The Donate Button

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A few weeks back, there was a lively back-and-forth on this site about intellectual property – with some arguing that writers and musicians shouldn’t sweat the Net making it hard for them to earn a living from their work because people can access their work for free. Because they can rely on people – enough people to make up for the freeloaders – freely buying their work (even though they can get it for free). geld

Along these lines, I wanted to mention that EPautos has had a “donate” button up for more than a year now. It’s right here. During that time, we’ve had exactly two donations. We are grateful for these, but they are hardly sufficient to make up for the costs of servers, much less compensate for the time/creative effort put into this by myself and Dom (the EPautos web master). We work for a pittance – and less of one, with each passing month.

The sole source of income for this site is outside advertising – which we have kept strictly separate from the site’s editorial content – unlike many other sites, which shill subtly and not-so-subtly for products and services by pitching them in their articles and so on. Some even accept “guest posts” that are in fact nothing more than ads gussied up as “content.” We haven’t ever done that – and never will. Whatever you read here, whether you find it useful or entertaining – or not – is at least not trying to sell you anything (except, perhaps, the merit of certain ideas).

Unfortunately, neither Dom nor I are independently wealthy – and it is hard to justify spending literally hours every day, seven days a week, year ’round on something that’s not a hobby – and which costs us money as well as time.

Where am I going with all this? I’m asking all of you who appreciate this web site to consider supporting this web site. The fact is we have enough readers such that if even half of them supported us with $20 a month, we could do away with all the ads. The entire site could be devoted to cars and bikes and our roundtables on liberty.

I think it’d be a wonderful thing. It would prove that the Net isn’t a sweat shop for writers – and that Libertarians put their money where their ideas are.

So, let’s see what happens. I’m hoping it’ll be something positive.

Thanks to all!



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  1. Eric, I’m embarrassed that I never noticed the donate button. Thanks for making me aware of it with a post. Please accept my apology along with my first belated donation to the upkeep of the site.

    Now, publish a book on Amazon Kindle and I’ll buy a copy. 😉

  2. Done. Just FYI, you should put the donate button a little closer to the middle, even first on the list. I never even saw that button before you pointed it out, because I don’t browse at full screen (it was cut off on the browser window).

  3. If one desires to make a donation which email or phone number should one use?

    Paypal asks: To (Email or mobile phone).

    I am sure that people would wish to be sure that any donations they wish to give get sent to the appropriate place.

  4. Lysander Spooner:
    The Law of Nature, Relative to Intellectual Property:

    It will be said there can be no right of property in ideas, for the reason that an idea has no corporeal substance. This is an ancient argument, but it obviously has no intrinsic weight or soundness. Indeed, correctly speaking, corporeal substances are never the products, nor the creations, of human labor.

    Human labor cannot create corporeal substances. It can only change their forms, qualities, adaptations, and values. These forms, qualities, adaptations, and values are all incorporeal timings.

    It is plain the farmer does not create the soil, the water, the sun, nor the seed. A farmer’s produce, a writer’s essay, indeed the creation of all human labor, is only a creation in the incorporeal sense.

    To deny the right of property in incorporeal timings, is equivalent to denying the right of property in labor itself; in the products of labor ; and even in those corporeal substances, that are acquired by labor.

    Labor itself is incorporeal. It is simply motion; an action merely of the faculties. It has no corporeal substance. To deny, therefore, that there can be any right of property in incorporeal timings, is denying that a man can have any right of property in his labor; and that he can have any right to demand pay for it, when he labors for another.

    Yet we all know that labor is a subject of property. A man’s labor is his own. It also has value. It is the great dependence of the human race for subsistence. It is of ten thousand thousand kinds. Each of these kinds, too, has a well understood market price; as much so as any corporeal substance such as barley or eggs has a price. Each and every of these various kinds of labor are constantly bought and sold as merchandise.

    Human labor, cannot create corporeal substances. It can only create, and give to corporeal substances, new forms, qualities, adaptations, and values. These new forms, qualities, adaptations, and values are all incorporeal things. For example – The new forms, and new beauties, which a sculptor, by his labor, creates, and imparts to a block of marble, are not corporeal substances.

    They are mere qualities, that have been imparted to a corporeal substance. They are qualities, that can neither be weighed nor measured, like corporeal substances. Scales will not weigh them, nor yard sticks measure them, as they will weigh and measure corporeal substances. They can be perceived and estimated only by the mind; in the same manner that the mind perceives and estimates an idea. In short, these new forms and new beauties, which human labor creates, and imparts to the marble, are incorporeal, and not corporeal things. Yet they have value; are the products of labor; are subjects of property; and are constantly bought and sold in the market.

    Melody is incorporeal. Yet it has value; is the product of labor; is a subject of property; and is a common article of mer­chandise. A ride, and the right or privilege of riding, or of being carried, as, for example, on railroads, in airplanes, and public conveyances of all kinds, are incorporeal timings. They cannot be seen by the eye, nor touched by the hand. They can only be perceived by the mind. Yet they have value; are subjects of property; and are constantly bought and sold in the market.

    The right of going into a hotel, or a place of public amusement, is not a corporeal substance. It nevertheless has value, and is a subject of property, and is constantly bought and sold.

    Liberty is incorporeal. Yet it has value; and if it be not sold, it is because no corporeal substance is sufficiently valuable to be received in exchange for it. Life itself is incorporeal. Yet it is property; and to take it from its owner is usually reckoned the highest crime that can be committed against him.

    Thus it will be seen that thoughts are by no means the only incorporeal timings that have value, and are subjects of property. Civilized society can not exist without recognizing incorporeal things as property.

    • …The difference here comes down to a wonderful distinction that was made by Lysander Spooner in the 19th century. He was careful to explain the difference between a vice and a crime. A crime involves aggressive force or threat of aggressive force against another person or privately owned property. A vice, however, is a much larger category of behaviors that don’t involve invasion of person or property.

      Vices can involve lying, being nasty to others, eating like a pig in public, abusing oneself with drugs or liquor, failing to shower and thereby stinking to high heaven, swearing in public, betraying benefactors, rumor mongering, displaying ingratitude, not keeping commitments, being a shopaholic, being a greedy miser, failing to do what you say you are going to do, making up stories about other people, taking credit for things you didn’t do, failing to give credit where it is due, and other things along these lines.

      In a free society, vice is controlled through decentralized social enforcement of social, ethical, and religious norms. The great problem of statism is that it turns vices into crimes, and then when the law is repealed, people forget that there are, after all, certain social norms that nonetheless need to be upheld and will be upheld once society is managing itself rather than being managed by the state.

      Consider the case of classroom plagiarism, for example. A teacher wrote to me with a concern that the repeal of intellectual property law would make it more difficult to punish students for turning in work that claimed to be original but was actually copied from elsewhere. I pointed out that the police and courts are not involved in the enforcement of classroom rules now, so why would a change in federal legislation be any different? Plagiarism is still plagiarism.

      IP law has really had the effect of distorting our society’s sense of all of these matters. It has made everyone too unwilling to admit our dependence on imitation and emulation as institutions that permit and encourage progress. It has made people too shy to copy the success of others and admit to doing so. Writers, artists, entrepreneurs all live with this weird burden of expectation that everything they do must be completely original and they must never draw from others sources. It’s preposterous!

      On the other hand, we are too quick to credit the state for preventing the mass outbreak of old-fashioned vice. Even without copyright and patent, some kinds of behaviors and practices will remain shoddy, unseemly, ungracious, conniving, and social unacceptable. What, for example, would you say about a local author who claimed to write a new play that turned out to be written by Shakespeare? Doing this is perfectly legal right now. But the person would be regarded as a lout and a fool for the rest of his life.

      Hence, the repeal of “intellectual property” law does not mean some sort of crazed free-for-all chaos in which no one can be entirely sure of anyone’s identity, creations, who wrote what, what company did what, where credit is due, what one’s commitments are, and the like. What we will gain is a great sense of our moral obligations to each other.

      And in the absence of the state’s grant of monopoly privilege, we will become ever more vigilant in giving credit where it is due. You still have to be a nice person who acts with a sense of fairness, equanimity, and justice, as conventionally understood. If you don’t, the state will not crack your skull, but you will lose something profoundly important.

      In other words, in the absence of IP, we gain a greater sense of the distinction between what is vice and what is crime, and a better means for dealing with both.

      March 19, 2009
      Jeffrey Tucker


      The big trick is to figure ways that include the quid pro quo in this new oceanic paradigm. The corollary big trick is to defeat the old paradigm’s beavers & their sclerosing of the streams. Tithing buttons, apparently, haven’t been generative here…no promises of heaven or threats of incarceration, as elsewhere. But I have read of it “working” (no income statements are provided…) elsewhere, like:

      • IP is more about claiming ownership of an idea. My issue is with the ethics of appropriating the work output of people without compensation.

        Somehow, the work output of writers and musicians is deemed to be work that can just be taken and enjoyed – by dint of the fact that it can be taken and enjoyed (courtesy of technology). It’s not that their work is intangible – an “idea” that floats on air – something anyone could think of, or might think of themselves. It is simply that it is amenable (courtesy of technology) to filching. Does the fact that it’s easy to take it make it right to do so?

        When I (in the pre Net days) was commissioned to do an article for a publication, I was paid by the publication to complete the article. The publication was in its turn paid by its readers and advertisers. Now, these same publications either do not pay at all – or pay a token amount – because they know that people can get around paying them to read the article. Someone out there will scan/copy/paste and put it “out there,” free for the taking. So, the publication pays me (and other writers) less – or nothing. We both get screwed – but the readers get free material.

        Equitable? I don’t see how.

        I very much doubt people in other lines of work would continue to work if they knew their work product could just be taken – or heavily devalued by dint of the fact that it can be taken.

        Technology doesn’t create the work product – it merely facilitates the taking. It is still necessary for the writers and musicians to create the work product. But how can they be expected to do so when they cannot profit from their work?

        The situation is analogous to having a store where people can just come and take whatever they like – and if they feel like it, toss some coins in the jar at the front. How long do you suppose such a store could remain in business?

        This isn’t the “free” market – which is mutually agreeable free exchange, with both parties obtaining value.

        It is a one-sided free-for-all.

        • Yes. Understood. But what to do about it when “what the market will bear” shifts? Zeros & ones has done a number on supply, demand, & prices willingly paid for “content”. Apparently soon, it will also be true for products, due to 3-d printers.

          Like said, I’ve only read about “successful” – have never seen corroborating details – donation models (in this domain). If the front end doesn’t generate cash flow, then there’s got to be a back end that does; don’t see any way around that. Ad revenues or premium content.

          There was a restaurant in a friend’s neighborhood, called The Comfort Cafe. Gourmet health food. Gluten-free, etc. Their food was donated, or largely so, from other restaurants/suppliers. Their labor worked for free. And no prices on the menu – customers decided what to pay. Got good reviews. I never patronized them, found the pricing concept off putting. My friend ate there a few times. Said the food was good, but she was uncomfortable with the pricing model too, because she felt she probably was over-generous, overpaid. They stayed open maybe 18 months.

          ♪ ♫ ♪ Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
          Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

          Wouldn’t you like to get away?

          Sometimes you want to go

          Where everybody knows your name,
          and they’re always glad you came.
          You wanna be where you can see,
          our troubles are all the same
          You wanna be where everybody knows
          Your name.

          Your place, to me, has a “Cheers” vibe, Eric. Cheers sells booze 1st (in real life), knows everybody’s name 2nd. But even byob places charge corking fees…though, for me, that’s a good reason to drink at home. ☻

          The dazzling exemplar is Bonner’s Agora….

    • Dear Oz,

      I agree.

      This issue is a admittedly a tough call even for libertarians. But even though I am an author myself, who copyrighted several works before jettisoning minarchism for anarchism, I must say that so-called “Intellectual Property Rights” cannot be justified on philosophical grounds.

      The ugly truth is that any attempt to claim and enforce “Intellectual Property Rights” necessitates violating other peoples’ REAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. Therefore so-called “IPR” cannot be a right in fact, but only a right by decree.

      As noted libertarian theorist Sheldon Richman correctly notes,

      When one acquires a copyright or a patent, what one really acquires is the power to stop other people from doing certain things with what is indisputably their own property. One can say that a copyright holder doesn’t actually own anything but the legal authority to stop other people from using their own equipment to copy a book or CD they purchased. And one who holds a patent on the widget actually only has permission to call on the state to stop others from manufacturing and selling widgets in factories they own.IP is a peculiar form of property, indeed.

      In other words, “IPR” is actually the alleged “right” to violate rights.

      Therefore as Thomas Jefferson and others concluded, “Intellectual Property” cannot be classified as genuine property. Intellectual property has to be considered an anti-concept and oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp.”

      • Cartelists, monopolists & n.i.m.b.y.ists – oh, my! Ozzies want to claim ownership of the yellowbrick road & charge tolls (rents, actually), want to lock the golden geese up in petting zoos….

        Saw Roger Ebert’s photo today. The man was unrecognizable after his multiple cancer surgeries. Medico mafia. That’s a cartel. And that’s the way uh huh,uh huh,they like it.

        Monsanto, et al, and seed stock control – alongside their gmo frankenseeds.

        Patenting of the human genome. Did you ever read Crichton’s “Next”?

        Versus The Xman, Peter Diamandis:

        Greenwald: Do you ever know ahead of time who’s going to win?

        Diamandis: No idea. When the BP oil spill was going on and on, James Cameron, who’s on our board of trustees, said, “We need to do something about the spill.” We looked at the opportunities and saw that the cleanup technology hadn’t changed since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. So we established the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge with a minimum goal of doubling the rate of cleanup. Out of more than 350 entrants, seven teams doubled the cleanup rate. The winner quadrupled it. The fascinating thing is that one team that doubled the rate was a bunch of guys who met in a Las Vegas tattoo parlor. They were upset about the spill and wanted to do something about it. They came in with a fresh point of view and were able to change the game.

        End-running, & egg facing, the cartels is cool. More importantly it helps support the moral argument that they must all be dismantled. Until the yellowbrick highwaymen swing, the rest of us will continue to.


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