Sunday, April 7, 2013

Covetousness Is Evil

I was talking to Kemp, the fellow who did the trailer for Finding Time, and I mentioned Amanda Palmer's TED talk on "The art of asking."My daughter was within earshot and she asked in disbelief, "How do you know Amanda Palmer?" And I said, "She did the TED talk. How do you know Amanda Palmer?" And she named a band I'd never heard of that made "angsty" music.

The entire exchange had this weird vibe. Like she thought I ought not know who Amanda Palmer is, and that she thought I ought not know that my daughter knows who Amanda Palmer is. So, maybe there was something more than generational going on here.

My daughter knows my music tastes run more toward Southern Guitar Rock and away from angsty oughts alternative/punk/folk. Ms. Palmer says her music is not for everybody after all. So, I'm comfortable being part of that not-everybody.

After I saw the TED talk, I got to remembering that I'd heard about the "Kickstarter Scandal" of last fall. The TED talk was the perfect response. Someone says something nasty and snarky about what you're doing and you can articulate a response in a TED talk that more people will see than read The Newyorker.

I suspect that the Kickstarter Scandal was a faux flap caused by jealous people who didn't get a piece of the action. Or that was intentional obtuseness by people who prefer the current model of record companies, record promoters, etc. and would like to ape Microsoft's FUD strategy for fighting Linux. If you have a healthy income that comes from the status quo, any innovation that threatens to disintermediate you is a scary, scary thing. I think we saw that last year with the campaign of hate against Linda Chorney.

(The Microsoft FUD campaign against Linux was to hire the now-defunct SCO to bring a nuisance copyright-suit against various Linux vendors in hopes of scaring potential Linux customers to use Microsoft instead.)

I think Ms. Palmer's Kickstarter scandal has something to say about humanity as a species and the USA in particular. In response to the flap, Ms. Palmer issued an apology. Not the "I'm sorry" kind of apology you normally associate with the word, but the "Socrates" kind of apology that consists of a reasoned explanation of one's actions. (I certainly hope she is not about to be force-fed hemlock.)

It seems that when you run a Kickstarter campaign that grosses almost 1.2 megabucks people think you convert it into gold coins and dive into it like Scrooge McDuck. Or that somehow having that kind of responsibility turns you into Mr. Monopoly with an affinity for wearing striped pants. The Occupy Movement is somehow involved and the entire question of "the rich" paying their "fair share" comes to mind.

The Scarlet Letter that many want to sew onto Ms. Palmer's breast stands for "avarice." And they think she's earned this letter because she invites local artists on-stage to play with her. Doing so means that she is not paying union scale, nor FICA taxes, either. In her defense she said those exploited artists "like" doing it.

In her defense, I say, nobody holds a gun to anybody's head. Except the taxman.

When I was a child, evil, godless Commies had nukes aimed at us. We feared they would corrupt our precious bodily fluids. Happily, now I drink fluoridated water, those nukes are rusting in their silos, and the hammer and sickle flies over Pennsylvania avenue.

The godless aspect of Communism stems from an inherent contradiction between the Judeo-Christian ethic and Communism. When you hear people talk about redistributive economic justice, you are witnessing a violation of the 10th Commandment. Moses came down from the Mount carrying two tablets of the law and the second finished with, "Thou Shalt Not Covet."

The advocate for redistributive economic justice covets the stuff of the 1%. S/he/it need not covet it for himself/herself/itself--as much as to buy goodies for the downtrodden. This helps buy the votes of the downtrodden, so everybody wins except the 1% who are moving to Singapore. The covetousness of the Socialist is insatiable as Monty Python observed decades ago with lupins.

The 10th Commandment is why Christianity and Socialism are contradictory. Try to remember this next time you're voting for Santa Claus.

And when Moses came down from that Mount the other tablet said, "Thou Shalt Not Steal." Stealing used to be easy to understand. You take one of Moses' stone tablets and he doesn't have it any more. He'd have to laboriously carve words into a replacement. This is stealing.

But what if Moses had the law on two CDs, and you illegally copied one. He'd still be able to boot up Judaism. Would that be stealing? No, it is not stealing. It's a violation of US Copyright law. It's an amazing thing that corporations have managed to confuse the two notions.

Part of Ms. Palmer's $1.2M went into the production of CDs. If you take one of those CDs from her, she no longer possesses it. But if you make a copy from your friend, your friend still possesses the CD.

When you violate US Copyright law, you diminish a bit of scarcity from this world. Publishing companies would prefer that you fill the silence of your life with music, ebooks, and software that they sell. As these things are scarce & in demand, you are inclined to pay more. As they are not-scarce or not-in-demand, you are inclined to pay less. Therefore, your violation of US Copyright law takes bread from the mouths of publishing companies.

Just because I say this is not stealing, I don't want to give you the impression that US Copyright law is in any way illegitimate. Copyrights are mentioned in the Constitution. So some form of copyrights are legitimate intellectual property. In its current form, US Copyright law is the best law money can buy. Try to remember this next time you're voting Republican. Or Democrat.

Amanda Palmer has gone from being a musician with a record deal (from whom each violation of US Copyright law cost her money) to a musician with no record deal who encourages everyone to copy and share her tunes. But she asks her fans for help.

Only 25,000 people provided the money for Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter campaign. The people wanting to pin the scarlet letter on her chest are different people. I hold that unless you were one of the Kickstarter supporters, you have no standing to complain about how that money gets spent.

Ms. Palmer is comfortable with giving away value to her audience and asking for help. There's a sense in which she's like the waitress who quits the job where an 18% gratuity is added to every bill and taken another job where she earns tips on the basis of grace and not law.

I hopes she does well and I hope more people follow her example.

1 comment:

  1. I somehow had no idea that the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter Kerfuffle of '12 had occurred. An interesting read, to be sure, both here and on the New Yorker's web site.

    I dunno. If I was a musician, I'd probably be thrilled to bits to share a stage with somebody I admired for the pleasure of their company. That kind of thing seems like a "credit", the thing that many creators, writers and otherwise, crave so they might pad their meager resume and get their own attention.


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