Classic J Neil

“What Did That Crook Do, Now?”

I was cleaning out my desk years back, rummaging through assorted memorabilia, when I found a composition I’d worked on when I was in elementary school. Curious what my writing was like at that age, I flipped through the worn and yellowed hand written pages.

What I found was a story I’d forgotten ever working on, a story told to me by my grandmother, Sarah, about a house cat named Young Griffo — named after an Australian prizefighter famous over a century ago — that lived in my grandparents’ Brooklyn, New York house when my mother was a child.

Cats can be independent and ornery … just like libertarians. Maybe that’s why independent and ornery writers beloved by libertarians — notably Ayn Rand, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Neil Smith — have often enough lived with cats.

Both my grandparents and this feline have long since since passed away (my mom is still here and at the moment watching Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?, and I recount it here — never before published — just as Grandma told it to me as a kid.


What Did That Crook Do Now?
by
Sarah Lindenbaum
as told to J. Neil Schulman

As far back in my life as I can remember, I have always been living with one or more cats. There has been one cat, however, which has remained in my memories far beyond all the others combined.

When my son, Murray, then eight years old, brought home a kitten, I wasn’t very much surprised — homeless creatures were always finding asylum with us. Her face was as beautiful as the rest of her, she had big green eyes with bushy white eyebrows, thick white whiskers, and her body was orange and white, with a tail alternately ringed with those two colors. Her front paws were also white, with her back paws orange, and she was so small that we put her on the turntable of my Victrola and watched her spin around. She was just like a toy.

If at that moment, we’d had any idea of the unending misery and aggravation we were destined to go through because of that cat, we wouldn’t have kept her in the house for five minutes. It was because of her great beauty, however, that we kept her for twelve years.

When she was about four months old, Murray named her “Young Griffo” after the famous prizefighter. Before that we’d just called her “Kitty” or “that cat.” She won her name because Murray discovered that she had the talent of sitting up on her haunches and actually boxing like her namesake, but it didn’t take long to find out the kind of personality with which we were dealing.

We lived then in a one family house, part of a private community called Sea Gate in Brooklyn, New York. My parents lived on the downstairs floor with my sister Rose — at that time still single, and I lived on the upper floor with my husband Sam, Murray, and his three year-old sister, Betty. It was an open household — both families had access to the upper and lower floors.

Young Griffo started the practice of running to the icebox every time she heard its door open. Murray and one of his friends took advantage of this and decided to have a little fun with her — they would take an old sheet which one of them would hold across the door separating the dining room and kitchen, while the other would take the cat into the living room, then return to the kitchen and open the ice box door. Young Griffo would rush in from the living room through the dining room, and instead of stopping at the blockade, would jump right over it! Each time the boys did this they raised the sheet slightly, and by the time Young Griffo was full grown, she could hurdle almost any obstacle.

One of the first problems we had with Young Griffo were her habits — she chose a chair in the living room and started using it as a scratching post. Even worse was the difficulty we had in house breaking her — most of the time she used the stair carpeting. I used the strongest smelling disinfectant on the carpeting in the hope of dissuading her of this practice — but to no avail. You can imagine my embarrassment when I invited some friends over for coffee and cake, one summer afternoon, to find her decorating the carpeting again!

Needless to say, we eventually had to get rid of both the chair and the carpeting — but not the cat.

These beginning problems were a pure pleasure compared to what we went through starting with her first litter. She’d chosen to keep her kittens in my bedroom closet, disregarding the place we’d made for her and the kittens in the bathroom. No matter how may times we put the kittens in the bathroom, she would carry them, one by one back to the closet. It finally got so bad that we had to keep our bedroom door closed at night, but even this didn’t stop her — she’d pound on the door with such force that it would wake up the entire household. When my husband would come out to “shut her up” — she was nowhere to be found, but as soon as he went back to bed, the racket started all over again.

On one particular night, my sister Rose had made a date to go on a boat ride the next morning. That night, the cat pounded on my bedroom all night long, and Rose didn’t sleep a wink. Needless to say, she slept throughout the entire boat ride! After this had gone on for days, we decided to let the kittens stay in the closet — but too late to make it up to poor Rose.

When the kittens were old enough to walk, we kept them in the basement at night to protect them from possible injuries. Young Griffo’s maternal instincts somehow told her that this was for their own good, and she agreed to it without a fight.

We always managed to find homes for Young Griffo’s kittens when they were old enough — we had to, she had about three litters a year from her first, at age one. All in all, we must’ve found homes for over 125 kittens! The first few times, it wasn’t that difficult to find a friend willing to take a kitten, but with later litters, it wasn’t uncommon to travel all the way to the Bronx — a two-hour train ride at that time, to give a kitten away.

We enjoyed having the kittens around — if only to pay Young Griffo back for some of the aggravation. One particular batch of kittens would wait behind our piano until she was asleep, then spring upon her demanding that she play (not the piano) whether she was in the mood to or not.

We finally deduced that the father of most of the kittens was another cat we’d been feeding. Since we were all getting a bit tired of the trips all the way to the Bronx — even though we loved the kittens — we decided that something should be done. I took the cat (which we’d named Tom) on the trolley with me and let him off about four miles away from my house, figuring that this would be the last we’d see of him. I don’t know how Tom did it, but by the time the trolley had returned me home — he was already back, sitting on my front porch!

Tom was as henpecked as any cat in history — his lot was not as easy one, especially at mealtime. Young Griffo would whack him on the side if he was tolerant enough to let the kittens jump on his back while eating — or sometimes, even if he meowed out of the wrong side of his mouth. He stayed with us for ten years or so, then one day finally just disappeared — and no wonder.

Young Griffo had other suitors besides Tom — during mating season (which was most of the time with Young Griffo) none of the neighbors would sleep. It was quite common to have a midnight chorus of five male cats at a time — yowling and howling, and in general making a terrible racket. You can’t imagine how many shoes were found in our yard the next morning — or how many buckets of water were spilled on the chorus!

The one part of Young Griffo’s personality which I’ve not yet touched upon, was by far her worst quality. She was the biggest thief you have ever seen. It would be impossible to imagine how many arguments her stealing started.

During hot weather, the family liked to go to the beach, which was perfectly natural considering how close we lived to it. I would put dinner on the stove before we left so it would be ready when we arrived back. On one occasion I put four quarters of a chicken in a covered pot on the stove, and when I returned from the beach — there were only three! I couldn’t figure out who would want to steal a quarter of a chicken. Unrelated to this in my mind was the fact that someone was dumping their chicken bones in our back yard — another situation that baffled me. This went on for months until one day, I came back from the beach early and caught Young Griffo sneaking downstairs with a quarter of a chicken in her mouth! She jumped through the broken window in our door (which was repeatedly being broken by Murray and his friends) and ran into the back yard to enjoy her loot!

On another occasion I had guests coming for dinner, and I’d prepared everything in advance so I could spend some time with them before dinner. I’d baked two cakes with whipped cream frosting, and they were sitting on my kitchen counter ready to be served. When the guests arrived, we all went downstairs for conversation, when I remembered I’d forgotten to put up the coffee. When I arrived back in the kitchen, half the whipped cream was gone off each cake! My first thought was that Murray and Betty had taken it off as a prank, but when I called them upstairs to ask them about it, they looked so innocent I had no choice except to believe they had no part in it. Suddenly, the three of us spotted Young Griffo trying to sneak downstairs — her whiskers and eyebrows full of whipped cream.

I cut off the top layer of each cake and re-frosted them and swore the children to secrecy. Luckily, my guests never suspected anything was wrong — but I don’t think I need say that I didn’t eat any.

Perhaps the most frustrating incident caused by Young Griffo’s larceny was when I asked my husband, Sam, to pick up some sturgeon on his way home, and to pick up some smoked whitefish for himself, since he didn’t like sturgeon. When he returned home I was setting the table, and when I finished I went over to the counter to take the fish out of the bag. I noticed he had forgotten to get his whitefish and the conversation went something like this:

“Sam,” I said. “You forgot to get your whitefish.”

“Are you looking in the same bag as the sturgeon?”

“Yes, but it’s not here. You must’ve left it on the counter.”

“I didn’t leave it on the counter — you’re looking with your eyes closed!”

The ensuing argument convinced each of us that the other was crazy. As we were about to sit down to dinner (sturgeon for everybody) I went into the bathroom to wash up and there was the bare skeleton of the whitefish in the cat’s box.

Young Griffo didn’t always steal when nobody was looking — more than once she dug her claws into Murray’s leg so when he crouched down to scold her, she could jump up on the table, steal whatever he was eating and escape down the stairs.

Whenever my parents would see her running downstairs, they’d come and ask, “What did that crook do now?”


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: When Clones are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Clones


Originally published April 24, 2003 in the Sierra Times.

I’ve written for The Twilight Zone. Let me take you there.

It’s yearbook photo day for Springfield Junior High’s class of 2025. Jason’s been avoiding getting his picture taken. His teacher wonders why until she looks in a yearbook from a generation ago and finds a photo of a student who looks identical to Jason.

A mandatory reporter, Jason’s teacher phones authorities. They investigate, arrest Jason’s father for violation of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, and place Jason in a foster home.

This law isn’t science fiction. H.R. 534 has already been passed by the United States House of Representatives. A final vote on S. 245, the identical Senate version, is still pending.

The bills should be defeated. They haven’t been thought through.

Cloning Human Organs for Replacement

Cloning is a potential form of replacing failing human organs. Right now the only way to replace a failing kidney, liver, heart, or lung is to cannibalize the organ from another human being. In the case of an organ such as the heart, which a potential donor could not live without, this requires a newly dead human body to cannibalize.

There’s always much more need for replacement organs than there are donors. Sometimes doctors let a patient die rather than extend resuscitation efforts because they know they have a patient who needs an organ transplant. In other countries, people are murdered to cannibalize their organs and sell them to the highest bidder on the black market.

Cannibalizing organs from other people also entails the risk of rejection because of incompatibilities, not only for tissue-typing but also for gross anatomical mismatches. Cloning organs, once the science has been perfected, which requires letting the research continue to fruition, has the potential of taking a human being’s own genetic material and growing perfect replacement organs which are fully compatible with their genetic makeup. It would not necessarily require any killing in order to produce such replacement organs because they might be grown right within the human body of the person who needs them.

Human cloning is potentially a far better solution to the problem of saving the lives of people dying from organ failure than engaging in latter-day human cannibalism.

Making Twin Children

A human clone — more precisely, a baby that is the identical twin of only one parent — will be no less a fully human individual than an identical twin brother or sister.

Having a twin child might be the only sort of healthy baby which a couple might be able to have, just as in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood have already given children to other couples with reproductive challenges.

Just as one example, if there is a genetically transmitted disease or defect that one spouse in a marriage carries, and the other spouse does not, a couple wishing children carrying their own natural traits currently have no options.

Growing a baby from the genes of only one parent, the defect-free one, would allow the couple to have a child of their own without going outside their marriage. The holiness of their marriage would therefore be preserved without bringing the genetic material from an outsider, possibly that of an unknown stranger, into the sanctity of their marriage, adulterating it.

Another Potential Alternative to Adoption

Currently a couple who have barriers to normal reproduction for a variety of reasons must either remain childless or graft a child from some other family into their own family and hope the transplant will work. The euphemism for this act of high charity and blind faith is “adoption.”

Preserving a natural family line is not merely superstitious worship of blood. Adoption is a wonderful thing for some parents and some children, but adoption does not preserve a family’s natural traits. If a child with natural musical gifts is adopted by a family that sees no value in spending money on violin lessons for a four-year-old, we could lose the next Joshua Bell. Likewise, if a family of violin virtuosos adopts a child from a non-musical family, forcing a musical education on a child without the natural gifts to benefit from it may prove both frustrating for the parents and psychologically damaging to the child, whose true gifts may reside elsewhere, undiscovered.

Invasion of the Family by the State

It’s no business of the government to dictate to a family how to have children. Only the arrogant hubris of a dictatorial regime dares to interfere with the right of free human beings to self-determine their own reproduction. The State has no rightful business telling parents how to go about having their own babies. It is blatantly unAmerican.

The War Against Science, the War Against Conscience

Laws which cripple the ability of scientists to pursue research potentially beneficial to humanity are destructive of free inquiry, and law should apply only in those cases where one human being is violating the rights of another human being. Regardless of those who claim the mantle to know the mind of God, human cells or even organs are not human beings and do not have human rights. Kidneys do not have souls. Livers do not have souls.

It’s a theologically debatable question whether embryos have souls. Some religious traditions maintain that a soul does not even enter a human body until the baby takes its first breath. It is a form of religious coercion — government by theocracy — to allow one religion’s or sect’s article of faith to dictate matters of personal conscience to people of other beliefs. It is destructive to the fundamental values of a free society for law to replace individual conscience on matters which, for those who believe, can only be answered in prayer to the Almighty.

Left Behind

Moving beyond the theological basis for moral concerns about cloning, it is self annihilating for a society to outlaw an entire field of scientific research. A society which declares war on science is relegating itself to the dustbin of history. It is crippling its economic growth, its competitiveness, its spirit of adventure. It is cultural suicide. It is damning one’s progeny. It is making the human mind a prisoner to the fears of the ignorant.

Perhaps we do not know how to clone a human being safely today. Banning cloning and cloning research guarantees that we will not know how to do so tomorrow. It is a form of antiscientific terrorism, a form of Ludditism.

It is also the Sin of Pride, because it assumes that when God gave human beings that He cloned in His image independent minds, He expected us never to attempt anything new with those independent minds.

Back Alley Clones

When clones are outlawed, only outlaws will have clones. In a back-alley abortion, there is no surviving baby who will live to wonder, like an illegal twin would have to worry, like Jason, that when their yearbook photo is compared to their parent’s high-school yearbook photo, it will lead to the parent’s imprisonment for a Reproduction Violation.

Will the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 lead to a future where we have orphanages and foster homes filled with displaced twins treated as second-class citizens because one of their parents went overseas or to an underground clinic to obtain an illegal pregnancy?

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Isn’t it strange that when it comes to trying to figure out the ethical and practical problems that exist in the future, nobody in Congress even bothers asking the people who spend more time than anyone else thinking about the future — science fiction writers? I’m a science fiction writer. I explored the ethics of cloning technology in my novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, which was first published twenty years ago.

No Congressional representative or senator has ever asked me to give testimony before a House or Senate committee.

People with no imagination should not be in charge of putting a red light on our future. I’m not saying introducing a fundamental new way of having babies should be green-lighted. But can’t a free society agree to an amber light and proceed with caution?


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: Audience in a Skinner Box


An edited version of this article was published February 11, 2008 on Filmstew.com/Yahoo! Movies under the title “A Specious Odyssey.” This is the original version of that article.

A few years back, when I was trying to find a studio to buy one of my screenplays, a producer working with me submitted my script to a major studio, and told me the studio’s buy/no buy decision would be based on a scientific analysis of how well the movie was projected to do in domestic and foreign markets. When I asked this producer how such a projection could possibly be made “scientifically” I was told that the method was considered a trade secret but almost all the studios had started using it.

The answer came back: the “scientific” analysis reported that my script would produce a movie that would do well at the box office domestically but fall short in foreign sales; and comparing the scientifically projected revenues to the film and distribution budgets, the studio decided not to buy my script.

In other words – using an image common in 1960′s Twilight Zone‘s – Univac had been loaded up with punch cards and spit out one saying, “Rejected.”

It wasn’t until May 2007, however, that I began discovering what exactly these scientific claims were, and what was behind them.

They’re based on claims in the field of neurophysiology that neurofeedback can measure viewer responses to stimuli, and proper analysis of this data can be used to accurately predict future consumer behavior.

More simply: these guys are claiming that by hooking you up to the equivalent of a lie detector while you’re looking at — for example — a movie trailer, they can accurately predict whether you’ll buy a ticket to see the movie when it hits your local theater.

I discovered a company named Cinematic Forecasts and Investor Assurance, LLC, whose website promises film acquisition executives and producers that they can predict as early as a script submitted to them — based on correct or incorrect use of what they call “archetypes” — whether a movie will make money, lose money, or break even.

As an example, they use factors such as whether an actor who’s known for playing a hero has been miscast in the role of an anti-hero, or even whether an actor has the wrong type of face to play a role. Don’t even bother telling these geniuses that actors change their appearances all the time with make-up and wardrobe. Charles Laughton didn’t have to be a hunchback in real life to play the role of Quasimodo.

Full disclosure requires me to admit some prejudice regarding this company and how dumb I think they are. I wrote them a check to do an analysis of the box-office potential of my new suspense-comedy feature, Lady Magdalene’s (which won a film-festival award last Saturday for “best cutting edge film”), and their “scientific” analysis reported to me that I did every single thing wrong and there was no possibility whatsoever that anyone, anywhere, anytime would ever buy a theater ticket or a DVD to watch my movie, even if I re-cut it. I was informed that all of the “archetypes” I used in telling my story were “contrary to the programming of the mass audience.”

Well, I guess it was just a boneheaded mistake to have cast Laurence Olivier as a Nazi in 1976′s Marathon Man then cast him as a Nazi-hunter in 1978′s The Boys from Brazil. I don’t know what they did at the box office, but I loved him in both pictures.

An article in the Hollywood Reporter informs me that even the Reporter’s own corporate parent, the Nielsen Company – long known for rating TV shows – is getting into the act by becoming the exclusive outlet for NeuroFocus, a Berkeley, CA, based research firm that “covers eye-tracking and skin-conductivity measurements, to film studios and TV networks to monitor audience responses to content as well as promos, trailers and other marketing materials.”

If right about now you can’t get out of your head the image of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange — being strapped down with his eyelids taped open, and being forced to watch violent images while being given a drug that simulates a near-death experience – you’re on the same page I am. That’s only one step beyond.

One of the pioneers of using neurophysiology to measure audience responses—in fact he wrote his doctoral thesis on that topic at UCLA –- is David Kaiser, who writes perceptively in an article titled “Applied Social Psychophysiology” that this technology is “the end stage of deconstructionism, a movement in literary criticism in which an author’s point of view is completely eliminated from her work of art; voided, creation divorced from creator intent.”

Again, speaking less academically, Dr. Kaiser is saying that by letting audience reactions be the sole measurement of the success of a work of literature or drama, the author’s intent or viewpoint becomes less than zero.

Dr. Kaiser further understands a theory of art I, myself, propounded over twenty years ago. In this same article Kaiser writes, “When we process narratives, we seek release. Engagement is a reasonable mix of containment and release, as Shakespeare and wordsmiths realized long ago. Narratives consist of arousal-release cycles, nothing more, emotional and cognitive tension building to unbearability …. to be released. The more thorough, expansive, and all-encompassing the tension, the greater the release when it is all resolved. A story bangs our head against the wall because it feels so good to us when it stops.”

Or translated again: the hype that a movie is a thrill ride is good marketing: audiences like excitement and surprises. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one that.

Dr. Kaiser and his compatriots attempt to do with moment-by-moment physiological measurements of audience engagement what any stand-up comic does in between jokes: listening to whether the audience is laughing, booing, or taking out a crossword puzzle.

Anyone in theater knows you can measure how well a play is going by how much the audience is coughing or getting up to go to the bathroom. That’s why plays open out of town, not on Broadway.

Movies go through the same sort of evolution. Scripts get rewritten. Actors try out different line readings and sometimes improvise bits of business. A standard director’s request to an actor is, “Try it a different way this take.”

Movies will be test-screened, and re-cut based on the audience reactions. Jokes that don’t play will be cut; scenes that slow down getting to the plot will be shortened or eliminated.

Nothing’s wrong with any of this. If we’re in the entertainment business, we need to know when we’re not being entertaining.

The problem starts when someone comes along and starts telling the guys who buy scripts from writers like me, or buy finished independent films from producer/writer/directors like me, that they can scientifically predict how much money a script or movie will make or lose. This is entering into the realm of the racetrack tout, the stock-market tipster, or the storefront psychic Reader/Advisor.

Here’s one way I know that the idea of measuring an audience’s physiological reaction is of no use in figuring out whether a movie will be a blockbuster or a bomb.

The Fugitive is a thriller. It has a suspense plot based on action and surprises. I think I’ve watched it two dozen times, if not more, and enjoyed it every time. Now, how is it that the movie is as enjoyable to me when I know what every surprise is in advance as it was the first time I saw it?

My Cousin Vinny is a comedy. I’ve watched it so many times I can deliver the lines before the actors. Yet, when it comes on TV, I’m more likely to watch it for the umpteenth time than I am to flip to a movie I haven’t seen.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Star Wars or Casablanca or North by Northwest. I think I’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey well over three hundred times … and that has to be one of the slowest-paced movies ever made.

How the heck is measuring my eye movement and galvanic skin response to see how excited I am going to tell a distribution executive whether a movie with a budget of $5 million, an unknown in the lead and no A-list stars even in cameos, that has an opening weekend of $597 thousand, won’t still be playing in movie theaters 51 weeks later and gross $356 million worldwide … which doesn’t even count revenues from video rentals, DVD sales, cable, and a TV spin-off?

Yes, if you’re in the business you already know I’m talking about My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Look. If Woody Allen uses a gag in one of his movies that depends on an audience member knowing a Yiddish word, it’s going to play better in Brooklyn or Miami Beach than it will in Killeen, Texas or Boise, Idaho.

My 16-year-old daughter is going to react more positively to a song by The Moldy Peaches on the Juno soundtrack than will my 83-year-old mother, who regards any music more recent than Brahms as noise.

A string of F-bombs in movie dialogue will barely be noticed by a typical audience in Berkeley, California; in Ogden, Utah, some audience members will get up and walk out.

Some jokes are topical and depend on knowing what Hollywood celebrity is divorced from another Hollywood celebrity.

Then there’s the following joke William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet four centuries ago:

HORATIO: My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.

HAMLET: I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.

HORATIO: Indeed, my lord, it follow’d hard upon.

HAMLET: Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.

Or, as Jay Leno might deliver this joke any night in a Tonight Show monologue,

“Hey, Kevin, did you hear about that royal wedding in Denmark last week? The Queen remarried so fast after the King died, they were able to use the same food at her wedding that they used at the king’s funeral.” (Smitty gives Jay a rim-shot.)

The point is, some jokes have the shelf life of a piece of salmon; other jokes have a shelf-life as long as fruit cake.

It takes a filmmaker, not a scientist, to tell a movie executive which is which.


Postscript January 11, 2010: After hearing that both former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former George W. Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino stated in the past few days that there had been no domestic terrorist attacks during George W. Bush’s administration, I have to wonder what the role of neuroscience-based political consulting — or maybe I should say “ventriloquism” — is in the talking points being handed out to political avatars these days.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: The Ten Biggest Lies of My Lifetime


Reprinted from the September 27, 2009 issue of Rational Review

This is my short list of “Big Lies” — propaganda which is promoted by major movements, and which denying often gets one tagged as a lunatic, denier, hatemonger, or simply irrelevant.

If you’re looking for me to put the Holocaust of European Jewry or Jihadis being responsible for 9/11 on this list, look elsewhere.

I’m 56 years old, born in April 1953. So I’m limiting myself to Big Lies present in my own lifetime.

Here we go, not in any chronological order.

1. The biggest threat to the human race today is man-caused global warming.

Every assumption behind this statement is either provably false or unproven. It’s uncertain whether the long-term climate trend is towards global warming rather than global cooling. It’s false that carbon dioxide and methane are the major “greenhouse gases.” (The major greenhouse gas is water vapor.) The most reliable climate-change models on planet earth don’t track with production of greenhouse gases as closely as they do with changes in solar radiation, and measurements of climate change on other planets in this solar system tend to match up with our own planet’s climate change. Industrial particulate air pollution reduces solar radiation so would produce global cooling rather than global warming. And the global warming crowd reveal themselves as a subset of the Zero Population Growth movement when they advocate not having children as a method of reducing global warming. Which brings us to Big Lie #2.

2. Human population growth must be curbed because it is increasing faster than the availability of resources needed to sustain itself.

No human being on planet earth is starving or sick because of the technological inability of the human race to feed, clothe, or treat most of their epidemic diseases. Third-world famines and epidemics of diseases no longer epidemic in the developed world are caused by warfare, theft of private property and relief supplies by warlords who sell them for personal luxuries and weapons, and anti-capitalistic policies which exterminate all attempts to invest or entrepreneur the creation of newly existing wealth. The assumption of a zero-sum game whereby one party’s gain is assumed to be stolen from another party is one major false premise underlying this cause of endless human tragedy; another is that technological advances caused by economic growth play no part in reducing demand on finite natural resources by multiplying the efficient use of these resources and creating artificial alternatives which also reduce demand on natural resources.

Nor is there any actual “limit to growth” when you bring in the virtually unlimited space, energy, and mineral resources available starting as close as earth’s own moon and asteroids in permanent earth-moon orbit, then expanding out to the entire solar system and eventually other solar systems. Star Trek got this, at least, right. The technology to harvest these resources is off the shelf and the cost would be less than what the United States has spent on the War in Iraq.

3. Abortion is murder.

The assumptions behind this statement require religious people to substitute the concept of eternal life with a secular biological one that defines life as mortal. The statement that a new human life begins with conception is biologically true but not true according to anyone who actually believes in the existence of an immortal soul. If one believes in an immortal soul then a new human life begins the first moment that an immortal soul exists within a human body. The Hebrews believed that the soul enters the body with its birth and first breath — thus the English word “inspiration” comes from roots meaning “intake of breath.” Christianity and modern Judaism often abandon the roots of their own religions and substitute the revisionist argument that the soul is present from the moment of conception — an absurd and actually horrible idea if you look at it from the point of view of an active conscious being imprisoned within a tiny cluster of cells.

Furthermore, the idea that an embryo or fetus has human rights can only go back to the beginnings of the concept of human rights with the English Leveller’s movement in the 17th century — a decidedly modernist development. Nowadays there are attempts to extend the idea of rights beyond the human species to all other living things (including microbes) and even to inanimate objects including the earth, itself. The self-named pro-life movement which attempts to extend human rights to the unborn use the same logic and arguments as the animal rights and Gaia-rights movements. Which brings us directly to #4.

4. Animals have the same fundamental rights as humans.

The concept of opposing cruelty to animals has morphed away from this noble and purely human esthetic concept into an attempt to make the idea of human rights absurd and deniable by forgetting their origins and meaning, debasing them like fiat money replaces mediums of exchange possessing intrinsic utility.

Rights are a moral concept, and morality is meaningless if split off from the concept of moral actors. Unless one is ready to accept dogs, cattle, and fish as having the mens rea to be held accountable for their actions, the concept of animal rights is an absurdity, and the animal rights movement is a criminal racket that relies on the empathy of human beings to attack the individual property rights and civil liberties of other human beings.

5. Disarmament promotes peace and security.

From disarming the airline passengers who flew on September 11, 2001 to the disarmament by both the Nazis and Soviet Union of the Estonians, there is no policy which has directly enabled more genocide, holocausts, and mass murders than reducing the general supply of weapons that can be used to resist and combat armed and aggressive statists, gangsters, terrorists, madmen, and free-lance predators than the unilateral disarmament of civilians and defense forces. I’m not even going to argue the point. I simply challenge anyone to study history, note how disarmament universally precedes mass violence, and challenge anyone disputing this statement to find me a counter-example where a disarmed population suffered less than the armed one which preceded it.

6. Police forces are necessary to prevent crime and keep the peace.

Going back to the prefects of ancient China and the Praetorian Guard of the Roman Empire, police forces have always been extensions of imperial power, providing despots internal domestic control while traditional military forces conquered and controlled foreigners.

The framers of the American system of government were well aware of the millennia-long history of police forces and rejected the concept in favor of civilian self-defense. Local criminals were to be apprehended by raising a “hue-and-cry” whereby the civilian population formed themselves into temporary law-enforcement units under the concept of “posse comitatus” (translation from Latin is “power of the county”) to arm themselves and bring suspected criminals to a magistrate for trial. How these posses functioned can be seen in western movies and TV shows, where an elected sheriff or U.S. marshal had no forces of their own to enforce law or keep the peace, but had to rely on deputizing the local population to maintain law and order. This reliance by government officials on civilians tended to act as a brake on criminal gangs taking over frontier towns, and also prevented organized criminal gangs such as the Black Hand from extending their reach beyond the borders of cities like Chicago and Kansas City, whose police forces were agents of the local power brokers.

Today’s police forces are better trained, more professional, and less reliant on direct bribery than earlier police forces, and in private life are often good neighbors, but when on duty they are still enforcers of political power who shake down the civilian population through draconian fines for parking and minor traffic infraction (for example, $100 fines for failing to feed a parking meter 25 cents), eminent domain abuses, asset forfeiture laws, and the unconstitutional war on the individual’s right to determine one’s own self-medication, mood alteration, and state of consciousness on private property.

Common myths about police are that they have a duty to protect you (they don’t; all states immunize police for failure to protect); that police will save you when you phone 911 (if you’re being held hostage by an armed criminal the police will set up a perimeter outside and not go in until it’s safe for themselves, no matter what’s being done to you by your captor); and that violent crime rates are lower the more police there are per population unit (the opposite is true; rural areas with fewer police per population unit commonly have a lower violent crime rate per population unit than urban areas with more police per population unit).

One can’t argue that increasing legal availability of civilian firearms automatically decreases violent crime (to do that one would have to explain how one city with identical laws to another city can have five times its sister city’s violent crime rate) but one can show that increasing the cop-to-criminal ratio is no more effective than increasing the civilian-gun-to-criminal ratio — and the latter is a whole lot cheaper and far less injurious to civil liberties.

7. Gay couples should be treated exactly the same as straight couples.

Beginning in the 1930’s, Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking studies of human sexuality showed human sexual behavior to be almost infinitely varied. I carefully say “sexual behavior” rather than “sex,” because only human acts which have the potential of reproduction actually qualify as “sex.” Perpetuation of the species demands that all other behavior be called something else. I favor the anthropological term “pair-bonding,” the sociological term “coupling,” and the informal terms “sex play” and “love play.”

Human beings who engage in same-sex coupling have the exact same rights as human beings who engage in opposite-sex coupling: the natural fruits of their coupling. Since biology requires opposite-sex coupling to produce offspring, same-sex coupling is naturally discriminated against for this purpose, and social institutions like monogamous heterosexual marriage that have evolved to protect and encourage the perpetuation of the human species must either reflect this biological reality in custom and language or devalue human reproduction. It’s obvious to me that the agenda to equate same-sex coupling with opposite-sex-coupling in movies, television, and other mass media is at least as much to discourage human population growth as it is to oppose the hateful bigotry against same-sex couples which results in denying same-sex couples the right to enjoy their lives together in a free and tolerant society.

I am not a partisan for monogamous heterosexual marriage. I’d be perfectly happy if marriage laws and customs were entirely divorced from both state and church. I have no personal objection to norming any and all partnering or group affiliation between or among consenting adults of any sexual persuasion. Gays have no more right to pride in their sexual lifestyle than a completely heterosexual degenerate like myself, who wants only adult women to do perverted things with me. We’re still hiding in the closet, thank you very much.

But to lie about biology, history, anthropology, sociology, and all other attempts to quantify and classify the human experience in order to promote a narrow and ephemeral minority political agenda is wrong and I will continue to expose these lies when they deny that social customs, language usage, and economic institutions should reflect the biological truth that making a baby requires at least one participant from each of the two sexes.

8. The Holocaust of European Jews is unique in human history.

I’m Jewish, and I can’t think of any idea quite as absurd to me as the idea that my kin are superior to the rest of the human species. That’s an ancient Jewish meme that got turned around by the Nazis, with devastating results just before I was born.

I’m not going to argue that Jews and Judaism haven’t made unique and valuable contributions to the human experience. That would be equally false and absurd. But it’s illogical to extrapolate from this that the Jewish contributions to human history are uniquely valuable. The Greeks contributed as much. So did the Chinese. So did the Arabs. So did the English. So did the Americans. The Irish. Can I stop now before this essay turns into a roster of the ethnicities seated in the United Nations?

Nor is the Jewish experience for being discriminated against, enslaved, and massacred unique. Blacks got it as bad. So did the Estonians, the Tutsis, the Kulaks, the Gypsies, the Pariahs, the Christians, the Irish, the English, the Armenians, the Native Americans, the Sicilians, the Cherokee – again, I’d find it hard to find an ethnic group that hasn’t had the crap kicked out of them one time or another.

Having the crap kicked out of your own kind is probably the one most common bond that each of us has with everyone else.

The maximum estimate for the extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis is six million. That’s dwarfed in the twentieth century alone by mega-exterminations in the Soviet Union and China, with seven-figure ethnic genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, and Rwanda trailing not far behind.

My people: Good job. You gave the world Torah and many more non-Jews than Jews follow its teachings — and that includes our historical enemies. But enough already with the chosen people crap. It’s gotten old and pisses off others, which makes it hard to have friends.

9. America is a Christian country.

This one won’t take very long to refute at all. Draw a Venn diagram. A big circle with the population of the United States. In that circle a smaller circle with Christians. Inside the big circle another circle with everyone else — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccens, Odin-worshippers, atheists, agnostics, etc.

Doesn’t matter how large the circle containing Christians is. America is founded on the idea of individualism, not collectivism. That the majority should be able to impose its values on the minority is un-American even if it were down to half a billion Christians and a single non-believer. And Christians might consider that a turn of the wheel might make them a minority, and a record for tolerance might be useful when dealing with a new majority.

Your ancestors came here for freedom of worship. Honor them by extending the same freedom to everyone else. Keep your peanut butter away from my chocolate unless I specifically ask to make a Reese.

10. America is the last superpower and runs the world.

I’m not even sure I need to refute this one anymore, although it’s been the general assumption in most places for most of my life, both by Americans and foreigners.

By now it should be obvious this isn’t true.

Remember the Doolittle Raid in World War II? A few army planes stripped down to the bone manage to fly off an aircraft carrier and bomb Japan? It was mostly a symbolic attack because there were far too few planes to damage Japan’s war effort. But the reason for the raid was that America’s war “ally,” Josef Stalin, refused President Franklin Roosevelt permission to use Russian soil to launch a sustained bombing attack on Japan.

At the end of World War II when both the Nazis and Imperial Japan were defeated, and even though the United States had a monopoly on atomic bombs until 1949, the Soviet Union managed to occupy half of Europe and foment communist revolutions throughout the world creating a worldwide opposition to the power of the United States and its allies.

This standoff continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when there was a brief illusion that the United States was the last remaining superpower. But during that period, Cuba remained communist and though any agreement President Kennedy might have made with Premier Khrushchev would have died with the USSR, the United States made no attempt to take the island.

Nor did the United States have universal success in staving off communist coups in Central and South America … or even in its own universities.

If anyone thinks that situation fundamentally changed any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, ask yourself how Turkey got away with telling the United States to piss off when President Bush wanted to invade Iraq via Turkey.

When the United States was most influential was not when the United States was most aggressive militarily but when its goods were most craved by foreigners: when a luxury car in Japan was not a Lexus but a Pontiac, when Russians drank Pepsi and the Chinese drank Coca Cola, when the gold standard of cigarettes was Old Gold and other American brands.

The United States was once the world’s shopping mall. Not anymore. Not for a long time. The path back to the glory days is when the American people get shut of the debt its government and corporations have run up in their name, and instead use their money to invent and make new things the rest of the world wants.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: The Unabridged Second Amendment


Reprinted from the Sept. 13, 1991 issue of The New Gun Week

If you wanted to know all about the Big Bang, you’d ring up Carl Sagan, right? And if you wanted to know about desert warfare, the man to call would be Norman Schwarzkopf, no question about it. But who would you call if you wanted the top expert on American usage, to tell you the meaning of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution?

That was the question I asked A.C. Brocki, editorial coordinator of the Los Angeles Unified School District and formerly senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Publishers—who himself had been recommended to me as the foremost expert on English usage in the Los Angeles school system. Mr. Brocki told me to get in touch with Roy Copperud, a retired professor of journalism at the University of Southern California and the author of American Usage and Style: The Consensus.

A little research lent support to Brocki’s opinion of Professor Copperud’s expertise.

Roy Copperud was a newspaper writer on major dailies for over three decades before embarking on a distinguished 17-year career teaching journalism at USC. Since 1952, Copperud has been writing a column dealing with the professional aspects of journalism for Editor and Publisher, a weekly magazine focusing on the journalism field.

He’s on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and Merriam Webster’s Usage Dictionary frequently cites him as an expert. Copperud’s fifth book on usage, American Usage and Style: The Consensus, has been in continuous print from Van Nostrand Reinhold since 1981, and is the winner of the Association of American Publisher’s Humanities Award.

That sounds like an expert to me.

After a brief telephone call to Professor Copperud in which I introduced myself but did not give him any indication of why I was interested, I sent the following letter:

“I am writing you to ask you for your professional opinion as an expert in English usage, to analyze the text of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and extract the intent from the text.

“The text of the Second Amendment is, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

“The debate over this amendment has been whether the first part of the sentence, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,’ is a restrictive clause or a subordinate clause, with respect to the independent clause containing the subject of the sentence, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

“I would request that your analysis of this sentence not take into consideration issues of political impact or public policy, but be restricted entirely to a linguistic analysis of its meaning and intent. Further, since your professional analysis will likely become part of litigation regarding the consequences of the Second Amendment, I ask that whatever analysis you make be a professional opinion that you would be willing to stand behind with your reputation, and even be willing to testify under oath to support, if necessary.”

My letter framed several questions about the text of the Second Amendment, then concluded:

“I realize that I am asking you to take on a major responsibility and task with this letter. I am doing so because, as a citizen, I believe it is vitally important to extract the actual meaning of the Second Amendment. While I ask that your analysis not be affected by the political importance of its results, I ask that you do this because of that importance.”

After several more letters and phone calls, in which we discussed terms for his doing such an analysis, but in which we never discussed either of our opinions regarding the Second Amendment, gun control, or any other political subject, Professor Copperud sent me the following analysis (into which I have inserted my questions for the sake of clarity):

[Copperud:] “The words ‘A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,’ contrary to the interpretation cited in your letter of July 26, 1991, constitutes a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying ‘militia,’ which is followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject ‘the right,’ verb ‘shall’). The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining a militia.

“In reply to your numbered questions:

[Schulman:] “(1) Can the sentence be interpreted to grant the right to keep and bear arms solely to ‘a well-regulated militia’?”

[Copperud:] “(1) The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people.”

[Schulman:] “(2) Is ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ granted by the words of the Second Amendment, or does the Second Amendment assume a pre-existing right of the people to keep and bear arms, and merely state that such right ‘shall not be infringed’?”

[Copperud:] “(2) The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.”

[Schulman:] “(3) Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms conditioned upon whether or not a well regulated militia, is, in fact, necessary to the security of a free State, and if that condition is not existing, is the statement ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’ null and void?”

[Copperud:] “(3) No such condition is expressed or implied. The right to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state. The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire sentence.”

[Schulman:] “(4) Does the clause ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,’ grant a right to the government to place conditions on the ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms,’ or is such right deemed unconditional by the meaning of the entire sentence?;”

[Copperud:] “(4) The right is assumed to exist and to be unconditional, as previously stated. It is invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia.”

[Schulman:] “(5) Which of the following does the phrase ‘well-regulated militia’ mean: ‘well-equipped,’ ‘well-organized,’ ‘well-drilled,’ ‘well-educated,’ or ‘subject to regulations of a superior authority’?”

[Copperud:] “(5) The phrase means ‘subject to regulations of a superior authority;’ this accords with the desire of the writers for civilian control over the military.”

[Schulman:] “If at all possible, I would ask you to take into account the changed meanings of words, or usage, since that sentence was written 200 years ago, but not take into account historical interpretations of the intents of the authors, unless those issues can be clearly separated.”

[Copperud:] “To the best of my knowledge, there has been no change in the meaning of words or in usage that would affect the meaning of the amendment. If it were written today, it might be put: ‘Since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.’ ”

[Schulman:] “As a ‘scientific control’ on this analysis, I would also appreciate it if you could compare your analysis of the text of the Second Amendment to the following sentence:

“ ‘A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.’

My questions for the usage analysis of this sentence would be:

“(1) Is the grammatical structure and usage of this sentence and the way the words modify each other, identical to the Second Amendment’s sentence?; and

“(2) Could this sentence be interpreted to restrict ‘the right of the people to keep and read Books’ only to ‘a well-educated electorate’—for example, registered voters with a high-school diploma?”

[Copperud:] “(1) Your ‘scientific control’ sentence precisely parallels the amendment in grammatical structure.

“(2) There is nothing in your sentence that either indicates or implies the possibility of a restricted interpretation.”

Professor Copperud had only one additional comment, which he placed in his cover letter: “With well-known human curiosity, I made some speculative efforts to decide how the material might be used, but was unable to reach any conclusion.”

So now we have been told by one of the top experts on American usage what many knew all along: the Constitution of the United States unconditionally protects the people’s right to keep and bear arms, forbidding all governments formed under the Constitution from abridging that right.

As I write this, the attempted coup against constitutional government in the Soviet Union has failed, apparently because the will of the people in that part of the world to be free from capricious tyranny is stronger than the old guard’s desire to maintain a monopoly on dictatorial power.

And here in the United States, elected lawmakers, judges, and appointed officials who are pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States ignore, marginalize, or prevaricate about the Second Amendment routinely. American citizens are put in American prisons for carrying arms, owning arms of forbidden sorts, or failing to satisfy bureaucratic requirements regarding the owning and carrying of firearms—all of which is an abridgement of the unconditional right of the people to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Constitution.

And even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), staunch defender of the rest of the Bill of Rights, stands by and does nothing.

It seems it is up to those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms to preserve that right. No one else will. No one else can. Will we beg our elected representatives not to take away our rights, and continue regarding them as representing us if they do? Will we continue obeying judges who decide that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean what it says it means but means whatever they say it means in their Orwellian doublespeak?

Or will we simply keep and bear the arms of our choice, as the Constitution of the United States promises us we can, and pledge that we will defend that promise with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor?


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Classic J. Neil: Informational Property — Logorights

Reprinted from the Journal of Social and Biological Structures, Volume 13, Issue 2, 1990, Pages 93-117

“Preface”

This article was originally my half of a November, 1983
debate, at a supper club meeting of Los Angeles-area
libertarians, on the question “Is Copyright A Natural Right?” I
revised my debate presentation for publication as a booklet
published on December 2, 1983 under the title TOWARD A NATURAL
RIGHTS THEORY OF LOGORIGHT and, on March 16, 1989, for on-line
publication through the Connected Education(r) Library, but it is
still helpful to understand that these arguments are largely
directed to libertarians who already agree with the fundamental
concepts of natural rights, or at the very least presume a
sympathy with libertarian and natural rights philosophy and
philosophers.

It is generally thought that discussion of rights is a
political or ethical issue. In fact, the argument must begin at
the level of basic epistemological and metaphysical premises and
proceed from there.

Antebellum debates on slavery hinged on the question of
whether Blacks were People, thereby having rights, or whether
Blacks were only animals, and therefore could be the property of
People. Political analyses were being made by Southerners in
which they attempted to demonstrate that, economically, slavery
was good because it benefited the Southern economy. And even
moral debates hinged on the metaphysical question: if slaves
weren’t people, but were animals, then what could be morally
wrong in owning them?

It did no good to discuss the morality or economics of
slavery until one had arrived at the simple metaphysical fact
that skin color does not definitively answer the question: What
is a Human Being?

Moral and political questions often hinge on such differing
perceptions of reality. This is one reason such discussions are
often so heated: differing premises at these levels will make one
question the sanity and logical faculties of someone who
disagrees with one’s own obvious conclusions. The feeling for
someone who has a divergent vision of reality is: “He must be
blind or crazy if he can’t see something as clear as daylight!”

So it is that on an issue involving “rights,” one feels an
opponent is not merely wrong, but unbelievably wrong. Even among
professed advocates (and practitioners, one hopes) of reason, it
makes it hard to understand how one who disagrees can be so
obstinate on so easy a question.

That there are disagreements about natural rights even among
strict advocates of them proves that the question is harder
than we might have originally thought.

Therefore, let advocates of human rights not trade insults,
but get down to the business at hand, which is establishing the
premises from which we’re arguing. Then one can either see
whether our views are fundamentally incommunicable to another, or
find basic agreements and proceed from there.

“Introduction”

I’d like to start off with an image to have in your minds
during the course of this article–and this image is a mnemonic–
a memory aid–for a point I want you to remember.

You’re in the Land of Oz, and you come across Dorothy, Tin
Man, and Scarecrow at a fork in the Yellow Brick Road leading to
the Emerald City.

Dorothy is arguing to go down one fork of the road, and
Scarecrow is arguing that they go the other way.

After the debate between Dorothy and Scarecrow has gone on
pointlessly for what seems an eternity, Tin Man turns to Dorothy
and says, “We’re never going to settle anything this way,
Dorothy. Don’t you realize that you’re arguing against a Straw
Man?”

Now, I didn’t say that just to make an atrocious pun–I want
you to keep that image firmly in mind, and I think this will
help.

The reason I started out with this mnemonic–this memory
aid–is that I don’t want to have to answer or defend all the
theories of “intellectual property,” “copyright,” and “patent
law” that I will not be advocating herein.

So let me start out by stating what I am not talking about,
when I advocate what I will eventually be defining as
“logorights.”

I am not talking about a grant of privilege from the State.
If it can be demonstrated to me (but I don’t think it can be)
that the only way the concept I am advocating can exist is
through the State granting it as a privilege, then I will concede
outright that it has no place in natural rights theory or
practice, and the concept should be abandoned.

I am also not going to be talking about a defense of ideas
as property, or defending what historically has been called
intellectual property. Whatever the merits of these concepts,
they are not part of the concept I am going to be putting forward
here. Therefore, any attack on “logorights” which involves
disproving the validity of ideas as property or intellectual
property will be arguing against a Straw Man.

What I am going to be doing is to put forward what I believe
to be a new and original concept of copyright–a word which I’ll
be replacing in a few hundred words as inadequately defined for
the concept I’m really advocating.

“Defining A New Concept”

There are two kinds of definitions that can be given.

The first way to define a concept is with a lexical
definition–that is, with a definition by other words, such as
you’d find in a dictionary.

The second way to define a concept is with an ostensive
definition–that is, with a definition abstracted by pointing out
with several examples just what it is you’re trying to define,
and demonstrating what is common to each example and can
therefore be induced from the examples as an isolated concept.

With a new concept, it’s always better to give the ostensive
definition before the lexical, so you can get an idea of some of
the contexts in which the new concept appears.

So before I give you a dictionary definition of this new
concept, I’m going to define it by example several times. I
think the best first example is to be found in the following
question:

Is computer hardware the only thing that can be property, or
can computer software be property also?

And I’d better define those terms for those of you who
aren’t familiar with computer jargon.

In computer terminology, hardware is the computer itself and
all the machinery used with it–the microprocessors, the disk
drives, the monitor, the printer–and software is all the
recorded orderings of bits–recorded information signals–that
you feed into the machinery to make it operate.

And let me be exact in my meaning: because a computer
diskette–a round piece of plastic with a magnetic coating–is
what software is usually stored on, it is common use to refer to
computer diskettes as “software”–but really, the diskette is
hardware, too–and the information on it is actually the
software.

If you don’t believe me on this last point, then listen to
the language that comes out the mouth of a computer user who
plunks down several hundred bucks for a package of diskettes
labelled “Wordstar” that the salesman said contains information
telling the computer to do word processing, if, when the user
gets it home, she discovers that she’s just purchased two
diskettes with random, meaningless characters.

Is it the diskettes themselves that the user has just paid
three hundred bucks for? If so, she just got overcharged by
several hundred dollars–she can buy a package of blank diskettes
for around ten bucks.

Okay, here’s my second example: the same concept in a
different context.

You go into a Waldenbooks and plunk down cash for a book
that says on the cover “ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.” You get it
home … and the first sentence is, “It was the best of times, it
was the worst of times.”

Now, what you bought is a book and this book has got
everything that makes a book a book: a binding, hundreds of
sheets of paper with printed ink impressions on it, and a cover.
Let’s even pretend that the book you took home has the same
number of pages, the same dimensions and weight, the same binding
and style of printing as the book with the composition called
ATLAS SHRUGGED. Do you have any just cause of complaint if the
composition of words inside the book turns out to be something
other than what the cover says? If you answer no, then you got
everything you paid for. But if you answer yes, then you are
saying that the composition of words makes this book a different
commodity from the book you thought you were buying, and
therefore you are rightfully entitled to a copy of the
composition of words labelled ATLAS SHRUGGED.

Next definition by example:

A college student figures out a way to put together a few
commonly available hardware items into a cheap device that
moistens stamps without having to lick them. Nobody ever has put
together these commonly available items in this configuration
before. Has she invented anything? Is there anything new that
didn’t exist before? Has she, in effect, performed an act of
creation?

Last example:

An artist does a design logo for a company’s product–let’s
call the product a stamp moistener called Stamplix. Stamplix
stamp moisteners are put on the market with that design logo on
it … and two weeks later the company’s competitor puts that
same Stamplix logo on a different type of stamp moistener they’re
marketing in competition.

Is that second company violating anybody’s property rights?

Now you might have already abstracted the concept from the
examples–but I have to assume you haven’t for the sake of
completeness. In the first case–software–what I was discussing
was orderings of bits; in the second case, the composition of
words in a book; in the third case, a new configuration of
materials; in the fourth case, an identifying mark.

And, what is common to each of these is “logos.”

“Logos” was a word used by the ancient Greeks. In fact,
logos was the word the Greeks themselves used for “word.” But
they meant a good deal more than that: logos meant not only
“word” but also “thought,” “speech,” “science,” “study,” “reason”
and “rational principle.” Logos meant the pattern of creation
manifest in the universe–what we libertarians might refer to as
the principle behind natural laws and natural rights.

Later on, the Christians adopted Logos to mean the Second
Person of the Christian Holy Trinity–identified by them as
Christ when according to them he visited Earth–and the Gospel of
St. John accordingly starts out, “In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Logos meant “knowledge.” It’s the root behind the suffix
“-ology” found at the end of biology, psychology, technology,
ornithology, herpetology, and radiology.

Logos is the root word behind “logic.”

Logos is also preserved in the modern words “logistics,”
“logarithm”, and “logo”–short for a commercial logogram.

In using the word “logos,” I’ll be going back to what is
meant by all those usages, all of which refer to an observable
order, array, pattern, form, or identity to be found in the
Universe.

By logos I mean exactly: an order, array, pattern, or form
of information which can be imposed upon or observed in a
material substance: specifically, a thing’s material identity.

It is the logos of bits imposed onto a blank computer disk
that makes it software. It is the logos of words in a book that
makes it a novel. It is the logos of an object to make it
perform a particular task that makes it an invention. It is
the logos of a mark that gives it the ability to identify a
particular product.

And it is property rights in logos that I’ll be advocating
in this article.

Earlier I mentioned that the word copyright is inadequate to
define the new concept being advocated: property rights in logos.

The new word I’m going to use for property rights in logos
is, as promised before, “logoright.”

Now, for me to defend a particular kind of property right as
being a “natural” right relating to the concept of identity, we
need to understand, first, what do we mean by “identity”; second,
what natural rights and property rights are in general; third,
what property is in general and how it comes to exist; and
fourth, how property rights are established and what they mean in
practice.

Only after that ground is cleared is it possible for me to
get to the case for logorights in particular; but by that point,
the logoright case will be seen as only one instance of a general
theory arguing that ALL property rights derive from Identity.

“Things and Their Observers”

Metaphysics as a study questions as one of its subjects what
constitutes an entity and what constitutes its identity, or to
phrase it more colloquially, what a thing is and what is its
“thingness.” Epistemology asks how we can know whether and what
a thing is. Where one begins and the other leaves off is the
main event in the history of philosophical debate.

Let’s start with several divergent views.

In the Platonist view, identity is not an attribute of a
material entity but, merely or not, an attribute of a Soul, or
Ego, or Mind viewing and manipulating this universe in which we
exist but not itself being a part of it. Existence does exist
but it is only the faculty of Reason that breaks existence down
into “identifiable” parts. If a soul/ego/mind perceives a
pattern on a thing, the perceived identity fundamentally remains
an attribute of the soul/ego/mind, rather than the thing itself
which is merely a poor copy of the Original. Identity in this
view resides not primarily in those Things that Exist, but to the
Consciousness which is apart from Existence.

The Nominalist view would be the same view of Identity as
the Platonists, except that the Consciousness in question is part
of Existence. But in any case, “identity” still refers to the
observation rather than that which is observed: existents still
have no identity of their own, apart from identifications made by
souls, or egos, or minds.

The view to which I subscribe, which I would classify in
this respect as Randian, neo-Aristotelian, or “Objectivist,” is
that Identity is a fundamental attribute not of Consciousness as
such, but of an Existing Entity, whether or not a soul/ego/mind
chooses to perform an act of identification of that Entity. This
is my understanding of what Identity means: that the thingness of
a thing is not only that it exists independent of our senses, but
that each entity has a specific nature, with specific attributes
and features, that makes it what it is independent of our senses.
Whether or not a soul/ego/mind is part of existence itself is
moot: in either case, a soul/ego/mind may impose an attribute on
a thing, and thereafter that attribute is an attribute of the
thing itself: something which can be observed, by that or any
other soul/ego/mind, as an objective attribute of that imposed-
upon entity.

Continuing: if an entity has within its nature specific
attributes that are its identity, then either:

(I) One or more of those attributes can be observed in or
duplicated onto another entity, making them in that respect
identical; or

(II) An attribute cannot exist twice or more, or be
duplicated: no two things could share any attribute, and
therefore each existent would be in all respects a different
entity from every other existent.

Since, obviously, (II) reduces to epistemological absurdity
instantly (if no attributes may be duplicated or shared, we would
have no way of inducing universal concepts from reality at all),
then logically an attribute, or attributes, can be duplicated.
And if all attributes are duplicated, we now have two existents
which are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing: two
separate existents are in the respect under consideration, the
same entity. They are identical.

Some corollary premises follow:

Corollary One: There are fundamentally two things a
consciousness can do with an entity: observe it, inducing
universals which construct percepts and build into concepts; or,
it can impose new attributes in that entity.

Corollary Two: If a new attribute is imposed on a thing,
that thing, in that respect, is different from the way it was
before.

Corollary Three: If a new attribute imposed on an entity
changes the fundamental nature of an entity, it becomes a new
entity entirely.

Corollary Four: In the case that a particular attribute, or
set of particular attributes, defines what a thing is, that
attribute or attributes define what is the thing itself: they are
that entity’s identity.

Corollary Five: Impose this identity on a thing, it becomes
an entity of that identity: a thing of that type. Remove that
identity, it is no longer that thing.

Now the metaphysical question on which answer my logoright
position will later rest: Are two separately existing Entities,
sharing the exact same Identity, (A) identical in themselves (that
is, metaphysically the same Entity, though observably not the
same Existent, since each exists apart from the other), or (B) not
identical in themselves but identical only to the consciousness
that perceives them.

I see the answer is necessarily (A), for the same reason
that I rejected the view that an attribute can’t exist twice or
be duplicated: if no two existents can share any attribute, and
therefore each existent is in all respects a different entity
from every other existent, then we would have no way of inducing
universal concepts from reality at all: epistemology itself, by
failing to answer the problem of universals, would reduce to
chaotic absurdity.

I also believe that answering (B) at this point, even
starting with Objectivist premises, makes one, for all practical
intents and purposes that follow on this question, either a
Platonist or a Nominalist. That may be all well and good when
discussing realities beyond our experience, but it is to the
“neo-Aristotelians” or “Objectivists” that I will be directing
the remainder of my argumentation, for I believe that regarding
the universe we find ourselves within as anything less than real
leads one quickly to a philosophical discussion suited only to
the Afterlife … which is where denying everyday reality
delivers one rather quickly.

“Natural Rights and Property Rights”

Natural rights and property rights theory has a long history
of development, but it is my purpose here to define natural and
property rights then move on, not trace their history.

And, the best short definition of natural rights and
property rights I can give you is to be found in five paragraphs
from Ayn Rand’s essay, “Man’s Rights,” in the book THE VIRTUE OF
SELFISHNESS–Copyright 1963 by The Objectivist Newsletter, Inc.,
and reproduced here under the Doctrine of Fair Usage:

“A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action–which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

“The concept of a ‘right’ pertains only to action– specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

“Thus, for every individual, a right is a moral sanction of a positive–of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations of them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

“The right to life is the source of all rights–and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

“Bear in mind that the right to a property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”

Now, Rand uses two phrases in the section I just quoted
which give us the beginnings of what property is and how it comes
about. So I’ll focus on these then expand on them in detail.

The first phrase, when interpolated slightly, is: the
product of a man’s effort.

The second phrase is: material values which are gained,
kept, used, and disposed of.

And these two phrases lead us right into the discussion of
what property is and how it comes into existence.

“The Creation of Property”

What does it mean to say that property is the product of a
man’s–or using a word I prefer, a Person’s–effort?

Do we mean property is that which a Person “creates”?

If so, we need a concept of “creation.”

We are told, by physicists and chemists, that we live in a
universe where matter and energy can be neither created nor
destroyed, but only changed. This change may include the
transformation of matter into energy–or theoretically energy
into matter–but existence does not allow us the possibility of
creation ex nihilo–out of nothingness.

If we start with this premise then it becomes curious–at
the very least–how human beings have talked casually for quite
some time about how anybody “creates” anything.

Why do we speak of engineers “building,” musicians
“composing,” architects “designing?” Each of these speaks of
people, by their actions, bringing into existence something that
wasn’t there before.

Here’s where the concept of logos comes into play again.

Creation is a Person’s action which imposes that Person’s
logos on something which exists to give that thing a unique
identity it did not previously have.

The fundamental act of creation is the act of patterning a
logos on something: patterning notes into a musical composition,
patterning words into a novel, patterning bits into computer
software, patterning ink into a blueprint, patterning steel into
an automobile, patterning images and sound into a movie,
patterning furrows into a farm, patterning flour, water, and
yeast into bread.

There are, of course, questions about greater and lesser
orders of logos that can be brought up now. But I am not arguing
that every act of creation is on an existent that previously had
no identity at all. I am merely saying that the act of creation
is the act of imposing an aspect of a Person’s identity–a
logos–on something to give that object an identity it did not
previously have.

“The Thermodynamic Paradigm”

As a paradigm, but one which I think is useful only in
proper context, let’s consider creation in thermodynamic terms as
a localized and continuing lowering of entropy.

Entropy is that universal process which takes things from a
state of greater improbabilities to a state of lesser
improbabilities–commonly thought of as the decay of order into
chaos.

Creation–the act of imposing on natural objects a logos not
naturally found–is the act of moving things from a state of
lesser improbabilities to a state of greater improbabilities.

Some specific examples: iron and carbon are both elements
found in nature–in fact, iron ore can contain carbon in large
amounts. But steel–which requires the combining of a specific
ratio of iron to carbon at specific temperatures for specific
spans of time–is rarely if ever produced by the automatic
processes of nature.

If you make iron and carbon into steel, the resulting
substance is much less probable–therefore it is tempting to use
the language of thermodynamics and say that an act of taking iron
and carbon and creating steel is lowering the entropy of that
iron and carbon. If you take that steel, and press it into
rectangular sheets of even thickness, length, and width, the
result is even less probable–therefore it is tempting to say
that the act of finding steel and creating sheet metal out of it
is lowering the entropy of that steel.

And, if you take that sheet metal, form it into the body of
an automobile, and paint it so the steel doesn’t rust, the result
is less probable still, and it is tempting to say that the act of
taking sheet metal and creating painted auto bodies is lowering
the entropy of that sheet metal.

One should resist the temptation. Taking the “lowering
entropy” argument too far into the area of physical
thermodynamics runs one quickly into problems of both fact and
theory; the comparative “entropy levels” of a car, a piece of
junk, and a chunk of ore are incalculable. Nevertheless, I
believe the “entropic” paradigm of regarding creation as a
“calculable increase in improbability” is sound within the
context of information theory, where one discusses the “entropy”
of a signal; and, in fact, I’m told there are existing formulas,
used by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), to
calculate the “improbabilities” of a signal being a “natural”
occurence as opposed to being artifically generated
“information.”

Unless one accepts a “Watchmaker” argument about the
creation of Earth–that in fact what we believe to be nature is
in fact the artifice of an earlier Creator–bridges are less
probable than rivers, symphonies are less probable than bird-
songs, and houses are less probable than caves. But regardless
of whether the Watchmaker under discussion is mortal or deity,
engineers, composers, and architects each make their surroundings
more improbable of existing than it would be without their
intervention.

For example, scientists know that Mars has water, so a
Martian river isn’t all that improbable; but photographic
evidence of an artifically constructed bridge across such a
Martian river would double the number of planets in the universe
which we would know to have hosted intelligent life … likely to
be, even without cynicism, one of the most improbable things
found.

Specifically, then, creation is the act of patterning less
improbable substances and objects to produce things more
improbable of having resulted from the automatic processes of
nature.

“Defining Property”

Now, the only sort of creation we’re concerned with in this
discussion is the creation of property–and we find that “things
rarely if ever produced by the automatic processes of nature” is
a good jumping off point for defining property.

What we may, in one sense then, define property as is: that
which a Person makes improbable enough to be generally recognized
as an “artifact.”

If you then compare this definition with the two phrases
drawn from Rand–the product of a man’s effort and material
values which are gained, kept, used, and disposed of–you find no
contradictions and a good deal of implied overlap.

Now I want to focus on Rand’s phrase “material value” long
enough to point out the following: Rand’s definition of “value”
is “that which one acts to gain or keep” and a material value
would by her definition be “something material which one acts to
gain or keep.”

Since the question of materiality is one which will come up
again later, I wish to point out that Rand’s use of the word
material in this context did not prevent her from referring to as
property things not comprised of matter such as radio
frequencies, in her essay “The Property Status of Airwaves” in
CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL or patents and copyrights in
“Patents and Copyrights,” her very next essay in that book.

Before I leave the area of defining property, I wish to
bring out what libertarian property theoretician Robert LeFevre
used for his tests in his book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF OWNERSHIP.

LeFevre asked three questions:

First, is that which is said to be property claimed by
someone?

Second, does that which is said to be property have boundary
limits?

And third, is that which is said to be property under an
owner’s control?

And these lead us to the next discussion necessary before we
get to logorights:

“Establishing and Using Property Rights”

Let me quote once more Rand’s statement on property rights:

“Bear in mind that the right to a property is a right to
action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object,
but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning
that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any
property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns
it.”

Therefore, a property right by its very nature refers to an
action with respect to a property.

The question arising in the establishment of property rights
is: what actions are required to gain rights with respect to that
property?

And, the definitions of property we’ve already discussed
provide (in no particular order) the following answers to the
establishment of property rights:

That which is to be your property must be valued–that is,
you must act to gain or keep it.

That which is valued as your property must be claimed as
property–that is, it must be publicly available knowledge that
you are declaring it your property.

That which is being claimed as property must in some sense
be a product of human effort. It must be created–that is, a
Person must take it from a state of lesser improbability to a
state of greater improbability.

The claim to the property must be defined within observable
boundary limits.

And, the property must be subject to the control of the
person claiming it.

The question arising once property rights have been
established are: what actions is the owner permitted respecting
that property?

And, the question of what actions the owner is permitted
respecting that property are dependent on the question: what
rights specifically does the owner have in this property?

The best way to show the import of this is to give some
examples:

Do I have the right to build a house on this lot and live in
it?

Do I have the right to raze the building on the next lot
over and build a three-car garage?

Do I have the exclusive right to use this driveway, or is
there a public right-of-way?

Do I have the right to eat this sandwich?

Do I have the right to divert this stream so the water
doesn’t flow to the next parcel of land?

Do I have the right to broadcast radio signals on a certain
frequency, at a certain power output, from a certain location,
during certain times of the day?

Do I have the right to take this book home from the
bookstore–and what may I do with it when I get it home?

Note than none of these actions requires the property itself
to be anything: the property right–being a statement referring
to the definitions of moral action–adheres not to the property,
but to the owner and actions that owner may or may not take with
respect to that property.

One last set of property rights concepts, and then we’ll be
ready to discuss logorights.

“Exclusive Use, Consumption, Bundles of Rights, and Properties”

From the instant a property is created and claimed by a
Person, all rights to that property are held by that Person–who
I’ll refer to as the property’s First Owner.

Since property results from an act of creation, it should
come as no surprise that the answer to the question of what an
owner of may do to a property includes its consumption.
Ultimately, an owner may exercise property rights to the complete
destruction of that property, without the consent of anyone who
does not share rights in that property.

Again using a thermodynamic paradigm, it would be tempting
to say that the entire process of owning property begins with a
lowering of its entropy, continues with maintaining its entropy
at a level relatively lower than that of the natural substances
from which it is made, and ends with consuming that property
until its entropy is as high as the condition in which its First
Owner found it–at which point it is consumed entirely and ceases
to be property as such.

What ownership of a property means is that all rights to
exploit, consume, keep unconsumed, control, destroy, trade, or
otherwise decide the ultimate disposition of a property may be
made by its owner without sharing the decisions regarding the
property–or its benefits–with anyone else.

That property–by its very nature–is owned to the exclusion
of all non-owners: any use of that property by anyone other than
the owner requires the owner’s permission.

When an owner creates a property, that property is totally
and exclusively its owner’s.

Here we have the necessity of property rights to begin with:
the origin of property rights stems from the need of adjudicating
conflicting claims about the exclusive use of something.

Since a property can only be owned exclusively, property
rights are the means of determining who holds the exclusive claim
on that property.

Utilitarians argue that these claims should be adjudicated
for the benefit of society as a whole: “the greatest good for the
greatest number.” The utilitarian premise is at the base of all
non-theistic political systems: democracy, republicanism,
communism, fascism, socialism, national socialism, and
militarism. Even the worst dictator claims to act in the best
interests of “the people” or “the will of the blood” or “the
proletariat” or “the folk.”

Libertarians, on the other hand, say that property rights
adhere not to society but to the individual Person, arising out
of the specific nature of humans having to control their material
environment in order to survive as rational beings. To survive,
a human being must be able to control the environment–that human
being’s domain. To control that domain, the human being must
identify the nature of each existent in the environment, and
arrange them all in such patterns that they contribute to the
purposes of survival and well-being.

Since the right to pursue survival and well-being is
distributed universally, no good or utility to one person or
group can be greater than the good or utility of any other person
or group. There is no possible “calculus” of good that can say
that one person’s or group’s rights outweigh another’s; a right
is a moral absolute allowing no exceptions or head-counting.

The necessity of property being, by nature, exclusive stems
from the necessity of dedicating an object to a specific
function–giving it a form to perform that function–and having
some security that the form to perform that function will not be
interfered with by someone else.

And, this is precisely what the act of creating a property
is: the act of imposing a new form on something found in a more
probable condition to dedicate it to a function that is highly
improbable of being performed without that imposition.

The creation of property, therefore, is an act necessary to
human survival–and as such the requirements of our survival as
human beings sanction our taking those actions, and those
sanctions are called rights.

Now, because the first ownership of any given property is
total and exclusive ownership, the owner can dispose of the
property in any fashion that owner sees fit.

The owner can choose to abandon the property–in which case
it reverts to a state of not being owned anymore.

The owner can choose to sell the property.

The owner can choose to break up the property into smaller
parts, and sell those parts.

The owner can turn it into junk–then call the junk art.

Switching context to the first definition of “property”
found in WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY–”a quality or trait
belonging to and especially peculiar to an individual or thing”–
it is correct to say that this property consists also of its
constituent “properties.”

And we can see from this first definition how use of the
word “property” as something belonging to an owner came about:
that which was owned was thought of as a quality or trait–a
“property” in the first definition–of the owner itself.

Therefore, it is etymologically correct to refer to each
property–each quality or trait adhering to that which is owned
as a whole–as a property as well.

This leads us to the additional possibility that an owner
may choose to break the property down into its constituent
properties–that is, each of the various qualities or traits
adhering to the property as a whole–and sell, as a separate
property, the right to exploit that quality or trait.

When this is done, a property is said to be made up of a
bundle of rights which are then broken into distinct and
separable rights–each separate right referring to a separate
action that can be taken with respect to the property in
question.

Two cases showing how “bundles of rights” are dealt with in
respect to land use will illustrate this.

First case:

If I own a parcel of land outright, then I own all the
rights–the entire “bundle”–in that parcel of land, and I may
exercise any and all of those rights as I see fit.

As I’ve said, this is the situation enjoyed by a property’s
First Owner or creator.

Second case:

However–and this is a big however: a previous owner may
have broken up the bundle of rights on her parcel of land–the
bundle of rightful actions that may be taken with respect to that
land–and sold me only the single right to build a house on that
land. The right to dig a coal mine there can be owned by someone
else.

In this case, then, the rights to the various actions that
can be taken with respect to it have been divided up by quality
or trait among more than one owner–and the owner of each
particular property right must exercise that right in such a way
that it does not interfere with rights held by other rights-
holders.

The various discrete properties taken from the original
property are still owned exclusively–but the original property
itself is no longer under the exclusive domain of a single owner.

We are now ready to ask whether there are, in fact, property
rights in logos–whether logorights can be property.

“Does Logoright Exist?”

Earlier in this discussion, I referred to the necessity of
imposing a logos on material objects as a precondition to
creating them as property.

That is not the question under discussion.

Having established that an object receiving an imprint from
a Person’s logos becomes that Person’s property–has it been
established as well that the logos which the Person is imposing
also can be owned as a separate property?

The answer is yes.

Here’s how it happens.

When a logos is imposed on matter, creating a new property,
the logos becomes a material quality of the property it is
imposed upon. Simultaneous with the creation of a new property,
the logos becomes the trait of that property to display the logos
itself, which includes the possibility that the logos can be
copied onto other matter and make that property as well.

Starting from the creation of a new property, the First
Owner has total and exclusive ownership of that property and all
its different parts, qualities, and traits: all its different
properties.

One of the properties included in this total ownership of
the created property is therefore the logos itself.

Consequently, if the First Owner–or any subsequent owner of
the total property–decides to break the property into bundles of
rights–and maintain ownership of some of those rights while
selling others–this is perfectly within that owner’s
prerogatives.

Now, this next point is crucial:

Placing any restrictions on how the owner may dispose of the
property–or its constituent properties–would deprive that owner
of the exclusive and total ownership which belongs to a first
owner.

You cannot attack the rights of a total owner to divide up
rights to that property without destroying the concept of
property being exclusively that owner’s.

And, a property right not exclusively owned is not a
property right at all.

Once the property is broken up into separate properties–
each property requiring a separate right to exploit that quality
or aspect–each property right from the original bundle of rights
can be traded separately.

Remember: rights–being moral sanctions of what action a
Person may take with respect to a property–adhere not to the
property itself, but to the owner.

If you declare that property rights are inherent in the
property rather than in the owner, then you are reduced to the
absurdity of saying that property–apart from the actions of its
owner–is capable of committing moral or immoral acts.

Thus, is is perfectly within the prerogatives of that owner
to maintain ownership to the rights in the logos–the
logorights–in that property, by valuing it, claiming it,
defending its boundaries, and continuing to control it.

“Four Tests of Property”

Let’s take those four points one at a time.

First. Is the logoright of value?

Yes. Remember Rand’s definition of value: that which one
acts to gain or keep.

The owner has either created the logos–thus demonstrating
that it is something worth gaining–or the owner maintains
ownership in it–thus demonstrating that the logoright is
something worth keeping.

If you say the logos doesn’t have value, then why does
imposing a logos on two dollars worth of computer diskettes make
them several-dollars worth of software?

A blank diskette and a diskette with a logos of information
on it are two separate goods with two separate qualities: two
different properties which can easily be told apart.

Perhaps you can’t tell those diskettes apart by looking at
them, but my computer surely can: if I stick in one diskette with
a certain logos of information on it, the computer’s display
gives me an OPENING MENU. When I stick in a blank diskette–
otherwise identical–it says: NOT A VALID SYSTEM DISK.

And if a logos has no value as a separate property from that
object which it is imposed upon, why would you be upset it you
brought home the book you thought was ATLAS SHRUGGED and found
that the first sentence was not, “Who is John Galt?”

To state the principle explicitly:

If a logos has no value in itself, then removing it from the
objects on which it is found should make no difference in the
values found in those objects.

As a corollary: the value of the logos is demonstrated by
removing it from an object and seeing whether that object is
valued as a separate good or commodity.

Second. Does the owner claim the logoright?

Yes: and here’s where the term copyright may be used exactly
for once.

Copyright is a claim of a logoright–and the claim is made
by embedding what is called a “Copyright Notice” onto the logos
being claimed–putting anyone finding that logos on notice that
the property rights in logos are owned and not open for a new
claimant.

The nearest equivalent in common law requires the posting of
No Trespassing signs on land if you wish to preserve the
exclusivity of your property rights to prevent the land from
lapsing into being a public thoroughfare.

I might also add at this point that registration of the
copyright is the exact equivalent to the registration of the deed
on a piece of land: a formal recorded proof that the property
rights are claimed as of a certain date by a certain owner.

Such registration, of course, need not be with a State, but
merely with a person, company, or organization generally trusted
to maintain such records.

As an example of private copyright registration: the Writers
Guild of America maintains an office for depositing copies of
screenplays and screen treatments as proof that a certain person
had possession of it on a certain date. Such proof is commonly
used in private arbitrations, performed by the Writer’s Guild,
regarding disputes over rights and credits.

Third. Can the owner of the logoright ascertain the
boundaries of her property rights–that is, are there limits to
that which is being claimed?

The answer to boundaries–limits–on a logos is again “yes.”
But–and this is a crucial point to be understood–limits always
are dependent on the nature of the property right being claimed.

When one speaks of boundaries of property rights in land,
one speaks of dimensions of area.

When one speaks of property right boundaries in the radio
spectrum, complaining that there are no boundaries of an
electromagnetic wave’s area would be meaningless: in defining the
limits of that kind of property, one rightly speaks of limits in
an electromagnetic wave’s amplitude and frequency.

And, when one speaks of the property boundaries on a logos,
one speaks of the limits of identity, the signal of which is
defined and limited by the principles of information theory, and
the content of such signal which must be defined by each use to
which the information can be put.

In discussing the identity of a logos as a signal, one
discusses its limits and boundaries in terms of the minimum
number of informational bits necessary to identify that logos as
a distinct creation, the resolution of a logos, the threshold of
predictability of that logos as against background noise, and
other criteria commonly used in dealing with information storage
and transmission.

In discussing the identity of the logos as content, one must
make a metaphysical argument. Since by definition, each logos
has a specific informational identity that differentiates, binds,
and delimits its nature–the qualities and traits through which
it is capable of being exploited–the boundary limits here are
set by its identity itself.

Now, I can anticipate the following question at this point:
Since a logos can be copied infinitely without depriving the
owner of the original, how can you say that a logos is a scarce
resource and therefore an economic good?

The first answer here is: The scarcity of a logos is a
function of its being, like all other kinds of property, a
product of human effort. Someone had to put work–the scarce
resource of human labor–into the production of the logos in the
first place–and storing that labor in a recorded form–
patterning the logos into a material object as a material value–
constitutes the creation of a scarce good–a property.

But the answer here that I prefer to give is: if this logos
is so damned unlimited as not to be an economic object–then why
do you want to reproduce mine?

The limits on this kind of good are not drawn by its
infinite ability to replicate itself, which is a way in which the
logos is not limited. However, just as property rights in the
radio spectrum are not limited by area but by amplitude and
frequency, the limits on logoright are not to be found in its
ability to be infinitely reproduced, but in the finite identity
to be exploited for its qualities and traits that distinguish any
given logos from any other logos.

In terms used by economists, when defining the scarcity of a
logos we must look to limits of horizontal competition between
different kinds of goods, rather than to the limits of vertical
competition within a kind of good.

The fourth and last test: does the logoright’s owner control
the logoright?

Most definitely, in three ways:

The owner of a logos controls property rights in that logos
by maintaining ownership of the logoright and “licensing”–that
is, leasing–the various rights.

The owner of a logos, through limiting the license to
reproduce the logos, is preserving the integrity of that logos.

And, the owner of a logos is using that logos as a
producer’s good to create consumer’s goods.

You hear libertarians speak a lot about human rights and
property rights–but what I’m most used to hearing about–as a
working writer–are primary rights and subsidiary rights:
hardcover rights, trade paperback rights, mass-market paperback
rights, electronic rights, first serial rights, transcription
rights, character rights, story rights, merchandising rights,
dramatic rights, movie rights, episodic TV rights, live TV
rights, radio rights, English rights, and foreign language
rights.

Each of these is a separate right in the bundle of rights
created with the original property–a separate action to be
performed by using the logos–and each one can be sold or
licensed separately as the logoright owner wishes.

“If A Thing Can Be Copied, Then It’s a Thing”

Traditional arguments against copyright have begun by asking
how one is depriving a person of her property by copying it and
using the copy, since presumably the owner still has the
original.

I submit that the first question is not whether someone’s
rights are being violated by copying but whether, in fact,
anything exists which can be copied.

If a human being isn’t performing an act of creation by
imposing an identity on an existent making it a new entity, then
there is literally no thing which can be copied in the first
place. If there is something distinct and observable which can
be copied, the case for it having been newly created by someone
is already made, and–to the propertarian who already believes
that that which is newly created is the property of its creator–
the case for exclusive property rights in that new thing follow
directly upon the self-evident axiom of property identity.

Conversely, if there is no identity to speak of, then there
is nothing there to be copied that is distinguishable from
anything else, and there is no question to debate at all. The
pro-unlimited-copying case bites its own tail in saying that that
which may be copied without limit does not exist at all, and
therefore the argument reduces itself to absurdity.

The rule by which one recognizes an axiom is that if denying
something logically requires that itself which is being denied,
then that which is being denied is self-evident. Therefore, the
pro-unlimited-copying case just reaffirms the axiomatic nature of
the material identity of that which is being copied as a distinct
entity–material identity being the definition of a logos which I
presented earlier in this article. Denying the very existence of
material identity as a distinguishable property of a thing leaves
no Distinguishing Property to debate further.

Since That which one Creates, Owns, Consumes, Buys, and
Sells is an Entity, not merely an Existent, then it is irrelevant
that the Identity (thingness, if you will) can be observed in or
duplicated onto more than one Material Existent. What a Creator
Creates, what an Owner Owns, is an Entity (including that
Entity’s Identity) and it is a reductionist argument to a thing’s
materiality as an existent, rather than its being an entity
having identity, to deny ownership because more than one existent
is involved.

The “lack of scarcity” argument fails in not recognizing
that the scarcity, on which the concepts of property
and economics rest, refer to the scarcity of an entity qua its
identity: it is scarce by being limited to its identity. It can
be no other. That an entity can be in or on more than one
existent is irrelevent to the questions of ownership.

When it comes to questions of identity, the copy IS the
original; an entity is an entity: A is A.

One may wish, at this point, to expand the discussion to
entities which are similar but not exactly identical, and put
forward the position that each copy is a different entity as well
as a different existent.

The discussion would then have to continue to take in
boundary effects and threshhold limits of which attributes define
an entity and which do not, but the principle would remain
intact. Such boundary problems and threshhold effects relate to
all questions of ownership and property–otherwise shining a
flashlight onto someone’s lawn could be considered, on the face
of it, photon invasion of that property. Obviously whether
damage is or is not done to the lawn has to be asked at some
point: this is what I mean by boundary limits and threshhold
effects.

It strikes me that the clearest illustration I can give that
property rights are dependent on a thing’s identity, not merely
on its material existence, is the following question: have I
violated your property rights if I pulverize your car, but leave
you in possession of every microgram of dust?

Answering no defeats one’s argument by reducing to
absurdity.

But if one answers yes, then what one is claiming ownership
of was a thing–an entity–and one must claim that by removing
the identity of that thing I have violated one’s property rights.
This concedes that property rights are bound to the identity, as
well as the mere existence, of a property, and if this is so,
then does it not follow that the ownership of that property’s
identity is as exclusive to its owner as everything else about
it?

Thus, to a propertarian, my logoright case is proved by the
Law of Identity alone, regardless of whether my further
theorizing regarding a thermodynamic model of property-creation
furthers my case or does not.

“Refinements and Objections”

This next section will treat some of the objections to
logoright that were brought out both during and after the debate
for which this article was originally written, and refine the
concept to demonstrate how these objections do not invalidate it.

Objection One: A logos is nothing tangible; it is an idea
and therefore not capable of being owned.

Answer: I am answering an objection usually brought against
copyrights and patents because these have been defined as the
products of ideas, and defended with the concept of “intellectual
property.”

But the theory of logorights as presented herein does not
treat logos as being a product of an idea: it is treated simply
in terms of information which is observable in material form.

“Information”–as a term used in information theory–does
not require that which is being dealt with as information to have
meaning or purpose; it need only perform a function. Information
is a mathematical, rather than a teleological, concept.

As such–speaking colloquially–we’re in a whole new
ballgame when discussing a concept of property rights in logos,
which is a discussion not of “intellectual property” but of
“informational property.”

Objection Two: By saying that only the owner of a logoright
is entitled to the profits from making a copy, aren’t you denying
the profits accruing to the labor of those who copy it?

Answer: Not at all. Copying a logos is a separate act from
creating a logos, and must be compensated separately. If I write
a logos on a manuscript, I must pay someone if I am to be
entitled to their labor in copying it–and if they copy it onto
their own materials, I must pay for that, too. This happens
every time a manuscript is taken to a quick printing store to
make copies.

However, the question really being asked is: doesn’t the
labor of copying something entitle someone to the rights accruing
to the ownership of the logos?

And the answer to that question is a clear no. That labor
is involved in copying something makes no statement and produces
no claim over someone else’s property.

If it did, the labor used in stealing a car could be used as
a case for transfer of property rights in that car.

Property rights must be determined first, then and only then
do questions about the profits accruing to labor done on or with
that property arise.

The most exact analogy here to the taking of a property,
applying labor, and producing additional properties is that of a
factory–let’s say for simplicity that it’s an automobile
factory.

The factory as a property is a “producer’s” good, and it is
owned by whoever created that factory or the owner’s market
descendants. Workers come into the factory and–applying their
labor on new materials using that factory–produce the consumer’s
good of the automobile.

Would one therefore conclude that the workers own the
automobiles they are producing?

If you say that, then you are back to “labor theory of
value” and discount the necessity of capital in the production of
goods.

Even if the workers were bringing their own raw materials
into the factory and producing automobiles, this would not be
sufficient to establish their titles over the produced
automobiles: it would first have to be established that they had
the right to use the factory as a producer’s good.

Likewise, the logos is a producer’s good for which the
rights must be obtained before it may be used to create
additional goods–whether those goods are additional producer’s
goods or consumer’s goods.

Objection Three: How can you say that a logos is a separate
property since it can be imposed on someone else’s property?

Answer: the same way that a house can be a separate property
from the land it is on.

Objection Four: What about two or more people who come up
with the same invention or story independently? Who owns the
logos then?

Answer: As I’ve discussed earlier, creation means the taking
of something from a state of greater probability to a state of
lesser probability.

To the extent which a given logos of invention or story can
be produced independently more than once, to that extent the
probability is still great enough to question whether an act of
creation has been performed at all.

One of the objections brought against copyrights and patents
can be dealt with this way: that a person being sued for
infringing on a previous copyright or patent has had the burden
of proof in demonstrating that their story or invention is a
separate and distinct creation from that which they’re accused of
infringing.

Here is precisely a case where information theory provides
answers to definitional problems that previous theories were
unable to deal with.

By using a process of correlation of the information in each
logos, one can find out precisely how much overlap exists between
them.

Only if the correlation is proven by the petitioner to be
significant enough to warrant a charge of copy infringement would
independent creation have to be established as a defense by a
respondent. If the respondent succeeds in demonstrating
independent creation, then the petitioner’s original “creation”
wasn’t inherently improbable, therefore questionable as a unique
creation–and therefore possibly not property at all–for either
of them.

In a practical sense, however, I think twin logoses of
sufficient complexity and resolution to be considered created
property at all are about as likely as a million monkeys typing
for a million years and producing the play Hamlet.

Objection Five. What about a case where a randomly
generated logos is found and claimed as property? Has an act of
creation taken place? Can there be property rights in something
randomly or accidentally produced?

Answer: Any given logos–to be considered a logos at
all–must be, in some sense, unique. The shape of a blade of
grass is neither complex enough nor uncommon enough to qualify as
a logos. Where a unique array has been produced by random or
natural processes–and a person decides, for whatever reasons–
that it is worth preserving, it is the act of preserving that
array that is the essential act of “increasing improbabilities”
which is the definition used herein for the creation of a logos.

Objection Six. What about a person who copies a logos
accidentally? Isn’t that person potentially a victim of the
owner of the logoright?

Answer: this case is exactly equivalent of an accidental
trespasser on someone’s land.

In common law decisions, it has been determined that land
must be clearly posted with No Trespassing signs to remove the
liabilities involved in a trespasser coming to harm on your land.

The “Copyright Notice” is prominently placed on a logos for
the same reason: to warn trespassers that they are responsible
for their own liabilities if they violate the owner’s property
rights.

Objection Seven. Isn’t the “Doctrine of Fair Usage” you
relied on before an admission that the exact point at which using
a logos becomes a property violation can’t be determined
objectively?

Answer: No.

The “Doctrine of Fair Usage” is a legal definition in use
under current–and admittedly statist–copyright laws.

It is a utilitarian decision that says that so long as the
use of part of a copyrighted work is educational or isn’t a
significant enough part to adversely affect the market value of
that work, it will be considered that the property owner is going
to allow this as a courtesy to the public–whether that owner
likes it or not.

Nevertheless, the utilitarian basis of this decision does
overlap similar common law decisions regarding courtesies and
rights of access in private lands–which is also a utilitarian
decision.

As a strict propertarian, I would have to say that the use
of the smallest identifiable part of a logos–that is,
identifiable by an objective process such as correlation–
requires its owner’s consent.

However, as the owner of a number of logoses, myself, I am
willing to allow “fair usage” as a general courtesy to the
public, which includes many logos owners some of whom have
logorights not protected by the State, and I am presuming–until
otherwise challenged by a particular logos owner–that such
courtesy is also being granted to me.

I do, of course, risk having to pay restitution if my
assumption of reciprocal courtesy turns out to be mistaken.

Objection Eight. Doesn’t a logoright restrict the contents
of a person’s mind? Are you going to say a logos can’t be
memorized–that is, the logos imposed on a human brain? Are you
going to then say that a person can’t use the memorized contents
of her own mind in any way she sees fit–including the imposition
of it on matter?

Answer: Assuming that the logos can be taken intact into a
human brain, then that copy of the logos has been swallowed by
that person–in the same way that if I take a diamond and swallow
it, that diamond ceases to exist as recoverable property while it
is in my stomach.

In neither case would someone have a right to violate the
boundaries of that person’s sphere of self-ownership to retrieve
either the swallowed diamond or the swallowed logos.

However, swallowing someone else’s property does not
constitute a transfer of property rights, which–being a
statement of morally permissible action relating to a property–
attach not to that property but to the owner.

Swallowing someone else’s property does not constitute in
itself a transfer of property rights to that property, even
though the owner of the swallowed property may not invade you to
retrieve it.

Moreover, if while that logos resides within you it
stimulates better digestion–that it, aids you in creative
efforts of your own–then that good digestion is yours to keep,
regardless of whatever rights the logos’s owner may have in the
logos itself.

But if the person who swallowed the logos reimposes that
logos on outside matter–if the person redraws the blueprint from
memory or retypes the novel from memory or reproduces an
invention from memory–then the logos to be found in matter must
still be regarded as the property of the logoright’s owner: in
essence, the person reproducing the logos without obtaining the
rights has just regurgitated or passed the diamond again, and the
true owner has the right to demand that her property be returned.

Objection Nine. What about the reenactment or performance
of a logos–such as singing in my shower? Since I am not copying
or reimposing on matter that logos, how can I be said to be
violating the logos owner’s rights?

Answer: Logoright is not, per se, copyright–restricting
only the right to copy onto matter. Logoright refers to any use
of a logos, each use of which is a separate right in the bundle
of rights created with the logos.

Again: “right” refers to an action which a person may or my
not take with respect to a property.

The right to reenact or perform a logos is a use of that
logos, and often–such as with live performances of musical
compositions or plays–the rightful use must be licensed from the
logos owner.

However, in all the cases of copyright I have ever heard
about, I have never heard of someone being successfully sued for
singing someone else’s song in the shower. Presumably this is
not a public performance?

I suspect the absence of such case law would survive the
demise of the State and its copyright laws, to a society which
recognizes and enforces the concept of logoright.

Objection Ten. Isn’t it a historical fact that as soon as
printing presses were invented kings began handing out copyright
protection? Isn’t this proof that copyright has always been
nothing more than another grant of monopoly by the State, and a
privilege that is dependent on the State for its existence? Even
today, isn’t it the existence of copyright laws itself that has
led to the domination of publishing by a few oligopolies?
Doesn’t a value-free analysis of the publishing market
demonstrate that eliminating copyrights wouldn’t affect authors
much since (a) most books published are for the first time and
(b) an author’s royalties are only a small percentage of the
price of a book? Since most of the income an author receives
comes up front as an “advance,” isn’t it true that an outright
sale from an author to a publisher wouldn’t make much difference
to the author anyway?

Answer: These arguments were raised by Samuel E. Konkin III
in an article titled “Copywrongs,” published in a magazine titled
THE VOLUNTARYIST in the year following the debate that sparked
this article. Since the editor of THE VOLUNTARYIST at the time
was Wendy McElroy, who was the other half of this debate, I took
her commissioning of Konkin to write on this subject as a
reaction to my presentation. Since Konkin is a long-time
libertarian ally, and one with whom I have usually sided on most
issues, I found it worthwhile to write a response to his article.
THE VOLUNTARYIST did not, however, see fit to print my response.
Some of the more general arguments contained in my unpublished
reply to Konkin have been incorporated into this version above;
the segment that I include here deals directly with Konkin’s
arguments, and I’ve eliminated duplication of text used elsewhere
in this article. I’ve also updated my reply as necessary. Those
wishing a copy of the original “Copywrongs” article can obtain it
from Samuel Edward Konkin III, P.O. Box 1748, Long Beach, CA
90801.

Herewith my reply to Konkin’s “Copywrongs”:

“To start off with, I am dubious regarding the usefulness of
concentrating on a value-free or even value-laden analysis of
copyright until a factual metaphysical question is settled: is
that which copyright protects with the status of property rights
something which actually exists, or is it, at best, a delusion
and, at worst, a vicious fraud? …

“Of course Sam did say that ‘The point of all this vulgar
praxeology is not just to clear the way for the moral question.
The market (praise be) is telling us something. After all, both
market human action and morality arise from the same Natural
Law.’

“And so I agree with Sam in principle, if not with his
application. The question is: what is the natural law here? The
answer is: the Law of Identity. …

“But even leaving this aside–if one can leave metaphysical
facts aside–Sam’s value-free economic case is standing on
quicksand, since he is arguing from empirical observation of
current market conditions–a dangerous thing for a libertarian to
do, since it can so easily be turned back against us.

“For example, we argue in libertarian theory that monopolies
can’t arise in a free market. A liberal then points to existing
monopolies. And we retort, ‘We don’t have a free market today to
point at–what you’re seeing is monopolies in a state-controlled
economy.’ And, Sam would have to agree that the market his
empirical case examines is state-controlled, since he’s arguing
that the current market is structured by, among other factors,
the current copyright laws.

“But, copyright is only one of the many ways the state has
intervened into the publishing industry. (I assert that the
effect is largely neutral as compared to a purely propertarian
marketplace since the state intervention roughly parallels the
actual property rights.) In the publishing industry, as in all
other industries, there has been endless non-copyright state
intervention: limited liability laws, anti-trust suits preventing
publishers from owning bookstores, labor laws creating union
shops, wartime paper rationing, interstate commerce regulations,
obscenity laws, tax laws, postal and shipping regulations, FCC
regulations, etc.

“I would therefore caution anti-copyright debaters of a
libertarian persuasion to be very hesitant at looking at any
current market condition and categorically asserting that any
particular factor, such as copyright, is the final cause of any
particular market end state, even though–in Sam’s observation
that most of that which is published today is for the first
time–I believe Sam has, in fact, shown a final cause which
destroys his own praxeological case.

“I would also caution anti-copyright libertarians against
assuming their conclusion in using anti-monopoly and ‘privilege’
rhetoric against copyright. Arguments against ‘monopoly
privilege’ in the exclusive ownership of a logos ignore the
fundamental difference between all property rights, which are
monopolistic in the sense of being held exclusively, and monopoly
practices, which are invasive.

“Moreover, that printing presses and state grants of
copyright protection arose at the same time in history is not
conclusive evidence that the state was not protecting that which
would be considered property in a stateless society anyway. It
is only circumstantial evidence of two events coinciding–a
‘coincidence.’ The same ‘argument from coincidence’ could be
used against any property right–proper or not–arising from new
technology under current state law. Since the state claims the
airwaves as ‘public property’ which as a ‘scarce resource’ is
licensed ‘in the public interest,’ are we likewise–by the
argument from coincidence–supposed to conclude that broadcast
frequencies are not potential property?

“But let me focus on Sam’s contention, at the foundation of
his economic case, that for Big Publishers, ‘royalties are a
fraction of one percent of multi-million press runs.’

“It just ain’t so. Let’s take, as an example, the 1986
Avon edition of my novel, THE RAINBOW CADENZA. The raw
manufacturing cost of each book–typesetting, printing, and
binding–was roughly $0.60. My royalty was 8% off a cover price
of $3.50. This is a royalty of $0.28 per book, or about 47%
added to publisher’s cost over manufacturing. Hardly negligible,
Sam.

“This is a base cost figure before they start figuring in
editorial salaries, commissioning cover art, office overhead,
advertising–all of which are start-up costs for an original
edition of a book in addition to buying ‘rights’ from the
author–before then calculating in markups to wholesalers,
shipping costs, percentage of returns, etc.

“Now, consider that without copyright protection–statist or
otherwise–four days after a book starts selling well (that’s all
it takes to manufacture and distribute an ‘instant book’) any
reprint publisher could come out with its own competing edition
of a book–at a huge discount since this publisher wouldn’t have
to pay any of the start-up costs: royalties, editorial salaries,
typesetting costs, commissioning cover art–anything other than
pure manufacturing and distributing costs. I expect that the
competitor’s copy edition could be put on the market for about
half the price of the original edition. The first publisher
would be stuck with all the risk and startup costs, then be
undersold by half by a competitor’s edition.

“In purely economic terms, what publisher would risk
investing in publishing a book knowing that if he or she hits it
lucky with a book anyone actually wants, everyone else will get a
much-lower-risk return on investment?

“The publishing industry would quickly become a game with
One Rule: Let George Do It. If you think a book might make
money, reject it. With luck, someone else (somebody real stupid)
will take the risk of publishing it first, and you can clean up
by knocking off a cheap reprint after it’s been developed and
market-tested at your competitor’s expense.

“Thus, all economic incentives would shift from being first
on the market with a product, to being second. Original
publishing would cease to be a profitable market at all. If, in
a market with copyrights, Sam sees the great majority of
publishing being first-time, and a much smaller amount being
reprint, then this statistical distribution is an effect of the
existence of copyright in the marketplace to begin with. Remove
this causative factor, making reprint publishing more profitable
than start-up publishing, and value-free deductive logic leads
directly to the conclusion that the reverse would be true:
reprint would be the rule, and original printing would be the
exception.

“This structure of publishing in a copyright-free market
would be that of a regressive industry, at first largely
parasitic on works created before the abolition of copyright
(unless we assume copyright never to have existed at all, in
which instance there is a case to be made that publishing never
would have become an industry at all) and later dependent for its
product on those persons not at all motivated by the desire to
make a livelihood out of authoring. What would be left to be
published would be the works of hobbyists, dilettantes,
psychological ‘flashers,’ and preachers. Perhaps this might
leave something worthwhile to be published–a work occasionally
by a J.R.R. Tolkien–but it would certainly never have produced a
Robert A. Heinlein, who started writing to pay off a mortgage.
Even the Tolkien case is questionable, considering how offended
he was that Ace Books took advantage of the accidental omission
of copyright on THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS to reprint
his works without his permission.

“Thus, beginning by denying the Law of Identity and the
specific nature of that which is being written and published, Sam
ends by eliminating both authorhood qua work and publishing qua
industry. Just as C.S. Lewis demonstrated how denying the
existence of objective referents for standards of subjective-
valuation would logically result in the Abolition of Man, the
logic of praxeology demonstrates how denying the objective
identity of a Created Work would logically result in the
Abolition of Creative Industry.

“And if, as Sam states, that ‘both market human action and
morality arise from the same Natural Law,’ then my praxeological
analysis should give one a pretty clear indication that my case
that copyright is protection of natural rights in logo-property
(primarily a metaphysical, rather than moral, case, since I’m
arguing that logoright derives from the Law of Identity) follows
as well.”

“An Ill-Tempered Conclusion”

Now. If after all this you still think a logos can’t be
property because it isn’t a “scarce economic good,” or if you
think creation isn’t essential to the origin of property–then
compose your own damn symphonies, write your own damn novels,
invent your own damn computer–much less figure out how to
program it–design your own damn houses, film your own damn
movies, and come up with the damned recipe for bread on your own,
–because a person who makes his or her living by creating a
logos for license isn’t going to work for free.

If logorights aren’t recognized as property, a Creator of a
logos is left with two choices: limit the circulation of the
logos only to those who sign contracts agreeing not to copy it–
and pray that someone doesn’t accidentally leave a copy
unprotected for an hour in the vicinity of a Xerox machine or
camera–or produce only the least-labor-intensive sort of logos
that can be quickly exploited in the time before someone can
undersell the licensed product by reproducing its logos without
having to pay royalties.

If you don’t think a logos is a scarce good, you’ll find out
how scarce it is damned quickly if you declare open season on
ripping them off.

And, yes. I did say “rip off.” Logorights are property
rights–and they are entitled to the same respect and protection
as property rights in land, butter, guns, cars, radio
frequencies, and gold that I have heard property rights advocates
defending endlessly.

Just as the communist anarchist argues that it is only the
monopolistic grants of privilege from the State that makes
property itself possible, so the anarchist opponent of copyright
has been arguing that it has been only the monopolistic grant of
protection from the State that makes copyright possible. Both
are making the same error.

If anything, the State is constantly violating logorights by
imposing through fiat the State’s own copyright laws on logoright
owners.

And that is why, as a propertarian anarchist, I proudly
declare that this essay is my property–herein claimed by giving
you notice that this article is

Logoright (L) 1983, 1989 by J. Neil Schulman

and anyone who attempts to violate my property rights in this
logos should expect to hear from the legal firm of Smith &
Wesson.
#

LOGORIGHT NOTICE

Logoright (L) 1983, 1989 by J. Neil Schulman

The logos in this Work is its material identity, an “information
object,” separate from the materials upon which it may be imposed
or observed, which has been created as a unique structured
artifact by its author’s labors. Since each artifact resulting
from the labor of a person is, by natural right, by decency, and
by common law, beyond all limitations imposed by sovereign force,
the morally claimable property of that being, each use of that
property must be authorized by its owner, and all unauthorized
uses of it are tresspasses of a person’s natural rights and a
violation of that person’s spirit.

The Logoright notice is an explicit marking of that object to
declare to all that it is owned.

This Work is licensed for reading purposes only. All other
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Classic J. Neil: A Shadow on the Second Amendment


Reprinted from the July 15, 2009 issue of The New Gun Week

Anybody old enough remembers 1968 as the year the Second Amendment went into a coma.

Five years earlier, November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire in Dallas.

Then, April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by rifle fire in Memphis.

Two months after King’s murder, June 5th, 1968, after celebrating victory in the California Democratic Presidential Primary, President Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated with a handgun at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A.

Twenty weeks after the second Kennedy murder, the Gun Control Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson October 22nd, 1968, imposed federal gun controls on the sale or transfer of common firearms. Now any firearm crossing state lines had to be transferred or sold only through a federally licensed firearms dealer and records kept on buyers.

Why this history lesson?

Ever since June 26th, 2008, when the Supreme Court in its Heller decision recognized the Second Amendment as constitutionally enshrining an individual right to keep and bear arms, there’s been guarded optimism among Second Amendment proponents that a slow-and-steady march toward extinction of our rights had finally been reversed. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, which in its 1996 decision HICKMAN v. BLOCK wrote “[i]t is clear that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective rather than an individual right,” reversed itself on the basis of Heller and on April 20th in NORDYKE v. KING not only recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right but incorporated it through the 14th Amendment as one that must be recognized by state and local governments. On June 2nd the Seventh Circuit reached an opposite conclusion in NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA v. CITY OF CHICAGO, increasing likelihood the Supreme Court will have to decide between them.

But the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling was 5-4, and if the Court shifts to an anti-Second Amendment make-up, Heller could be short-lived.

Second Amendment politics is therefore still critical and politically motivated murders using firearms – particularly those identified with conservative causes – could once again swing the balance of public opinion against the Second Amendment.

We’ve had two political murders identified with conservative causes – both using firearms – within as many weeks.

On May 31st anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, using a handgun, fatally shot George R. Tiller, MD, while Dr. Tiller was handing out prayer books during services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder is reported to have been a member of the “anti-government Freemen Militia” in Topeka, and a 2005 court ruling in a custody case identified him as schizophrenic. Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita was one of only three clinics nationwide performing late-term abortions. It wasn’t the first time Dr. Tiller had been a shooting victim. On August 19th, 1993, using a handgun, anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon had shot Dr. Tiller in both arms.

Ten days after the church shooting, June 10th, James von Brunn carried a .22 rifle into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and shot to death African-American security guard, Stephen T. Johns. Motive? FBI Agent Richard Farnsworth filed a sworn affidavit that he found a handwritten note in von Brunn’s car that reads, “You want my weapons – this is how you’ll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews.”

Clearly both Roeder and von Brunn identified with conservative causes. The Right to Life movement is right wing, as are “anti-government militias.” Not only did von Brunn worry about losing his firearms but in 1981 he’d pulled a sawed-off shotgun at Federal Reserve headquarters, threatening to take the Board hostage. As author, myself, of a novel in which the Federal Reserve causes a U.S. economic meltdown – a point of agreement between this particular right-wing Jew and this particular right-wing neo-Nazi — there’s no question for me that right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are engaging in a disgustingly dishonest game of spin when they try to convince their listeners that James von Brunn’s Nazi affections are left-wing, and his anti-Semitism no worse than President Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s.

As my fellow libertarian novelist, Brad Linaweaver, pointed out to me, the Nazi Party in 1930’s Germany came to power by fusing left-wing economics with right-wing nationalism.

And as far as I know, the only thing the Reverend Wright has ever shot off is his mouth.

The issue is not whether Roeder or von Brunn were hateful and mentally unbalanced. Of course they were. Neither one could have passed a firearms background check, particularly the convicted felon, James von Brunn.

Nor is it reasonably deniable that there are as many hateful and mentally unbalanced individuals on the hard left. Mega-deaths achieved not only by Nazis but Communists – plus endless ethnically and religiously motivated killings in Ulster, Rwanda, and Sarajevo – leave few political movements free of bloody hands.

Unlike much of the rest of the world violence is still the exception rather than the norm in the struggle for American political change. But no “American exceptionalism” can shield us from political violence if we’re not as vigilant in purging the haters who join our causes as we are in pursuing our love of those values which make our lives fruitful, free, and just.

Silent tolerance of bigots and haters is an intolerable danger to our just causes – particularly when one of those causes is the deterrence to despotism the Framers intended widespread private firearms to be. Our movement has a good track record in rooting out and shunning extremists, but that’s not good enough. We also need to admit openly that evil men do walk among us, and to tell the pundits who claim to educate us that that lying in defense of our rights is no virtue.

Most importantly, we need to remain civil in disputes with our opponents, even while we fortify our backbones with steel.

The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”

It’s a lesson I learned in 1994.

While promoting my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns on the Chuck Baker radio show in Colorado Springs in August, 1994, I implored listeners to burn up Congress’s phone lines to stop passage of the unconstitutional Federal Assault Weapon Bill.

One listener was Francisco Martin Duran, who was so worked up by our feverish rhetoric that he travelled to Washington D.C. and on October 29th, 1994 opened fire with his SKS semi-auto rifle on the White House lawn. Duran was convicted of trying to assassinate President Clinton and sentenced to 40 years. Like Roeder, Duran was mentally unbalanced. Like von Brunn he had a criminal record.

Knowing that, I still now temper my rhetoric whenever I’m at a microphone.

I have as many policy differences with President Obama as anyone else in the conservative or libertarian movements, particularly with economic policies. Nonetheless I voted for Obama over the slightly-more centrist John McCain. I saw Obama’s election as an opportunity to show the world once-and-for-all that America had moved beyond its sad history of race slavery and Jim Crow. It hurts me when I receive email from a conservative friend with an animated cartoon of a shucking-and-jiving dancing Obama that easily could come from the KKK.

It frightens me when Sean Hannity churns listeners by endless harping on the President’s guilt-by-association with a 1960’s anti-Vietnam-War terrorist and oppression-legacy black minister, or calling the President’s quest for an end to violence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs “selling out Israel.”

How can Hannity claim to be fair-and-balanced when he refuses to inform his listeners that President Barack Hussein Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Israel Emanuel, is an observant Jew whose father fought with the Irgun underground in the founding of Israel and, himself, served as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf war of 1991?

I have no problem with anyone opposing any Obama policies that we consider compromise our founding principles or weaken our rights.

But neither can we Second Amendment supporters tolerate extreme rhetoric directed at a President certified as achieving electoral victory who’s taken the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The remedy provided by the Constitution, should he fail to live up to that oath, is impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate – not a knife on the floor of the Senate or rifle fire aimed at a presidential motorcade.

God help us if another demented clown — even remotely associated with any of our causes — shoots at the first black President of the United States.

I do not believe the Second Amendment could survive it.

It’s not like change can’t be inspired by civilized rhetoric.

Read Thomas Jefferson’s harshest summation about King George III in the Declaration of Independence:

“A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Jefferson didn’t even need to drop the F-bomb.

–J. Neil Schulman

Pahrump, NV


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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