Blogging pause

I notice that I haven’t been posting for a couple of weeks. Mostly this is a result of my discouragement about the election. I fear our best hope of resolving the financial crisis that is coming is now lost. As a result, my interest in politics has waned. If the Republicans were showing any signs of life or intelligence, I might get a bit more interested but I fear we are going to see more proof of the “stupid party” theory.

For example, one of the dedicated enemies of the GOP is the entertainment industry. Movies and music all tend to be part of the cultural decline but, more importantly, the people who make huge fortunes from the industry are almost reflexively leftist and fund the Democratic Party. Recently, a disgusting example of the failure of the GOP to recognize who its friends and enemies are, was the firing of a GOP Congressional staffer for a suggestion that the party in Congress support copyright reform.

A Republican staffer who wrote a position paper suggesting that the current system of copyright legislation might benefit some market-based reform has been summarily fired.

Last month the Republican Study Committee, an influential group made up of members of the US House of Representatives, put out a position paper saying that the current system “violates nearly every tenet of laissez faire capitalism” and instead ensures government-enforced monopolies rather than competitive stimulation.

Excessive fines for copyright infringement harm innovation, wrote Derek Khanna, a 24-year-old staffer with the RSC, since they mean larger companies can sue startups out of business. The unusually long copyright period of 75 years plus the author’s life breaks the statutes set out by America’s Founding Fathers “for a limited copyright – not an indefinite monopoly,” he wrote.

Khanna’s paper wasn’t advocating abandoning the whole system, or even changing the underlying principles of copyright law. Rather, he suggested that from an efficiency perspective the current system could do with some tuning alongside the basic principles of competition that are supposed to drive modern economics.

The paper went out on a Friday night, but Washington never sleeps, and it was pulled less than 24 hours later after people started noticing that someone was making sense. The RSC told El Reg that the withdrawal was because the paper had not been fully finished and was intended as one part of a position piece, not a finished document.

Why was this so controversial ? Did it endanger contributions from supporters in the industry that benefits from eternal copyrights ?

There are arguments that copyrights of characters like Mickey Mouse may be rational.

In mass entertainment, a franchise is a connected series or group of works sharing common characters, plots etc produced over relatively long span of time. Franchise characters or settings become recognizable brands in their own right. Recurrent characters like Sherlock Holmes became franchises long before the term was coined. In the modern era, Star Wars, Star Trek and various Disney properties are examples of major franchises. Star Wars and Star Trek have produced a vast number of secondary works from novels to games, not to mention the toys, T-shirts and, according to some, religions. Disney has been in the franchise business since the end of WWII. Many credit Walt Disney for creating the artistic franchise business model in the first place.

Traditional copyright law predated the evolution of the franchise and instead assumed that copyright protected discrete works e.g. a single short story, novel, song etc made by a single artist. Traditional copyright law didn’t consider that the ownership of the copyright might be an immortal collective in form of a corporation or a family, nor that collective owners would keep producing new material based on the original. Under traditional copyright law, once a story’s copyright expired, so did all the characters, settings, plots, images etc that made up the story. That’s why anyone can remake the “A Christmas Carol” and sell it under that name, but they can’t make and sell their own version of Star Wars.

On the other hand, the extension of copyright to 75 years after the death of the author is a bit ridiculous. The fact that the GOP panicked over a recommendation that reform be studied is even more ridiculous.

About a month ago, the Republican Study Committee published a policy paper arguing for copyright law reform, only to rescind its publication almost immediately. The paper argued that current copyright law only serves the interests of big businesses, and that changing the law could encourage innovation. Needless to say, this enraged several of those big businesses who also happen to be party backers. In response, the committee issued an apology for releasing the report, explaining that the proper channels hadn’t been consulted prior to publications.
But now we’re learning that the story didn’t end there. The Washington Examiner reports that the staffer responsible for publishing the memo on the RSC website has been fired.
The paper itself is here.

The fact that the party got so panicked over this matter is a bad sign. Another reason for me to cocoon for a few years. Maybe when I wake up things will be better. I doubt it. Meanwhile, I do post some items at ChicagoBoyz. Some of them are posted first here but some are not.

I’m not giving up but politics is not my favorite thing right now. The GOP looks as though it will get rolled again in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

Larry Kudlow summarizes the situation.

Senator Rand Paul, who may have the best idea, told me in an interview this week that he’s prepared to pin the tail on Obama’s tax-and-spend donkey. “In the Senate,” Paul said, “I’m happy not to filibuster it, and I will announce tonight on your show that I will work with Harry Reid to let him pass his big old tax hike, with a simple majority, if that’s what Harry Reid wants, because then they will become the party of high taxes, and they can own it.”

Other conservatives in the Senate and House agree with Mr. Paul. And some House members are talking about a “doomsday” scenario, or what might be called a strategic retreat. Just vote present on the Democrats’ tax bill to extend middle-class tax cuts and raise tax rates on income and investment.

None of this sounds worth debating. Obama is determined to humiliate Republicans as a way to rub their noses in his win last month.

President Barack Obama has embarked on Operation Humiliation.

It is coming off without a hitch.

Stage One was to dispatch his treasury secretary to Capitol Hill to make a laughable offer to Republicans on the fiscal cliff — literally. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reported that he burst out laughing upon hearing Tim Geithner spell out the White House’s terms.

Stage Two is watching Republicans squirm and panic. Less than a week after the hilarity courtesy of Geithner, the New York Times headlined a front-page piece, “GOP Looks for Fallback to Avoid a Fiscal Standoff.”

I fear that the Republicans in Congress will panic like they did over copyright law and cave in. There actually is a better option, or even two.

One: 1. Adopt the Bowles-Simpson Plan. The plan was the product of a bipartisan commission, chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, appointed by President Obama to address America’s ballooning deficits and national debt. Most experts agree that it’s a pretty good plan. President Obama didn’t like it because it shrinks government too much.

Tough. It’s a plan, which is more than President Obama has offered, and from a bipartisan commission he appointed. Can Obama get away with vetoing that? Can Senate Democrats get away with rejecting it and bringing on the automatic cuts and tax increases of the sequester? Doubtful. Plus, though the press tends to cover for Obama and blame Republicans, media types love Bipartisan Commissions.

Two:Tax the revolving door. I mentioned earlier that Washington is getting richer while the rest of the country gets poorer. (And others are noticing this). One reason why this happens is the revolving door — people shuttle between government, where they make rules governing business, and lobbying, where they make money by taking advantage of those rules.

Well, if you want less of something, tax it. So I recommend a 50% “excess salary” surtax on the earnings of government officials on the Executive Schedule — cabinet and subcabinet officials, mostly — in excess of their government salaries for the first five years after they leave. So, leave a cabinet job paying about $200,000 for a job paying $1 million a year, and the government will take half the $800,000 difference.

Of course that might bite Republicans if they ever get into power again. I consider that a feature and not a bug. There is a reason why I have a link to Angelo Codevilla’s essay on The Ruling Class on the blog. Everybody should read it every few months.

There is even a third method of dealing with the debt. An excise tax on CEO salary and perks applying to big business CEOs who are calling for higher taxes.

Great idea.

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3 Responses to “Blogging pause”

  1. doombuggy says:

    Dreary times, indeed.

    Almost everyone I talk to agrees that things can’t continue as is, but no one expects things to change. It is a kind of weirdness, like a looting spree.

  2. cdjaco says:

    “Looting spree” is a good analogy, IMO.

    Emotion has won out over reason, and there are a lot of bystanders who, if not looting themselves, are perfectly happy to watch the theft taking place since they feel it is the “right” thing to do and only the rich will suffer.

    Unfortunately, like a real looting spree, these fools don’t realize that the end result of their actions (or inaction) will be the departure of the “rich” … to the detriment of their neighborhood (or in this case, country).

    It is not a question of *if* we will go off the fiscal cliff, but *when*.

  3. Mike_K says:

    Good point, cdjaco. Nobody mentions that raising tax rates on “the rich” never increases gross revenues. In this case, it might raise some since the people being hit are not really the rich, they are the upper middle class. Tax shelters will reappear and those who can afford to defer some income will do so.

    Sweden had a 95% rate on income above a certain level about 25 years ago. It turned out that one group hit by this rate was senior doctors, all of whom are government or university employees. The result was that they all took off the last three months of the year and went to warmer climates, like Greece and resorts like the Seychelles. Nobody could get an appointment with the senior doctors after October. I think the Swedes finally wised up and dropped the highest rate.