I was interviewed yesterday by Redmond Weissenberger, Director of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada. We had a long-ranging discussion of the issue of corporations and limited liability, and we touched on other issues as well including causation and responsibility and the praxeological structure of human action; intellectual property; gay marriage and language; human rights as property rights, and free speech; corporate size and international trade in a free society, vs. left-libertarian claims to the contrary; nuclear power, energy, and environmentalists; eminent domain and the Keystone pipeline; Peter Klein and Murray Rothbard on the calculation problem and the upper limit to the firm; state monopolies versus the market; and practical and moral aspects of tax evasion and tax avoidance.
[Here's another departure from our usual syndicated Mimi & Eunice content. It's not strictly IP-related, but it was too good to pass up, dramatizing as it does the simultaneously comical and frustrating disconnect that most people have with regard to problems and solutions involving government. -- GAP]
Voters in Madison, Wisconsin recently approved a measure asserting that corporations do not have constitutional rights.
The measure correctly asserts that only individuals have rights. But then it proceeds to state that corporations do not. This is collectivism at its finest. A corporation doesn’t act. People act. Although the “corporation” doesn’t have rights as an entity, each and every owner of the corporation does. The owners exercise those rights by having agents (the management) act on their behalf. When we speak of a corporation acting, this is merely an abstraction from the individuals involved. As Stephan Kinsella has explained, corporations are nothing more than a series of contracts enabling a large number of people to work together toward common goals.
This resolution, though purporting to support individual rights, is in reality opposed to such rights because it claims that these rights somehow disappear when the individuals who have them choose to use them in a coordinated manner.
Micah White at The Guardian writes of the growing danger of ecofascism or environmental authoritarianism. Some environmentalists, like James Lovelock and Pentti Linkola, want to put democracy on hold and/or return humanity world-wide to a primitive state of existence in order to combat global warming. Ironically, his proposal to fend off this growing danger is itself an example of the very thing he fears, though perhaps his proposal is motivated not entirely by environmental concerns but also by an independent dislike of consumerism.
White’s solution is to end the culture of rampant consumerism in the West. How does he propose to do this? Ah, now there’s the rub.
Over at Forbes.com, Reihan Salam had something rather unexpected but very welcome to say about the CEO of a major corporation:
That the success of the Kindle is good news for Amazon should go without saying. But it represents a remarkable environmental advance as well. The publishing industry in the U.S. felled roughly 125 million trees and generated vast amounts of wastewater. And, of course, physical books have to be transported by trucks, which generate carbon emissions, exacerbate congestion, increase traffic fatalities and cause wear-and-tear on already overburdened roads. One assumes that Bezos didn’t have the environment foremost in mind when he pushed the Kindle concept forward, yet he’s arguably done more to fight climate change by threatening hardcovers and paperbacks with extinction than any number of environmental activists.
Salam goes on to argue that Amazon will ‘win the internet’ through the Kindle and its rapidly growing ebook sales. I don’t know about that. What does it mean to ‘win the internet’? He only considers Facebook as a rival. What about Google? Android and ChromeOS are poised to dominate the mobile phone and tablet pc markets, putting Google into direct competition with the Kindle. Then there’s Google Search, Books, Voice, Gmail, Docs, Maps, Chrome browser, TV, and so on and so forth.
But bravo to Salam for daring to recognize in public the (probably unintended) positive environmental externalities of business decisions and technological innovation driven by profit-seeking amidst market competition — indeed, for daring to rank them on par with or above that of ‘altruistic’ environmental activists.