Friday, December 7, 2012

Open Secrets

A popular TED Talks from Johanna Blakley (view here), showed that revenues in the fashion industry where intellectual property rights are weak are three orders of magnitude greater than in sectors with strong intellectual property rights.  In "Bourgeois Virtue (link here)" Deirdre McCloskey cited Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice as one of many examples of the importance of discourse to commerce: "I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following...  What news on the Rialto?"  Modern insurance and modern banking both have origins in the coffeehouses of London. The great value in urban culture is that communication is profitable.  

Openness brings risk.  We all take the keys from the car and lock the doors when we leave it parked. But for 100 years collectivists right and left declared that our open society would be easy to infiltrate and destroy. We're here. The Nazis and Communists are gone. Today, the open society, the agora, is attacked by new enemies who fear knowledge.  While the need to secure our infrastructure is clear, it is more important to maintain, reward and enhance the creation and  transmission of information, money, goods, services, and people.

In Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics Jane Jacobs identified the dichotomy between the commercial ethos and the guardian way. Secrecy is important to police forces, armies, charities, and socialist economies.  On the other hand, scientists, farmers, and merchants depend on open communication.

Your computer is the result of a completely open and unregulated market in cybernetics.  No government agency defines what a computer is, who can build one, who can own a computer or who is qualified to program one.   The USSR excelled in theoretical mathematics and chess because the people of the mind, the initiators, the doers, the contrarians had no other outlet.  Politics was forbidden and economics did not exist. Meanwhile, in America, personal enterprise continued to blossom and bear fruit.

In 1991, I was a delegate from the Michigan patron community to the White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services (WHCLIS-2).  Among the guest speakers was Newt Gingrich.  As a result of that, I sent a check to GOPAC and benefited from being on their mailing list for audio tapes.  At some $100-a-plate dinner Dr. Gingrich said that at a previous dinner, someone asked him if he did not think that it was horrible that welfare recipients sell their food stamps for 75 cents on the dollar to buy booze and cigarettes.  The professor said, "Of course not."  These people are Americans, he said.  "You cannot give an American a negotiable instrument and then complain when they negotiate it for something they want."

In April 2009, I attended a presentation by former KGB agent Boris Yuzhin. (See New York Times story "Graying Double Agent" here.  Visit his Wikipedia biography here. Read the ZoomInfo sketch here.)

As he told it, trained in computer architecture, he was recruited by the KGB to come to American and find others to work for the USSR. The KGB heard that there were a lot of "communists" at Berkeley, so they sent him there. Not only did none of the comrades want to talk to him, when they did, it was a debate -- and he lost. He could not win a debate on Marxism because in the USSR they could not read all of the theoretical works which we in the USA can. So, he got a carrel at the library and began studying Marxism in the USA.  That convinced him of the strength of an open society. He defected to our side.

Engines of Creation
The Genius of Design
Venture Capital

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