Atheist Book Review: The Book of Job

It seems nowadays everyone is talking about jobs: job creators,  joblessness, Steve Jobs and even certain sexual acts featuring the word job. Perhaps then, this would be a good time to look back at the original job, the biblical Job. The Story of Job, appears in the old testament’s appropriately titled Book of Job, though reading it is not as much of job as many other old testament books (Leviticus anyone?).

Believers point to Job as a story of how God rewards faithfulness, while I see it as a fantastic illustration of what a nasty piece work the Christian God is. This of course is ironic, since the English word Job is apparently rooted, not in this biblical story, but in the expression: “jobbe of worke” meaning piece of work (as opposed to continuous work). Or at least that is what the Internet says.

Enough with the word, play let’s get to the story. In this story we meet Job, who is described as a “perfect, and upright” follower of God. He is the “greatest man in east,” and apparently has great wealth, including “seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household.” Needless to say, God thinks this Job character is just the bee’s knees. God gathers his council, who are apparently referred to as “the sons of God”… Wait God has sons other than Jesus? Apparently, and among them comes Satan. God asks Satan where he has been. Apparently the notion of God as all-knowing, either has yet to enter the tradition or is only selectively applied by old testament writers.

Keep in mind, The Book of Job marks an early appearance of Satan as a character, in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Satan comes from a noun form of a Hebrew verb meaning to obstruct or oppose. In Job, he appears as ha Satan or the satan, which is apparently like the accuser,” or “the adversary”. In other words, as he appears in the book of as more of a devil’s advocate than an actually devil. He won’t develop into the ultimate enemy of humanity, until latter.

Anyway, as the story progresses. God starts talking up what a great and loyal servant this Job character is to his “sons”. Satan points out, that it’s easy for Job to be so loyal, after-all look at how well God has rewarded him. Satan suggest that if Job lost everything, he would “curse thee to thy face.” God answers Satan’s challenge by putting Job’s fate into Satan’s hands and the bet is on!!!

God’s on limit on what Satan can do is not put thine hand on Job himself.

So let the games begin: God allows Satan to kill Job’s slaves and animals killed with swords and through burning to death. Way to keep it classy, God!!  But wait, Job’s children are next: Satan takes them in a windstorm! Through all this Job remains loyal, continues to worship god and never blames God for these happenings (though God did in fact, approve all of them).

In the second book, it’s round two, and this time God gives Satan the go ahead, on violating Job’s flesh bone, but requires Satan stop short of killing him. So Satan “ smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown”. Job takes “a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.” Job eventually curses the day he was born, but at no point does he lose his loyalty toward God, or assign blame to God. Eventually God, rewarding Job’s loyalty, God cures Job’s boils and gives him even more animals and children than he had to begin with.

So, in other words, God gave the go-ahead for the murder of a man’s children and slaves, and killed his animals, then allowed him to be afflicted with boils, all for a stupid bet. This is utterly repulsive. Any human that did any of the things that God, and is buddy Satan do to job would be recognized as a monster. So, what if Job, got a new family and animals? How could that possibly justify killing his first family? The whole story reflects what a nasty tribal war God the Jews of this time worshiped. I’m glad to say we have moved well beyond the morality of the bible.

Response to Thomas Picketty and Mises’ “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality” by Andrew B. Wilson

I recently had the pleasure of reading this essay at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute website. While I agree with at least some of the general gist of the piece I found the parts I disagreed with worthy of commenting on. Before I do this I would like to note that this piece uses Ludwig von Mises’ “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality” to critique Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which apparently expresses concern about inequality and has some anti-market sentiments. I have not read either Mises’ or Piketty’s books, but I am going to grant the assumption, for the sake of conversation, that this author Andrew B. Wilson represents them accurately.  So onto my issues with Andrew B. Wilson’s piece.

First, I favor disowning of the word “capitalism”, among free market types. It causes confusion, and sounds bad to a lot of people. While this author and Mises may have used the word to simply mean free exchange, for a lot of people it means something like “the economic system we have now”, or “the domination of society by big business” or “the hyper-commercialization of society”, and I think there are plenty of reasons why a libertarian can object to the things implied by all these meanings. The word just has a lot of baggage and ambiguity.  I have similar feelings about the word socialism as well. Further discussion on the problems with using the label “capitalism can be found here.

Additionally I find the Author’s statement “Few people credit capitalism for the fact that they “enjoy amenities that were denied to even the most prosperous people of earlier generations.” Telephones, cars, steel-making, and thousands of other advancements are all “an achievement of classical liberalism, free trade, laissez faire, and capitalism” highly problematic.  To start all three of the examples he gives are things that government infrastructure played a major role in making as ubiquitous as they are. They can hardly be called achievements of classical liberalism, unless by classical liberalism one means government and business collusion. What is worse is that a lot more of the amenities that make modern life as rich as it is are products of government funded R&D, often in the form of the military or space program research. I’m not saying that the resulting amenities justify such interventions, only that attributing them to free trade or classical liberalism strikes me as misguided, since this is clearly not the case.

My next objection comes when Piketty goes onto claim that objections to what he calls “capitalism” spring from “envy, the green-eyed monster, which causes many people to think they have gotten the short end of the stick.” I have written about my problems with this common trope here, but here is a quick summary. I know a lot of people who are political liberals, progressives or adherents of ideologies other than free market ones. Some of these individuals are quite wealthy, others are not, but I do not believe any of them holds the positions they hold because they are simply jealous or envious of the rich.  Most are motivated by things like a desire to not have poor people starving to death, or see the people around them suffer from greater levels of insecurity if they get laid off or whatever. It strikes me as highly tone deaf and obnoxious to here a bunch elitist libertarians claiming that anyone who disagrees with them simply jealous. I think this sort of attitude probably turns a lot of people off from libertarianism.

This of course is not to mention that a lot of the super elites dominate the economy did get so rich, through government contracting, licensing cartels, subsidies, war-spending, ect. Criticism of such things should hardly be dismissed as jealousy. It is a reality is that a lot of people have gotten rich at the expense of the tax-payer and the consumer, and they should be called out on this. I also tend to think that despite validity of his ideas, Mises brought an elitism to the libertarian movement that is both misguided and generally obnoxious to a lot of people.

My next objection comes when the author list the third reason why he/Mises think people have an anti-capitalist mentality: “And finally, the third factor is the unceasing vilification of capitalism by those who seek to constrain or destroy it.”  While there may be some truth to this I find promoters of what is labeled capitalism are even more responsible. For decades (if not centuries) government managed corporatism, cronyism and American international intervention have been marketed as “capitalism” and “free market reforms” or “the free market”. If people believe that these things are what the free market is all about than it is no wonder they are rejecting it. We have seen free market language and appeals to capitalism used to justify horribly interventionist policies by the likes of GW Bush and Reagan and even regimes like Pinochet’s Chile. If these things are what is being marketed under those labels it should be little surprise that much of the population is looking elsewhere.

The author goes on to state that Piketty “contends that disparities in income and wealth are spiraling out of control, setting the haves- against the have-nots”. As I mentioned before I have not read Piketty’s book nor am I familiar with his data, enough to comment on it. But my understanding is that huge wealth disparities are usually not a sign of societal health or stability. I find it strange and self-defeating that so many libertarian writers have this knee-jerk impulse to defend economic inequality, without qualification, whenever and wherever they find it. I would think a better strategy would be to acknowledge that inequality is a problem when it is not the product of a free and competitive market and to point out all the things the government does that leads to wealth being concentrated in the hands of a narrow elite. I think a narrative that focuses on all the ways the government enriches the few at the expense of the rest of us would be a much easier sell than a knee-jerk defense of all inequality. I do acknowledge that this author seems does go on to make a similar point in his footnote.

My next objection comes when the author points to the growth in numbers of Chinese and American billionaires and claims it a result of the freeness of the economies in these countries. My problem with this is that both of these countries are unambiguously corporatist and cronyist. I suspect that in a true free market (one without government infrastructure, licensing, subsidies, patents/copyrights, liability limits ect.) there probably would not be a whole lot of billionaires. Simply put it may be I suspect that a frees society would produce a much more egalitarian distribution of wealth since all enterprises would be subject to high levels of competition and their would be no state imposed barriers to entry. Simply put it does not seem likely that one could make the equivalent of billions of dollars without patent protections, government infrastructure or special opportunities to extract resources from government lands.

One a final note, the author goes onto state “Mises would have challenged Piketty’s assumption that the heirs to great fortunes would manage their money wisely, or that they would have the same success as others (more driven than they) in searching out the best investments.” I am sure there is some element of truth to this, but I does seem to me that the Mitt Romneys and Charles Kochs of the world, did have, and will be able to give their children, advantages above and beyond what most of the rest of us had. Even if their children squander these advantages they still will be living better than most of us for a good while. My understanding is that many very wealthy and powerful people had huge advantages over the rest of us starting at very young ages and I do not think this is a reality of the current system we should be trying to sweep under the rug.  Those are my main thoughts  on this piece. Thanks for reading.

My Marijuana Proposal: Legalize the Black Market

I am happy to see various states going forward with legalizing the recreational use of Marijuana. I believe cannabis and various other drugs should be available to anyone wishing to use them. My only problem is with the way they are doing it.  To be a legal vendor or producer marijuana, you have to have a licensed dispensary and jump through a number of regulatory hurdles and extensive background checks that will undoubtedly shut the little guy out, concentrating the business in the hands of a big marijuana industry not unlike big alcohol, big pharmaceuticals or big tobacco. It should be noted that anyone with a drug felony charge cannot be a vendor. It also unfortunate that this particular substance may be legal in these states, those previously imprisoned for having or selling it will remain there.

My solution to all this is simple: rather than creating a new highly regulated market that Marijuana, why not simply legalize the existing black market. To elaborate here I five points of policy I favor:

1. Anyone who wishes to sell or grow marijuana should be free to on their own property,  at whatever quantity or quality they please. Such quality and quantity issues should be points of competition among producers.

2. Such sales operations should have the full protection of the legal system: If someone steals or damages my product they owe me compensation.

3. People selling marijuana are not allowed to lie or deceive customers about their product in anyway, and doing so should be penalized as fraud.

4. Dealers should be free to insure their products and anyone should be free to go into business providing such insurance, and contracts between all such parties are legally binding.

5. Any taxes on marijuana should be comparable to those of other products and not excessively high, prohibitive or intrusive.

Such a regime will prevent this product from being monopolized into a cartel of big power firms, and will allow countless people to go into business for themselves, many of which would be people who otherwise could not easily support themselves. Others would be free to relax or let this drug bring out their creativity, while others of course would be free to simply not use it, if they so wished.  Marijuana is a harmless substance that countless people use and most Americans have try it at some point in their lives. We should be honest about this and stop with cronyist and puritanical social engineering.



42 Reasons Christians are Better Than The God they Worship

Greetings, I intend to share a piece before long about the recent controversial supreme court decision. In the mean time here is another post that criticizes the Christian faith. I don’t believe the Christian God exist. But if he did exist, he would certainly be a crazed, murderous tyrannical monster. Despite this, I am still cool, with most Christians I know. Christians usually have far more character than their God. They are more moral, more sensible, less jealous and less insane than their God. I wish they would realize this, and stop making excuses for this celestial monstrosity.  To elaborate on how much better Christians are than their God, let’s pretend you are a typical Christian. Here is a list of 43 reasons why you are a vastly superior moral and rational being  than your God:

1. You almost certainly would never sentence me to torture for not loving you.

2. I doubt you would ask me ever ritualistically kill and burn animals for you.

3. You would never require a brutal human sacrifice in order to forgive people.

4. You would never conceive a child for the purpose of using him as a human sacrifice.

5. You would never condone Slavery.

6. You would never permit slaves owners to beat their slaves just short of their lives.

7. You would never make an exemption to this rule, in cases where the slave dies a day or two after the beating. See Exodus 21:20-21.

8. You would never develop a set of rules for men to sell their daughters into slavery. (Exodus 21:7-11)

9. You would not give instructions like: Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves. (Deuteronomy 20:14)

10. You would not make rules like: If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father.  Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Seriously what kind of sick freak would make a rape victim marry her attacker??

11. You would not advocate killing unborn children, as in Numbers 31:17: “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.”

12. You would not advocate murdering people for their sexuality. (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

13. You would not advocate killing people for fortune telling (Leviticus 20:27), hitting their parents (Exodus 21:15), or cursing their parents (Leviticus 20:9).

14. You would not advocate killing women if they are not virgins on their wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

15. Even if you are pro-capital punishment, you would probably not advocate stoning people to death as your execution method of choice.

16. You would never command wide spread mass civilian murder, as is describeExodus 31:12-15d in the book of Joshua.

17. You not send bears to attack children for making fun of a bald man (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB).

18. You would not advocate killing people for working on the wrong day of the week (Exodus 31:12-15)

19. You would not kill a fig tree for not bearing fruit when it is not even in season. (Mark11:12-14)

20. You would not have such a fragile ego, that you need to be constantly praised, by sycophants, and told how great you are.

21. You would not punish me in a hell for questioning why you send people to hell.

22. You would not be let people conduct witch hunts, torture people, or burn others at the stake for hundreds of years in your name, if you could prevent it.

23. You would not allow an evil super natural well evil being to screw up the lives of others, if you could prevent it.

24. You would not kill a man’s servants, family members and animals, and inflict him with disease to prove his loyalty to you. (This is exactly what happens in the book of Job).

25. You would not value faith over reason.

26. You would not obscure yourself and punish people for doubting your existence.

27. You would not set up a system where all who do not wish to worship you would get tortured.

28. You would not impose eternal punishments for temporal crimes.

29. You would not impose thought crime laws on the population.

30. You would not recommend that people who work on Sunday should be killed.

31. You would not reveal your existence in a book written in someone else handwriting.

32. You would not approve of morons like Ted Haggard, Mike Huckabee, Ray Comfort, Kent Hovind, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Pope Benedict or Osama Bin Laden, speaking on your behalf.

32. You would not ask a man to kill his son to demonstrate his loyalty to you.

33. You not make people promise to cut off parts of their penises or their decedents penises.

34. You would not ask me to drink your blood or eat your body.

35. You would not build a world for people, and yet cover most of it with salt water.

36. You wouldn’t punish everyone who ever existed, for 2 people disobeying you.

37. You would not kill all but 6 of the world’s people in a global flood.

38. You would not place a curse on a people, because one of their ancestors walked in on his dad naked.

39. You would not use a book written 2000 years ago with as your primary means of communicating with people today.

40. You would not demand we believe silly things like the story of Noah’s ark or that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago.

41. You would not make your teachings indistinguishable from that of brutal, bronze tribes men.

42. You would not answer the prayers of wealthy Americans while, ignoring those sickened and impoverished in the third world.

This list could be much longer, but we can leave it here. There is plenty more irrationality and immorality in what the bible teaches, and in what Christians believe about their God. This o course also goes for practicing Jews and Muslims and other believers in the God of Abraham.  If only they would realize this, and stop being believers, I think the world would be a better place.

No, John Stewart and Daniel Schulman: The Koch Brothers are Corporatists, not Libertarians

I recently watch and enjoyed this video of John Stewart interviewing Daniel Schulman, the author of “Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty“:

As a result of watching the interview I am now reading the book and enjoying it. I may post of a review of it here before long. My one concern I wish to voice is that the repeated assertion in the interview by both Schulman and Stewart, that the Koch brothers are libertarians or even anarcho-capitalist. I tend to question their libertarian credentials and view them as self-serving corporatist. For one none of their libertarian advocacy deals with libertarian issues that would undermine their business models. You generally will not hear Koch funded organizations, questioning government infrastructure, the government granted monopolies known as patents and copyrights, or government granted liability limits. Indeed they tend to be very much in favor of these things. Additionally they tend to support the conservative version of “tort reform” which seeks to make it harder for some one wrong by a corporation get reimbursed.

On top of this their Koch subsidiaries have received millions of dollars in government subsidies, they support they lobbied for the building of the Keystone Pipeline which, will not only require tax payer money, but also heavy use of the land-theft known as eminent domain. Koch funded groups have also supported ag gag bills which prohibit journalist from investigating animal abuses in corporate agriculture and they have pushed for a surtax on solar panel owners who wish to sell their excess energy to local utilities.

While the Kochs for all I know may believe their own rhetoric any examination of what actually supports shows that they are not libertarians at all but businessmen seeking government intervention on their own behalf. Unfortunately their corporatism has had far too much influence on the libertarian movement, which is why I feel the need to call it out here.

Would Jesus have supported the American Revolution

My fellow Americans often take for granted, the wisdom of the founders of this country. We often prefer to overlook the founder’s views on such issues as slavery and women’s rights, when celebrating their role in establishing a country with unprecedented freedoms. I am of the opinion that the latter should be celebrated and admired, while the former should always be A reminder that this country’s founders were in fact mere humans, rather than infallible deities.

Aside from the founders, many Americans also take the wisdom of teachings attributed to Jesus of Nazareth as above questioning, and an important part of our culture. While, I must admit, the “love thy neighbor philosophy” he espoused has a great appeal to me, I have to question much of his assumed wisdom. After all is it wise to kill trees that don’t bear fruit during the wrong time of year or just to endorse eternal punishment for temporal crimes??

Since both Jesus and the framers of the U.S. constitution are so often considered unquestioningly wise, by so many people I know, I have to wonder to what extent they would have agreed with other. We know that among the founders were deists, who did not believe in a personal God, as well as individuals like Thomas Jefferson, who regarded Jesus as a good moral teacher, but did not accept claims of his divinity. It is almost impossible to be able to ascertain what someone would have thought about events over a thousand years after his death, but it is an interesting question. Would Jesus and the early Christians have supported the American Revolution?

On the one hand, Jesus certainly has times where he comes off as a revolutionary figure. He makes it clear he does not approve of the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem and is willing to forcefully rebel against it’s practices as seen in this verse:

“And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.”-Mark 11.15,16

Indeed, despite his more famous “turn-the-other cheek” teachings there are places where he expresses a genuine taste for conflict, like in this verse:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. -Matthew 10:34–37.

Not sure that Jesus would have applied this to the American revolution, but it does at least seem to be an endorsement of violent conflict.

On the other hand, despite being having a critical tone towards the Jewish authorities of his day, his the bible seems to make point of emphasizing that he is non-threat to the Roman occupiers of his home land. For example, in response to an attempt to force Jesus to speak out against paying tribute to the Roman’s Jesus seemingly endorses the practice:

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” -Matthew 22:21.

This passage, of course refers to a coin with Caesar’s image on it. I always found this to be a deliberately evasive answer to the question of whether one should pay taxes to an occupying authority, but I have difficulty interpreting it as anything else. This hardly strikes me as a passage that could be used to endorse the American revolution, which was a revolt against unfair taxation.

Indeed, if we are to assume the Apostle Paul represented Jesus’ views accurately, this interpretation is confirmed. Paul states in Romans 13:1-7:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

This comes off as rather straight forward endorsement of obedience to Earthly powers. Indeed, Jesus seems to confirm this with his statement to Pontius Pilate:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:37)

This shows Jesus expressing disinterest in pursuing or encouraging the pursuit of political power among his followers. Indeed, after hearing this exchange Pontius Pilate concluded “I find no basis for a charge against him.” That is to say that Pilate saw Jesus, and his followers as not representing a threat to the Roman empire. Jesus seemed to confirm this by passively accepting the Judgments of the local authorities he was tried under, no matter unjust they might be.

Indeed, it would be hard to argue that the Jews and early Christians had less cause for political revolution than the American colonists did, and yet Jesus and his successor Paul said nothing to indicate support for such actions. Paul even goes as far as to recommend that the world’s most oppressed individuals, not resist when he states:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.- Colossians 3:22

This is consistent with much of the rest of the bible, which says much about slavery but never condemns it. Indeed much of this turn the other cheek business, sounds a lot like a passive acceptance of bullying.

With this in mind, I am forced to conclude, there is a strong possibility that Jesus and his immediate followers would not have endorsed the American revolution, based on their passive acceptance of authority displayed in the verses cited above, as well as the apolitical nature of their movement.

Being an atheist, I am happy to disagree with the founders of Christianity. I do not think that people who are slaves should passively obey their masters, nor do I think that passive acceptance of political authorities is a good thing.

If anything, people under the burden of tyrannical political authority or slavery should do all they can to resist. I see little virtue in Jesus’ passive acceptance of his crucification. The American revolution freed people from an outmoded monarchy, and created a nation with unprecedented freedoms, though it clearly fell short in ways whose impacts we still feel today. For example, I wish it would have gone further by freeing slaves and empowering women as well, but alas it was a product of its time. I sometimes wonder if it could have been accomplished through more peaceful forms of resistance, but that may be a topic for another time.

Objections to Patents and Copyrights

Patents, copyrights and trade secrets, and other forms of so called “intellectual property” are simply government granted monopolies. If others can use an idea you claim credit for as well as you can, they should be allowed to compete with you. One does not need the state to grant himself or herself a monopoly on an idea to profit from his or her intellectual labor, they just need to use to use their intellectual labor to produce better products than their competition. Often inventions are not so much original ideas as they are applications of newly discovered scientific principles. This is why many things have been independently invented by different people simultaneously or were developed by people other than those who patented them. Examples include the Polio Vaccine, the air plane, the telephone, the jet engine and Electric Light bulb.  It hardly makes since to grant a monopoly to the one who happens to get to the patent office first.

It makes even less sense to use the heavy hand of the state to impose American patents on people in foreign countries. The vast majority of patents tend to be held by a relatively small number of western individuals and companies. As such, the existing patent regime which the US government is trying to expand requires any firms from the developing world seeking to compete with established western firms to first pay the western firms tribute if they happen to use any of the patterns of information the western firms happen to control. It seems to me that the employees at the Nike Sweatshops of the developed world should be free to start their own shoe making operations using the techniques they learned in their previous position, and compete with their former employer.

I see no justification for the claim that intellectual property is a legitimate form of property in any way shape or form and thereby reject the notion that copying is theft. If I make a copy of something of yours, what have I stolen from you? Obviously, it is nothing material since you still have your copy. At best one could argue that I have stolen the money that would have been paid to you, but I never consented to pay you, and you can hardly say you have a property rights in money that no one ever consented to giving you in the first place. This not to mention that if I use my own property to duplicate your idea, then the enforcement of your patent violates my freedom to peacefully use my own property as I please. That is to say that IP rights violate legitimate property rights. Property rights that are generally accepted as legitimate in most schools of though don’t usually involve submitting applications to the government or arbitrary time limits. Such legitimate property rights are those which help address the problems of natural scarcity, rather than make what is plentiful scarce. I find trade secrets similarly problematic to other forms of intellectual property, since they make it illegal for a former employee should not be able to compete with his former employer. Forbidding him or her from doing this by definition kills competition and restricts a person from freely using his knowledge as he sees fit.

This is not to mention other problematic aspects of the copyright system, such as the common practice of small numbers of large companies pooling their patents and engaging in oligopolistic schemes at the expense of the consumer and would be competitors. There is also the even more problematic practice of buying patents only to keep the patented idea from being used. I have also previously noted the drug companies using patents to keep medications out of the reach of people in poor countries. It has also come to my attention that drug companies often find themselves spending research money (often government provided research money) to find new ways to treat conditions that we already have treatment for in the form of “me too” drugs. This is causing companies to spend resources on reinventing the wheel rather than new treatments.

I tend to find areas like music and literature to be the one area where intellectual property rights make the most sense, after all we want our authors and musicians to get paid, but copyrights do suffer from many if not all the problems suffered with other forms of intellectual property rights and they have the problem of being largely unenforceable.  Downloading and sharing material over the net has become so cheap and easy that IP rights are generally becoming unenforceable, and their continued enforcement will require increasingly draconian measures from the state. I honestly doubt most of us want to see people heavily fined or imprisoned for downloading films or music.

It has also come to my attention that at least in the area of music people who engage in “pirating” actually spend 30% more on music than people who do not. This hardly surprises me since people who do not “pirate” music seem to have demonstratively less interest in music than people who do, hints the former’s willingness to be content with what they hear on the radio. It has also come to my attention that musicians like Radiohead and Death Grips have done well for themselves using a similar strategy. Radiohead’s In Rainbows commercially comparable to all their previously releases, despite the fact that it was made available for free. I have also written elsewhere about the potential of advertisement funded streaming and download oriented sites to play a role in making music distributed for free possible.