Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview: Nikk Jakson #1 (Part 3 of 3)

Bret: What are your feelings on America’s addictions, drugs and oil?

Nikk: Oil is a finite resource, drugs we can create an endless supply. Draw your own conclusions.

Bret: Actually we might run out of ecstasy. It’s harvested largely from the oil of some tree in Asia, I think it’s primarily found in Cambodia. The illicit production of the oil results not only in deforestation, but pollution, because the chemical run off from the on-site manufacture pollutes the area.

Nikk: Well, then, we run out of it, there’s always something to get high on.

Bret: True, but how will people dance all night and die of dehydration? The electronic music industry will collapse.

Nikk: I wouldn’t shed any tears over that...

Bret: I just shudder to imagine all of those house DJ’s beat boxing on the streets, begging for change. So you don’t have any problem with drug use or abuse?

Nikk: No, of course not. People have the right to do what they want with their bodies. Drug abuse is sad, but sadder still is the toll the drug war has wrought.

Bret: Do you know much about the Anglo-Chinese Opium wars?

Nikk: A little.

Bret: So do you think the economic exploitation of a population caused by pushing an addictive substance on a people is a problem?

Nikk: Pushing? The illegality drives the process. Those drug gangs in Mexico don’t want legalization. Alcohol causes millions of deaths, but prohibition wasn’t the answer.

Bret: I agree, but how would you tread the line between these two problems?

Nikk: I think all economic exploitation is a problem. The banks do it, the company you work for does it...

Bret: Right, but we don’t have to swing between two extremes. I wouldn’t make banks or corporations illegal just because they can and have exploited people, just as I wouldn’t try to deny the usefulness of government. But I wouldn’t have them be completely free to do whatever they want, be it a bank, company or government. I mean... just look at the pharmaceutical industry. They have the freedom to do pretty much anything they want, within some limits, and look what we have: a bunch of kids running around doped up, diagnosed with phony “diseases” because they don’t sit still like an adult.

Nikk: Let free exchange take place, and get people into treatment who need it (you can’t force it, but you can make it a very open process where they feel they’ll be helped to a better life). Overall, we have to end the economic exploitation of capitalism so people can earn a decent, human living.

Bret: Who pays for treatment, considering most people who seek it are flat broke after hitting bottom?

Nikk: Well, Big Pharma, you know I hate that state-supported industry.

Bret: Yeah, but the state-supported part is the important part, namely development.

Nikk: Who pays for it is like asking who will build and maintain roads. Some things will be done voluntarily but in common. No one should own large tracts of land that they can’t possibly use personally, and people can choose to pool their resources for things like drug treatment so it’s available when they or a freind or family member needs it. I’m more of a socialist than you think I am, but an anarchist socialist.

Bret: Yeah but most people don’t want to willingly do that. You’re talking about a population that doesn’t want to give poor kids medicine, and you expect me to believe people will pool their resources out of the goodness of their own hearts to help drug addicts? Most people are just going to say “Fuck ‘em, they made a dumb choice, why should we pay to help them? We should spend our money on helping orphans and the physically disabled.” Except here in reality, we have to deal with the consequences of everyone’s actions, and we can’t just dismiss a person as not worthy of help when they are in trouble. I get what you’re saying, but you have to realize that the people who are making millions of dollars would never give 30% of their income to help people, which isn’t even what they’re giving now after tax loopholes. And yet we’re still short on cash. I just don’t understand how a selfish people will magically become generous in the absence of government.

Nikk: IP, like real property claims that aren’t based on use, is a fraud. You can’t patent something and then morally make the claim that someone else, who may have come up with the same idea independently, is stealing from you because they failed to get to the patent office before you did.

Bret: Most IP has nothing to do with independent discovery. It has to do with compensating those who innovate while discouraging those who poach ideas and seek to put creative and intelligent people out of business. We can talk about how IP law should be changed in many cases, but to say people don’t have a right to profit exclusively from their discoveries is not a very good idea. It might work in medicine, because most medical research is done in public universities funded largely by tax dollars. So in that case, yeah, it would be nice if publicly funded discoveries were public.

Nikk: Even if they did “steal” your idea, you can’t morally prevent them from using their own property to create something using your idea. I’ve gone over this before, and the history of invention really doesn’t support your notion.

Bret: Actually the history of invention shows that in nations that defend IP, science and industry grow at a more rapid pace. And what’s more, from an artistic point of view, IP is the sole method for success. If I write a book and someone else can just print thousands of copies of it and sell it for a dollar less than I sell it for, how is that going to encourage me to write another?

Nikk: So, you’re a utilitarian? I’m not. And again, I don’t think the facts support what you’re saying anyway.

Bret: I’m just a pragmatist, I see that certain things work and certain things don’t. I don’t see people like Edison as particularly amazing, but I know his drive to invent was largely premised on the goal of making money. I don’t think people would make a career out of innovation if there was no incentive to do so.

Nikk: What encouraged Shakespeare to write all those plays? Not to mention that he stole all his plots.

Bret: Shakespeare earned money for having his plays performed. Do you think he would have written more than one if he hadn’t? I know I don’t write for the hell of it, I hope to one day be paid to be a writer.

Nikk: But he couldn’t copyright them. Today, musicians can still earn from performing their music, too, and most earn far more from that than record sales.

Bret: Meh, record sales and online piracy are fundamentally different. No one is making money off of pirated music. Well, not the online piracy anyway. Plus there’s also a unique situation where the pirated version is superior to the legitimate version. MP3s are more useful than CDs. So yeah, if someone was giving away vaccines that were better than regular ones, I would support that. But that isn’t happening.

Nikk: I’m not sure what your point is...the argument goes that “illegal” downloading cuts into music industry profits, but like Shakespeare and his plays, you earn most of your money from live performance anyway.

Bret: I’m not saying downloading music illegally for free is wrong, nor would I see it as violation of IP, since no one is profiting off of someone else’s IP. If downloading a song for free is IP infringement, than so would pulling up to someone who has their music on loud, since you could hear it without paying for it. I’m even on the fence about sneaking into a concert. Is it wrong? Who’s to say? Now, if you’re charging people to sneak them in, you’re an asshole who should be punished.

Nikk: Again, profit or not isn’t the point or focus of the copyright Nazis. They say that the fact that you can get something for free makes people unwilling to pay for it, depriving record companies of profits.

Bret: Right, but we’re talking about how we would do it. I also wouldn’t be in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I am not willing to say war is always wrong. IP can change, I just don’t think it should be eradicated. In fact, I can’t even think of something off the top of my head that ought to be eradicated at all.

Nikk: Well, you’re more reasonable than the corporate assholes who control most copyrights, then. Reform would be better than what we have now.

Bret: I’m more reasonable than people who would directly benefit from overzealous application of an otherwise useful concept? Shocking. This is why I think we need government, there is no such thing as self-regulation. You need someone standing apart from it all saying, “Uh, excuse me, what the hell are you doing?”

Nikk: Society can govern itself, that’s all I’m saying. We don’t need a class of people to do it for us and lord it over us.

Bret: Society is governing itself, some societies better than others. I think your fundamental flaw is in seeing government as apart from the rest of us somehow.

Nikk: Exactly. But society is not the same as the state. Don’t make the mistake of conflating them.

Bret: I see the president as no different than me (besides him being wrong, of course). “The state” isn’t a thing, it’s an idea. It’s certainly not a person or group of people or some particular class.

Nikk: Yes, goverment is apart, because it claims special privileges for itself that don’t apply universally to everyone.

Bret: There are going to be certain actions I don’t want the average person to be able to have. And yet those actions may need to be taken in some fashion. But I think you’ll find that citizens have more of those rights than you think. Most states allow for basic things like citizen’s arrests, and people are arming themselves (despite the fact that I don’t even want most police to carry weapons).

Nikk: Well, I don’t want them to have the power to kidnap people for non-violent actions either, the difference is, the state does claim that right.

Bret: But you can’t use another example to justify this one. If drugs were legal, for instance, would this even be an issue? Isn’t the hostility most people have towards the police these days a product of the perception that they enforce laws we don’t want or need? And if this is the case, why are we blaming the executive branch for a problem of the legislature? I want cops to be able to “kidnap” people, especially people who are committing crimes and would just commit more if they were left free to do so. And I’m assuming real crimes here.

Nikk: Well, it would still be an issue as long as there are any laws that make non-aggressive activities or actions (including refusing to pay taxes that you didn’t agree to) illegal. Real crimes are crimes with or without a state. It takes the state to invent crimes where they didn’t exist before.

Bret: Why not go some place you don’t have to pay taxes? I think it’s a crime to refuse to pay taxes. It’s like saying you’re more important than everyone else. I don’t see why anyone should just get a free ride because they morally object to taxes.

Nikk: Why should I have to leave? You’re begging the question and assuming the government has the right to tax me in the first place.

Bret: No, I’m looking around at the things taxes have paid for and thinking “This wasn’t free.” You should fight to have taxes spent the way you want, not try to justify to yourself that you are above paying taxes. I don’t like knowing my taxes go to bomb foreign nations, I don’t like knowing my taxes go to oil companies and farming corporations. But not paying my taxes isn’t going to fix that.

Nikk: No, it’s saying you don’t have the right to steal from me, just because you’re bigger and stronger than I am. If everyone refused, that would fix the problem.

Bret: No, it would kill millions of Americans who rely on the kindness of others to live. Besides, income tax is much better and more equitable than sales tax.

Nikk: If they’re relying on kindness, then you don’t need to take from anyone by force.

Bret: I don’t think you understood what I said... there are people who rely on a government check to pay for assistance and basic amenities just to live. They won’t find that kindness elsewhere, or else they may find it with conditions through some private means. I guess if you’re trying to push people into the waiting arms of churches, then yeah, this is a brilliant plan.

Nikk: Well, we’re dealing with a different subject. But theft is theft. Are you saying that people don’t want to help anyone, that they’re so bad and selfish that they need to be forced to give their money to the state to do it for them? You’re saying even Wal-mart workers would rather keep their own money than have to pay income taxes, but if that’s true, then the whole system you support is anti-democratic. You can’t have it both ways...

Bret: There are countries that don’t have taxes. Want to guess how they’re doing?

Nikk: You didn’t answer my question, though. If taxes were voluntary, including sales taxes, would anyone pay them? People would give to help others, but that’s not what I’m asking.

Bret: I don’t understand your question.

Nikk: If people would not willingly pay, then the system is anti-democratic to its rotten core.

Bret: If I could kill someone, I would, does that mean it’s oppression to prevent me from doing so? I think you’re mistaking selfishness for democracy. Democracy doesn’t mean we all just give in to whatever we want to do.

Nikk: Not wanting to pay a tax is the same as wanting to murder someone? Most people don’t want to go around killing people, but the vast majority would not pay a tax if doing so was made voluntary, not mandatory, that’s my point.

Bret: That’s weird, because the vast majority don’t pay the vast majority of taxes, so we’re almost there. And I can come up with a thousand things from speeding to littering that would be allowed if people were just given free reign to say “Do whatever you want.”

Nikk: Everyone pays sales tax. Do you think most would if they were asked if they wanted to add another 5, 6, 7 or even 10% to their purchases?

Bret: I not only find this to be am empty argument, I think the ultimate result is so monstrous I don’t even want to bother thinking about it. We can argue all day about how we’re all forced to wear clothes or we’re required to not yell fire in a crowded theatre or whatever miniscule thing it is that makes you think you’re somehow being oppressed. But ultimately the freedoms paid for with taxes are mountains compared to the molehill of “tyranny” that results from the “force” applied to collecting taxes.

Nikk: The speed laws are also anti-democratic and mostly about making money for local government, not about safety. Most people ignore them when there are no cops around, at least when it is reasonable to ignore them. If only a few people are speeding on certain road, then my point about governing ourselves is made.

Bret: Speed laws are largely about safety and fuel consumption. Tickets are about income. Tickets wouldn’t even be written if people followed the clearly stated law. You’re really hitting on a nerve here with me, because you’re talking about something that kills thousands of people a year. You can’t convince me auto safety laws are tyranny, if anything we have far too few.

Nikk: Yeah, thousands die, on GOVERNMENT roads.

Bret: It’s the government’s fault people drive like psychopaths? If only there was some group that would educate people on how to drive and regulate who is allowed to drive... I can’t imagine who could ever do that...

Nikk: I’m in favor of abolishing all state DMVs. They’re just another government extortion racket. Driving your own car is a right, not some government granted privilege.

Bret: I think I have the right to not be endangered by other drivers. Maybe I’m insane for wanting that right, since it requires a governing body that can tell people “you’re too old and blind to drive.”

Nikk: Who said you didn’t? But what’s that got to do with it? I have to keep getting my driver license renewed, even though they no longer test me on anything. In my state, I just send in the fee and get a new one. So how is it about safety? If I fail to renew, though, suddenly I’m a dangerous driver because I don’t have the approval of the state?

Bret: Again, it’s not about what it’s like now, it’s about what could/should be done. I think the licensing process (especially for new drivers) is a joke that should be taken seriously, but my point is that dismantling the DMV system doesn’t bring us a step closer to what I want, it’s a huge step back.


  1. Geez, I thought I was supposed to get the last word in this interview!

  2. Ahh, but this way there will be a second interview, so you can clarify.

  3. [If you want the last word, which you are entitled to, post any response you want and I will delete the comment and add it to the end of the interview without any follow-up on my part... a dangerous proposition, to be sure, but one which I do owe you.]


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