A Response to Gowers

Maurice McCarthy moss at mythic-beasts.com
Thu Apr 20 11:57:04 UTC 2006

Hi all

I don't often contribute here as I don't understand software but I had throw my two penny-worth at the Gowers Review. Purely for your information this is it below.

Best Wishes

To the Gowers Review
gowers.review at hm-treasury.gov.uk

General Questions
How copyright etc. is exchanged.

First I shall set out the social context in which I am making comment. 

The fulfillment of a human life lies in personal culture. By this I mean 
that you gain the greatest satisfactions in pursuit of those things which
interest you most. Thus 'culture' is all human activities which are for  
their own sake. They range from the base, through hobbies, to education  
and the highest achievements of mankind in art, science and religion. It 
follows that the whole reason for knowledge and science is to enhance the 
value of human life. Thus, and at once, the very notion of protecting 
ideas and so-called 'intellectual property' is not only contradictory but 
pernicious to society - it forms an anti-social act.

Either God or Nature has granted human beings the capability of thinking. 
If the products of thinking were a unix-like file system then its 
permissions would be 0777. This says:

0 - needing permission from no one
any one, any culture or the whole of humanity can read every idea, 
any one, any culture or the whole of humanity can write every idea, 
(ideas can be individuated by character, race or nation or species)
any one, any culture or the whole of humanity can execute every idea 
within the realm of thought.

World readable, world writeable, world executable: this is the nature of 
what we are given. It is foolish to design instruments contrary to natural 
law. It would be akin to attempting to run through a brick wall - you 
end up hurting yourself. By this natural law knowledge and ideas should be 
allowed to flow. It is this flow which assures continuous inventiveness.  
Science freely gives knowledge to industry and it is the cultural forces 
in society which 'feed' ideas to the economic system. Thus the 'knowledge 
economy' is again a contradiction in terms. The question is, "How did our 
society become so sick that we have fallen into such contradictions 
without even noticing?" and I shall return to this shortly.

There are people whose talent and culture is work. These people have a 
fascination for our relation to the material earth and perhaps they make 
the finest technicians, engineers and business folk etc. But what is the 
purpose of business and the economy. For the business people it is for its 
own sake, and has to be. They love  their work. In our present situation 
the attitudes which work well in business appear to be forced upon the 
rest of society. Whether in government, in universities, hospitals or the 
arts the 'business model' is held forth as the height of efficiency. In a 
recent flurry of snow only half a dozen primary school children made it to 
the local school. All the teachers were there but the children were sent 
home because it was not worth teaching so few. So five year olds were 
given the lesson that they, as individuals, do not matter. They are just 
sausage meat for the economic machine. Should I be surprised if, given 
continued lessons in this vein at home and at school, that they end up 
with ASBO's?

Another symptom of our social ills is the existence of the art gallery.  
The existence of these worthy institutions marginalises art into an added  
extra of life instead of a power capable of radically changing society and  
something present in every home and every street. Yet, for the foreseeable  
future, we need art galleries despite the fact that it means viewing many  
materialised ideas clashing in one and the same room. In a healthy society  
art galleries would be unnecessary. 

I believe these social ills are related to the proprietisation of ideas.  
Our modern societies are now founded on egoism in most every branch of 
culture, economics and politics. In the economic sphere the ego asserts  
its existence through seizing property. Though this was still arguably 
progressive up to the mid-1850's (when the captains of industry were at 
large and many engineers were household heroes) we need desperately now 
to recognise that the progressiveness of this phase is past. The egoism 
which fuelled those times has gone sour, past its sell-by date.

Egotistical possession is what asserts the contradictions noted above.  
This anti-social behaviour by the economic and political spheres is the  
root cause of the social disharmonies all about us. But if individually  
owned capital has become pernicious then communally administered capital  
has been demonstrated impractical.Therefore capital must become socially 
owned but individually administered because only individuals have the 
talent to be good at business. 

We need to move toward cultural institutions (such as Help the Aged, 
hospitals, universities, schools, libraries, art galleries, the Free 
Software Federation of Europe and all such things which exist for their 
own sake) to take control of capital. This can reasonably be done by by 
passing copyright and death duties to such institutions. BUT the law 
should make it clear that they must put 90%, say, of the funds back into 
the economy and their task will be to appoint who it is who is given this 
this (life-long) loan. The person given the loan should be entitled to 
arbitrarily large amounts of wealth - provided he or she is that good at 
running a business. The cultural institutions would be major shareholders. 
In this way the cultural forces gain clout to balance the over-active 
egotistical economic forces in society - and the cultures begin to pay for 
themselves. If Prince Charles controlled the capital just imagine what a 
power of good he would do for sustainable agriculture and renewable 
energy! (In my view the monarchy should be a wholly cultural institution 
and after this Queen's death no monarch should ever again sign an act of 

Thus upon the death of an author the copyright of the works should go to a 
library, painting and sculpture copyrights to museums and art galleries, 
software copyrights to the FSFE (with the source code) etc. I hope you get 
the sort of idea. Naturally provision should be made for authors' 
dependents etc.

It will cease to be the making of money for its own sake and become what 
it really is at heart: the platform upon which meaningful lives can be 
lived. The people might begin to see that working with a will is 
worthwhile because you are doing your bit to support the society which 
supports you to live fulfilled. 

Please be clear that no money should go to the government in these 
exchanges. Have you noticed how fast Prime Ministers age? They are 
expected to know everything about everything and this is impossible. The 
Jack of All Trades is master of none. The above practical suggestions are 
a beginning to stripping the "business model" (ie. the present method of 
doing things) out of politics and culture. Politicians need to be 
alleviated of their excessive duties in order that they can perform their 
proper duties rightly. 

Lastly, I must point out that copyright and patent and very different 
things so that IP is not a 'system' rather it is a composition of 
dischordant elements.

This little effort has been rather rushed so I do hope it reads sensibly.

Best Wishes and Yours Sincerely
Maurice McCarthy
20th April 2006.

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