Could not help but bring to your attention an interesting post at Techdirt about Socialism and the state of infinite goods we can experience in the digital world. I must admit that one of my previous posts was guilty of falling into this thinking trap.
Free Is Not Socialism from the this-again dept @ Techdirt.com
I’ve had a browser open with a two part series from the site “e-consultancy” for the better part of a month, debating whether or not it’s even worth going through this battle again — but it seems worth it to clear up some serious misconceptions. The first article decries “digital socialism” and the second part goes after the “tyranny of the consumer.” This, by itself, seems contradictory. The capitalist free market works thanks to the tyranny of the consumer. That is, the entire reason why the free market works is because consumers have power to move to a competitor — and that keeps producers in-line. Complaining about consumers getting their way is a rejection of capitalism and the free market, not support for it.
The complaint about “socialism” is even more confusing. The writer confuses the fact that anyone can own a copy of a non-rivalrous, non-excludable good with “collective ownership.” That’s quite wrong. Socialism is, indeed, about collective ownership of a single good — with multiple folks sharing ownership of a single scarce good. What people are talking about when they discuss digital content going free is not collective ownership, but how supply is infinite such that everyone can own their own copy. It’s the opposite of socialism or collective ownership. It’s very much about allowing personal property to thrive. The article also makes the odd (and incorrect) claim that those supporting such freeing up of digital content are, like “socialists” asking for government interference in the market. Amusingly, just a few paragraphs after making this claim, the writer goes through the history of intellectual property in the US, detailing exactly how intellectual property is government interference in the market.
It never ceases to amaze me that people claim that the free market economics we describe is somehow “socialist,” when the system they support is a system of government-granted monopolies managed through a centralized government body. How is that possibly more capitalist than actually letting the free market come up with reasonable business models that don’t rely on governments defining the winning business model?