- Capitalism and Alternatives -

And a dialogue with McSpotlight

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on September 09, 1999 at 00:44:00:

In Reply to: An attempt to be aversive posted by Samuel Day Fassbinder on September 08, 1999 at 19:06:47:

: McSpotlight: We've already made the posting criteria clear;


"All opinions and points of view are welcome. However, abusive or irrelevant posts will be rejected. Messages may occasionally be edited for brevity or clarity."

SDF: Which is all fair and right under the rules of virtual property. According to these rules, these posts are, like it or not, yours, because you always have the final say as to what goes into them; we add our names to them, and write them, and you maintain the claim that what we say is "our responsibility" because you say you want "debate," but you don't want to be "held responsible" (in any way legal or otherwise) for what we write; you have been permitting plenty of posts that are filled with disputatious "chitchat" to carry your big red stamp at the top of each one. Right? Net posters offer debate, but they also can irritate you -- I might even be irritating you as you read this!

So you take charge and claim to draw a line constraining your giving. I'm sure it's an improvement over some of the less rule-bound boards.

The fact that you grant these pages to us is an act of giving upon your part, an act which is revocable at any time by you and you alone, McSpotlight. (We should probably thank you for doing so, for the sake of encouraging you to continue your "generosity" -- thanks! perhaps we should do far more than thank you, so as to encourage you in what we deem to be the wise use of your generosity.)

Under the rules of virtual property, the fact that you're setting down rules of your own for the use of your posts is a limitation set by you upon your act of giving. The fact that we are otherwise "free" to say what we want doesn't change the fact that our "freedom" is contingent upon your permission. In fact, if we are good propertarians of the Robert Nozick variety (or anarcho-capitalists), we can posit neither a "right" nor a "privilege" to posting here, because these posts are not our property, they are from this perspective a repeated gift of Web space from you to us. (Gee does not in fact directly assert such a right -- I just thought it was worth saying that no such right or privilege is implied, in light of his claim that your mentality is superior to mine. I think that people who give me gifts are superior, too -- the more the merrier!)

In fact, according to such proprietarianisms, we cannot even claim that it is more moral for you to permit our posts to appear, than it would be if you were to censor them, since such a claim would itself be an infraction upon the rules of property. (It certainly wouldn't be "totalitarian" of you were you to choose to censor posts as you please, according to any consistent proprietarianism.) Please see G.A. Cohen's essay "Robert Nozick and Wilt Chamberlain: how patterns preserve liberty," pp. 1-18 of Cohen's book SELF-OWNERSHIP, FREEDOM, AND EQUALITY (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995) for an elaboration of this same interpretation of Nozick's philosophy.

McSpotlight: O.K., we *do* have the final say over what passes and what doesn't; but it would be nullifying our raison d'etre to alter what was said in any way; in many ways it's an unwritten contract between the posters and us; you try to abide by our (few!) rules; we do not alter or change what you've said in any way; otherwise it wouldn't be a free DR. So while we could change what you've written, we never will; as such, we really don't regard the postings as our intellectual property.

Basically put; you wrote them; if we changed the posts, we'd be nullifying our unwritten contract, not to mention exposing you to a hypothetical libel charge; we could alter what you wrote, but we never will. The goodwill and trust of the DR community is what keeps this DR running; as such, we have an obligation to maintain that trust; which includes being impartial to all posters, regardless of our own personal views. Call it self-interest or call it community spirit, it's why we're here.

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