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Journal Journal: America's Social Programs, the Gamer Edition 1

China has a "One Country, Two Laws" policy that lets Hong Kong operate outside the restrictions of mainland China. This is a great idea! I bet it could work for America, too. It could set up two versions of entitlement programs: one for those who believe that the government should provide universal coverage, and one for those who believe that government governs best which governs least. And may the best team win!

Team Blue, the universal coverage believers, would continue under the existing entitlement laws of the U.S. They would continue to pay into Medicare, Social Security, and the new health care assurance programs.

Team Red, the limited government believers, wouldn't pay any taxes for social programs. If their employer provides health care and retirement as a benefit, they would get its cash value instead. They would be free to create new social programs such as voluntary cross-border health exchanges, health savings accounts, retirement bonds, etc.

There would need to be some fair-play adjustments, such as how to deal with people who receive government support now, but aren't paying taxes. Naturally, anyone living off of the government would want to be on Team Blue! We could simply divide this population between the teams based on random selection.

Each team could then deal with this population according to its philosophy. Team Blue might want to continue down the path of the recent health care bill. Team Red might do it differently, perhaps focusing more on efforts to take people off of welfare.

If China can do it, so can the Americans. Game on!


Journal Journal: Moving Beyond the Copyright Shouting Match

Tech Dirt has a series of articles on the"lies" that the copyright industry tells, and takes particular exception to those in the U.S. Congress who support their cause (see the articles on Rep. Waxman and Sen. Hatch).

I am definitely one of those who feel that the original intent of copyright law has been so distorted that it is now possible to have it serve its opposite purpose: to prevent, rather than promote, the useful arts.

While I am with the author in spirit, I am not in the letter. These articles do little to advance the cause. They are largely just a collection of raw assertions that people are lying. There is little attempt to actually prove any of these claims, as far as I can see.

In the end, what does shouting "liar, liar, pants on fire" truly accomplish? Very little. So, please, let us move on. It is very easy to lay blame and to critique. Much more difficult is to propose a solution.

We have a problem between two communities: the entrenched copyright-holding community, and the consumer. What can be done to bring these two groups to a better understanding of each other's needs?

First, I think we can agree that copyright is a good thing. The right to control copying is rooted in the concept of basic fairness: if a person creates something, they should get to decide who else can have it.

Secondly, I think we can agree that getting something for nothing is unsustainable over the long term. People ought to pay for what they use. None of us would last very long if we never charged anyone for our time and effort.

Thirdly, I think we can agree that the current business model for monetizing the right to copy is broken. Copyright holders try to control distribution and end use, which is technically impossible. Consumer scofflaws use content they haven't paid for, which is unfair.

Add these together, and I think it's pretty obvious that what we need is a consumer-friendly way to pay for content in proportion to how widely it is shared, not purchased. The whole concept of a financial "transaction" with a buyer, seller, and product, works in a retail context, but not in a viral context. Viral communities don't have buyers and sellers, they have friend networks.

It sounds simple, but it hasn't been cracked yet. What would a payment system look like that didn't depend on storefronts and individual transactions? Could we make it lucrative enough to draw the next generation of talent away from the old, out-moded system, and into a new system? Would it be easy enough to implement, such that no reasonable person would object?

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Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming