Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Hitting them where it hurts

Written By: Bob - Nov• 09•12

Yesterday Glenn linked to a piece by Morgan Warstler, suggesting that conservatives should push for digital socialism and atomic capitalism:

If someone invented the ability to copy food, or copy oil, there would be riots in the streets if everyone couldn’t have all the food and oil they wanted.

And today, with MASSIVE political upside to conservatives:

  • We can promise the have-nots ALL the movies for FREE.  
  • We can promise them ALL the video games for FREE.
  • We can promise them a copy of EVERY song for FREE.
  • We can promise them a copy of EVERY single college course taught at an Ivy League school for FREE

Conservatives should & ought to do this.

We should do this because the Entertainment and Academic industries are not on our side, and we have no reason to support them.

We ought to do this because property rights do not and cannot extend to the digital.  And we look foolish going along with it.

It isn’t the easiest to read article, but the gist of it is that since socialists are destroying real goods companies and economies with their politics, we should engage in economic warfare of our own, knocking the legs out from under their feel good products which bear no intrinsic worth.

To be honest, I’m not entirely persuaded by his argument. Maybe I don’t fully understand it.

It costs money and time to develop a video game, for example, and the best of any genre these days (Angry Birds aside) can easily run up millions in costs and marketing that the companies must recoup. Video game developers want to eat, too.

Authors that spend time writing books—maybe something like this one—put time and effort into their writing and want to be compensated for the ideas they share and the knowledge they impart. I cannot easily be convinced that the same author who publishes a physical book suddenly should lose his right to profit from it by the virtue of it being offered in a digital format.

Now, if what Warstler is really advocating is the crippling of DRM so that digital content can be resold by the purchaser the same way that a physical book can be resold or loaned, that I can get behind, providing the entire content is being sold, and is not merely being copied. Crappy pablum that I think his music is, Dave Matthews deserves to profit from the original sale of his album in whatever format that album happens to take. Once an album sells, however, the purchaser should be able to sell that copy; it is absurd that the album cannot be sold or transferred by the purchaser to someone else, simply to force another sale for the artist.

If that is what Warstler wants to do with digital movies, music, and video games, I can get behind that. If, on the other hand, he is truly saying that the digital format invalidates the worth of the effort, he’s on his own.

Education, however, is another area entirely.

I spent from 1989-1995 in college amassing a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. A considerable amount of what I paid for (buying credit hours) was spent buy the school on physical facilities, offices, salaries, and other aspects of the university that did not contribute directly to the worth of the education or knowledge transfer at all. I strongly suspect that undergraduate courses that do not require physical interaction (labs, for example) could be replaced almost entirely by online courses. These will have both cost and worth, but they would not remotely justify the absurd costs required to pay for bloated staff, faculty, and physical facilities of a modern university where dozens to hundreds of students are crammed into classrooms to be taught by a T.A. or second-rate instructor (like a certain under-performing instructor turned President).

Warstler has found fertile, almost indefensible ground if he wants to target the indoctrination class. I don’t know if it is practical to make education free, but it is certainly reasonable to expect we can knock down costs by 90% or more, reduce the loan-shark racket of student debt, and make the world a far more educated place in the process.

Hell… it might even force academics to have to deal with the real world. How is that for a novel thought?

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9 Comments

  1. Rick says:

    There are large numbers of people already in higher education a step ahead of Morgan Warstler in regards to opening up education, google “MOOC” or checked out ed.ted.com.

    That said, these are, at in their most simplistic form, additional methods of content delivery. These do not replace the very real need for the quality & interactive instruction that takes place. Is there some waste? Absolutely. Is there room for increased efficiency? Sure thing.

    Simply pushing the content to the web isn’t the way to go. There are tons of studies and research that shows a lot more time and effort, from both the instructor and student is required for someone to be successful in an online course. So you’ve reduced the need for some of the courses to take place in a physical building. You still need faculty to teach, equipment and people to maintain the equipment. None of this comes at 90% of the current costs.

    Not to mention, how are you going to teach someone how to use a computer online? Or how is a faculty member with 300+ students going to give any of them the amount of individual attention they may need, especially in developmental and / or introductory courses.

    Compare the tuition costs of “for profit” universities that are almost entirely online to those of state supported universities. At least in North Carolina it’s often a fraction of the cost to attend a state supported university or college.

    If you, and anyone else want to seriously do something to help, figure out a way to do something with “Pell Runners” that are not only stealing roughly $1 billion in financial aid. Pell runners are either a) jacking up the costs by forcing colleges to over additional sections or b) taking seats from actual students.

    I’d really recommend before Morgan Warstler or anyone else starts to redesign higher education they spend some time in the trenches: teaching in the classroom, teaching online and dealing with the administrative side of things.

  2. Cole says:

    I’ve been hoping the cascade to digital education happens soon. Not only are physical universities a huge waste as pointed out but it’s also 4+ years of extra brainwashing by Marxist professors. Keep in mind that the vast majority of university students are pursuing liberal arts degrees. No reason for them to be on a brick and mortar campus. Their lectures and multiple choice tests can be put online easily. Going digital forces universities into pseudo-trade schools for STEM degrees.

  3. Steven says:

    I’d advise caution before jubilation in this. I can EASILY see how their counter would be for the state to subsidize their “art” and education efforts and put it on the taxpayer.

  4. JTwig says:

    “It costs money and time to develop a video game, for example, and the best of any genre these days (Angry Birds aside) can easily run up millions in costs and marketing that the companies must recoup. Video game developers want to eat, too.”

    I think that is the point. He wants to treat liberal havens, which Hollywood, the music scene, and most video game developers are, the same way that most liberals propose we treat more conservative/traditional industries. He is saying that if we apply liberal proposals for other industries to thier havens, then maybe some of them will take a step back and really look at what they are doing and their effects.

    While I don’t agree with it, especially when it comes to authors, it is an idea that might deserve more looking into.

  5. david7134 says:

    I worked from 1967 to 1979 to become a physician. Now I find that my independence is curtailed and I am told what I can make. So yes, hell yes, no one else should expect to receive due compensation for their efforts. That is the new US that we are in, I hope you like it.

  6. Regarding on-line lab courses. I once took a correspondence course in TV repair. I studied at home, sent in my test answers, etc. But the company sent me “stuff” with which to do experiments, and kits to build test equipment. I ended not only building a TV set, but building several pieces of test equipment, and using them in the course. I think that much the same could be done with a lot of lab courses. It might not be a good idea to send toxic chemicals to someone for lab experiments, but other than that, I think almost any lab work in physics or electronics, and much of chemistry, could be done in the same way my TV repair course was done.

  7. Mark L says:

    I am a sometime author, and I can actually see some advantages to authors from this. Eric Flint and Baen Books provide a lot of their digital books free, and sell DRM-free digital copies of their books at low prices (about $5/book. Their prices are so low that pirating them isn’t worth it, and producing the e-version is practically free. Of course they still sell “dead-tree” versions of their books, and the e-book sales promote increased sales of their printed books. (Readers still want permanent copies of their favorite books that don’t require electricity or access to the ‘net to read. Who knew!)

    I have written twelve books — all work for hire. Digital versions of all of those books have come out, and the publisher has not paid me any more for that. So all that gravy goes to the publisher. I am not complaining, because I signed those contracts with open eyes. But I also do not have a dog in the fight if the digital versions have to be provided free. I don’t get a benefit from those sales. I suspect that is the case with most writers and most performers as well. (The music industry is notorious for screwing their musicians.)

    Writing, like professional sports and other entertainment industries has a model where a very few get millions (or even occasionally billions, but the median income is under the money you could get from working a minimum wage job forty hours a week. The changes proposed would not hurt them because they don’t get much anyway. And, as many writers that are self-publishing are finding, if you keep the price low enough people will buy just to keep you around, even if they can get it free.

    The typical author gets a buck or two from every hardback copy of their work sold by a traditional publisher. You don’t think many could do better by self publishing and setting the price just above that? Say $2.50? And you don’t think that they would get just as much from people willing to pay $2.50 even if they could get free as they would for a standard press run of a book (which is 5000 to 10,000 copies for most novels)?

    It is at least worth considering.

  8. MunDane says:

    With respect to a college course, you are paying for access to the professor, plain and simple. I can read the collected works of most, and access their lecture notes online with a modicum of effort, but learning happens when you ask, “Yeah, but what about…” or “Why didn’t that work?”

    Labs are necessary to science/engineering classes. The rest of the college? Not so much…

    Having said that, no college is ever going to go online. It would totally unemploy thousands of PEU workers.