The Libertarian Standard » Douglas French http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Fri, 12 Dec 2014 02:10:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Douglas French http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com TV-G NYT: Tech Suits Endanger Innovation http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/05/30/nyt-tech-suits-endanger-innovation/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/05/30/nyt-tech-suits-endanger-innovation/#comments Wed, 30 May 2012 15:37:13 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11103 The tech world has become a patent war with innovation taking a back seat.  Eduardo Porter writes in today’s New York Times business section,

High-tech behemoths in a range of businesses like mobile computing and search and social networking have been suing one another to protect their intellectual property from what they see as the blatant copying and cloning by their rivals. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claims, the aggressive litigation could have a devastating effect on society as a whole, short-circuiting innovation.

Patents are supposed to encourage innovation, writes Porter, but, “The belief that stronger intellectual property protection inevitably leads to more innovation appears to be broadly wrong.”

Porter goes on to write that IP hinders innovation.

One study found that the number of new rose varieties registered by American nurseries fell after the passage of the Plant Patent Act of 1930, which allowed for the patenting of new rose hybrids. Another study concluded that copyrighting new gene sequences sharply reduced scientists’ subsequent experimentation with the decoded genes, even if they were later placed in the public domain. Surveys have found that the risk of patent litigation deters firms from pursuing innovations.

Porter stops way short of calling for an end to Intellectual Property laws.  But he does seem at least a bit skeptical of the purported benefits of IP laws, concluding,

Intellectual property, meanwhile, keeps growing. The United States patent office awarded 248,000 patents last year, 35 percent more than a decade ago. Some will spur innovation. But others are more likely to stop it in its tracks.

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The State Still Wins In ‘The Hunger Games’ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/04/02/the-state-still-wins-in-the-hunger-games/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/04/02/the-state-still-wins-in-the-hunger-games/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2012 21:45:23 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10795 The question to The New York Times ethicist was whether it is ethical to watch NFL games given the large number of brain injuries being incurred by the players.   Ariel Kaminer asks Malcolm Gladwell to weigh in, given Gladwell’s authorship of an extensive piece for The New Yorker “Offensive Play: How different are dogfighting and football?” and his love of the game.

According to Kaminer, Gladwell compares football fans to fans of gladiator events. “Specifically because of the activity on the field that’s central to the game and a huge part of my pleasure, some percentage of people are going to die prematurely,” he said. “Quite prematurely.” Fan pleasure provides coaches and owners a clear reason to encourage riskier behavior, which in turn fuels fans to cheer more loudly, and so on.

However, it’s not just football fans cheering for blood.  “The Hunger Games” has brought in $251 million at the box office in just two weeks.  The local theater is showing the movie 14 times a day and I can vouch that the 3:25 screening on Saturday was nearly full.

Americans evidently have no problem dragging their youngsters out to see a film depicting two dozen kids savagely fighting to the death all for the amusement of garishly-dressed and made-up adults occupying a mythical capitol city.  The hunger games is a two-week party for those inhabiting the capitol with endless feasts, cocktailing, and wagering on who will be the last child standing.

The 12 to 18 year olds are drafted by lottery to participate and every minute of the proceedings are televised to every nook and cranny of Panem—as in panem et circenses, Latin for bread and circuses.  The districts may be poor, but there are massive Jumbotron screens available to watch the death match, 24 hours a day.

Most of these kids are poor and while a few from some districts train their whole young lives and then volunteer for the event, most are unprepared for the gory mayhem.   As punishment for rebelling against the capitol and losing the ensuing wars, each district offers up a boy and girl as tribute to fight to the death.

Of course these children are made out to be heroes as they are whisked off to the capitol to “bring honor to their districts.”  They get help with training and make-up and are provided the incentive to be charming so as to attract sponsors—who help throughout the competition.  Think Survivor meets American Idol.  They live the life of luxury for a few, short days and then are thrown into the competition to be killed.

While the kids fight for their lives, the government’s game master creates hazards and arbitrarily changes the rules, attempting to create the desired outcome.    The Panem control room plays a hi-tech form of chess–or maybe its closer to the Pentagon ordering drones be deployed from Indian Springs, Nevada to blow up insurgents in Afghanistan.   The actions are so removed from the killing that it seems like just a game—except for those who lose their lives and their families.

For sure “The Hunger Games” portrays a totalitarian government that doesn’t seem to be too great a leap from post-Patriot Act America.   And the film’s heroine is easy to root for as she overcomes countless obstacles.

But while there is gushing about the film being libertarian, it’s hard to make that case.  The state is overwhelming and despotic when the film starts and remains that way when it ends.  Nothing changes.  Our heroine doesn’t take her bow and arrow, go on strike, and start Hunger Gulch.  The people in the districts are still starving—although now they have something to cheer about.  The government isn’t overthrown.  Capitalism doesn’t take root, creating wonderful goods and services.

What happens is, the heroic Katniss plays Panem’s game and wins: Because for the moment, it suits the government’s purposes for her to come out on top.  And because she does, the game’s master is punished—by death.    Although the homefolks in District 12 greet her with wild cheers, there is no real sense of triumph.  She merely survived—and there is a sense that’s temporary.

Reportedly the book trilogy is all the rage amongst middle and high school aged kids.  This is viewed as a positive development and no one is worrying about whether it’s ethical or not.  Raven Clabough writes for The New American

At least in book form, it apparently has the ability to bring families together. Karin Westman, an English professor at Kansas State University who teaches this series as well as others such as Harry Potter, contends that The Hunger Games as well as the rest of the books in the trilogy are “powerful for families to share because it relates to so many primal issues such as sibling loyalty and family survival.”

Yet, in his very next sentence Clabough cautions parents not to bring small children to the movie because of the “graphic and brutal violence.”

“The Hunger Games” is not a transformative movie, but merely a reflection of America’s attitude.  The latest “The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast” sees the movie as a sign that the stock market is ready to resume its post-2000 decline.  The folks at EWFF point out the market turned in 2000 when Survivor took over as the nation’s most popular show from Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Just as Survivor signaled the bearish cultural changes to come in the decade of the 2000s, The Hunger Games foreshadows the next phase.  With themes of alienation, “high-stakes consequences,” government control, violence and death, the movie points to a cornucopia of bear market fare.

Meanwhile, a couple weeks ago the BusinessWire reported that Charles Schwab “released new data showing that active traders are turning more bullish and plan to invest most of their tax refunds in the stock market.”

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

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Crimson and White IP http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/23/crimson-and-white-ip/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/23/crimson-and-white-ip/#comments Fri, 23 Mar 2012 18:22:24 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10734 There are plenty of David vs. Goliath cases in the world of Intellectual property but the case of Daniel Moore versus the University of Alabama looks to be a decided mismatch.  You see, Daniel Moore is an artist who specializes in painting scenes from Crimson Tide football games.  The University sued Moore seven years ago arguing that it has exclusive rights to its trademark which includes the crimson and white uniforms of the players depicted in the artist’s paintings.

The university believes Moore must buy a license in order to paint, display and sell his  Crimson Tide football art and has spent $1.4 million in legal fees so far battling the pigskin painter, who graduated from Alabama in 1976.   And while the artist sees his work as a form of loyalty to his alma mater, University of Alabama officials, during a meeting in 2002, demanded he pay an 8 percent royalty for both new work and everything university-related he had done since 1979.

Moore and other artists say they have free speech rights to create these images.  On the other side of the argument is the Collegiate Licensing Company.  A spokeswoman for the company told the New York Times the overall retail market for collegiate licensed products is valued at $4.3 billion a year, less than 1 percent of which is in the “art category.”

In 2009, District Court Judge Robert Propst ruled that Moore was prohibited from selling his images on products of a more commercial nature, like coffee mugs and calendars, without obtaining a license from the university, and his ruling was vague on the number of prints in an edition that the artist could create.

This ruling prompted Moore’s attorney Steve Heninger to appeal.   After all, the attorney points out, “All of our art is copyrighted, and copyright gives us the right to do derivative works on coffee mugs, calendars” and other items.

The University is also appealing, claiming that it controls trademark interests in all depictions.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will now decide who owns the crimson and white, which Notre Dame professor Mark McKenna believes is a test case for the Collegiate Licensing Company.  If the University of Alabama wins, “how do we know that, say, Sports Illustrated wouldn’t be able to use a photo from an Alabama football game without the university’s approval?” McKenna wonders.  “For that matter, could they even say ‘University of Alabama’ or ‘Crimson Tide’ in print?”

Not in question in this particular case is whether college athletes own the rights to their own images.  While Alabama and Mr. Moore work their way through the IP legal thicket, no Alabama players that Moore painted are not making a case that they own rights to their image that Moore painted.  But Ed O’Bannon, basketball star for the 1994-95 national champion UCLA Bruins has filed a class action lawsuit against the NCAA claiming the NCAA is illegally profiting from the use of athletes’ photos and images without the athletes’ consent and without paying them any compensation.

O’Bannon’s filing is the third class action suit filed against the NCAA.  Lawyers.com explains,

These lawsuits claim that despite NCAA bylaws prohibiting the commercial use of players’ names or likenesses, the NCAA makes millions of dollars by licensing the players’ images for use in television broadcasts, advertising, DVDs, video games, clothing and other merchandise. The players say they never agreed to this commercial exploitation of their names and likenesses. They say it’s not fair that they haven’t received a dime of the licensing fees.

While the NCAA makes money selling DVD’s and TV re-broadcasts of the 1995 title game where he scored 30 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, as well as from his image in a video game, O’Bannon himself is selling cars in Las Vegas.

Oh what a tangled web intellectual property laws weave.  As Stephan Kinsella explains, it’s all evil and should be abolished.

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PETA Publicity Stunt Stops “Luck” http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/16/peta-publicity-stunt-stops-luck/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/16/peta-publicity-stunt-stops-luck/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2012 15:55:27 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10690 Because of pressure from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), HBO abruptly cancelled “Luck,” a new series centered around the horse racing industry.  The series stars Dustin Hoffman, who also is Luck’s producer, along with David Milch and Michael Mann.  Fans of “Deadwood,” will recognize Milch as the creator of that amazing show.  Mann of course was the mastermind behind “Miami Vice.”

Luck’s producers did not use stock racing footage for its horse racing scenes.  The series used 50 horses, trained by Matt Chew at Santa Anita. PETA claims the series used past-their-prime, out-of-shape  thoroughbreds and were reportedly running them twice a day during filming.  Whether that was the cause of the three horse fatalities or is not really known (the death of the third appears to have been a freak accident), but PETA has been on Luck’s back since 5-year old Outlaw Yodeler died during filming last year.

Of course plenty of animals die to feed the cast and crew on the set of most movies and TV shows and PETA is nowhere to be found, as The Onion satirized so neatly back in 2004, in its “Many Animals Harmed In Catering of Film.”

Emil Guillermo, writing for SFGate.com, says he isn’t sorry “Luck” was cancelled, and that the three horses “were actors, not real race horses.”   Guillermo, whose wife is a PETA poo-bah, writes that no actors died making Mann’s Miami Vice or Milch’s NYPD Blue, so its incredible that acting horses died during Luck’s production.

“I am furious with HBO – putting old, unfit horses on a track is murder,” Kathy Guillermo passionately told RadarOnline.com.

The Guillermo Family’s comments, like those of many others, imply that animals have rights the same as man: That the death of an animal during the making of a TV show equates to the death of a human actor.

Philosopher Tibor R. Machan examined animal rights in his book Putting Humans First: why we are nature’s favorite, explaining, “A right specifies a sphere of liberty wherein the agent has full authority to act.”  It is not possible for animals to have rights because animals don’t possess the moral nature required to take authority over their lives.

Only humans can act ethically and have the capacity of free choice.  While we sympathize with animals, Machan makes the point that the concept of “animal rights” is a “category mistake–that is, the logical error of treating two different kinds of entities as equivalent in a way that they are not at all equivalent.”

PETA isn’t much for philosophy, but is an “abolitionist organization” with the simple moto: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or use for entertainment.”   PETA is called by some Ingrid Newkirk’s cult, but as  Michael Specter wrote for The New Yorker in 2003, the organization “is by far the most successful radical organization in America, raising more than fifteen million dollars a year, most of it in small contributions from its seven hundred and fifty thousand members and supporters.”

Despite the generosity displayed by PETA’s human supporters, Newkirk told Specter, “the world would be an infinitely better place without humans in it at all.”

Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, believes the Luck protest is all a PETA publicity stunt.

“It almost looks to me,” Dr. Arthur told The New York Times, “as if there’s a bit of a turf war between the American Humane Association, which has looked after animals in filming for many, many years, and PETA, who loves to be the center of attention.”

Machan drives home the point that what really annoys animal rights advocates is the idea that profits are made with the use of animals.  Although viewership for “Luck” has been tepid,  it was the producer’s pursuit of profit and their greed that really came under attack.

TIME television critic James Poniewozik writes, “I eat too many hamburgers to pass judgment on Luck,” adding, “I can’t take the moral high ground—again, too many burgers—but logical or not, there’s just something more discomfiting about knowing that horses died so we can watch them in the comfort of our living rooms.”

There are still two episodes remaining for Luck, a very unique show in its depiction of life at the track.  Ted McClelland writes, “as a dedicated railbird, I’ve never seen the grandstand, the backstretch and the jockey’s room portrayed so accurately.”

While Dustin Hoffman gets the star treatment in “Luck” as Chester “Ace” Bernstein, the very real characters that the series revolves around are four degenerate gambling buddies–Marcus (Kevin Dunn), Renzo (Ritchie Coster), Jerry (Jason Gedrick), and Lonnie (Ian Hart).  Anyone who has spent days on end at the track (or Las Vegas racebook) trying to pick winners has seen, heard (and smelled), these four characters.  Milch and Mann nail it.

Is there a market for a show about drug-addled jockeys; a suicidal agent who stutters; mobsters; crooked trainers, and degenerate gamblers?  Maybe not enough of one.  But HBO was willing to give it two years.  Too bad PETA stopped the race.

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Fighting For the Pole http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/14/fighting-for-the-pole/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/14/fighting-for-the-pole/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 15:41:25 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10633 In the era of franchised unisex stylers like Supercuts and Great Clips  it’s hard to imagine that barbers and cosmetologists are fighting over who can have a barber pole advertising their shops.  The latest legislative fights over the swirling red, white, and blue poles are in the states of Minnesota, Michigan and North Carolina.

“The barber pole is the oldest sign in town besides the cross. It should not be displayed where there is not a licensed barber,” long time Arkansas barber Charles Kirkpatrick, told the Associated Press.  Kirkpatrick keeps tabs on such legislation for the National Association of Barber Boards of America.

Notice Kirkpatrick said “licensed” barber.  The implication is that the licensing signals to the customer that a certain level of quality can be assured by the government’s stamp of approval.  Yet according to Morris Kleiner, “Occupational licensing has either no impact or even a negative impact on the quality of services provided to customers by members of the regulated occupation. Additionally, as occupations become licensed, members of regulated occupations see their earnings go up.”

“They’re still trying to hang onto the vestiges that say they’re special,” says Jeanie Thompson, president of the Minnesota Salon and Spa Association and owner of a beauty parlor. “I can cut a man’s hair. Why shouldn’t I be able to put a barber pole up?”

While both barbers and cosmetologists deal in hair, barbers can offer shaves with a straight-edge razor and are supposedly specially trained to use shears and clippers.  Cosmetologists can provide manicures, pedicures and other spa services in addition to cutting and styling hair.

Barber pole symbolism dates back to a time when barbers pulled teeth and performed bloodletting.  “Barbers often twisted rinsed yet still blood-stained cloths around those same poles before hanging them out to dry,” writes the AP.

The AP reports that 10 states have rules allowing only licensed barbers to have barber poles.  One of those states is Nevada, which I learned first hand, as I had my late father’s small electronic barber pole hung and operating in my living room in Las Vegas.  One of my guests for a party one evening was a state senator who informed me that I was violating Nevada law.

State inspectors in Ohio find about a dozen violators of that state’s law each year.  The fine is $500 but most times state inspectors just demand that the pole be removed.

Minnesota barber Joel Martin believes the barber pole issue is about truth in advertising.  “A lot of men will not come into a shop that just says salon because they are looking for someone who has barbering experience,” Martin told the AP. “It tells people driving by that that’s what they can get here.”

In his studies on licensing, Professor Kleiner found, “individuals who have a license perceive themselves as being more competent.”   But research shows that licensees are not necessarily more skilled.

Barbers for years have tried to restrict competition by erecting licensing and advertising barriers.   The result is as Michale Rozeff  predicts in his article “Who Captures Whom? The Case of Regulation.”  Substitute industries arise to satisfy demand and earn a profit.  Millions of men now get their hair cut at chain shops with no licensed barbers cutting hair.  It’s cheaper, more convenient and the haircuts are just as good.

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A Pirate Gets Licensed http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/13/a-pirate-gets-licensed/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/03/13/a-pirate-gets-licensed/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2012 19:56:30 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10607 Obtaining an unlimited gaming license in Nevada isn’t easy.  The Gaming Control Board does months and months of investigation into an applicant’s past.  No stone goes unturned.  Youthful mistakes can keep a potential owner from opening for business.  Instead of customers deciding who has the requisite morals to plug in the slot machines and roll out the green felt, government gumshoes and politically-appointed wise ones decide who is worthy.  Casino patrons must be protected.

Legend has it that Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was driving through the desert, envisioned an oasis, built the Flamingo, and created Las Vegas. That’s not the way it happened.

Casino gambling was legalized in 1931, and Siegel’s Flamingo flopped when it opened in December 1946, after successful premiers of other hotels. “In reality,” John L. Smith explains in his book Sharks in the Desert, “[Meyer] Lansky and several lesser-known racketeers, together with some plain old transplanted gamblers, played much greater roles than Siegel.”

One of those gamblers was Benny Binion, who left his Dallas bookmaking and racketeering empire and set out for Las Vegas in 1946 with his wife and children. Binion’s Horseshoe Club in downtown Las Vegas was a fixture from its opening in 1951 until his daughter, Becky, ran it into the ground in 2004.

The ability of gamblers and bookmakers to leave their clandestine operations behind in the east to re-open them unfettered in the bright sunshine of Las Vegas ended in 1955, when the Nevada Legislature founded the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission.  Some long-time Nevadans observe that the Silver State has gone down hill ever since.

While Las Vegas was settled by gamblers and made men, Nevada’s newest licensee is a 65-year old singer/songwriter who turned 15 minutes of inspiration into a business empire.  Applicant James W. Buffett penned a little ditty back in 1977 called “Margaritaville,” that would spawn a happy-hour movement of the middle-aged.  The parrothead anthem has blossomed into an unmistakable brand for Buffett’s retail stores, restaurants, consumer products, and now, casinos.

It was all fun and games during Buffett’s 45-minute appearance before the gaming regulators, who did ask about a couple of colorful incidents such as the time a plane Buffett was piloting was mistaken by the Jamaican military for running drugs.

“They fired 115 times and only hit us twice,” Buffett said.

Perhaps the Jamaicans heard that High Times magazine had named Buffett the “smuggler’s favorite” recoding artist.

Buffett even admitted to William McKeen, author of the immensely enjoyable Mile Marker Zero:The Moveable Feast of Key West, “I guess everybody would like to be a smuggler.  It’s adventurous, romantic, swashbuckling.”

Buffett was once detained by authorities in France, accused of having the drug Ecstasy. It turned out to be medication for a heart palpitation.

“He laughed both stories off for the control board,” Howard Stutz reported for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Buffett may have served as an alter boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, but he’s had plenty of wild times.  He started out wanting to be a serious southern writer in the mold of William Faulkner, but took up the guitar while in college at Auburn.  He moved to Nashville and ended up with a record contract as a country singer.  But he didn’t like country.

Flat broke, Buffett signed on to do a gig at a Miami nightclub.  He left the Mercedes he couldn’t afford to fill with gas with his wife and went to stay with Jerry Jeff Walker in Coconut Grove.   When his Miami debut was delayed, he fixed Walker’s Cadillac and they headed for Key West.

“This was Kerouac stuff, and I loved it,” Buffett tells McKeen. Buffett recalled his first trip to Key West as a “tropical Fellini movie.”

Key West would become Buffett’s home, with a new wardrobe from Goodwill and a bicycle to get around town on.  He slept on a friend’s couch, playing and singing for free drinks around town.

As McKeen so wonderfully chronicles, Key West provided all the fodder Buffett would need to write songs and he became part of the artist/author community that had followed Hemingway’s sandy footprints to the island community.

Buffett took day-to-day life in Key West and “packag[ed] it for mass consumption,” writes McKeen.  The same month that Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band played for Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball, the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes was released and tourists flooded into Key West to enjoy the paradise Buffett sang about.

The town had never quite recovered after the Navy pulled out.  “Margaritaville” gave it new life.

An editor from Billboard magazine advised Buffett to copyright the song after the singer discovering a shop in Key West, Fla., was selling bootleg “Margaritaville” T-shirts.  From that an empire was born.

Now the laid-back everyman Buffett will hold a gaming license–with all the privileges that go along with it.  As Murray Rothbard explained in Power & Market,

Licensing is a threat of violence that limits the permissible producers to particular
groups (those who have obtained the license). The ostensible purpose of most licensing
is to ensure quality and safety for consumers. Even so, the intervener necessarily
eliminates the option of lower-quality but cheaper services. On the free market, sellers of
adulterated products could be prosecuted for fraud and/or injuring the buyer’s body.

The Margaritaville section of the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel and Casino is Buffet’s first Margaritaville-brand casino. However, two stand-alone Margaritaville casinos are under construction in Biloxi, Miss., and Bossier City, La.

“This is like grown-up stuff,” Buffett told the media after the hearing. “(A gaming license) is a really big thing for me that I will take very seriously. We’ve had success, but we’re going to have fun also.”

With the help of IP and licensing laws, he’s making a fortune branding the care-free lifestyle.

Bank of bad habits, the price of vice foretold
One by one they’ll do you in, they’re bound to take their toll
The wrong thing is the right thing until you lose control
I’ve got this bank of bad habits
It’s worth its weight in gold

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