Friday, March 30, 2012

How We're Living in a Remixed World

In this TED talk, Margaret Stewart, YouTube's Head of User Experience, talks about how they deal with copyright issues by partnering with those who have a claim on intellectual property and, through a complex algorithm of locating possible matches, these partners are given the discretion if they'll allow the video to be posted or not.

Yesterday, I was reminded of one of my favorite videos on YouTube. It's a remix of a phrase uttered by Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates Of The Carribbean. It's what we nowdays refer to as a mash-up. It's where different content are used to create something new. 

It does take a lot of skill and effort to create a mash-up like this. It is quite inventive and innovative -- not just anyone can do something like this. Even if he used content from big businesses like Walt Disney and others, I feel strongly that the remixed video is something he can call his own.

A friend of mine, a strong supporter of IPR, explains how in the world of medicine, you can claim patent on a molecule (taking into consideration resources and effort in research & development). Competitors, on the other hand, may only be able to use that molecule if it has been changed or if there has been an "inventive step". You see, libertarians are divided on the issue of IPR.

If this "inventive step" concept is accepted then we can assert that, in the video above, even when Walt Disney's discretion continues to allow the video to be posted, they actually have no claim to it because it has been modified so drastically that it is considerably a new piece of work. But where do we draw the line? Is there a way to define "inventive step" in a non-arbitrary way?

This "inventive step" does remind me a lot of The Ship of Theseus concept that shows how change in essence (or in this case originality) is really so arbitrary. An example from Wikipedia:
"John Locke proposed a scenario regarding a favorite sock that develops a hole. He pondered whether the sock would still be the same after a patch was applied to the hole, and if it would be the same sock, would it still be the same sock after a second patch was applied until all of the material of the original sock has been replaced with patches."
I've actually recently been notified of copyright infringement in one of my videos, as they detected I used the song New Soul by Yael Naim but have been allowed to keep it posted.

I did not intend to steal, obviously. The song actually went viral after tons of parodies of the Macbook Air fitting into a Manila envelope. If anything, being liberal about copyright has allowed Yael Naim to be even more popular as more listened to her song and got to know her because users are using her song in their videos. Here's the video:

The era of Web 2.0 really changed the concept of copyright. Entrepreneurs, policymakers, and yes, even artists have to liberalize their position on IPR. I believe it will be inevitable as the internet develops and becomes even more organic and free.

I actually make music myself. In the genre of electronic music, there's a lot of sampling, remixing, covering, and mashing-up that's going on. We're living in a remixed world.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why is Harry Thinking About Going to China?

I shall save my blog post about my meeting with the Republicans Abroad Philippines for another time. I'm sure it does stir intrigue and suspense among my readers; this desire to know more about what transpired within the walls of the Manila lodge of The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. Watch out for that soon.

Propaganda Poster During the Regime of Mao Zedong

So a fellow libertarian shares this link to the Shanghai Austrian Economics Summit and I am quite interested in going. The problem, of course, is the whopping minimum price of $758. This is the bare minimum. You get to share a room with a random guy (or someone I know if someone else is interested in coming), get free lodging for three days, with all meals paid for. This doesn't include the package that comes with a tour of China. The Great Wall and stuff like that, if I'm not mistaken. Oh, and this doesn't include airfare. If I don't get to pay before the 1st of May, I'll miss out on the early bird discount and it'll even be more expensive. 

Come to think of it though, some people would pay around the same price or even more for the new iPad where they'll just play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja or whatever it is that's trending right now. Comparing it to that, the price for the summit slowly becomes more sensible. And don't even get me started on the price of schooling (there's really so much to streamline in the contemporary schooling curriculum and its methodologies; I've written on this a couple of times mostly in my other blogs).

And I love seminars and conferences. I actually love specifying them in my resume, for instance. I believe that, for many of the seminars/conferences I've attended, most of the time I actually learn more in just a day or two  (or more relevant to me, at least) as compared to more time spent in school. 

Take Graphika Manila 2010, for example. I didn't specifically learn any new skill or how to produce art/films. What I got was wisdom from those who actually have experience in the field. What I got was inspiration.

For example, during the 2011 one, there was this guy who was part of the creation of Avatar (I forgot his exact role).   I didn't really learn specifically how to make intense graphics and animations. But I learned that he actually never finished college. He was actually just a pizza delivery guy at one time. And it's just so inspiring to hear the stories and advice from these experienced artists.

So the keyword here is inspiration. Basically, if I choose to go, that's what I'm paying for. Aside from the networking with the most influential groups in the libertarian world, aside from the new lessons about the Austrian School of Economics and classical liberalism, these speakers: they will be there to inspire me.

Inspire me to excel in my writing. Inspire me to learn more about history and economics. Inspire me to think of solutions to our world's problems. Inspire me to think that my writing is actually, no matter how small an effect, helping in changing the minds of people toward a more libertarian perspective. The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. It'll add to my credibility — probably the most important aspect of all. 

I do hope, if I do get a chance to complete the funds needed in going there, that the visa application process isn't tedious. It probably isn't. I see people go to The Great Wall all the time. 

It is quite funny, the idea of having a libertarian summit in China of all places. It does sound a bit scary.

I don't really have the complete funds needed for this trip but I am thinking positive about it. May is quite far from now, even if I don't make it to the early bird discount, I should start with small steps. I gotta go knock at the doors of our bureaucrats over at DFA so they can help me out with my expired passport then get the China visa. No matter what, at least I would have been able to renew my passport and get a visa to China. If I don't make it to the conference, I'm sure China would be a fun place to video random things (I do enjoy that, if you're not familiar).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bruce Parry Sees How Cocaine is Made in the Amazon — why prohibition makes things worse

In this BBC documentary Amazon, Bruce Parry is able to expose the rustic and dangerous beginnings of cocaine production.

Bruce Parry Sees How Cocaine is Made

We see how prohibition has created a black market controlled by syndicates; of people in the "organized crime" industry. We see corruption when these syndicates are conniving with politicians and bureaucrats. We see how the environment is endangered when that which is prohibited is left to the management of goons.

We see the poor exploited; merely wanting to make a living for their own family; endangering their lives and their homes. But then who is really benefiting or profiting from this prohibition?  

The billions of taxpayers money spent on prohibition: has it been effective in lowering the production or the use of cocaine? If not, then how can it be a sensible policy?

Is it really making us safer when it funds syndicates and terrorists and the campaigns of corrupt politicians?

I am not endorsing the use of this drug, of course. All I ask is that we answer these questions I have raised because they are undeniably legitimate concerns.

That documentary above: that is a reality. Many take the prohibition position as a moral position and I understand that. Of course we don't want individuals to be getting addicted to such harmful substances. But use and addiction continues to grow. Cocaine production remains to be a multi-billion dollar industry. The policy of prohibition is wasteful and only leads to unintended dangers and consequences.

Other Related Posts:
1. Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block
2. Reflecting About Cuba
3. Libertarianism in Harry Potter

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Members of British Parliament Have 9 Pubs to Choose From

From what the media has been telling me, from literature to films, drinking really is a part of the culture in the UK. It's not uncommon for you to see people in pubs during lunchtime having a few drinks before continuing their day. And what's funny is that some of these people are their members of parliament:

Some of them were even "too drunk to stand up" during the passing of their budget plan and other legislation. It is a very serious issue but I do find it very funny and entertaining. I mean, I'm not encouraging this, obviously, I just find it really funny. I bet that guy who was too drunk to stand up really hated it the next day. I've been there far too many times and I know how he feels that's why I find it really funny haha.

They have 9 pubs to choose from around the area of parliament. Parliament sounds really fun then and as mentioned in the video, the drinking habits of the members of parliament are subsidized by government. Wow, free power to coerce plus free drinks. Being a politician really does have a lot of perks.

Aside from this being really dangerous especially during voting on sensitive legislation, I do love their culture. Last week, I watched the Azkals Philippine football team go against the Malaysians and discussed with my friends how in Europe they'd be serving beers in the stadiums. Of course 'safety' is their concern and they're just trying to avoid drunk-related violence. This is usually the noble intention of any sort of policy.

I've been writing a lot of heavy stuff, I realized, so I thought of posting something I found funny.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sari-Sari Store Economics — Margaret Thatcher and Inflation in the Philippine Market

After watching The Iron Lady, I noticed Margaret Thatcher's keen observance of change in prices of common household commodities. She proudly points out the price of butter to his critical colleagues and also got annoyed when she saw the price of milk when she was older and already out of her political power. Many  criticized her obsession with prices. It's because she's a grocer's daughter, they joked around.

The Iron Lady Trailer

And precisely that experience of having worked for her family's small business that gave her the insight of appreciating capitalism. His father was actually a statesman as well who seemed to be a staunch fiscal conservative. Her strict observance of prices came from the fact that she was a monetarist, a position advocated by libertarians like Milton Friedman who believed that the government may have the power to control inflation. Her passion for cutting spending and privatization roots from her influence from the works of F.A. Hayek and other classical liberals. I even remember in the PBS documentary Commanding Heights they showed that Thatcher and Hayek exchanged letters. 

Aside from being really hardcore like being able to dine with high officials of the Soviet Union (who then dubbed her the name "The Iron Lady") or tearing down the Berlin wall, what really stood out the most for me was her obsession with prices. I do not agree with many of her policies including monetarism or her fetish for war and militarism but I loved the fact that she had her finger on the pulse of the market—an important quality a poltician should have, I believe.

I remember in one of the debates during the 2010 Philippine presidential elections, candidate Jamby Madrigal was asked the price of galunggong (common fish in the Philippines) to which she humorously replied she wouldn't know because she is a vegetarian. Now I realize that it was such an important question. Inflation is one of the most important issues in politics and knowing prices of the typical daily commodities that the people buy is most definitely significant.

I remember when I lived in my house in Laguna for back when I was still in college, I really learned a lot about managing my budget for my daily needs. Many times I would buy my own food from the sari-sari store (a very common small time convenient store managed by families in their very own homes). Almost every place here has sari-sari store and this is mostly where many consumers would buy different things they need. If you've ever been to small barios, sari-sari stores are the more common venue for trade.

Changes in prices really affected me most especially since I had a very limited budget (granting that my mother already pays for my tuition, lodging; all in spite of my disdain for contemporary schooling—quality education takes time!). And when you're in college, you need a lot of budget allocated for booze and leisure, right? So when the price of daily needs like water or rice increase, for example, I might either have to cut on leisure expenditure or eat cheaper alternatives.

Tindahan ni Aling Nena by Eraserheads

But then that's just me. I was a lucky middle class kid in college who's blessed with a hardworking mom. All I worried about was having to drink less booze. But how about those aren't as fortunate as me? You can only imagine how inflation affects them. Ang presyo ng bigas (the price of rice). Cooking oil, milk for the baby, tuition for the kids, water and electric bills. These are all very important to them and has a drastic effect on their lives. I feel that it is irresponsible for statesmen to ignore it or not be aware of it.

It makes you reflect more on the red tapes on small businesses, huh? Should sari-sari stores need to have the redundant permits like barangay permit, mayor's permit, DTI business permit, BIR license, and the many different taxes? It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? It's funny though that technically most sari-sari stores are black market. Those people who are just trying to earn an honest living through voluntary exchange should ideally have to go through most of the red tapes. This is discouraging for small businesses and entrepreneurship in general. Most of all, it increases costs therefore increases prices. This goes out across the board for all business and the economy. 

Inflation is actually a direct result of increasing the money supply. Money isn't actually backed by any commodity like gold as everyone seems to believe up to now. We leave it up to the discretion of bureaucrats  in the central bank to decide the value of fiat currency or paper money. And inevitably, the value of paper money goes down when the supply increases therefore lowering the purchasing power of the money thus contributing to inflation.

Ron Paul asks FED chairman Bernanke if he does his own groceries

Recently congressman Ron Paul, in spite of his busy campaign, went back to DC to once again be very critical of the Federal Reserve (video above). It's funny how he asks in the first part if Bernanke does his own grocery shopping. It's so related to everything I'm talking about right now. Aside from that, he talks about how investing in precious metals like silver can preserve the value of money. 

You see not all libertarians believe in the monetarist position like Margaret Thatcher. Some believe that money shouldn't be valued at the discretion of bureaucrats and instead be backed by a commodity, like gold for example, something that the market has dictated for centuries. 

At first glance, I know it might sound preposterous for many, the idea of going back to the gold standard. The concept though is that it doesn't have to be gold. It's just that the market dictates it and not the supposed expertise of bureaucrats. And no, Ron Paul doesn't want to instantly abolish fiat currency and central banking, he just wants, aside from wanting to audit the Federal Reserve, to be able have competing currencies. Competition will decide what is really a more effective means of preserving the value of one's earnings. This is an idea Hayek advocated, if I remember correctly, and so I do find it weird that Thatcher favored a different policy.

I guess one good indicator of who makes more sense is how back when Ron Paul and many others in the Austrian School of Economics like Peter Schiff were predicting the housing bubble and the recession, people like Bernanke, the keynesians, the monetarists: none of them listened. They totally marginalized those who were predicting the recession, some even finding their claims laughable. A simple search in YouTube of "Peter Schiff was right" or "Bernanke was wrong" are evidences of who had the right economic policies. Surely I should save the topic of Ron Paul's predictions for some another post.

One thing I love about libertarians in general, in spite of the differences in views as I have shown, is that they really have a grasp on simple commonsense economics as compared to the fancy macroeconomics of Keynesianism. The assumption of being smart enough to manage the economy, to always be acting in the public interest, to decide on arbitrary values, all of it is the pretense of knowledge.

Monetary policy is a key issue that decides the fate of our prosperity. Let us keep in mind that the power to devalue the money of people is theft. No small group of people, no matter their expertise, should ever have such a grand power. 

If you liked this post then you might also like:
1. St. James Bazaar and the Free Market
2. Stay the Hell Away From My Internet
3. Film and TV Industry in the Philippines

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Anthem by Ayn Rand Audiobook

Hey, look what I found! It's one of the most influential books in my life that really contributed a lot to the political philosophy I have learned to love. It's an audiobook of Anthem by Ayn Rand. My ultimate favorite first line of it is a sin to write this.

Part 1 of Anthem by Ayn Rand Audiobook

I'm personally more of an audiobook guy. I love listening to debates, audiobooks, speeches, and lectures on YouTube especially before my sleep. It's sort of like my bedtime story. For those who are more into reading, you can get the full text in different formats here.

It's not even as big on libertarianism at all. It's more of the struggle of an individual in a dystopian collectivist society that is based on extreme egalitarianism and primitivism. It's a really short and engaging story that I recommend to all my readers.

I'm really so tired right now. I know I'm so held back on so many things I have to write about like Ron Paul's campaign, super tuesday, Iran/Israel conflict, The Iron Lady, irrationality of prohibition, and so much more. Right now though I'm about to pass out and I think it's brilliant that I can just embed videos and share it to the world. It makes the life of a libertarian blogger much easier.

That book above changed my life completely and I hope you guys like it as well. I'm going to listen to this now and sleep. Goodnight. :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Intellectual Property Rights in the Philippines and the Pinoy's Knack for Spoofs

Filipinos love parodies and spoofs. I am personally very entertained by the wittiness of many of them. In spite of the notion that it's not original or that it's gaya-gaya (copycat), I feel that it still takes a lot of wit and skill to come up with really funny spoofs and parodies.

Kapag naasar si Mang Inasal baka ipasara ang Mang Inasar

I'm pretty sure that you don't even need a good lawyer to argue in court that this is a direct violation of trademark and copyright. Surely though, big companies won't waste time engaging a civil case against small businesses. It would be shallow and would most definitely be bad publicity. Why would they want to wage war on smalltime entrepreneurs just trying to make a living through voluntary exchange?

The problem here is that it is left to the discretion of the big companies if they will pursue such a quest in protecting their trademark. An establishment in Batangas called Mang Donald's was actually forced to stop operation after a legal suit from McDonald's. McDonald's didn't think that was a petty issue at all. You think smalltime businesses Mang Inasar or Mang Donald's will have the resources to go against the expensive lawyers of big businesses?

T-shirts with spoofed trademarks is quite lucrative in the Philippines

Us libertarians are actually divided on the issue of IPR or Intellectual Property Rights. Some minarchists and objectivists would actually argue for strong enforcement of IPR because they deem that this protects and encourages innovation while others like those from the Mises Institute believe that only physical property should be protected because IPR only gives the government the power to grant monopoly to big businesses.

yellow pedicab
I wonder what they sell in Yellow Pedicab

Also, all these trademark issues could be considered to be just the tip of the iceberg. Let's take for instance more serious commodities like medicine, like let's say a pharmaceutical company invented a new drug against cancer. Defenders of IPR will say that the innovators must be protected for they used up a lot of resources and skills just to be able to come up with the new drug. Those against it will be saying that this is merely granting one company monopoly and that it discourages competition. Imagine if only one company had the right to sell paracetamol up to now (another thing very arbitrary about IPR is that bureaucrats decide how many years an inventor can have monopoly over his/her invention). 

facebool fishball
Mark Zuckerberg's Fishball Stand

Being an aspiring artist myself, I understand the merits of owning the things I produce. Let's say I made a song or a film or took awesome photographs, I wouldn't want random people using/selling these things ("pirating") for their own profit without crediting or justly compensating me. This is the point of defenders of IPR who merely want to extend this kind of right for all, even for our hypothetical pharmaceutical company that invented a cancer drug.

But then the gray area comes in when it comes to something like remixing or covers of songs, for example. Let's say someone decides to remix/cover a song I made and it becomes very popular and people start buying that song. That is the market indicating that he was able to innovate and make my song better. This can be applied to our fictional cancer drug. What if a competing company believes that it can make the cancer drug even more effective and safer or with less side-effects. The company who invented the drug, because of IPR, will have the prerogative not to allow them to mess around their drug thus hindering further innovation and competition.

A fellow libertarian and strong advocate of IPR argued to me though that if there is an "inventive step" then it will no longer be covered by IPR and will be allowed to compete. The big problem though is, as a libertarian being wary of bureaucracy, it will be bureaucrats who will be judging whether the "inventive step" is justified or not. In the long run, only big businesses who have the resources to hire really good lawyers will win and be granted monopoly by government thus killing competitors, especially small businesses.

It's really such a complex ethical dilemma with both sides providing rational arguments. All in all, I still find the spoofs and parodies very entertaining and, in a sense, innovative. How about you? What do you think about this whole IPR issue?

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Liberal vs Conservative vs Libertarian

I actually just watched The Iron Lady yesterday, a movie about the life of Margaret Thatcher. Naturally since I do earn a humble profit from my writings and since I was really moved by the movie, I was thinking I should write about it. But then I realized that there's a lot of problems with the labels and semantics involved in different political philosophies especially since Margaret Thatcher lead the UK Conservative party.

Nowadays, people throw around the words like "liberal" or "conservative" and many times it becomes so out of context because the terms are really so general and at different uses could mean different things. It's really more complex that in it is.

The problem also arises because the words are used differently in the context of US politics, for example, as compared to when we use it in everyday conversations. Especially here in the Philippines, the word conservative would usually equate to social conservatism, or those who would want to legislate based on their own definition of morality. I noticed people use this term often to refer to those who are hardcore religious or would want lifestyle to be regulated by government supposedly in order to preserve "traditional" values. This is as opposed to being "liberal" that is mostly used to describe civil libertarianism that seeks to expand and protect personal freedoms and civil liberties but not necessarily support reduction of the size or spending of the state in spite of the word "libertarianism" being attached to it. 

Ron Paul talks about history of being anti-war in the Republican Party

The problem is, especially in US politics, the word conservative may refer to fiscal conservatism or those who want to shrink the size of government and cut government spending. Yes, most of you now hate the US Republican party because of the warmongering and social conservatism of the Bush administration. You must remember though that, as Ron Paul reminds us, the Republican Party was traditionally both fiscal conservative and civil libertarian, essentially being almost entirely libertarian, as proposed by their founders and recommended by their constitution. This is why the Bush doctrine of warmongering and social conservatism is championed by the neoconservatives

This is also why the Democrats are, again in the US context of the term, referred to as liberals or progressives mainly because they prefer to stray from the recommendations of their founders of a constitutional limited government even when some of them are social conservatives or score low on civil liberties. A good example from the video below would be that Dennis Kucinich (who scores high on civil liberties) is a totally different kind of democrat/liberal as compared to Barrack Obama. That's actually what makes this all complex is, as I have said, the terms are so general.

In fact, the term "liberal" was initially used to describe a political philosophy that were actually closest to the recommendation of a limited government by the the US founders and this is why now the proponents of liberalism then are now referred to as classical liberals.

By avoiding the fallacy of composition and division, we can say that all social conservatives are conservatives but not all conservatives are social conservatives. The same follows with all the terms I have mentioned so far. This is why when Ron Paul argues in the debates that "I am the most conservative of all of the other candidates" he doesn't mean he is a social conservative but more of a fiscal conservative. In fact, he scores highest on being both fiscal conservative and shrinking the size of government at the same time protecting the liberties of individuals. Ideally, that's what libertarianism is all about. It becomes more complex though as there are different kinds of libertarianism as talked about in this video:

What kind of libertarian are you?

As mentioned in the video as well, some of the people in the US Tea Party are also libertarian. Actually, Ron Paul started the whole Tea Party revolution type of philosophy way back in 2007 and essentially meant to be libertarian only big government warmongering social conservatives like Sarah Palin and Glen Beck stole this concept and made it their own. Again, to avoid fallacy of division, let us not generalize what a "Tea Partier" is as some of them may actually be libertarian.

It gets even more complex when politicians label themselves with either "liberal" and "conservative" but vote for legislation that goes against their supposed political philosophy. This is because many times, as expressed in The Iron Lady, politicians will vote for whatever makes them more popular or whatever it is that preserves or increases their power.

Okay, I have to stop there for now. It's really just so frustrating. I actually essentially hate many of Margaret Thatcher's policies only I didn't want people to misunderstand the real goals/platform of the UK Conservative Party. They have strayed away from it just as the US Republican Party is now ran by neoconservative establishment candidates.

The one thing I hate about being passionate about libertarianism is that I'm compelled to educate and spread ideas about liberty which means having to learn so many things and having to write articles such as this one. I mean, I could have been doing something fun instead of being so frustrated about writing this haha. 

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