MPAA Kills Anti-Pretexting Bill

Remember pretexting? It's the cute name given to...well...fraud. It's when you call someone and pretend to be someone else, in order to get information. Or when you go online and pretend to be someone else, in order to get something. There's no question in my mind that it's fraud and illegal, but it seems to be a gray area.

California is considering a bill that would make this kind of thing illegal, and allow victims to sue for damages.

Who could be opposed to this? The MPAA, that's who:

The bill won approval in three committees and sailed through the state Senate with a 30-0 vote. Then, according to Lenny Goldberg, a lobbyist for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the measure encountered unexpected, last-minute resistance from the Motion Picture Association of America.

"The MPAA has a tremendous amount of clout and they told legislators, 'We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,'" Goldberg said.

These people are looking more and more like a criminal organization every day.

EDITED TO ADD (12/11): Congress has outlawed pretexting. The law doesn't go as far as some of the state laws -- which it pre-empts -- but it's still a good thing.

Posted on December 4, 2006 at 7:38 AM • 85 Comments

Comments

Mike SherwoodDecember 4, 2006 7:59 AM

Was there any doubt that the MPAA is an organized crime syndicate? While there is a legitimate side to what they do, their tactics say a lot about who they really are. If the law gets passed, can we use RICO against the MPAA?

Ben LiddicottDecember 4, 2006 8:14 AM

We need Privacy and Data Protection legislation, not Anti-Pretexting legislation.

There are many good reasons not to give your real name, and many good reasons to get all kinds of information without revealing who you are. Consider your competitor's prices, for example.

Do you really want to criminalize Bob's Hardware from ringing up Joe's Plumbing to ask for the price of a widget?

Where the information pretexted is confidential personal information this should be illegal, but that comes under Data Protection and Privacy.

There is no reason to criminalize pretexting itself.

Stuart LangridgeDecember 4, 2006 8:20 AM

Ben: I don't think anyone is proposing making Bob's Hardware ringing up Joe's Plumbing being a criminal act per se. What they are proposing is criminalising Bob's Hardware ringing up Joe's *and lying about who they are*, and it's not clear to me that people who want to do that deserve any protection. If Joe doesn't want to tell his competitors his prices, I don't see why he should be forced to do so.

JoeDecember 4, 2006 8:22 AM

@Ben: RTFB:

"Personal information" means any information that identifies,
relates to, describes, or is capable of being associated with, a
particular individual, including, but not limited to, his or her
name, signature, social security number, physical characteristics or
description, address, telephone number, telephone calling pattern
record or list, passport number, driver's license or state
identification card number, insurance policy number, education,
employment, employment history, bank account number, credit card
number, debit card number, or any other financial information.

Don't worry, the price of a widget at Joe's plumbing is not included.

grs1969December 4, 2006 9:04 AM

"Pretexting" to commit fraud should be (is?) illegal.

"Pretexting" to give yourself anonymity should not be.

Stuart LangridgeDecember 4, 2006 9:13 AM

grs1969: why not? Refusing to give any details at all should, I completely agree, not be illegal or even (ideally) frowned upon. I can't see why it should ever be reasonable to deliberately lie about who you are, though.

Dimitris AndrakakisDecember 4, 2006 9:14 AM

I'm really curious; isn't this kind of thing already illegal in most countries ?

Down here (Greece) it already is illegal, and it is called (suprise, suprise) "impersonation fraud".

Joe PattersonDecember 4, 2006 9:20 AM

@Ben: I believe (although this belief is not necessarily based on a whole lot of information) that the practice in question was not so much pretending to be someone random identity other than who you are, but instead pretending to be someone specific. Not so much "Hi, I'm John Smith, how much do your widgets cost?", but more along the lines of "Hi, I'm John Smith, my mother's maiden name is Adams, what's my account balance?"

Ed T.December 4, 2006 9:32 AM

"There is no reason to criminalize pretexting itself."

I disagree, given that in many cases pretexting is the next step after Identity Theft (and often involves presenting the types of 'credentials' obtained by ID theft.)

~EdT.

Matthew SkalaDecember 4, 2006 10:02 AM

Is there a difference between pretexting and "Hi, I'm 17 years old, wouldn't you like to meet me for sex... Aha! You are a pedophile and guilty of "luring"!"? Maybe undercover police are exempt from anti-pretexting proposals, but vigilantes do the same thing without having any official police powers.

C GomezDecember 4, 2006 10:04 AM

Fraud is fraud. Lying about who you are to gain private information is fraud. The statute book doesn't need to nitpick out every little possible way someone commits fraud. That's what juries are supposed to be for.

"Hmm, yeah this is fraud, ring him up, your honor... I mean... Guilty as charged".

You don't need to commit fraud to catch illegal downloaders. I don't see (at a brief glance) why a law is needed or why the MPAA should be allowed to commit fraud.

What could possibly be gray about it? I'm with you on that Bruce, except I see no need to criminalize what is already criminal.

X the UnknownDecember 4, 2006 10:06 AM

@Stuart Langridge: "why not? Refusing to give any details at all should, I completely agree, not be illegal or even (ideally) frowned upon. I can't see why it should ever be reasonable to deliberately lie about who you are, though."

In a system which *requires* some form of identification (if only IP address), how do you maintain anonymity without "pretexting". I wish to maintain anonymity on this blog, but all messages require a poster (if only "anonymous" by default). That means I *HAVE* to pretext. Using Tor to web-surf is pretexting - the final site thinks my IP address is other than it is.

J.D. AbolinsDecember 4, 2006 10:06 AM

Re: "'Pretexting' to give yourself anonymity should not be."

Bruce's original post gives a good working definition of pretexting as assuming somebody else's identity to get something. The somebody else is a specific real person (or for the hardware widget's price check example, a business entity).

I stress a specific person because many names are likely to have matching hits. So all the "David Smith's" in the world are not "pretexting" each each other. Now if one of them starts to falsely give the address, birthdate, etc. of another one, that would be a different story.

One tool for maintaining privacy is pseudonymity. That does not necessarily entail hooking into another person's identity. Protecting one's privacy by exploiting another person's identity would be a violation of that person's privacy.

There are everyday cases where people use a name other than their "official" or "legal" name: Nicknames, pen names and stage names, Anglicisation of some names, and so on. Key factor is that these practices, in themselves, do not entail exploiting trust to get something that doesn't belong to the person.

Stephan SamuelDecember 4, 2006 10:08 AM

The reality of bills like this is that they don't always have the effect they're listed as having. The real effect comes down to where the rubber meets the road: how the law is enforced.

It may be beneficial to try the bill out and see what comes of it. California is more politically agile than many states and if it turns out to be a horrible idea, they'll take action.

As for the MPAA's position, it's a shame that the attorney general of California (or whoever is appropriate) doesn't take criminal action for that. They've openly admitted that they're committing fraud. If law enforcement does what they're admitting to, it's entrapment. If they want the authority that they've asked for, they should live by the laws that other authorities live by.

nzrussDecember 4, 2006 10:36 AM

"The MPAA has a tremendous amount of clout....."

It is good to see who is running the place.

Let us hope the MPAA don't find a reason to stop cars in the street and search them.

RealistDecember 4, 2006 10:58 AM

This highlights one of the problems in general with US legislation. Most US legislation these days attempts to address the either technologies or a specific instance of an activity rather than the principles or concepts of the real issue.

That's why the US ends up with useless, invasive legislation such as SOX, PATRIOT, etc., and attempts to pass laws on "pre-texting" rather than addressing the real issues.

Most countries know how to make their legislation technology neutral so that when a new version of a scam or activity arises they don't have to scramble and waste time re-writing everything. It's already covered in the concepts of the basic legislation.

John PhillipsDecember 4, 2006 11:07 AM

I would have thought that pretexting for any kind of activity detrimental to the person your are pretexting to be would already be covered under ID theft laws or similar, assuming you have them in the US. In the UK it is illegal with regards to telecommunications such as accessing voice mail and similar. As the News Of The World's royal editor and his PI co-conspirator found out to their cost in court last week. They accessed peoples' voice mail often using the default access codes but without the authority to do so. They are still awaiting sentence, but I believe worst case they could face up to two years in jail.

Pat CahalanDecember 4, 2006 11:24 AM

@ Matthew Skala

> Is there a difference between pretexting and "Hi, I'm 17 years old, wouldn't you like
> to meet me for sex... Aha! You are a pedophile and guilty of "luring"!"?

For the purposes of this legislation, yes, there is a major difference -> this legislation applies only to those attempting to acquire personal information (quoted):

"Personal information" means any information that identifies, relates to, describes, or is capable of being associated with, a particular individual, including, but not limited to, his or her name, signature, social security number, physical characteristics or description, address, telephone number, telephone calling pattern record or list, passport number, driver's license or state identification card number, insurance policy number, education,
employment, employment history, bank account number, credit card number, debit card number, or any other financial information.

(end quote).

HarroldDecember 4, 2006 11:27 AM

I know a few people that should be jailed just for presenting themselves to others as who they really are .

AnonymousDecember 4, 2006 11:35 AM

where are they now .. those paragons of free speech and liberty.

mpaa is not anyone other than the paid goons by the preaching liberals from the lala land
so next time you see the crooks like riener, peck and others .. don't forget to throw up

gfujimoriDecember 4, 2006 11:40 AM

"These people are looking more and more like a criminal organization every day."

If it looks like a duck, and it talks like a duck...

VigilanteDecember 4, 2006 12:26 PM

Since when does the MPAA (or any organization for that matter), get to be the police?

If downloading is illegal, shouldn't they report this as a crime, and call in the police just like anyone else needs to do if a crime is committed? Let the police determine if further investigation is warranted, and if so, they can use their government granted powers to investigate the crime properly, according to the laws they are sworn to uphold.

Why is the MPAA allowed to have these vigilante rights?

Alias Smith and JonesDecember 4, 2006 1:04 PM

From the article:

> "There's a public reason and benefit for
> some of this information to be available
> to legitimate licensed investigators,"
> Walsh said.

Hello, AT&T? Today I am Carly Fiorina, private investigator license #546903...

quincunxDecember 4, 2006 1:58 PM

@ Bruce

People seem to hate the MPAA so much that they can't see that they are right, even though their motives are dubious at best.

'Remember pretexting? It's the cute name given to...well...fraud. It's when you call someone and pretend to be someone else, in order to get information. Or when you go online and pretend to be someone else, in order to get something. There's no question in my mind that it's fraud and illegal, but it seems to be a gray area.'

There is no fraud. Fraud involves implicit or explicit theft. If there is no transfer of actual property under false premises then there is no fraud.

The issue here is not legal, but moral and ethical. The issue here is 'lying', but lying should never be subject to persecution unless a contract has been broken, and then the punishment should only fit the crime.

Exchanging information, is not theft, because information is not, never was, and never will be legitimate property. The person who gives you info, does not lose the info, and hence no theft has occurred.

Furthermore, Bruce, if you were serious in combating fraud then you will have to agree that every Central Bank will have to abolished. There is no greater fraud than these institutions, and yet hardly anyone knows about it.

The reason it's a 'gray area' is because the law is corrupt, it is not unifrom, but ad-hoc and contradictory to the extreme, just like all public law.

'These people are looking more and more like a criminal organization every day.'

Yes, but for a very different reason, mainly their manipulation of the biggest criminal organization in the US: the federal government.

gnomeDecember 4, 2006 2:00 PM

The MPAA continually trots out surprisingly bad films disguised as blockbusters. Impersonating individuals in order to get evidence to sue for the measly few bucks these former customers refused to pay for crappy remakes/sequels seems rather petty in comparison, but certainly not beneath anyone from Hollywood.

DBHDecember 4, 2006 2:27 PM

Pretexting is pretending to be someone else in order to get information that should not be available to you personally. It is NOT veiling your identity (the other party still has a choice in revealing information to someone less well known) nor is it using a pseudonym (e.g. on these message boards) since there is no attempt to materially gain from the psuedonym. It is also not behavior in police enforcement (note, posting "I'm 15 and wanna have sex" would be entrapment, and hence not grounds for successful prosecution, whereas causing the other party to solicit sex and carry forth on the intent would not be entrapment.) However, it is also a technique used by private investigators, bounty hunters, and, yes, vigilantes. In most cases, this is indeed illegal, but since the information isn't being used for prosecuting crimes (or at least providing plausible deniability to law enforcement) it is not litigated (but would still be considered fraud). So called "Licensed Investigators" have no more rights than anyone else regarding fraud, they've just been 'verified' by the state and generally have taken an exam that indicates they understand the law and limits on their behavior.

DBHDecember 4, 2006 2:35 PM

@quincunx: huh?

If I use pretexting in order to gain private information, it is pretty darn certain I'm not doing that for fun, but for profit, even if I'm just a stalker, it is with criminal intent.

Matthew SkalaDecember 4, 2006 3:02 PM

Pat Cahalan and DBH: isn't obtaining the personal information of the party you want to entrap, a necessary part of succeeding in the teen-sex entrapment scenario? That doesn't seem to me to be a reason that that scenario wouldn't involve pretexting, even if the scenario is not ALL pretexting and would be better prosecuted as entrapment.

An important sidelight: as I understand it, the police aren't allowed to practice entrapment, but vigilantes can get away with it in some circumstances; there are cases of people without police credentials running sting operations of their own, turning over the resulting (inadmissable) evidence to the police, and the police using that to get warrants to search for real admissable evidence. Maybe it shouldn't be allowed, but in practice it happens.

I think a better way to distinguish the scenarios would be that in the entrapment scenario, the undercover agent would normally be assuming the identity of some non-existent fictional 17-year-old, not a specific *real* 17-year-old; whereas standard identity-theft pretexting involves "Hi, I am the real John Smith [even though I'm not], please give me this information he has access to."

But if "fictional person = not pretexting", what about the case where someone phones the bank and says, "I'm Matthew Skala's wife and have access to his accounts, see, here's his date of birth and mother's maiden name, now won't you tell me...". The bank might not know that I'm single; they should know that none of my accounts are joint accounts with a wife or anybody else; but it's easy to imagine that they could fall for that routine, and if they did, it would seem to be the same kind of attack as what's being called "pretexting" here, even though it doesn't involve impersonating a specific real person.

quincunxDecember 4, 2006 3:13 PM

@ DBH

'If I use pretexting in order to gain private information, it is pretty darn certain I'm not doing that for fun, but for profit, even if I'm just a stalker, it is with criminal intent.'

Criminal intent is not a crime.

If the holder of your private information divulges it to a third party under any pretext, they are the ones that are breaking their contract with you. It is up to them to ensure that it doesn't happen, and use the law to pursue the wrongdoer (if that is what they suspect). I have no problem with pursuing the pretexter to see if they are a criminal organization.

But to hold the caller as the sole party responsible, merely for lying is wrong and unjust.

Do you see the difference? You may pursue the suspect, but the act itself is not a crime.

This whole act is nothing more than a burdon shifter, not a crime reducer.

Matthew SkalaDecember 4, 2006 3:17 PM

quincunx: There's not much more to the crime of "conspiracy" than criminal intent. Intent also figures in a big way in some of the sex crimes.

quincunxDecember 4, 2006 3:26 PM

@ Matthew Skala

I don't agree with much of the positive laws that exist. Just because laws exist does not mean that they are correct, it merely means that the party that advocated them got them into the law, and a lot of ex-post-facto rationales have been built for them.

Conspiracy itself should not be a crime.

NealDecember 4, 2006 3:32 PM

"If it looks like a duck, and it talks like a duck..."

Then it must be Daffy*, but then so is the MPAA....

*since ducks quack

Davi OttenheimerDecember 4, 2006 3:37 PM

@ quincunx

"Exchanging information, is not theft, because information is not, never was, and never will be legitimate property."

Part of the fun of securing information is preventing disclosure. It is an asset with real/measurable value. So if someone cheats your controls by faking their credentials, they are usually not only accused of "breaking in" but "stealing". And then there is even the cost of availability to those assets. See the next log entry for reference:

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/12/...

So perhaps you mean that you would prefer if information could not be treated with value like "property", but you have to admit information does have significant value (er, posted a comment with your real name lately, quincunx?) and pre-texting is an authentication (and/or authorization) attack on controls designed to protect assets.

While there are certainly sting operations and undercover operations, etc. done with oversight authority in law enforcement, I am curious who would play oversight to the MPAA investigations and why they think unregulated extra-legal private actions are better than proper law enforcement channels.

quincunxDecember 4, 2006 4:09 PM

@ Davi

'Part of the fun of securing information is preventing disclosure. It is an asset with real/measurable value. So if someone cheats your controls by faking their credentials, they are usually not only accused of "breaking in" but "stealing"'

That's great an all, but I consider 'breaking in' and 'stealing' to be physical concepts (including unauthorized computer access), but the law applies to the use of social engineering and persuasion, the absence of 'break in' and 'stealing'.

'And then there is even the cost of availability to those assets.'

These costs are arbitrary, just like all property assessments. Real costs arise out of buying & selling on the market.

I can just as easily claim that my information is worth 'billions' and then sue someone for disclosing it. But that would be illegitimate.

For example, I find the MPAA and the RIAA calculation of piracy to be wholly illegitimate, because they are pretentiously assuming that the decline in the demand for their product is all theft. Imagine every industry claiming that lower demand is theft!
Or that new competition is theft!

'So perhaps you mean that you would prefer if information could not be treated with value like "property"'

It can never be treated like 'property' but it can be cemented in a contract. Trade secrets are wholly legitimate, but you can't sue the parties that got the info, only the one that broke the contract.

'but you have to admit information does have significant value (er, posted a comment with your real name lately, quincunx?'

You are missing the point. Yes, my name is valuable, and I have a right not to disclose it. What I can not do is prevent anyone else from exercising their property and their mouth in disclosing that information if they obtained it by whatever means other than physical theft or as a violation of contract.

And I mean real contracts between two people, not a public announcement: 'no one can use my name'.

' and pre-texting is an authentication (and/or authorization) attack on controls designed to protect assets.'

Attack is a bad metaphor.

'While there are certainly sting operations and undercover operations, etc. done with oversight authority in law enforcement,'

But who gets to oversee the authorities? Why are they the only ones that are allowed to do this?

'I am curious who would play oversight to the MPAA investigations and why they think unregulated extra-legal private actions are better than proper law enforcement channels.'

Because law enforcement, today, is a racketerring operation writ large.

The 'unregulated extra-legal private actions' has twice the money of all police operations (money they get voluntary and not through the conscription of taxes), and a much better record to boot. Did you actually think that the public sector catches most of the real criminals?

The problem is not private actions, but the special privileges and perks that special interests like the MPAA and the RIAA obtain from the federal government. They are intellectual property protectionists and nothing more.

Therefore the problem is not pre-texting but the corrupt IP laws instead.

Rob MayfieldDecember 4, 2006 4:10 PM

The amazing part of this is, not unlike some other organisations in the news recently, the MPAA appears quite willing and unashamed to admit to using and promoting fraudulent and deceptive means to achieve their goals.

ThuktunDecember 4, 2006 5:10 PM

I wonder if an anti-pretexting bill would criminalize investigative reporting?

Pretending to be a law enforcement officer or a licensed professional when you're not would seem to be pretty clearly bad. In other cases it sounds like a gray area.

JamieDecember 4, 2006 5:33 PM

Rather than stopping the methods for getting the information (e.g. pretexting), why not work to protect the information?

From what I can tell, the US has little or no legislation protecting privacy. There are no penalties if any such information is divulged. It becomes a moral responsibility rather than a legal one.

As far as I am aware, privacy laws generally follow these ideas:
* Disclosing private information to third parties without permission is illegal.
* Attempting to obtain private information by fraudulent means (e.g. pretexting) is illegal.
* When private information is recorded by a third party, that third party must disclose how that information will be used, and whether any other parties may have access to that information.
* The subject of private information held by a third party has the right to review and correct that information.

Pretexting isn't such a big issue in countries with such laws, because the punishment is so great for both the pretexting party and the "victim" company.

Gopi FlahertyDecember 4, 2006 6:13 PM

@quincunx:

(I'm starting with a scenario here where all the parties definitely _know_ what's in the contract...)

Should inducing somebody to violate a contract be against the law?

If I'm riding with somebody in a rental car, and I tell them, 'hey, let's ignore the contract and go to mexico for the weekend', should that be against the law? What if I saw, 'I'll give you $100 if you take me to Mexico for a few days.'

What about if I take the contract before they see it, and put white out over the 'Don't go to Mexico' clause. Or, say, I'm telling them which roads to take, and I intentionally guide them into Mexico without them realizing it?

I don't think the non-contract-bound person is responsible for doing anything to ensure the contract-bound actor follows the contract. I think that, in the "hey, let's go have fun" scenario, the non-contract-bound actor should probably not be violating the law.

However, I think that intentionally tricking somebody into breaking a contract is something that should be civilally and/or criminally prosecutable.

I know that this is criminal vs. civil, but, for example, asking somebody to commit murder is itself a crime. It seems to me that many, many things are both illegal to do, _and_ illegal to get somebody else to do for you. Why should this only apply to criminal rather than civil cases?

(Again, to re-iterate, I am assuming that all parties _know_ what's in the contract. I am _not_ assuming that the non-contract-bound party has any obligation to research the contract or anything like that....)

neighborcatDecember 4, 2006 6:33 PM

I gave my personal information to this girl in a bar last night.

I hope she doesn't turn out to be a dude, but it will be worse if she doesn't call at all.

quincunxDecember 4, 2006 6:39 PM

@ Gopi

'Should inducing somebody to violate a contract be against the law?'

No.

'However, I think that intentionally tricking somebody into breaking a contract is something that should be civilally and/or criminally prosecutable.'

I don't. It denies free will. Your doctrine says that if A tells B to commit a crime, then B acts as a virtual arm of A, without any brains.

Of course the scenario changes once A applies coercive methods on B.

Snarky guyDecember 4, 2006 9:35 PM

>These people are looking more and more like a criminal organization every day.

How can you say a thing like that about the
Movie
And
Film
Industry
Association?

Gopi FlahertyDecember 4, 2006 10:17 PM

@quincunx:
> I don't. It denies free will. Your doctrine
> says that if A tells B to commit a crime,
> then B acts as a virtual arm of A, without
> any brains.

You quoted the part of my text where I mentioned _trickery_. Perhaps there's a misunderstanding of the term, but I use the word to suggest that the persion violating the contract did not realize they were violating it.

It seems like you're treating free will here as an absolute black and white thing. You either made the decision totally of your own free will, free of external influence, or you were compelled into it. There's a lot of grey in-between. Skilled social engineers can make people do a lot of things they wouldn't ordinarily want to do with careful emotional manipulation.

You also seem to have a common fallacy: for a particular act, there are N units of blame and/or punishment which must be meted out. You're suggesting that, by blaming the inducer, I have removed blame from the contract violator.

I think that's an incorrect view of the situation. Since there is no Law of Conservation of Blame, I would leave the N units of blame on the contract violator, and create M new units, which would go to the inducer.

Pat CahalanDecember 4, 2006 11:05 PM

Q> That's great an all, but I consider 'breaking in' and 'stealing'
Q> to be physical concepts (including unauthorized computer access),
Q> but the law applies to the use of social engineering and persuasion,
Q> the absence of 'break in' and 'stealing'.

Lots of laws apply to social engineering and persuasion. If I convince
an emotionally pliable subject to cash out their bank account and give
me their money, that's not illegal. However, if I persuade them to
shoplift an item, sell it, and give me the money, that's prosecutable.
Admittedly most DA's wouldn't take the case, but materially benefitting
from crime is conspiracy.

DO> And then there is even the cost of availability to those assets.

Q> These costs are arbitrary, just like all property assessments. Real
Q> costs arise out of buying & selling on the market.

Those costs can be subjective, but they are not always arbitrary.
If I routinely do $10,000 worth of profitable transactions a day for
three years (within a small delta), and the system is offline for a
day, it is certainly not arbitrary to say that the downtime cost me
$10,000.

Q> I can just as easily claim that my information is worth 'billions'
Q> and then sue someone for disclosing it.

Point of fact you can certainly sue someone for billions for such an
incident. You're unlikely to win billions, however.

Q> For example, I find the MPAA and the RIAA calculation of piracy to
Q> be wholly illegitimate, because they are pretentiously assuming that
Q> the decline in the demand for their product is all theft. Imagine
Q> every industry claiming that lower demand is theft!
Q> Or that new competition is theft!

I find it to be rather laughable myself, but that is because the MPAA
and RIAA have a business model based upon distribution, not upon
production, and distribution of their particular product is no longer
limited technically, so their fundamental business model is flawed.

DO> So perhaps you mean that you would prefer if information could not
DO> be treated with value like "property"'

Q> It can never be treated like 'property' but it can be cemented in a
Q> contract.

On the contrary, it currently is treated very much like property. You
may disagree with that defintion of property, but arguing definitions
doesn't invalidate an argument. Put another way, if there is no such
thing as "intellectual property", then your analysis is correct, but
it's invalid to say that "there's no such thing as intellectual
property".

Q> Trade secrets are wholly legitimate, but you can't sue the parties
Q> that got the info, only the one that broke the contract.

Oh boy can you ever. In fact, if your competitor produces a product
using your patented proprietary technologies, you can make more money
than you can by producing a product yourself. (Yes, I agree this is
screwy, but that doesn't invalidate the fact it happens all the time).

DO> but you have to admit information does have significant value (er,
DO> posted a comment with your real name lately, quincunx?'

Q> You are missing the point. Yes, my name is valuable, and I have a
Q> right not to disclose it. What I can not do is prevent anyone else
Q> from exercising their property and their mouth in disclosing that
Q> information if they obtained it by whatever means other than
Q> physical theft or as a violation of contract.

I disagree. Assume (for example), you told Davi your real name under
the condition that he not reveal it to anyone else, and Davi revealed
that name to me while I was posing as you.

You may or may not choose to burn time trying to stick Davi with the
consequences of violating the contract (which would be difficult to
prove, since Davi will claim that he thought he was complying with
the terms of the contract).

You are not able to do anything *directly* about me posting your name
in the blog. You don't control the blog. However, I would be highly
astonished if you didn't ask Bruce/the moderator to remove my posts,
and I would be more highly astonished if they didn't comply as a
courtesy to you.

Such an appeal to authority is a normal response. You (in your
personal philosophy) don't regard the government as a valid authority.
That's fine and all, but you also disregard the fact that a significant
portion of the populace *does*, and endows that authority with powers
that are quite real.

Q> But who gets to oversee the authorities? Why are they the only ones
Q> that are allowed to do this?

Which question do you want answered? It stands to reason that if the
first question can be answered to satisfaction, then the answer to the
second question follows -> they're the only ones who are allowed to do
this because they are trusted, and not everyone else is, yes? Maybe
other people should be allowed to do this, if they are also trusted.

Flipping your post on its head, you're arguing on the one hand that
the MPAA ought to be able to do this because intellectual property
isn't property and conspiracy isn't a crime. At the same time, you're
at the very least implying that the government ought not to be able
to do this, because it can't be trusted. If intellectual property
isn't property and conspiracy isn't a crime, how is the government's
ability to do this (or not) relevant in the slightest?

Your standard of "satisfaction" is very high (so's mine, for that
matter, but that's neither here nor there). Most people's standard of
satisfaction is considerably lower. We live in a democratic republic,
so our standards are only important if we can convince the appropriate
number of others that we're going with the right standard and they're
using the wrong one.

DO> 'I am curious who would play oversight to the MPAA investigations
DO> and why they think unregulated extra-legal private actions are
DO> better than proper law enforcement channels.'

Q> Because law enforcement, today, is a racketerring operation writ
Q> large.

I disagree with this assessment, but we've gone over that before on
other threads, and regardless the "racketeering"-ness of law
enforcement doesn't mean that the MPAA's private actions (extra-
legal or not) are better or worse than law enforcement.

Q> The 'unregulated extra-legal private actions' has twice the money
Q> of all police operations (money they get voluntary and not through
Q> the conscription of taxes), and a much better record to boot.

You'll need to define "police operations" before I'll even start to
comment on your budgetary evaluations and the evaluation metrics for
determining "better record" need to be rigorously defended.

Q> Did you actually think that the public sector catches most of the
Q> real criminals?

We've already established that you have your own definition of "real
crime".

Q> They are intellectual property protectionists and nothing more.

You're hijacking a thread again - I don't think this thread was
about the nature of property, but you've basically boiled all the
nuances of the thread down to base assumptions that not very many
people agree with, again.

Q> Therefore the problem is not pre-texting but the corrupt IP laws
Q> instead.

IP laws need to be readdressed, I agree. But the fact is that they
do exist, and they do frame part of our legal system.

The effects of these laws deserve to be discussed within the
framework of our existing legal system, instead of resorting to
dismissing the foundations of the legal system and thereby declaring
the problem to be nonexistent

another_bruceDecember 4, 2006 11:15 PM

i think we should focus our displeasure on one specific target associated with pretexting: hewlett-packard.
yes the mpaa is a bad guy, but to cut off its oxygen you must forever foreswear movies.
hewlett-packard used to be a cutting edge computer company, now its just a cutting edge printer company and there are similarly priced alternatives.
we may not have the power to enact anti-pretexting in the california legislature against the power of the industries who own these whores, but we might be able to kill an evil corporation. let's kill hewlett-packard!

quincunxDecember 4, 2006 11:34 PM

@ Gopi

"You quoted the part of my text where I mentioned _trickery_. Perhaps there's a misunderstanding of the term, but I use the word to suggest that the persion violating the contract did not realize they were violating it."

That does not not matter. You can't use ignorance as a defense, but it might be the case that your 'punishment' can take that into account.

"It seems like you're treating free will here as an absolute black and white thing. You either made the decision totally of your own free will, free of external influence, or you were compelled into it. There's a lot of grey in-between. Skilled social engineers can make people do a lot of things they wouldn't ordinarily want to do with careful emotional manipulation."

I am only concerned with the use of force, or the threat of use of force. Free speech that lacks threats should never be considered a crime, regardless of how skillful the speaker is.

But even if a speaker was using advanced tricks, the other party can always use lack of sound mind as a defense, something the skillful speaker will have a hard time of proving.

"You also seem to have a common fallacy: for a particular act, there are N units of blame and/or punishment which must be meted out. You're suggesting that, by blaming the inducer, I have removed blame from the contract violator."

I think you are harboring a common fallacy: utilitarianism. There exists no 'units of blame'. Mathematical economists harbor the same fallacy when they concoct 'utils of satisfaction' and then procede to use calculus to come up with all sorts of crazy and unrealistic conclusions.

"You're suggesting that, by blaming the inducer, I have removed blame from the contract violator.

I think that's an incorrect view of the situation. Since there is no Law of Conservation of Blame, I would leave the N units of blame on the contract violator, and create M new units, which would go to the inducer."

I don't see it that way because their violations are subject to possibly different jurisdictions. The contract violator is subject to the rules and procedures of his firm. He may get no punishment, because it was an honest mistake, or he might be fired, or his bonus removed, etc.

The inducer has not violated anything, and until he does so, is not subject to anyone.

But again, the firm of the contractor violator MAY investigate what the inducer is up to, and if crime is discovered then proper enforcement should procede.

For example: They can use exactly the same technique on a different agent of the firm represented by the inducer, in order to gain more information about them.

Why should they be deprived of this non-violent cost-effective retaliation?

Anti-pretext laws punishes the good and the bad, and leaves interpretation to the worst: the state, and not the private institutions that can directly deal with the problem.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 2:12 AM

@ Pat Cahalan

"Lots of laws apply to social engineering and persuasion. If I convince an emotionally pliable subject to cash out their bank account and give me their money, that's not illegal. However, if I persuade them to shoplift an item, sell it, and give me the money, that's prosecutable. Admittedly most DA's wouldn't take the case, but materially benefitting from crime is conspiracy."

Yes, he should be prosecuted for shoplifting, and you will have to return the money to its rightful owner.

His punishment should not exceed that which he took plus the effort of going after him and you.

Anything more than that, such as dubious charges of Consipiracy are a violation of rights.

What should the punishment be for Conspiracy? It has no monetary value, it can thus only be punished arbitrarily by a judge. And what will this punishment be, today? Probably jail, and maybe a some extra tribute to the state?

Well in my book the criminal would thus be the state.

Yeah, I know they will prod out the ol' prevention excuse, but certainly again it is wholly arbitrary. Why is the charge of conspiracy greater than the act of crime? Conspiracy itself is not a crime, therefore I find it amusing that it can only be considered an additional crime if another crime has taken place.

"Those costs can be subjective, but they are not always arbitrary. If I routinely do $10,000 worth of profitable transactions a day for three years (within a small delta), and the system is offline for a day, it is certainly not arbitrary to say that the downtime cost me $10,000."

You are absolutely right. $10,000 is the opportunity cost of having your site down. It is no different, in a sense, than your creditor counting your expected payments as incoming cash flow, and he has a right to pursue you for payment.

But someone who shuts down your site is a criminal, and should be prosecuted. If it is your host, I don't know what kind of contract you have.

Someone who indirectly effects your bottom line by lying to you is not a criminal, though, and should owe you nothing.

"Point of fact you can certainly sue someone for billions for such an incident. You're unlikely to win billions, however."

Well, that just goes to show how bad our legal system is.

"I find it to be rather laughable myself, but that is because the MPAA and RIAA have a business model based upon distribution, not upon production, and distribution of their particular product is no longer limited technically, so their fundamental business model is flawed."

True that. But you see, if they never had the advantage of being a 'protected' industry, they would have realized that long ago, when their profits started sinking. They would have adopted a better model if the forces of competition were allowed to work.

"On the contrary, it currently is treated very much like property. You may disagree with that defintion of property, but arguing definitions doesn't invalidate an argument. Put another way, if there is no such thing as "intellectual property", then your analysis is correct, but it's invalid to say that "there's no such thing as intellectual property"."

Oh sure, 'intellectual property' exists in law, but it doesn't exist in reality land. Can you show me this property? I can't seem to find it anywhere.

What does exist is what happens when one tries to enforce these figments of the imagination: someone else's real physical property is violated.

"You are not able to do anything *directly* about me posting your name
in the blog. You don't control the blog. However, I would be highly astonished if you didn't ask Bruce/the moderator to remove my posts, and I would be more highly astonished if they didn't comply as a courtesy to you."

Correct, I do not control the blog, and I have NO RIGHT to expect anything. Period. The fact that a courtesy can be extended, does not mean I am entitled to it, only thankful. It is also within my right to incentivise the process by throwing in a few bucks or claiming to be someone else! I can even ask Davi to fix his honest mistake by doing that for me.

"I disagree. Assume (for example), you told Davi your real name under the condition that he not reveal it to anyone else, and Davi revealed that name to me while I was posing as you.
You may or may not choose to burn time trying to stick Davi with the
consequences of violating the contract (which would be difficult to
prove, since Davi will claim that he thought he was complying with the terms of the contract)."

What a tricky problem you've posed. So tricky in fact, that I'm shocked you might think that it could be solved by a one size-fits-all government edict.

I can't answer that, but perhaps a private arbitrator skilled in such problems can come up with good solution that can be accepted by all parties?

"Such an appeal to authority is a normal response. You (in your
personal philosophy) don't regard the government as a valid authority.
That's fine and all, but you also disregard the fact that a significant
portion of the populace *does*, and endows that authority with powers
that are quite real."

Actually most of the powers endowed where made by the now dead, I do not see how the dead should be able to impose their beliefs on me and others.

What is true is that the majority do not understand the laws, what they do and why most of them are bad. They have no idea how they are being exploited on a regular basis, and how the biggest problems in society are directly caused by the institution they wrongly believe is there to help them. They only seem to be concerned when they are at the other end of the gun.

Quin:
But who gets to oversee the authorities? Why are they the only ones that are allowed to do this?

Pat:
"It stands to reason that if the first question can be answered to satisfaction, then the answer to the
second question follows -> they're the only ones who are allowed to do
this because they are trusted, and not everyone else is, yes?"

No. I do think that they are trusted by some people on some matters, but they are definitely not trusted by everyone on ALL matters. I can't think of one person that trusts their government on all issues.

People don't get to decide to trust them, they are forced into it.

"Maybe other people should be allowed to do this, if they are also trusted."

Yes, and that should be decided by anyone, with no imposition from above.

"Flipping your post on its head, you're arguing on the one hand that the MPAA ought to be able to do this because intellectual property
isn't property and conspiracy isn't a crime. At the same time, you're
at the very least implying that the government ought not to be able
to do this, because it can't be trusted. If intellectual property isn't property and conspiracy isn't a crime, how is the government's ability to do this (or not) relevant in the slightest?"

Yes. I'm arguing that they should be able to do it (pre-texting). And if they can't, why is the gov able to do it?

In other words, why do they get to act above their own laws?

It is illegal to lie to the gov, but it is legal to be lied to by the gov. For consistency sake, I'm trying to say that we don't encourage double standards.

Maybe I wasn't clear, I'll admit that.

"We live in a democratic republic, so our standards are only important if we can convince the appropriate number of others that we're going with the right standard and they're using the wrong one."

My point is not to incorporate things into the democratic domain where they don't belong. Imagine a shoe factory running on that principle, what colored shoes should we make today? Let's go to the polls and see. Afterall we must have a shoe standard, god forbid people can independently choose what colored shoes they want.

I was under the impression that we are only a 'democratic republic' in name, but in pratice we are actually an Empire. We certainly seem to be exhibiting all the tell-tale signs.

"You'll need to define "police operations" before I'll even start to
comment on your budgetary evaluations and the evaluation metrics for determining "better record" need to be rigorously defended."

I don't feel like digging around, so if you are interested there is some links here:

http://libertariannation.org/b/police.htm#priv
http://mason.gmu.edu/~atabarro/...

"You're hijacking a thread again - I don't think this thread was about the nature of property, but you've basically boiled all the nuances of the thread down to base assumptions that not very many
people agree with, again."

No, this thread seemed to be about why people hate the MPAA. Therefore I felt the need to mention why they should hate the MPAA. They don't have to agree with me fully - but people do understand that there is something fundamentally wrong with IP one way or another.

"The effects of these laws deserve to be discussed within the framework of our existing legal system, instead of resorting to dismissing the foundations of the legal system and thereby declaring the problem to be nonexistent"

Fascinating. Why is it that 95% of today's government is unconstitutional? Why was the law constantly not followed during such an illegal accreation process?

Why should we address the problem within a framework of law that is not followed anyway?

The political process does not work by rational discussion.

Iam NowonDecember 5, 2006 6:00 AM

I lie about who I am all the time. Every time you go to a store these days they want to know who you are (either by address or phone number) so they can send you "valuable offers". Some stores cannot complete a transaction without such information. I always give fake information and pay cash. The value I am receiving by doing this is I am not buried in junk mail.

AnonymousDecember 5, 2006 6:31 AM

@another_bruce:
>yes the mpaa is a bad guy, but to cut off its oxygen you must forever foreswear movies.
You make it sound as if the US had a monopoly on movie production. Besides, since when are US movies worth watching anyway?

MiscDecember 5, 2006 8:44 AM

"These costs are arbitrary, just like all property assessments. Real costs arise out of buying & selling on the market."

And what makes costs that arise from "buying & selling on the market" any more "real" than property assessments?

I'll agree that markets seem to be more efficient at establishing parameters of business exchange (e.g. buying and selling) and allocating most resources than simply setting prices by fiat. However, that's a different matter than some fundamental notion of what's "real" or not. There's no such thing as a "real" price.

What's more, many price assessments are based on market values, so where does that leave your argument?

"Fascinating. Why is it that 95% of today's government is unconstitutional? Why was the law constantly not followed during such an illegal accreation process?"

It is? Since you're referencing a discussion of laws, I assume you're referring not to illegal behavior by lawmakers, but some notion that what our government is legally doing is unconstitutional.

The vast majority of today's government have been tested in court and found constitutional. How else would you determine what's "constitutional" and what's not? Should we simply go with your opinion?

While I may agree with you that in certain cases (such as Intellectual Property) the law is at odds with the intent of the people who wrote the Constitution, we don't get to decide that.

AnonymousDecember 5, 2006 8:58 AM

IMHO, pretexting is the obtaining of valuable information one does not have a legitimate need to obtain by fraudulent means. And yeah, it should be illegal.

Information DOES have value, and frequently, that value is set by the same means most other values are set: in the marketplace.

Clearly, it's not always the case: the RIAA's "$750 per song" is outrageous by any standard, and will likely be redressed at some point. But generally speaking, it's not unreasonable to say that most people feel pre-texting should be illegal, that there is no compelling social need for private citizens and organizations to be able to obtain valuable private information via misrepresentation, that most of the time, the people who do that sort of thing are out to hurt people, and that making pre-texting illegal would prevent serious harm to individuals and organizations. Those are the grounds on which many (if not most) laws are passed, and there's really no good reason to allow the MPAA to run around setting themselves up as a private police force.

AnonymousDecember 5, 2006 9:05 AM

"Yeah, I know they will prod out the ol' prevention excuse, but certainly again it is wholly arbitrary. Why is the charge of conspiracy greater than the act of crime? Conspiracy itself is not a crime, therefore I find it amusing that it can only be considered an additional crime if another crime has taken place."

You're right. Surely, the government has no compelling interest in prevention, and we have no compelling societal interest in allowing the government to carry out its ability to "promote the general welfare".

In that vein, anyone should be allowed to own nuclear weapons. We can always prosecute them after the fact if them kill millions of people.

"Actually most of the powers endowed where made by the now dead, I do not see how the dead should be able to impose their beliefs on me and others."

And yet, moments later in the same post, you decried the unconstitutionality of the government.

Funny thing, libertarianism.

Gopi FlahertyDecember 5, 2006 10:17 AM

@ quincunx:

"What should the punishment be for Conspiracy? It has no monetary value, it can thus only be punished arbitrarily by a judge. And what will this punishment be, today? Probably jail, and maybe a some extra tribute to the state?"

Good question. What should the punishment be for Murder? Should it be based on the monetary value of the person, thus resulting in zero penalties for murdering homeless people? What about assault? Penalties based solely on your medical bills?

If I pick the locks to a bank, and get all the way to the vault, only to discover that the vault is empty for some reason, should I get off with no penalty? Should my penalty be based on the average amount of money in that vault?

It seems to me that there are many acts with difficult to assess monetary damages but which should be crimes.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 10:41 AM

@Gopi

"Good question. What should the punishment be for Murder? Should it be based on the monetary value of the person, thus resulting in zero penalties for murdering homeless people? What about assault? Penalties based solely on your medical bills?"

Yes I do believe that we should treat murder in such a way. You're confusing moral reprehensibility with the actual costs to society. A free market should decide what punishments must be levied to actors with free will. This is the inefficiency of centralized control: adding costs where they may not be required.

Again, I think that Bruce and all the posters here miss the fundamental problem: centralized control creates inefficiencies that a free market eradicates. Take away government, you take away these inefficiencies. What's so hard to understand about that?

Gopi FlahertyDecember 5, 2006 11:21 AM

@quincunx:

"Yes I do believe that we should treat murder in such a way. You're confusing moral reprehensibility with the actual costs to society"

I'm not confused; I'm disagreeing.

I must say, I'm astonished that somebody as seemingly intelligent as yourself would choose to totally ignore the rights of the individual, and consider nothing but the rights of society.

If a person without money-earning potential is value-less, and thus has no rights, why not go further? If the future money-earning potential is how you determine the penalties for murder, why not a reward for, say, a career criminal whose sole source of income is stuff they steal?

"Take away government, you take away these inefficiencies. What's so hard to understand about that?"

I'll bet most bus systems would be more efficient if they halved the number of stops and made people walk longer. In fact, they could be even more efficient if they never stopped to pick people up!

I disagree with what appears to be one of your axioms: that economic efficiency is the sole purpose of society, and that more economic efficiency is always better.

I think efficiency is a great thing, and is very important, but it is not the sole metric for society. I consider freedom to be a requirement. Freedom includes freedom from physical coercion and assault and murder. If your metric for murder and assault penalties is simply economic cost, then you have stated that you don't care about murder. It doesn't matter.

bobDecember 5, 2006 11:37 AM

@quincunx

>Take away government, you take away these inefficiencies.
>What's so hard to understand about that?

That part isn't hard to understand. It's all the unexpected and unforeseen consequences that are difficult. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

Your theory says that certain things will happen when government is removed. But practice is rarely the same as theory. Realists appreciate what theory can tell them, and fear what it cannot tell them. All models are wrong, but some are useful.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 12:20 PM

@Gopi:

"I must say, I'm astonished that somebody as seemingly intelligent as yourself would choose to totally ignore the rights of the individual, and consider nothing but the rights of society."

I would posit that a free market respects individual rights more so than corrupt government. That is, the individual has the freedom and responsibility to enforce his rights as he sees fit.

@bob:

"Your theory says that certain things will happen when government is removed. But practice is rarely the same as theory."

True. But we won't be cured of these ills until we honestly identify what the source of the problem is.

ZweyDecember 5, 2006 12:22 PM

Could someone post a concise legal definition of the word fraud. My understanding is that it involves not only lying, but also the intent to gain something illicit as a result of the lie. If we claim that the pretexting is already covered under fraud, then we need a working definition.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 12:26 PM

@Zwey

"Could someone post a concise legal definition of the word fraud."

Fraud involves implicit or explicit theft. If there is no transfer of actual property under false premises then there is no fraud.

This thread is not about fraud.

curiousDecember 5, 2006 12:30 PM

@quincunx
"A free market should decide what punishments must be levied to actors with free will."

How would that work? Who would participate?

Is it weighted by actor or by capital investment? That is, is it one vote per actor or one vote per share?

Or is it an auction, where the highest bidder gets to decide the punishment?

How often are punishments decided? Does every crime have an eBay-like auction, or is there a periodic referendum-like process that sets a "fiat price" for each crime?

Who receives the money or other inputs from the participants? Markets require an exchange, so what is being exchanged here? The prisoner clearly has something at stake, but what about the punishers?

AnonymousDecember 5, 2006 12:39 PM

@curious

"How would that work? Who would participate?"

You obviously know nothing about free market machinations. In short, the free market decides. If you don't know how that works, I'm not sure how me trying to elucidate you in a blog post is going to help.

Pat CahalanDecember 5, 2006 1:16 PM

@ quincunx

Q> I would posit that a free market respects individual rights more so than a corrupt
Q> government.

That's an interesting theory. Aside from a belief, do you have anything to back it up? The theoretical model is compelling, I'll grant you, but (in my opinion) free markets don't stand the test of interaction with human society -> a market is only "free" when the parties involved are driven entirely by measurable conduct, which people... quite simply, aren't.

B> Your theory says that certain things will happen when government is
B> removed. But practice is rarely the same as theory."

Q> True. But we won't be cured of these ills until we honestly identify what
Q> the source of the problem is.

I agree that identifying the source of a problem can be the first step to correction. I also agree with a large chunk of your assertions about the badness of the (generally corrupt) nature of government. However, I disagree that removing government will result in less overall badness. Bob's point regarding the cost of transition is one that I've brought up before (which is still unsatisfied), but moreover I think removing government will simply result in formulation of a new government.

Human beings are social animals, and naturally form societal structures. Any time a societal structure is created it is endowed with some level of trust, which creates the opportunity for power consolidation (for good and exploitation). Start with a clan-based social structure, it survives until you get enough exploitation to drive revolution. Replace it with a "divine investiture" monarchy or theocracy, it survives until you get enough exploitation to drive revolution. Replace it with a democratic republic it will survive until you get enough exploitation to drive revolution. The pattern of history leaves little doubt that when and if the "critical exploitation" horizon is reached in our current structure of government, we'll devolve into anarchy and some structure will arise to replace it. Call it government or not, it will nevertheless *not* be enlightened free market libertarianism, it will be some sort of power-structure with embedded trust. Human society gets more complex as time passes, not less.

GF> What should the punishment be for Murder? Should it be based on
GF> the monetary value of the person, thus resulting in zero penalties
GF> for murdering homeless people? What about assault? Penalties
GF> based solely on your medical bills?"

Q> Yes I do believe that we should treat murder in such a way.

The legal system (historically) has had four purposes: weirgild (compensation for victim of undesirable action), punishment (negative consequence to perpetrator for undesirable action), quarantine (removal from society to prevent reoccurance of undesirable action), or correction (to prevent future undesirable action when subject is returned to normal society), or some combination thereof. You espouse removal of three of these factors and relying upon simply the concept of compensation in the legal system. Aside from the problems with establishing equitable methods for measuring appropriate compensation, it just won't work, and the particular example of murdering homeless people illustrates why.

People support a legal system for various reasons, but if you ask 1000 citizens how the judicial system ought to work and ask them to rate those four factors on a scale of 1 to 100, with the total of all four factors equalling 100, you're going to get at least several hundred different answers and for every person who agrees with your estimation that 100% of the judicial system ought to be about compensation, you'll get one person who will say it's 100% about punishment or 100% about quarantine.

The reason why the judicial system works at all is that the aggregate collection of citizens agrees that it more or less meets their requirements about how it ought to work -> therefore, they trust it. If you categorically deny people their desire for a judicial system that appeals to their own personal sense of justice, they'll flatly reject you, and it, and moreover they'll band together even with those people who disagree with *their* idea of what justice ought to be to to impose a system of compromise that makes them feel better about justice than the system you propose.

Any society that has a judicial system that allows people to murder random homeless people wouldn't survive very long, because a staggeringly large percentage of the populace would regard such a system as fundamentally unjust.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 3:03 PM

quincunx @ 10:41AM:

"A free market should decide what punishments must be levied to actors with free will."

For example, what would people on this forum think be the proper punishment for pre-texting?

It is highly amusing that such a thing has occurred, sort of. What the new quincunx has done is can actually be considered a 'nuissance'. I will explain below.

The quincunx that posted on:
December 5, 2006 10:41 AM
December 5, 2006 12:20 PM
and
December 5, 2006 12:26 PM

Is not the one that has posted anti-statist theory since march 2006, or who has had discussions with Pat Cahalan about midevil Iceland or Ireland, and is not the same one that posts from two different IP addresses that can be verified by the moderators.
At least I think I only used two (I may be wrong).

The 'real' quincunx who has built up quite the reputation considers those posts to be done in bad faith merely to attempt to prove a point.

The 'real' quincunx does not know the identity of the person that has been signing the same name.

Now the question remains, is it necessary to have state laws to prevent this from happening, or can this problem be solved locally by the property owner, the ultimate person who can lay down the rules of conduct: Bruce Schneier? or an agent that he has hired or ask to do the task for him such as: moderator? Or by the opinion of other posters?

What would be a proper punishment? Perhaps being told not to do it, perhaps a ban, perhaps an apology? I don't really know, and it's not up to me to decide. All I can do in this situation is state the case, and let the final arbiter, Bruce, decide. I do of course have the right to pursue my own investigation if I please, and see if I should expose the imposter to the public.

This is the concept that few understand, that laws exist without the state. Laws are always laid down by property owners.

But what if I appealed to the state? Well they will steal money from the taxpayers to pursue justice on my behalf, they will come up with an arbitrary judgment that will foist pecuniary costs on the culprit. What they will not do is set a good precedent for resolving such conflict peacefully and thereby retard the discovery of technical means of dealing with such problems. They will also ignore those who have been affected by his/her conduct: you and me.

Now imagine a society where peaceful arbitration is suppressed and anyone can appeal to the state at others' expense to pursue their sense of judgment, such as the MPAA. It would not be surprising that such a system would evolve to greater conflict and quicker impulses to use legal force to squash their opponents.

If the MPAA had to pursue their idea of IP at their own expense, it would occur to them quickly that they make no profits and incur heavy losses in doing so. Consumer sovereignty would lead them to change their business models much quicker.

There is another concept that people do not seem to understand. There is legal action: the use of force, and then there are ethical and moral codes that can be superimposed on top of them and adopted by a group of people that choose to follow them. Anarchy has absolutely no problem with voluntary government - where people unanimously choose to belong to a group and follow their laws (as long as the right to exit is present). This forum, while obviously under ultimate control of US laws, and only then by Bruce can also adopt moral and ethical codes.

This is exactly how most open source software is developed, and precisely the same way Wikipedia works.

Therefore the new quincunx, I would think is acting in bad faith and violating the ethical code, that I'm sure that people here voluntarily adopt, that one should not pose as someone else (unless they're Anonymous). He is thus, only in our ethical code, defrauding other people by posing as me. Therefore I would consider it a 'nuisance'.

He/she seems to have done a good job at fooling some people (no offense, guys), even though he has contradicted me in some respects.

I can only answer questions that were meant for the real me:

@ Gopi:

"Good question. What should the punishment be for Murder? Should it be based on the monetary value of the person, thus resulting in zero penalties for murdering homeless people? What about assault? Penalties based solely on your medical bills?"

That is a very difficult question to answer. I can not give you a good answer, because I am not an expert.

It is intersting to note that Life Insurance seems to have a price for death, and it is typically not peanuts.

It is important to note that if you have strong feeling about murder, then you should sign up with a defense agency that respects the same attitudes you have.

"If I pick the locks to a bank, and get all the way to the vault, only to discover that the vault is empty for some reason, should I get off with no penalty? Should my penalty be based on the average amount of money in that vault?"

I would like to point out that state chartered banks are inherently fraudulent institutions that have, historically, emptied their vaults, not met all their obligations to pay their depositors on demand. In such cases, starting in 1819 and proceeding to the 1930s, every recession the banks get approval from the government to continue in operations while not meeting their obligations. No other institutions enjoys such a privilege, without being thrown into prison.

The term for this is euphemistically called 'Bank Holidays'. I call it license for theft.

There are reasons it doesn't happen any more but is too long to explain. But if they can rob the people, I do not see why you should not be able to either :) Of course the best solution is to not allow them to engage in fraud in the first place.

---

@ Gopi

Although the following was not directed at me, I feel obligated to answer it:

"I disagree with what appears to be one of your axioms: that economic efficiency is the sole purpose of society, and that more economic efficiency is always better."

I do not postulate the homo-economicus, that is a straw man that is commonly thrown at people like myself. My central axiom is: non-aggression. Except for self-defense.

Economic efficiency will be the result of non-aggression, but that does not concern me.

Homo economicus is the guiding principle of mathematical economics, and those who attempt to treat economics using the same methodology as the natural sciences. I reject this view.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 3:40 PM

@quincunx

"It is highly amusing that such a thing has occurred, sort of. What the new quincunx has done is can actually be considered a 'nuissance'"

The real quincunx would never misspell the word nuisance.

"Therefore the new quincunx, I would think is acting in bad faith and violating the ethical code, that I'm sure that people here voluntarily adopt, that one should not pose as someone else (unless they're Anonymous). He is thus, only in our ethical code, defrauding other people by posing as me. Therefore I would consider it a 'nuisance'."

Just a nuisance? By my actions, I've managed to "defraud" others and elicited 735 words from someone who claims to be the real "quincunx". That amounts to be 24.5 minutes (if this impostor can think and type 30wpm) that he would not have, otherwise, had to spend. If this impostor claims that fraud through pretexting does not involve "transfer of actual property" then I guess he considers his time to be worth absolutely nothing.


quincunxDecember 5, 2006 4:03 PM

So what are you suggesting?

That I use the laws of the state to pursue you for such a horrendous crime?

'The real quincunx would never misspell the word nuisance.'

Why? He commonly misspells many words.

'If this impostor claims that fraud through pretexting does not involve "transfer of actual property" then I guess he considers his time to be worth absolutely nothing.'

What "property", what the hell are you talking about? I don't consider text stored on Bruce's server to be my property! I left no explicit label to state that I would prefer for my text to be treated as property, and respected by people who choose to adopt the same ethical standard.

I also do not understand the non-sequitor of writing on this forum as wasting my time. You have given me the opportunity to present my case in a better light. I have demonstrated my own valuation by taking action: by responding.

If I didn't think it was valuable to me, why the hell would I have acted in such a matter?

The reductio ad absurdum of your logic will lead to the conclusion that getting anyone's attention for any reason is a violation of their precious time. I think that your doctrine is extremely anti-social and unrealistic, and doesn't explain why people even post on this forum, or anywhere else for that matter, because afterall they don't get compensated!

And as for 'imposter', I think you underestimate the intelligence of the audience.

quincunxDecember 5, 2006 5:47 PM

I felt the need to respond to Pat, even though his comments were directed at comments left by the other quincunx.

"People support a legal system for various reasons, but if you ask 1000 citizens how the judicial system ought to work and ask them to rate those four factors on a scale of 1 to 100, with the total of all four factors equalling 100, you're going to get at least several hundred different answers and for every person who agrees with your estimation that 100% of the judicial system ought to be about compensation, you'll get one person who will say it's 100% about punishment or 100% about quarantine."

The problem here is that you've already assumed the democratic principle as the underlying framework for reaching your conclusion.

But why assume this? As I said before we don't select our clothing (or other daily routines) on democratic principles, why then should we be forced to do the same for judicial services?

Now imagine that those 1000 are divided evenly based on the 4 principles you mentioned. 250 people each with a different idea of justice. Well for one thing the cost of imposing justice is reduced between those that abide by the same principles.

But what about when conflicts between them arise?

I don't know but I will subscribe to the agency with the best track record for handling such situations, and I think so will most others.

Have you noticed that all the biggest arguments in society are precisely over those thing that are monopolized by the state? There is no problem in areas where each person gets to decide what they want. Now do you not think that society is more civil precisely in those areas? Well the point of anarchism is to extend that scope as wide as possible. There are many historical precedents as I have tried to show you in the past. And strangely enough, though I can not prove exactly why, compensating the victim has been the most common punishment. The others were very rarely used.

"The reason why the judicial system works at all is that the aggregate collection of citizens agrees that it more or less meets their requirements about how it ought to work -> therefore, they trust it."

How can it not work? Of course it works, you don't have a choice in the matter. Concentration camps worked, too.

" If you categorically deny people their desire for a judicial system that appeals to their own personal sense of justice, they'll flatly reject you, and it, and moreover they'll band together even with those people who disagree with *their* idea of what justice ought to be to to impose a system of compromise that makes them feel better about justice than the system you propose."

But that is exactly the system I propose. I want people to have the choice, they don't have one NOW!. I just happen to believe that the end result would be mine, anyway.

AnonymousDecember 5, 2006 7:28 PM

To me, too, from the first I'd heard of that term, pretexting seemed to me to be simple fraud. (Didn't Kevin Mitnick get thrown in jail for using just those techniques, to more or less the same ends?)

But this seems just another manifestation of a syndrome Bruce has been commenting on all along when he points out all of the money and effort wasted on security theatre and so on.

And this is not new; the RISKS digest has been sounding a more-or-less similar theme for decades now.

It seems to me that there's a much more base problem here in how people generally think--one that's not going to be solved in the next few (or perhaps few dozen) generations;--so how do we mitigate this?

quincunxDecember 6, 2006 8:08 AM

@quincunx

"What "property", what the hell are you talking about? I don't consider text stored on Bruce's server to be my property!"

Not sure why you don't understand that the amount of time that you spent putting that text in as an asset that you would want to secure in some fashion. As such, you have already spent exactly 45 min. (assuming you can think and type 30wpm) trying to clarify this quincunx confusion.

quincunxDecember 6, 2006 9:19 AM

And what is the point of your argument? Appeal to Bruce that you cease and desist? I'll handle my own battles, thank you. This is idiotic.

@Pat

"Any society that has a judicial system that allows people to murder random homeless people wouldn't survive very long, because a staggeringly large percentage of the populace would regard such a system as fundamentally unjust."

I don't believe that the system I propose would allow the murder of the random homeless but that is not for me to decide. It's the free market. However, I imagine that the free market would not tolerate random murder. I would also posit that it would not tolerate a drastic adjustment such as an ill-conceived war. Again, I'm loathe to imagine exactly how the free market will operate on matters such as what is just and unjust.

lundoDecember 6, 2006 10:00 PM

All the comments related to the right of anonymity have apparently been posted by persons who have not read the BILL linked right in the original message. The BILL makes it pretty clear that they're clarifying a privacy statute to prohibit anyone from assuming a false identity for the purpose of obtaining personal information about another person from the records of a business. The fact that the MPAA claims that they need to do this is deplorable, and they should be told to stuff it.

Pat CahalanDecember 7, 2006 10:48 AM

@ some quincunx

I'm not sure who I'm responding to at this point, so I'm going to drop this thread, but a point of clarification:

Q?> The problem here is that you've already assumed the democratic
Q?> principle as the underlying framework for reaching your conclusion.

No, actually, I'm not. I'm not talking about how you develop your judicial system, whether by democratic legistlation, or theocracy, or imposed by the will of a dictator, benevolent or otherwise. How you come up with your system of justice doesn't matter.

What matters is how the body of the society relates to your system of justice, and how much they trust it. You can build whatever system of justice you like any way you like it, but if the body of your society doesn't support it because it doesn't meet their qualifications for what a system of justice *ought* to be, you're either in a position of unenforceable law or outright civil disorder or, taken to its logical conclusion, revolution.

Creating a system of justice based upon an ideological framework is fine, but if the average Joes in your society find it repugnant, you're in serious trouble.

quincunxDecember 7, 2006 12:57 PM

@ Pat

I don't understand what you are getting at, but you seem to be describing the Stockholm syndrome.

You are saying it doesn't matter that your kidnappers have a gun pointed to your head, as long as you trust them.

This is essentially the 'if you don't like it, then leave argument', and yet for some reason you deduce this to mean 'trust'.

The Romans liked to give their exploited peoples bread and circuses in order to distract the masses form their failed policies, the land expropriations and graft. I suppose you call that justice.

"Creating a system of justice based upon an ideological framework is fine, but if the average Joes in your society find it repugnant, you're in serious trouble."

When people did not have justice forced on them at the point of the gun they always opted for restitution as the best punishment for most cases, the others for rare cases.

The state on the other hand can force justice on the masses without their consent.

Today's modern state shuns the victim aside, and only focuses on either obtaining booty from the criminal, or getting the victim to pay for the incarceration of the criminal. A big media show usually follows the biggest cases - again confirming that we are not better than the Romans who would gather in the coliseum and watch the brutal battles unfold.

I think your problem is that you seem to subscribe to the 'existence theory of ethics'. That is if something exists, then it must ethical, just and good. This is a branch of the 'Whig Theory of History', that theory that states that humanity always marches upward into the light, and everything that comes along has a positive purpose.

The problem with that is you now can not say anything about slavery at all. As long your average Joe finds slaves OK and he's in the majority, you have no argument.

---

Pat, you really can't tell which quincunx is which?

DavidDecember 7, 2006 3:28 PM

I wonder if this bill also includes those telemarketing companies who tell their employees to identify themselves as working for the company whose products are being sold over the phone. Is this pretexting, in that sense? It will be interesting, since I have worked for Teleperformance USA and we were always told to do this. I believe this to be deceptive, at any rate and is why I no longer work for them.

David

AnonymousDecember 7, 2006 8:46 PM

@ some quincunx

You're not reading Pat's written words carefully enough. He consistently uses the phrase "system of justice", while you reply with the unadorned term "justice". They're not the same.

For example you cite Roman bread and circuses, and then say "I suppose you call that justice." No, he DOESN'T call that justice. He calls it a system of justice. And as long as the people were occupied with bread and circuses, it was effective, even though it was unjust.

Same for when you cite slavery. Yes, it was an effective system until there was sufficient popular repugnance to it.

And it may be that it's not worth the effort to tell which quincunx is which.

Pat CahalanDecember 8, 2006 5:49 PM

Q> You are saying it doesn't matter that your kidnappers have a gun
Q> pointed to your head, as long as you trust them.

No, that's mostly backwards. I'm saying that a consequence of human social interaction is that positions of power will naturally arise. It makes more sense to attempt to predict and control these sorts of positions than to pretend that they won't arise.

Q> When people did not have justice forced on them at the point of the
Q> gun they always opted for restitution as the best punishment for most
Q> cases, the others for rare cases.

I don't think that statement is justifiable, although regardless of whether or not it is true, that doesn't mean that a system of justice based only upon restitution can be equitably deployed which will have long term stability.

Q> The state on the other hand can force justice on the masses without
Q> their consent.

On the contrary, my point is that the state absolutely can *not* do this in the long term. Sure, when you have a society with a central state, it is possible for the state to leverage its power in a corrupt fashion and thereby force a system of justice on the masses without their consent, but the inevitable consequence of this is societal destabilization and revolution. In order to prevent this, you have to have a system of justice in which most people feel their needs are being met. I'm saying that a system of justice based entirely upon restitution cannot meet everyone's needs. I imagine that you'll now turn that around and say that this is just because the centralized state has conditioned people to think that those other factors are important, and we'll have to go off on a chicken and the egg argument.

> Today's modern state shuns the victim aside

By your principles, yes, I can see why you think so -> because the only system of justice that matters is restitution, so of course any system of justice which does not rely upon restitution as the sole metric is going to turn aside the victims. I disagree.

Q> I think your problem is that you seem to subscribe to the 'existence
Q> theory of ethics'. That is if something exists, then it must ethical, just
Q> and good.

Egads, no. Not at all. In fact, in this particular case I'm not talking about a system of justice being ethical or good in any way, I'm talking about it being sustainable and effective. I'll save the ethical considerations for later.

Q> The problem with that is you now can not say anything about slavery
Q> at all. As long your average Joe finds slaves OK and he's in the
Q> majority, you have no argument.

Slavery is not viable as a societal norm in the long term, I think that's shown by history. Do we need to argue that?

Whether or not slavery is justifiable ethically or morally is sort of besides the point in this particular conversation.

quincunxDecember 10, 2006 5:00 AM

@ Pat

"No, that's mostly backwards. I'm saying that a consequence of human social interaction is that positions of power will naturally arise. It makes more sense to attempt to predict and control these sorts of positions than to pretend that they won't arise."

I agree with you, somewhat.

Natural elites do arise (this is called the Iron Law of Oligarchy), but better they be controlled by market forces (buying, selling, boycotting, secession, ostracism), rather than be allowed to monopolize and formed into a state.

I disagree with you on being able to control the outcome of such an exercise.

All inherently parasitic artificial constructs such as states eventually fail. That is indeed predictable.

In a democracy the 'people' do not get to choose their agents in any meaningful sense nor their laws. Every politician is sponsored by special interests, and possibly harbors their own ideologies, which will obviously be at odds with the people. The idea is to sell their ideas better than the other candidate. But they really don't have to follow the rules laid out for them - they only have to be cautious in not going too far. Every book on political economy essentially admits this obvious fact.

In my opinion it is better to have a rotating set of 'rulers' who derive their power from being able to consistently serve the common man via mutually beneficial exchange (society of contract, economic entrepreneurs) rather than setup an artificial construct that attracts the most pretentious and egotistical members of society that simply play upon special interests and redirect wealth on their own whims (society of status, political entrepreneurs).

"Sure, when you have a society with a central state, it is possible for the state to leverage its power in a corrupt fashion and thereby force a system of justice on the masses without their consent, but the inevitable consequence of this is societal destabilization and revolution."

Now we are getting somewhere. So when do you think that will happen, here?

Pat CahalanDecember 11, 2006 11:42 AM

> So when do you think that will happen, here?

You presume that I think that our current government forces a system of justice on the masses without their consent :) I think that there are cases where this is true, but on the whole "the system" itself is by and large acceptable to the populace, and all pessimism aside, over time the system of justice becomes more equitable, not less (yes, it does oscillate significantly).

However, as to the more general question of "what could cause destabilization of the US", it's difficult to say. One of the advantages of democratic capitalist societies is that they are more fungible - just looking at the self-preservation aspects of the society, they respond quite well towards societal pressures that push for revolution, either by defusing tension, providing a release valve for expression, or ponderously but measurably shifting towards the pressure. Capitalism, with its own faults, still provides a framework with (particularly for those folks who have drive, and are therefore those who would be the most effective radicals) self-driven upward mobility.

So, the discontented either lack passion (because some of their radicalism is being assuaged by society, if not all) or they lack an effective body of leadership (because you need more than a few iconic leaders to spur revolution, and although you get some effective leaders who are driven entirely by principle, you have a hard time getting an effective organization's worth).

I think it will take a pretty major destabilizing event, or a combination of several destabilizing events, to cause a true societal breakdown in a capitalistic democracy. Pandemic is probably the "best" possibility - cultures rarely stay stable when the threat of death can come with general contact with your neighbor. Major loss of food resources can contribute, but given the amount of food the US produces and exports, we can produce enough for the internal population even with some pretty major changes in the agricultural output. It is possible that the system of justice could become so oppressive as to spur some sort of revolutionary fervor, but it will take something demonstrably huge -> all of the governmental excesses since 9-11 still have not reproduced a system as unbalanced as what we had under McCarthyism.

quincunxDecember 11, 2006 12:48 PM

@Pat

"You presume that I think that our current government forces a system of justice on the masses without their consent I think that there are cases where this is true, but on the whole "the system" itself is by and large acceptable to the populace"

Let me ask you: Did you consent to the system that you're in? What choices did you have that you chose NOT to accept? My presumption is that people now live in a cave much like the allegory alluded by Plato. They don't even know what choices they have, much less the ability (though statist coercion) to make them.

"I think it will take a pretty major destabilizing event, or a combination of several destabilizing events, to cause a true societal breakdown in a capitalistic democracy"

No truer words spoken, but let me give a quote from another pure anti-statist Capitalist: "Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity." We need to let people know that there are alternatives out there that doesn't involve a central governing body.

quincunxDecember 11, 2006 7:33 PM

quincunx, though I do not disagree with your previous comments, it is quite frustrating that you continue to use the same name.

@ Pat

"So, the discontented either lack passion (because some of their radicalism is being assuaged by society, if not all) or they lack an effective body of leadership (because you need more than a few iconic leaders to spur revolution, and although you get some effective leaders who are driven entirely by principle, you have a hard time getting an effective organization's worth)."

Actually what we lack is the ability to steal other people's money (assuming we can discard the non-aggression principle), something the state has well established by ever sophisticated means.

The state is always excellent at squashing any effective opinion that sets itself apart from the state. At any moment it can force the media to broadcast a 'public service announcement' to the people that they should capture anyone harboring anti-state views.

"I think it will take a pretty major destabilizing event, or a combination of several destabilizing events, to cause a true societal breakdown in a capitalistic democracy. Pandemic is probably the "best" possibility - cultures rarely stay stable when the threat of death can come with general contact with your neighbor. "

Pandemics, to my knowledge has never wiped out the state, without simply wiping out nearly everyone.

A major destabilizing effect is usually created by the state's fiscal, monetary, and legal machinations. They are typically marginal, but cumulative in their effects. That's why no one actually anticipates revolutions until they come in full swing.

" all of the governmental excesses since 9-11 still have not reproduced a system as unbalanced as what we had under McCarthyism."

And what were those excesses?

Using state violence to limit the internal communist movement, right?

Although McCarthyism was wrong (wow, you had an ethical judgment!), it was ineffective, NO?

It was ineffective because it tried to suppress state-power theory (communism in practice) using state power. So all we got in the end, or what we have today, is simply more communism.

Using state power to suppress libertarian ideas is more practical, and will work.

J HDecember 11, 2006 9:11 PM

"EDITED TO ADD (12/11): Congress has outlawed pretexting. The law doesn't go as far as some of the state laws -- which it pre-empts -- but it's still a good thing."

"will outlaw pretexting, the practice of obtaining someone else's phone records without their permission."

Why only phone records? Is it still okay to pretend to be someone else to get anything else? Credit card payments, car payments, credit reports, emails, flight records, employment records, tax returns, address history, library checkouts, movie rentals, marriage records, medical history, parking fines, etc...

Why not just make it illegal to pretend to be someone whom you are not to get personal information about someone other than yourself?

Either lawmakers need to be taught about abstraction, or the article is incorrect.

The definition of fraud should just be extended to include damage to third parties, and real privacy laws should be enacted. This is just a hack which addresses a symptom instead of the cause.

JasonDecember 12, 2006 7:49 AM

@quincunx: "No truer words spoken, but let me give a quote from another pure anti-statist Capitalist: "Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity." We need to let people know that there are alternatives out there that doesn't involve a central governing body."

I'm pretty sure that the anti-statist you're referring to is Marx. Are you, in reality, a Marxist in anti-statist clothing?

Pat CahalanDecember 12, 2006 1:04 PM

@ qunicunx 2

> Let me ask you: Did you consent to the system that you're in?

Yes, don't you? If you're not rebelling against the system, doesn't it imply that you consent to it implicitly? You certainly consent to it "enough".

> What choices did you have that you chose NOT to accept?

You mean, "What choice do I have if I chose not to accept?" I could choose to rebel, or I can choose to leave. It's certainly not impossible for me to emigrate from the US. The "massively oppressive state" may make the process of leaving it annoying wrt paperwork, but I certainly can leave the US, so it's not so oppressive as you characterize it to be.

> My presumption is that people now live in a cave much like the allegory
> alluded by Plato. They don't even know what choices they have,
> much less the ability (though statist coercion) to make them.

Ah, so your premise is that most people are stupid (unable to see) or ignorant (able to see, just uneducated)? Two questions, then:

If most people are stupid, does it not follow that a system of enlightened self interest is impossible, because most people are incapable of enlightened self interest?

If most people are ignorant, does it not follow that a system of enlightened self interest is at best unlikely, because it is possible to keep a majority in a state of ignorance, thus preventing enlightened self-interest?

@ quincunx 1 (yes, I can tell the difference)

> Actually what we lack is the ability to steal other people's money
> (assuming we can discard the non-aggression principle), something
> the state has well established by ever sophisticated means.

So it's just a matter of funding?

Doesn't this statement support my general argument that a central state is more effective (not ethically but practically speaking) than a decentralized one, and that if you abolish this central state over time another will rise? The "central state"ists are by your own admission better at controlling the money than the free market anarchists are, no?

> The state is always excellent at squashing any effective opinion that sets itself
> apart from the state. At any moment it can force the media to broadcast a
> 'public service announcement' to the people that they should capture
> anyone harboring anti-state views.

This is true, but not so far reaching as you imply. The state has certainly employed these sorts of tactics in the past against those who have held views in conflict with those currently in power (Malcom X, MLK, Lennon, Marxists in general, etc.), or even those that formed a class which could be dispossessed to the advantage of others (Native Americans, the Japanese-Americans during internment, etc). Absolutely the possibility of abuse exists. However, this is not sustainable, even under totalitarian regimes.

> Pandemics, to my knowledge has never wiped out the state, without
> simply wiping out nearly everyone.

Oh, true, but they can be a major contributing event to social destabilization, like famine. Famine is pretty unlikely in the US at this point, I believe, although it's certainly possible in a large number of other political bodies currently in place.

> Using state violence to limit the internal communist movement, right?

Actually, I'd say it was using publically-inspired fear to leverage an agenda of increasing the political power of a set of people.

> Although McCarthyism was wrong (wow, you had an ethical judgment!)

Ah, again, I'm not talking about ethics here. I'm talking about effectiveness.

> it was ineffective, NO?

Yes, in the long run. That's my point. The abuse of power that you fear in a central state exists, but it is not a domain-level problem, it is transitory, and the effects of it can be limited.

> Using state power to suppress libertarian ideas is more practical, and will work.

Now we're back to the frustrating part of discussions between us, quincunx. You say that libertarian principles are more efficient and ethical than a central state. You equate "efficient and ethical" with "effective". At the same time, you admit that a central state can quash libertarian principles. *Regardless* of whether or not I agree with you, or think a central state is more efficient *or* more ethical, I'm saying it is more effective, and thus will naturally over time arise over a libertarian social construct.

In short, while I think that there are appealing or intriguing intellectual concepts about libertarianism, I think it's ultimately a doomed political philosophy, as it cannot stand in the long run.

quincunxDecember 12, 2006 8:05 PM

@ Pat

"quincunx 1 (yes, I can tell the difference)"

Good, I appreciate that.

"So it's just a matter of funding?"

No it's also about barriers to entry created by the legal apparatus of state.

"Doesn't this statement support my general argument that a central state is more effective (not ethically but practically speaking) than a decentralized one, and that if you abolish this central state over time another will rise?"

If people generally believe that, then yes it will come about. What I'm merely trying to do is persuade people that the means they employ produce the counterresult they seem to desire, at least in their rhetoric.

"The "central state"ists are by your own admission better at controlling the money than the free market anarchists are, no?"

Well you do have a good point, I do admit that historically this is supported. Anarchism is relatively new in the history of social science, though. It's origin happens to be completely engrossed in the development of the modern state. The societies we discussed earlier were nearly anarchistic not on any recognizable central philosophical principles, but merely as an organic outgrowth.

It can also be said that that is not true, because in most places in the world the free market elements of voluntary exchange is running ahead of the political arm, which is why we still have positive economic growth. Any state that manages to secure control of production more than their internal market will inevitably lead to retrogression.

The economic and political principles are both operating concurrently, one feeding on the other.

Statism is always a reaction to economic development (hence the root: stat), that is why historically private property and markets develop prior to a government, which can live off surplus production extracted from this free production. That is why the 'social compact theory' of governments are dead wrong.

"However, this is not sustainable, even under totalitarian regimes."

Right. The more totalitarian the less stability. However, a practical level of totalitarianism can be gradually brought about, completely undetected to the untrained eye. That is my concern: the effects of all interventionism. From my readings, middle-of-the-road interventionism gradually ALWAYS leads to socialism, decay, war, hyperinflation, at which point revolution seems to come out of nowhere, even though the seeds have been growing for quite a while.

"Oh, true, but they can be a major contributing event to social destabilization, like famine. Famine is pretty unlikely in the US at this point, I believe, although it's certainly possible in a large number of other political bodies currently in place."

Famine is unlikely? Well I will explain what is necessary to engineer one, and you can judge for yourself.

a) Place strict price-controls on agricultural products. A shortage will be created.

b) Move into ration food by government decree, do not allow ration coupons to be transferable.

c) Redirect most police effort to prevent black markets that will inevitably form.

d) The disemployed farmers will need to be aided, therefore more taxation or inflation will be necessary to keep them idle and not producing.

e) Raise tariffs to prevent food imports.

Since most people do not understand the effects of price controls, tariffs, transfer payments or know when they are operating, a great public outcry will directed to the few agricultural firms still managing to stay afloat. The government will blame everything on the supposed 'free market' that has been operating [when it hasn't], and will move into to nationalize the food industry.

The price-control (triangular intervention) -> ration (coerced political distribution) ->nationalization (tax & spend political allocation) method has brought more civilizations than one might realize.

I do agree that famine is less likely than other forms of predation. I think energy manipulation is the best target for today's atmosphere.

"Actually, I'd say it was using publically-inspired fear to leverage an agenda of increasing the political power of a set of people."

Right, communist ploys from time immemorial in a nutshell.

"Ah, again, I'm not talking about ethics here. I'm talking about effectiveness."

I can't take accept that kind of argument. How does one judge effectiveness? That's like saying that 'stuff happens' and 'stuff sometimes got done'. Pyramids, too were effective burial grounds, but so what? Effective for who?

"Yes, in the long run. That's my point. The abuse of power that you fear in a central state exists, but it is not a domain-level problem, it is transitory, and the effects of it can be limited."

Can be limited how? All I see in the US case is occasional limitations on acceleration of state predation, but no absolute limits at all.

"You say that libertarian principles are more efficient and ethical than a central state."

Right, because one's goal is not performed at another's expense.

'You equate "efficient and ethical" with "effective"'

Effective on an individual and voluntarily social manner, that important social fabric that constitutes civilization. The only ethical standard for each person being able to achieve their own sense of efficiency and therefore positive subjective effectiveness is the libertarian one. The alternatives to the libertarian ethic amount to nothing other than rationalization for theft in order to promote someone else's idea of what efficiency and effectiveness are.

The outcome of lettings things run their course is a more complex civilized society.

"At the same time, you admit that a central state can quash libertarian principles"

Right, it can never promote libertarianism because its antithetical to its prolonged operation of looting a group of people on behalf of another.

" I'm saying it is more effective,"

Effective at what? Doing something? For something to be effective there should be a stated goal and analysis as to whether the goal is reached, or is tending to do so, otherwise effective becomes 'something happens'. But we already know that stuff happens because it's a natural consequence of the fact that humans must act all the time.

I think you are taking the word 'effective' too literally, that is: effect is created. But all actions create effects. We learn nothing from asserting the obvious.

"In short, while I think that there are appealing or intriguing intellectual concepts about libertarianism, I think it's ultimately a doomed political philosophy, as it cannot stand in the long run."

It is a doomed political philosophy, because it is an anti-political philosophy. That's the point.

If you would like to learn more, there is pretty good audio book that puts some of the things I've been saying in perspective. It is available here:

http://www.mises.org/media.aspx?...

I leave you with a quote from Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset:

In the disturbances caused by scarcity of food, the mob goes in search of bread, and the means it employs is generally to wreck the bakeries. This may serve as a symbol of the attitude adopted, on a greater and more complicated scale, by the masses of today towards the civilization by which they are supported … Civilization is not "just here," it is not self-supporting.

It is artificial … if you want to make use of the advantages of civilization, but are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization — you are done. In a trice you find yourself left without civilization. Just a slip, and when you look, everything has vanished into air. The primitive forest appears in its native state, just as if curtains covering pure Nature had been drawn back. The jungle is always primitive and vice versa, everything primitive is mere jungle.

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