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by Tyler Gould

28 Oct 2009

Last week there was an MP3from the Swedish techno-pop duo, now there’s a video:

by Jason Gross

28 Oct 2009

One of the best recent articles I’ve seen about the future of the entertainment biz online comes from this CNET interview by Greg Sandoval with Big Champagne CEO Eric Garland, whose company tracks the unauthorized downloading that’s given the music industry so much grief.  The thing is, many of these companies also hire Garland to track which downloads are hottest (knowing that they can’t ignore this sector). 

Because of his work, Garland understands much more about the Net age and downloading that just about anyone else in the biz.  He concludes that pay-walls (for places like Hulu) and RIAA lawsuits ain’t gonna save the industry (and of course DRM was ridiculous).  Though he doesn’t have specific solutions himself, he generally sees that the labels/companies need to provide the goods in the quickest and easiest fashion possible.  And the cheapest too, so that they can compete with the free model.  As such, his thoughts should be required reading for anyone in the biz.  Whether they’ll actually listen or take to heart what he says is another matter…

by Rob Horning

28 Oct 2009

Kerry Howley argues in Reason that libertarianism should concern itself with social coercion (the tyranny of traditions and conventions) as well as government interference.

Convention creates boundaries as thick as any border wall and ubiquitous as any surveillance state. In Min’s village, women are constrained by a centuries-old preference for male descendants. (Men are also constrained by this tradition, as families are less likely to permit their valuable sons to migrate to the city.) Most people will accept their assigned roles in the village ecosystem, of course, just as most Americans will quietly accept the authority of a government that bans access to developmental cancer drugs while raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. A door is as good as a wall if we cannot imagine walking through it.

Later Howley adds, “A woman who has to choose between purdah and exile from her village is not living a free life, even if no one has bothered to codify the rules in an Important Book and call them ‘laws.’ ”

It seems strange (at least to me, a refugee from the academic left) that one would even need to make an argument like this. The state is not automatically the explanation for every curtailment of personal liberty—often the state must arbitrate between individuals when their pursuits conflict, serving as preferable (to non-crazy people) to the exercise of brute personal force in the war of all against all. The state can also override those conventions which serve to restrict the individual’s opportunities when necessary. In fact, as Howley argues, the state is itself a quasi-cultural institution; it must win consent to protect property as most libertarians (as opposed to anarchists) concede it must.

Property rights are more than the conclusion of an academic argument; they are themselves a matter of culture. If they are useful to us it is because they govern our conduct and lend structure to everyday life. I may not help myself to the contents of just any wallet, take off in just any car, walk into just any house. A drop-dead argument for the authority of these constraints may exist in pure reason, but they are meaningless without a broadly shared sense of their legitimacy. Absent friendly social forces, property rights are an impotent abstraction. Rights come alive through convention. Culture makes them breathe. Strip away the context in which property rights are respected, and nothing much remains. Yet cultural context, in all its messy inexactitude, is exactly what propertarians wish to resist.

Howley’s essay amounts to a noble effort to detach libertarianism from that intolerant branch of adherents who are basically concerned mainly with stopping the government from interfering with their racism, religious bigotry, gun-toting, and patriarchal prerogatives (think the fundamentalist Mormon sects in Utah, backwoods survivalist compounds, rabid John Birch types, that sort of thing) and make it a respectable political creed that is pro-individual liberty rather than merely anti-state. The crux of her argument to old-line libertarians is this: “it is the role of someone who professes to believe in the virtues of individualism—and emphatically the role of someone who believes that social persuasion is preferable to legal coercion—to foster a culture that is tolerant of nonconformity.”

In order to foster tolerance one must have recourse to a state that can credibly restrain tribalism in its extra-legal guises once they are documented. Libertarians will need to trust government at least that far, that its investment in its own power might preclude its playing petty favorites among small-time groups. (Not that this is actually so, but that it might be forced democratically to approach such a balance. Perhaps there is hope for institutional thinking.)

And Mike Konczal argues that libertarians might have to cut ties with certain hard-line economistic types to take on a culture agenda. He points out how state-hating libertarians have found common cause in the past with regulation-hating free marketeers:

Did you know that women specialize in household work, and men in wage-paying work, because there are increasing returns to household work? Here’s some math from Becker to prove it. Did you know that discrimination can’t exist, because it would imply that markets are imperfect, leaving human capital $20 bills all over the sidewalk? So if minorities are discriminated against, it must mean that they have low human capital (and you can tell that they have low human capital, because they are discriminated against!).

So cultural libertarianism ultimately must move beyond not only blaming the state for everything but also trusting the market to fix everything: “It’s one thing to say that we need to acknowledge a diversity of cultures, and let them play out in a market…. It’s another thing to say that the discrimination and culture oppression currently faced is a market outcome, pareto-efficient in its effects. Pushing to get more autonomy for women would be the same thing as rent control and price fixing in this mental picture of the world.” Making reference to “normative economics”—to what rational choice theory says should happen—is the way out of relativism for old-line libertarians, an absolute way of declaring what should and shouldn’t be tolerated in the “culture of tolerance.” But the problem is that most nonlibertarians find such a code intolerable.

by Tyler Gould

28 Oct 2009

When I saw Them Crooked Vultures at their first show at the Metro, nobody knew what to think of “Interlude with Ludes”, with John Paul Jones coaxing a cheesy tune from a keytar and Josh Homme vamping around the stage like a campy seductress, but it at least showed Homme’s supreme self-confidence and disregard for a stodgy, hypermasculine stomp-rock image, for what people expect him to be. The same will probably go for Julian Casablancas on Conan, where instead of standing behind a mic stand and rolling his eyes, he dances around like a bizarro Tom Jones. My thoughts cycled from “I can’t believe he’s doing that” to “I can’t believe he’s making it look cool”, from “is that actually cool?” to “who cares?”. The performance is more fun for it. It’s not like he could sing this song and not dance.

by G. Christopher Williams

28 Oct 2009

There are also a few badly-scared champions of the formal or the classic mystery who think no story is a detective story which does not pose a formal and exact problem and arrange the clues around it with neat labels on them. Such would point out, for example, that in reading The Maltese Falcon no one concerns himself with who killed Spade’s partner, Archer (which is the only formal problem of the story) because the reader is kept thinking about something else. Yet in The Glass Key the reader is constantly reminded that the question is who killed Taylor Henry, and exactly the same effect is obtained; an effect of movement, intrigue, cross-purposes and the gradual elucidation of character, which is all the detective story has any right to be about anyway. The rest is spillikins in the parlor.
—Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder”

In attempting to distinguish the hard boiled detective story from the kind of “parlor” detection of traditional British detective fiction, Raymond Chandler suggested that a distinct difference emerges in the interests of these two subgenres of mystery.  The latter “classic” form is concerned with solving a formal problem.  Hard boiled or American crime fiction is more concerned with setting a tone and resolving mysteries through movement, intrigue, cross-purposes, and the elucidation of character.  What this difference boils down to in practice is that detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot become logicians that draw conclusions based on careful studies of evidence and formal problem solving all while sipping tea in the parlor.  Detectives like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade don’t so much investigate by reasoning out solutions as much as they get their hands dirty by wading into the muck of the world that a crime takes place in in order to see what might shake out.

The British detective is brilliant, insightful, and driven by logic.  The American detective is persistent.

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