Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Return of Mercantilism

The Electronic Freedom Foundation posted about the real reason that the United States and European Union are pushing for a Free Trade Agreement, and it has nothing to do with freedom, but about copyright control.

Copyright today is out of control. Copyright was originally supposed to create a gain for the artist or inventor that invented the product for 25 years, to encourage creativity by making it profitable for those with ideas to work on them, making society better. When an artist makes something, he/she needs to eat as well, and that means that he/she needs to get paid. Copyright was the mechanism that made sure this happened, by giving the artist exclusive rights to his/her work.

Unfortunately, since 1976 copyright has lasted the entire length of the artist's (by artist I don't just mean paintings, but all forms of art, music, film, books, paintings etc.) life and then an arbitrary amount of time after that, or a set length of time, whichever is longer (typically). Copyright is not owned by the artist, but instead is owned by the corporation that will live forever owning that piece of art that can be a significant part of a culture (like Mickey Mouse or Rhapsody in Blue). I am in favor of copyright, lasting the life of the artist and no longer, but the way copyright is done today does not encourage art, it discourages it by giving exclusive rights to spin-offs to a faceless corporation that doesn't have any real allegiance to any country or anyone (since it can be sold and last forever).

The current trade agreement with the European Union is not about free trade, it is about unfree trade in that it is to restrict the creativity and ingenuity of people at the expense of marginally higher profits for ancient corporations. It won't have a significant effect anyways because people will continue to pirate and get away with it.

I support true free trade, which would meant the free movement of goods and ideas, with reasonable LIMITED protections on pieces of art and technology that will allow future artists and inventors to expand on such important parts of culture. Unfortunately greed and shortsightedness has taken over the minds of our leaders that does not encourage competition, ingenuity, or any other truly capitalist principal.

Let me say it:
I am a capitalist.

I am in favor of a free market that allows the free exchange of ideas and goods across a large area within a reasonable level of safety where people can get what they want and work freely. I am in favor of people being allowed to organize into unions to bargain with their employers, instead of everyone bargaining on their own because unions are the only way to have close to equal ground, which is to have a position of power, and higher wages increase productivity by raising the demand curve for goods and services which improves the state of the larger economy. Capitalism is when there is a civil right to set up a legal business to improve the founders' lives and offer a better service at a better price, and there is a right to fail as well as succeed regardless of size, because new businesses will fill the void of old unstable companies if they fail. The right to fail is a very important part of long-term and short term efficiency. If there is no risk to fail there is no incentive to stay stable. I am in favor of short-term copyrights so that there are real incentives to people inventing and creating, but limited so that other people can build off of their ideas once their potential fortunes have been built. I am opposed to people using regulations to increase their personal gain at the expense of all others because it hurts all other people, and hurts the overall economy's efficiency. Capitalism is when opportunity to succeed is offered, and people have the opportunity to take it if they choose to.

Mercantilism is a wholly different system. Mercanitislim is a restricted market where the transfer of ideas and goods are regulated past the point of reason that increases prices and creates inefficient monopolies. Mercantilism is when people cannot move normal goods across borders, creating radically different prices in different nations before taxes, a hallmark of Mercantilist inefficiency (compare the cost of living in Austria and Germany despite free movement of people and goods between those countries, free trade in Europe clearly isn't so free). Mercantilism is where people cannot organize and people cannot get a living wage which decreases the demand curve in the interest of short term profits which makes the economy inefficient and makes an imbalanced society, and any physicist will tell you that when there is imbalance in a system (density, pressure, etc.) it will balance itself eventually or at least try to. Economics is the same, and this system hurts long-term profits for everyone (see the modern Tsar of Russia... oh wait). Mercantilism is when setting up a business to compete is difficult to impossible for the average person which pushes prices up, wages down, and creativity down. Mercantilism is when established companies that bribe politicians will have the government bail them out. Mercantilism is when a corporation owns aspects of culture that are close to or over 100 years old, meaning those corporations make billions and don't need to create anything for decades. (which at the current rate American copyright will be 100 years in 2023 when the next extension bill comes up) Mercantilism is when there are regulations that benefit the minority at the expense of the majority.

Too make it clear, Communism is simply where everything is owned by the government and the people have no direct way to change the government. Freedom is non-existant, and it is one of the worst systems.

Out of these three major schools of thought, the economy of the United States today is not and has not been truly capitalist since 1976 at the latest, and one can see it in our efficiency and distribution of wealth.

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