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A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars: symposium at The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, April 28-30, 2006 [slides, audio, transcripts]
download the report [PDF]
via On The Commons.org, additional linkage provided by newsgrist:
Posted by Marcellus Andrews on Sun, 10/14/2007 - 1:38pm:
I wrote this piece at the end of February of this year, right after Al Gore won an academy award for "An Inconvenient Truth". It was to appear in the Nation, but did not for some reason. Now that Gore has added a Nobel Prize to his list of honors, why not let these words see the light of day?
Be honest: who knew that climate change would go from the grumpy green fringe of American politics to the glitz and glam of the Oscar ceremony? Imagine the satisfaction of that small but determined band of scientists and economists whose warnings about our emerging climate problems were once the stuff of right-wing talk yacksters but is now the conventional wisdom of an ever-greener establishment. And who could begrduge Al Gore that slightly patronizing smile at his critics as he ponders his Nobel acceptance speech in Oscar's golden light?
America's corporations have dumped climate change denial like a nasty habit because the really smart people who run them know that green is the color of reason these days, as well as the color of money.
Corporate leaders, economists, environmentalists and policymakers know the basic economics of climate change: the only way to slow and then reverse the level of greenhouse emissions is by making this sort of pollution extremely expensive. But making greenhouse gases expensive means that everything from pumping oil and burning dirty coal to driving gas guzzling cars to heating and cooling suburban McHouses is going to be way more costly, and much less profitable.
This poses a delicate problem for liberals and the left: how can greenhouse emissions be made much more expensive without sticking it to ordinary people? The American dream has been built on the basis of cheap oil, and free greenhouse gas emissions. The climate crisis is with us because no one had any reason to think about how their carbon emissions might make Mother Earth hot, angry and hard to live with. The good news is that making greenhouse gases cost more gives us powerful reasons for finding cleaner ways to live, work and play – from new technologies to enduring changes in our energy habits. But the bottom line is simple: expensive greenhouse gases drive up the price of the American dream, thereby irritating a large chunk of the voting public.
One sure way to cut down greenhouse gas emissions, and drive ordinary working people back into the arms of the conservatives, is to put a hefty tax on carbon emissions. Every economist will tell you that a tax on carbon emissions is the most effective, least complicated method for making us change our habit of dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Carbon taxes would yield an enormous amount of money, so much so that some bothersome taxes could be completely eliminated – like payroll taxes – while others, like income taxes, could be sharply cut.
But the economic pain of carbon taxes cannot be completely offset by cuts in other taxes or tax breaks or even subsidies. The people hit hardest by carbon taxes are regular working people who are already scared about losing their job to international trade or global immigration; who are already squeezed by skyrocketing health care, education and housing costs; whose savings are too low to permit an easy retirement and whose fears about Social Security solvency make it hard to sleep at night. The last thing these folks need is for green ways of living to price them out of the American Dream.
There is a better way to save the world without killing off the well-being of regular folks, if liberals and leftists are smart enough to turn Wall Street – that’s right, Wall Street – into a tool for environmental and social justice. The other way to cut greenhouse gases is to make polluters buy permits to emit carbon in a "cap and trade" system, where permits are bought and sold on financial markets like any other asset. Companies emitting greenhouse gases would purchase permits from other companies and financial institutions, thereby paying a price for their carbon "dirt" that reflects the harm that they do.
Cap and trade systems get badmouthed by liberals and leftists for two reasons.
First, relying on financial markets to indirectly price carbon seems a bit slippery
since the same sorts of shady doings on other asset markets would undoubtedly pop up in carbon permit markets. Second, many newly green corporations are eager for a permit system – which rightly makes green types of all political stripes very antsy – especially one where permits are given to companies for free.
The financial shenanigans objection is easy to deal with: bring back a strong and
well-funded Securities and Exchange Commission and watch all types of chicanery disappear.
There is no reason to give corporations trillions of dollars in new wealth when
a bit of ultra-radical popular capitalism is at hand: give the permits to the American people, or better, have Uncle Sam hold the permits in a collective trust fund on behalf of the nation. Corporations would buy carbon permits from dealers like they currently do Treasury notes, with the proceeds from the sale of permits flowing to ordinary people as regular checks distributed on a progressive basis. The permits as well as the income from emitting carbon would flow to the people, forever, with no chance that the ownership of carbon emissions could be concentrated among a smallish group of already wealthy people.
The beauty of a progressive and collectively owned cap and trade system is that it takes full advantage of markets while increasing the financial wealth of ordinary Americans. Government plays no role in this system aside from establishing the carbon emissions cap that gradually brings down greenhouse gas emissions and placing the permits with dealers. Then ordinary self-interest would take over, with many billions and even trillions of dollars in new wealth and income flowing down the class ladder...
via lessig.org :
October 15, 2007 4:56 PM - comments (33)
[Larry Lessig]: I bought this book because I heard it described on the radio (NPR, no less) in a way that made it sound like the dumbest book of the decade. It turns out that it was the summary, and not the book, that was dumb. Indeed, this is a fantastic book by an extremely smart and experienced liberal. It is the first book on the Corruption Required Reading list.
A clue that there's something interesting here is that here a liberal is arguing (among other great arguments) that the corporate income tax ought to be abolished (shareholders should pay that tax instead), and that corporations should not be giving health benefits to workers (the tax benefit is a huge skew to the economy, producing an inefficient and ineffective national health care system, costing close to $140 billion a year). Both sensible proposals signal that Reich is thinking, not simply rehearsing. And thought from a person as experienced as Reich, a Professor at Berkeley and Labor Secretary under Clinton, is critical to achieving the reform we need.
But the book will be on the required reading list for corruption because of the place corruption has in the argument. The basic arc of the argument is to first describe what Reich calls the "Not Quite Golden Age" in America, roughly the first half of the last century, when barriers to competition meant capitalism was relatively rich and big. Oligopoly defined the period; cooperation among big guys was the consequence.
This relatively quiet period for competition had some interesting consequences. (Big) business could afford to do socially helpful things (health care, etc.). Government could lean on them, and it was possible, because of the implicit protection of relatively weak competition, for them to give the government what it wanted.
We've now left the NQGA, Reich says, and entered a period of Supercapitalism -- a time when competition has grown dramatically, and when half of us (meaning half of each of us, or at least half) more effectively demand lower prices in the product and service market place and higher returns in the investment market place. This hyper competition is forcing extraordinary rationalization in both markets. Wal-Marts and an exploding stock market are the consequence. The half of us that lives in the product/service and investment markets have been rewarded by this competition. Supercapitalism is producing super-efficiency, at least here.
The problem, from Reich's (and my) perspective, is that the other half of us - the part that thinks not as an actor in a market, but as a citizen - has atrophied. That is, the half of us (again, of each of us - Reich's point is that each of us has these two parts) that demands that government set sensible and efficient limits on private action has atrophied. Deep skepticism about government has made most of us turn away from it as a tool of sensible policy making. We instead (and this is a truly brilliant part of the book) turn to corporations to make good policy in government's stead. We push for "corporate social responsibility" and praise corporations who agree to do the "good" thing, imagining that this means something other than the "money making" thing. This, Reich says, is "politics diverted" - trusting companies to do good policy rather than getting government to set good policy, imagining "corporate social responsibility" will produce something different from corporations maximizing profits.
This is a critically important point for people to get -- and one that many good thinking souls don't yet agree with. It's related to an answer I gave to a great question by Jon Zittrain at the Corruption vAlpha lecture. As I said there, we need to understand the nature of the corporation -- to make money -- and come to love it, and yet, to keep it in its proper place, just as you can love a tiger, but know that it's not the sort of thing that should play with your kid. (Here's the question and answer). Corporations are not more efficient governments. They are instead increasingly efficient money making machines. And while there's nothing at all wrong with money making machines -- indeed, wealth and growth depends upon them -- there is something fundamentally wrong with trusting these machines to restrain the drive for profits in the name of doing the right thing. The cushion that enabled that in the past (relatively limited competition) is gone. The job of GM is even more now to make money for GM.
Recognizing this point forces you to recognize how important it is that we make government work. It is government's job to set the appropriate limits on corporations (and individuals) so that when corporations and individuals pursue their self-interest, they will not harm a public interest. If government were doing that sensibly, it would force carbon producers to internalize the negative externality of carbon (something our current government doesn't do), just as it would force those who benefit from creative work to internalize the positive externality of creativity (something our current government is obsessed with doing).
And this leads to the link with the work on corruption: for notice (surprise!, surprise!), government is pretty good at forcing internalization when it benefits strong special interests (again, copyright), and not when it harms strong special interests (again, carbon). Here, and in a million contexts, the government is coopted by the powerful influence of powerful interests. Reich points to the obvious and well known examples of money buying (indirectly) influence. He also points nicely to the "corruption of knowledge" as he calls it, coming from corruption policy analysis. Nothing gets fixed till we fix these corruptions, powerfully identified in this very clearly and beautifully written book.
[Criticism? Only one small nit: Reich works hard to argue that we should not think of the corporation as a person. Corporations have no "corporeal form," he argues. A corporation instead is just a legal form for the activity of people. The law should therefore focus on those people, and not on this corporation. The corporation should therefore have no rights. It should also have no "corporate" responsibility. The only rights and responsibilities here are rights and responsibilities of people.
I agree that in lots of cases, the law should focus on the people, and not the corporation. But I reach that conclusion based upon the utility of focusing upon the people inside a corporation rather than upon the entity itself. In my view, however, there are times when it does make sense to think about the corporation as an entity and to allocate responsibility in that way. Reich concedes as much when it is civil liability at stake. But focusing on the non-thingness of a corporation, he rejects criminal liability for the corporation. I reject a thingness theory of criminal responsibility. My view is informed by the work of (in my view) one of the most brilliant members of the legal academy, Meir Dan-Cohen. His work is not online (not brilliant), but see, e.g., his Freedoms of Collective Speech, 79 Cal. L. Rev. 1229 (1991). ]
Brandon Ballangée: DFA 23, Khárôn
Scanner Photograph of Cleared and Stained Multi-limbed Pacific Tree frog from Aptos, California in Scientific Collaboration with Dr. Stanley K. Sessions. Unique Digital Chromogenic print on watercolor paper. Courtesy the Artist and Archibald Arts, NYC
Oct 26, 2007–Jan 6, 2008
Opening Night Party
Thu, Oct 25, 6–9 pm | Grand Lobby & Galleries
Northern California hosts more life sciences companies than anywhere else in the world. BioTechnique showcases a visually rich assortment of organisms, semi-living objects, and intricate life support systems, shining light on the technologies that are changing the global economy and the earth itself. The product of biological techniques—the exhibition artworks have been "grown" rather than manufactured: Denise King's terrarium habitats constructed for her bacteria paintings; lab equipment used by the Tissue Culture and Art Project to grow chimerical cell clusters; hydroponic garden installations by Philip Ross. Shown alongside these artworks are artifacts made by industrial technologists, ecological researchers, and biological engineers. These hybrid objects, from sheltering vessels to semi-living diagnostic tools being developed in Silicon Valley, provide context for the artworks and further explore the increasingly fuzzy line between the technological and the natural.
Territories Reimagined: International Perspectives
Manchester, 19-22 June 2008.
Call for Papers and Projects
- Deep topography
- Urban interventions
- Locative media
- Collaborative Mapping
Between June 19 and 22, 2008, TRIP brings together artists, academics, movers, shakers, do-ers and dissenters in a unique event combining an interdisciplinary conference with a city-wide series of actions, exhibitions, and screenings. TRIP enables the previously separate worlds of theory and practice to interact, initiating new approaches and energies, and furthering techniques to take on and alter the physical environment.
Beginning as a reaction to the industrial revolution, the re-imagining of the city by romantics, bohemians, and avant-gardists evolved into a diverse range of strategies, practices and arguments, from the psychogeographic drift or derive to the artistic intervention. By the 1990s these were being utilised by artists, writers, activists, and historians, attempting to negotiate urban and rural space in the post-modern world.
But practices developed in the twentieth century encounter a different world in the twenty first - a more observed and policed world on the one hand, a more corporate, globally-connected world on the other. Increasingly the body, social, individual and political, is the site of contradictory demands - the demands to consume versus the demands of control.
TRIP will be based at Manchester Metropolitan University, on the city's main southerly corridor, Oxford Road. But we want events to take place throughout Manchester, in as wide a variety of spaces and venues as possible. Like many northern cities, Manchester is changing fast. Perhaps you want to critique the implications of "regeneration", or perhaps you want to stimulate new ways of engaging with an increasingly consumerised environment. Maybe you're passionate about the possibilities of inventive walking and drifting, or maybe you're a performance artist aiming to change the energy of a public space. Wherever you're coming from, TRIP wants to hear from you with your ideas.
To submit a paper, you should send an abstract outlining your subject and the key points of your presentation.
To submit an idea for an intervention, performance or a walk involving members of the public, please outline in one paragraph the aims and ideal locations for your project.
To submit an idea for a gallery-based project, please outline in one paragraph the thinking behind your installation or work..
Please try to keep your paragraphs to a maximum of 200 words. And don't forget your contact details. Deadline for submissions:
October 1st 2007.
Deadline extended until December 22, 2007.
Submissions should be emailed to: TRIP@mmu.ac.uk
for further information on festival announcements, walks, talks and events, then please access our blog-space, which will be updated regularly at:
The festival proceedings will be fully documented and recorded, and an edited volume of essays, art and photography will be published at a later date.