Monday, May 30, 2011

What if the 'incumbents' buy the outsiders?

Keynote - e-G8 from lessig on Vimeo.



Thanks to Paul Johnson for bringing this to my attention (via Facebook).

It's a demand for minimal government as a response to the huge opportunities offered by the information revolution.

For me, it's a bit simplistic. It assumes that outsiders don't get captured by incumbents. Or, more specifically, bought by them.

Why should government just get out of the way while these outsiders build brands at the expense of the producers of content (see YouTube, Google, the iPod etc) that are either developed or can be bought by monopolies for $billions?

What if the copyright of producers can be secured by the imposition of levies? Seeing as Apple have made $billions selling hardware that bases it's value on its ability to breach the existing copyright terms that have been applied to content that it uses, a small levy applied to the purchase of the hardware would create a win-win situation.

If I go into a pub and hear music, I pay for it via a the PRS payment that the pub pays (and adds on to the price of my beer).

How will minimal governments overcome the objections of monopolies to this otherwise perfectly reasonable demand?

Surely the answer is less this opportunistic call for minimalism (amazing how often the richest 0.1% of the world population get to make this demand) and more for the use of this hive mind to fix the quality of representative democracy to ensure that these 'incumbents' can't unduly distort public policy?

(Oh, btw, these 'incumbents' are just what political scientists have always referred to as 'pressure groups' or 'interest groups'. If you want a quick outline of how to deal with those, there's a very widely respected textbook that's dealt with it fairly comprehensively. You can read it without paying much to the author here).

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