SOPA Strike

SOPA is an example of what Thorstein Veblen called “the vested interests” trying to prevent change. In an essay called “The Vested Interests and the Common Man” he pointed out “the existence of powerful vested interests which stand to gain from the persistence of the existing, but outdated system of law and custom.” Jane Jacobs said much the same thing. The most important conflict in any society, she wrote at the end of The Economy of Cities, isn’t between the rich and poor or management and labor; it is between those who benefit from the status quo and those who benefit from change. If those who benefit from the status quo usually win, problems stack up unsolved.

6 Responses to “SOPA Strike”

  1. Mike Says:

    What problem is stacking up, unsolved? IP protection, like patent protection, is meant to encourage creators to create, by giving them a monopoly over their work. Do we have a shortage of books, movies, music? If not, what is the problem stacking up unsolved?

  2. Seth Roberts Says:

    IP protection, like patent protection, is meant to encourage creators to create, by giving them a monopoly over their work. Do we have a shortage of books, movies, music? If not, what is the problem stacking up unsolved?

    You seem to be saying we do NOT have a shortage of books, etc. If so, why do we need SOPA? If we have enough books, etc., creators have enough encouragement without it.

    As for the problems stacking up unsolved…in several ways health is getting worse. Obesity is getting worse, for example. A free Internet helps people explore solutions to health problems.

  3. Mike Says:

    I think I mis-read your post, thinking you were saying *opponents* of SOPA were *supporters* of the status quo, allowing problems to remain unsolved.

    I guess it’s hard to see what the status quo is here: is it a system of mechanical reproduction and physical distribution being overturned by digital zero-marginal-cost copying? Or is the status quo the current state of easy-to-offshore piracy and whack-a-mole infringement?

    I clearly side with the anti-SOPA people, but I don’t think it has to do with wanting to preserve or subvert the status quo.

  4. Seth Roberts Says:

    The supporters of SOPA want to return to the status quo of a few years ago. That’s what I meant.

  5. Jill Says:

    I don’t have anything to say about SOPA, but your statement, “If those who benefit from the status quo usually win, problems stack up unsolved,” suggests that the status quo is usually problematic and change is usually beneficial for solving those problems. I’d think you should be a little more circumspect. If there is a problem caused by the status quo, change would be necessary to solve it, but that doesn’t mean any change that benefits someone is going to solve the problem (it can and often does make the problem worse). Also, just because someone benefits from change doesn’t automatically mean there’s a problem with the status quo.

    Of course, I do understand that your focus is innovation.

  6. Outis Says:

    For background, read Lawrence Lessig’s _Free Culture_ (available for free on the internet in a variety of formats).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Culture_%28book%29