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Paying people for good ideas

Not ideas, per se, but intellectual work - inventions, software, business practices, fiction, you name it - that benefits many people. These benefits can be shared for free, so it's best for society if they are. People who produce these benefits should be rewarded, provided a means to continue their work, and given the incentive to create. The solution seems pretty obvious. We have governments giving massive subsidies for coal and oil that kill more people per watt of energy produced than anything else, subsidies for all kinds of transportation and manufacture, and then of course the very expensive to maintain copyright and patent system itself (note however that most of this is paid for in fees and private legal costs, not in government budget). What if we revise the Constitutional mandate "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" to simply promote the progress of science and useful arts by rewarding authors and inventors for their respective writings and discoveries?

(Note that if it were done in the US without amending the Constitution, it should still fly-- an invention can still be your exclusive right, you just have the choice of sharing it for public reward or going your own way, and the government will no longer be in the business of prosecuting people for use of an idea- you can take that to civil court if that's the approach you take. And the limited time would be under 7 years, not the endless renewal of patent variations and the absolutely obscene effectively one year less than forever copyright laws.)

A country that set itself up with a system of democratic socialism for ideas could be at a competitive advantage. Yes, most so-called intellectual property would be very easily stealable by the firms and governments (and people) of other countries, but your country would have no mechanism for preventing anyone from using any information they can obtain. And anyone who chooses to come to your country to apply their intellectual work can expect to be publicly recognized and rewarded and the best use made of their work and ideas without their needing to coordinate every piece of the lifecycle.

Several important things should mark this system:

  • Distribution of funds for creative work (to the Authors and Inventors referred to in the 1787 Constitution of the United States of America) should be made by proportional vote, not by majority, as that would be death to diversity in the intellectual sphere.
  • There should be more than one public mechanism. At the very least, local and regional governments should have similar mechanisms.
  • It should be easy to contribute ones own actual money (rather than a share of a tax pool) as well. This can be integrated into the system of voting for the authors and artists and scientists you want to support.

Problems: Whiz-bang science and popular authors and game and movie creators get an outsize share of the money. Will the television evangelist get voted government funding? On the other hand, people may under-fund their guilty pleasures. Maybe we all listened to the latest pop star, but maybe a lot of us don't actually think it was creative effort worth remunerating. Democracy is better here than rules for excluding. What we can do is try to come up with better processes for decisionmaking: make it easier for people who follow certain sectors to make their case.

(Note: According to the total judicial budget is about $13B.)


An interesting idea. Bakunin meets Adam Smith at Burning Man?

I like the fact that you are not constrained to only tinker around in the engine room of the Titanic, so to speak. Your idea is larger than the typical problem/solution spaces that get bandied about when copyright or patent issues are debated. Usually, the best case scenario starts out with an absolute deference to the ideas of the "founding fathers" when it comes to these things and moves forward with an implied or explicit set of limitations to what is considered conceptually valid.
Your idea is not bound by that. Whether it's workable or not is debatable, and should be debated. But it's certainly about time to let some air into the stuffy closed room where these kinds of issues get chewed over, endlessly and unproductively.
Hooray for Mickey Mouse! As Richard Stallman has noted, the serial extension of patent expiration terms has not incenting the long-dead original writers and artists to clamber out of their graves for another helping of pie. But you have gone further and cast doubt on the wisdom of the whole system in the first place.
So my hat is off to you, sir. It is a welcome relief to come across a "big thinker" during a random search for .gitignore info.

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