit about Intellectual Property. You know what? Ed McMillan, creator of The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy, both of which are also extremely popular, says exactly the same thing: “We don’t really care.”

Notch stood on the floor of a MineCon event and told people to “just pirate it” if they couldn’t pay for it. His words: “…just pirate it.” On top of that, though, Minecraft freaking has a free demo version. He didn’t say “Download the demo version if you can’t afford it.” No, he said, “Just pirate it.”

If you have some kind of popularity threshold that has to be met before you’ll take someone’s rejection of IP seriously, then you’re not going to find someone who has made something much more popular than freaking Minecraft.

Minecraft.

The game that fucking redefined video games. The game that has sold more than one hundred million copies. It has sold 2/3 the amount that the freaking Sony PlayStation 2, one of the most successful gaming consoles ever, has sold.

For more perspective:

Super Mario Bros., in all its various forms and re-releases and updates and Virtual Console releases, has sold about forty-million copies. Considering that’s probably the biggest game of all time, with an icon so popular that even people who don’t play video games will recognize him, it’s saying something that Minecraft has outsold Super Mario Bros. by a margin of 5:2.

How about Jim Fucking Sterling, Son himself, the person whose videos I was initially building from? All of his content–all of it–is available 100% for free. And though he doesn’t like it if you use an AdBlocker to view his videos, he understands why, and he doesn’t hold it against you if you do. For example, I’ve posted a lengthy response on his video about AdBlockers, and yet he follows me on Twitter. Don’t get me started on ads, though.

Despite the possibility–and the ubiquity, especially among his audience–of someone using an AdBlocker to watch his video without earning him any ad revenue, he still posts them. You don’t have to contribute a fucking penny to view his website, to watch his videos, or to listen to his podcasts. In effect, he relies on the Honor System, and, you know what? It works exceedingly well for him. As he points out, have you seen his Patreon lately?

So the statement:

It’s the attitude of someone who has never created anything others want.

… is certifiable bullshit. If I don’t count, then surely Jim Sterling does. If Jim Sterling doesn’t count, then surely Ed McMillan does. If Ed McMillan doesn’t count, then surely Notch of Minecraft does. And if Notch doesn’t count, then your threshold of “how many people want it” is so high that it’s irrelevant and meaningless, because the only game that has outsold Minecraft is Tetris, and Tetris has been ripped off and bootlegged in so many ways it’s basically a genre unto itself. Repeat: Minecraft is the #2 best selling game of all time.

Although that gap between #1 and #2 is fucking insane. Nearly 500 million for Tetris? Holy sh–

You’re like little squalling babies, endlessly whining. I have nothing but contempt for you and anyone else with this attitude.

Well, considering I’ve done nothing that resembles squalling or whining, it’s hard to imagine why your contemptible, vitriolic comment of insults wouldn’t qualify but a well-received and very successful article arguing against IP does. But there’s nothing here for me to retort, so I’ll leave it at that.

Moving On To Another Criticism

My analogy about replaying the game a second time constituting a violation of the publisher’s Intellectual Property did go too far, and itself became a false equivalence. I apologize for that, and thanks for pointing it out. You are correct–that went too far and didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Another Criticism Via Reddit

While I agree that IP law needs a lot of improvement, I have to comment on the idea to compare video games to cars.

In my opinion this comparison is utter nonesense. There are two big differences between cars and games:

  1. While you play a game, it’s value for you decreases. Meanwhile the game’s value for other people is not affected by you playing at all. This is obviously not true for cars whatsoever.
  2. While it takes a lot of materials and physical work to build a car, reproducing a game just takes a couple of clicks and a little work for your computer. You cannot just clone a car.

Therefore comparing these two seems rather pointless to me. Even if they would be similar however, I would find the mindset “We should treat X like this because we’ve always treated Y like this.” being far from optimal. What we should think about is why things should be treated in certain ways. What behavior do we want to (dis-)encourage with our treatement/our rules?
Having IP lawas for example can possibly encourage people to create unique and enjoyable content (be it games, movies, books or whatever). It also can encourage people to try to trick and abuse the system.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to all these questions. I just want to point out that it is not that simple as just applying the same laws we use for cars to games (or movies or books etc. especially in their digital form).

To be clear, I am not being cowardly; I addressed the criticism in the Reddit thread. If someone wants to critique something I’ve said, that’s great–it’s how ideas evolve–but this also means that my reply has to be open, too. So I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote on Reddit:

1. You are wrong here. The moment you drive a car off the lot, its value plummets. Because of wear and tear, each additional mile further lowers the value of the car. They have value to the owner for different reasons (the car because of travel, the game because of enjoyment), but it’s still the case that each moment spent using either one means that is one moment that can never be used like that again.

For example, I’ve often lamented the fact that I can never read the Harry Potter books “for the first time” again, nor can I play FF6 “for the first time” again. Those first experiences were unique, powerful, and special, and no subsequent revisit has come close to capturing it. Their value has certainly plummeted for me, and I’m not even sure I still own all the HP books. This is 100% true for vehicles, as well. Even the best vehicle will only get to about 300,000 miles. It has longer life and its value is larger, but the same rules still apply: every time you drive a car, its value most certainly does decrease.

2. This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone a few months ago about the replicators in Star Trek. Or with 3-D printers, the first real-life version of replicators we’ve yet made. I don’t see any reason that a person won’t be able to 3-D print a vehicle in a few more decades (though tires and other parts might still have to be purchased rather than printed), which will render your point moot. This is mostly a matter of technology. Once upon a time, it wasn’t as easy to just copy a book, either–it took a scribe hundreds of hours to produce a copy. Then the printing press was invented, and the amount of work required to produce a copy became drastically reduced. Now I can make a copy of a book with a few button presses.

2a. That said, the “copy” produced via the computer with a few clicks is a poor copy of what was purchased, which is what my point about feelers was supposed to call attention to. The only copied CD I ever owned–seriously–was A Perfect Circle’s Thirteenth Step, and I went to great lengths to get a high quality label printed for the copied version, and it still wasn’t up to par. Nor did it come with the booklet. Copied/cracked games often create their own problems, too, in addition to not being able to receive patches or purchase DLC, and these downsides have to be acknowledged. It’s not as simple as a couple of clicks to truly produce an accurate copy of a video game. It’s just not that simple. What one makes a copy of are files (which, incidentally, is necessary for installation of the game anyway, since installing a game from a disc literally creates a copy of that game), but those files don’t constitute nearly the whole package that was purchased.

Edit: It replaced all my numbers with “1”. Sorry.

Edit2: Continuing from the actual first point, a car with 120,000 miles on it doesn’t have anywhere near the value that a car with 12,000 miles on it has. Why? Because a car’s value lowers with each usage, and that usage is typically measured in “miles traveled.” Time itself is also a factor, as even a 2003 Mustang that has been sitting in a garage with only 5 miles on it won’t have anywhere near the value that it had when it was brand new. Really, the fact that a 5 year old game has about 5-10% of its initial value while a 5 year old car has about 25% of its initial value completely nullifies your point. If cars didn’t lose value with usage, then a 2007 Chrysler would be worth exactly as much today as it was in 2007, but that simply isn’t the case. Cars depreciate with usage, too, and often drastically–it’s generally said that even driving a car off a lot causes it to immediately lose a few thousand dollars in value, though, having never bought a new car, I can’t verify that. Regardless, it’s demonstrably true that cars depreciate in value with usage.

Edit 3: No more edits, I promise.

Since I’ve defended my points, and fairly represented the criticisms raised–they were copied/pasted directly, after all–I’m going to leave off here and wait on further objections to be brought up, if any are. Thus far, nothing has been said that truly holds up as a dispute to anything I said about IP and video games in the previous article, except that my “second playthrough” argument failed, and I’ve now rectified that. The reason that argument fails is that, while it’s true that we’re colloquially told that we’re sold “an experience,” that is just a colloquialism for saying we were sold “a license that allows us to have the experience.”

Derailed Thoughts & Thoughts of Leaving the South

I’ve never been so surprised and so happy about the outcome of a vote.

The British people have voted to leave the European Union, and I’m thrilled for the longterm hope this brings me, that we will move away from central authority and back toward self-governance. Before I dive into the meat of this article, though, I want to mention what a UK citizen told me earlier on Facebook:

Let’s not even talk about how we’ll probably lose Scotland too. My point is yes we’ll survive leaving the eu but we really didn’t have to.

“…how we’ll probably lose Scotland…”

Shit, dude, that’s exactly the problem! That mindset you have, that Scotland is yours to lose! What the fuck? Scotland is Scotland’s! Scotland does not belong to the UK! Jesus! No wonder you’re in favor of staying in the EU! You think it’s perfectly okay to consider other peoples and societies as your property. How else could you possibly justify that statement? “We’ll probably lose Scotland…”

Fuck.

Scotland isn’t yours!

My reply to this, however, was more direct and focused:

If the differences between the Scottish and British people are so fundamental that this rift is irreconcilable, then a fracture between Scotland and England was inevitable anyway. If the British are so in favor of self-governance and the Scottish so in favor of central authority (tendencies that appear to reverse when we start talking of Scottish Independence), then it was never going to work out. And I think that’s pretty obvious–how many times has Scotland voted for independence? I think it is inevitable that they will leave the UK. The only question is when. And perhaps “What will be the final straw?”

Moving On

I want to return, however, to something that I became aware of last night, with the help of awesome patron and supporter Michelle, which is that… it’s bizarre that millennials, who I recently characterized as being “Changeists” without ideological backbones, were almost universally against Brexit.

There’s an enormous difference between “We want change at any cost!” and “We don’t even care what the facts or reasons are–we must not change!”

I think the distinction hinges upon what they consider “Progress.”

It’s no secret that “progressive” has come to mean two things in the west. First, it means being pro-tolerance, at least in the typical usage of the word (not my usage of the word that actually reflects is meaning).

Goodness, the links and inline videos… You can really get a complete picture of my ideology if you follow the trail, I guess. I like to think that it’s pretty circular, and that creates a large problem: where do I start if I want to express my worldview? A circle has no beginning. One thing I say will sound silly without having something underlying it, and if I say the underlying thing, it will lead to another underlying thing. Regardless, my “online presence” has pretty much dived straight into my ideology, so I started somewhere. But if you’re curious to get a complete picture of my worldview–the worldview of an atheistic shemale anarchist–then I like to think it’s becoming possible. Another central piece of that wheel, however, is my presence on Quora, which isn’t typically included in this circle of things that I do. Anyway.

We think of “being progressive” as a good thing, and no one wants to say that they’re regressive or anti-progress. So it’s automatically biased when used in any political context, because it paints a false dichotomy. If your position is “progressive,” then other positions stand in the way of progress. This is a deceitful tactic meant to discourage people from expressing disagreement, as it leaves you able, the moment they speak, to call them backward, “stuck in the past,” and “living for glory days that never were.”

I’m not a fan of that sort of thing.

At any rate, it typically means “tolerance,” or, at least, they say that it means tolerance.

Annnnd my thoughts just got thrown off because I made the mistake of emailing my colleague about paying me for some work I did Thursday, and he replied with his typical criticism:

I wrote you a $250 check Monday. How are you without money today?

Well, I’m not out of money, and I made that clear in the email I sent. I will be, after I purchase some important things.

But one would think this guy had never lived alone. I agree that a $250 check sounds pretty awesome, but what you have to remember is that… that was my paycheck for the week before. $250. A worker at McDonald’s working 40 hours a week at Minimum Wage makes $290, before taxes. That Minimum Wage worker, however, also qualifies for a lot of welfare benefits that I don’t because my employer is a small business. Even after taxes, the McDonald’s worker is still making about the same thing that I made, but most weeks I don’t make anywhere near that amount of money–I usually end up with $150 or $175. $250 was a good week.

Welcome to Mississippi.

But oh, no, everything costs the same here that it costs in states where people can get real jobs. Rent is cheaper here, but that’s it. The price of milk, gasoline, paper towels, cat food–they’re all standardized across the country, from Los Angeles to Boston, because they’re all bought from national chains that standardize their prices regardless of the local economy. This guy knows that I already subsist on a diet of water, ramen noodles, and bologna sandwiches–what the fuck else does he want from me? He knows that I quit smoking because I couldn’t afford it, and that I’m using a vapor device despite their horrendous consistency and my utter inability to find a reliably good liquid.

I mean, really. The only way I could cut down on expenses would be to die.

My television broke, and my only hope was to be able to get the service people down the street to repair it, because they do stuff like that and because I have a great business relationship with them. I’m not convinced that they even looked at it. After nearly 2 weeks, though, they finally called me and told me that they couldn’t fix it. So now I have a 22 inch monitor (which isn’t even 16:9, though it is at least a flat screen) that is the center of everything that I can do in my spare time. While it’s better than nothing, have you tried sitting on your couch and typing something on your 22 inch television? Because that’s essentially how my setup is–everything feeds from my computer, and my computer feeds into my television. A replacement 32 inch (which is smaller than the 72 inch that I used to have, but that my cats broke, leading me to switch to the 30 inch television that I had been keeping in my bedroom) 1080p television is only $160, but it might as well be $1600.

On top of that, my phone is fucked and I can’t receive calls. It needs a new battery, at the very least, but there’s a larger problem with it–any time I receive an incoming call, the display goes black and nothing will light it back up. I cannot see who is calling, and I cannot answer the call. My phone is totally unusable until they stop calling, and then I can look and see who it was. It could probably be resolved by reformatting it, but it would be less trouble to reformat my fucking computer. Given that the last time the battery drained, it took me nearly 3 hours to get it back on, I just don’t think the phone is worth putting much money or effort into.

Things aren’t made to last anymore, and that makes life very difficult when you’re me, because I simply can’t replace these devices that were designed to tear up and stop working. Sure, being able to replace your television for only $160 sounds terrific–until you bought a television a few years before and simply can’t afford to replace it now.

Plus, my graphics card is pretty much shot, and gaming is what I do with about 15% of my spare time. It can increase, if I’m particularly into a game. When I was recently playing Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D, for example, I was playing about 3 hours a day. Now that I’m using mods to wear the alternate outfits and was able to grab Resident Evil 6 on PC for like $6 (a game that I’ve had my eyes on for more than a year, and nearly purchased a year ago for $50–I have a love/hate relationship with RE6), I’m playing about 2 hours a day.

Or, at least, I was. Now, my graphics card simply stops working. Every three minutes or so, GPU usage will drop to 0% while CPU usage skyrockets, and my fps drops from 30 or 60 (depending on the game and settings) to 7 to 10. This lasts for about a minute, with the game being totally unplayable (I’ve found it’s best to just pause the game until FPS goes back up) in the meantime. Extensive testing has revealed that the GPU simply stops trying to process anything, but it’s not a heat issue. I can verify that. Not only is the case open, but there is an actual box fan on Hi blowing directly into my PC, on top of the CPU fan, three case fans, and the gfx card’s fans. Temp monitoring shows that the GPU never goes above 50 degrees (which is trivial for a graphics card), the CPU never goes above 60 degrees (AMD CPUs tend to idle around 45), and the motherboard occasionally hits about 65.

This has always been an issue, but it’s also one that I’d resolved. It seemed in the past that sometimes the GPU just wouldn’t “catch” properly. I’d boot up a game, it would work fine, and then FPS would drop to unplayable levels. The first time I experienced this was with Mortal Kombat 9, and I initially blamed the game. But I quickly learned that I could also boot up any other game, and it would do the same thing. In the end, MK9 simply became the “test game.” If I launch it and the fight begins still at 60 FPS, then everything is fine. But if the fight begins and immediately drops to 7 frames per second, then things are not fine. So I would reboot the PC, and then test again. Eventually, it would function correctly. It’s anyone’s guess why this happened. I’m an I.T. consultant, yes, and a damned good one, but hardware function and driver interactions operate at a level more specialized than I can handle.

The problem is more persistent these days, and I haven’t gotten it to “catch” in days. I’ve essentially stopped trying, and I believe the card is simply dead. That’s not the end of the world, since I needed to re-upgrade anyway, but that’s another $300 that I don’t have.

And am I really being criticized that I’m broke six days after receiving a paycheck that would make a Minimum Wage employee angry? It’s possible to live on such wages–I can attest to that, and I do attest to that–but it’s far from easy, and there’s very little luxury. It infuriates me to basically be living on Minimum Wage, in my own place with all my bills paid, and be criticized for not being able to make $1 pay for $1.50 of things. And if I’d known he was going to take this avenue, instead of just “Oh, yes, I’ll write you a check for the money that I owe you,” then I would have just gone without paper towels.

I can’t afford anything to break, and that has been the case since I returned from Vegas–something that will likely inspire me to go ahead and do that video. While I don’t blame the girl for that, I do blame the experience–and obviously, I undertook the experience–but none of that really matters. It’s simply the case. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better, as I become increasingly androgynous, breasts start to grow, and my hair grows–things that I’m not willing to undo or stop. The bottom line is that I have to move, but I can’t afford to move. I’m a goddamned college graduate with years of experience managing a company, managing large I.T. projects, and being the I.T. firm of multi-million dollar companies. Not only would moving allow me to get a real job, it would allow me to be transgender in peace, allow me to get my ID changed easily, and allow me to get hormones more easily.

Hm.

That’s something I need to really think about. Why… Why am I staying in Mississippi? I don’t even like it here, and it’s not like I really have a family anymore.