I'm going to rap here a little bit, and as a starting point I'm going to pick a couple sentences from TPMcafe, where Matt Yglesias reveals himself to be the left-wing commie pinko we all suspected:
Record companies and their movie studio allies have managed to convince a shockingly large swathe of opinion that the purpose of intellectual property law is to prevent copyright infringement. In fact, the purpose is to advance the general welfare of society. Infringement should be defined, and the law should be enforced, in a manner designed to improve overall welfare. There's essentially no reason to think that a hard-core crackdown on file-sharing programs would achieve that goal.
Matt, of course, is right. And he's not really being a commie pinko here. He's being an American.
This is a pretty core piece of thinking to develop: the notion that Profit and Social Value are distinct things, and that the purpose of Law (and by proxy the State, which exists in large part as a living instantiation of Law) is to maximize the latter rather than the former.
This is something we lost somewhere along the way, maybe while we were fighting the commies, maybe when our elites -- the educated, upwardly-mobile middle class -- felt the pull of stock options and ever-expanding portfolios of wealth. It certainly was dealt a serious blow by Ronald Reagan and his lofty (and deeply duplicitous) rhetoric of "trickle down" economics.
There are millions of Americans who think they're smart and "realistic," but who really just have a dangerously narrow understanding of what Adam Smith was on about with his breakfast table metaphor. These misperceptions have been furthered by a school of economics which has been supported, propagated and venerated -- essentially as "useful idiots" -- by a malignant corporate business culture which seeks to escape regulation and gain access to new markets under the auspices of "free trade," while simultaneously maintaining privileged status through multi-million dollar lobbying, subsidies, bailouts, lopsided treaties, monopolies, syndicates and cartels.
Want an example? Why couldn't Red China buy out Unocal? Free market ain't so much fun when there's a bigger bully on the block, eh pancho?
It runs deep. I once had a debate with very wealthy, very smart, very progressive man I know in which he said we had no choice but to allow US corporations to utilize the products of slave labor, because if we didn't we'd be constraining the ability of our corporations to compete. Essentially, we have to make use of slave labor, or someone else will. Granted, I sort of backed him into that corner, but that's a mindset which exists, and it's incredibly pervasive.
Wake up! It's time to redistribute the wealth!
Well, that's a bit provocative. Really it's time to distribute (and to decentralize) the Power. Some direct wealth redistribution -- adjusting the tax code, investing Publicly in infrastructure, making sure no one goes hungry who doesn't want to -- is necessary as a catalyst, and the likely source of this catalyst is the central government. But the objective is to make sure that Power is distributed more evenly, that it isn't institutionalized in an oppressive configuration. Do this, and the question of Wealth will sort itself out over a generation or two.
I think we're ready for it. Our current decision-making systems are manifestly failing. Our social elites are proving themselves largely unfit. In spite of our fear of one another, if individual human beings were to sit down around the table and explain their positions to one another without any demagogues there to stir up polarizing dissent, we could probably reach some powerful points of consensus in short order.
Corporations have to die. I don't mean they need to be eradicated, but they're currently constituted as immortal institutions which accumulate financial gravity for ever and ever and ever. That can't go on.
Maybe there should be some kind of life-cycle, where after 100 years if your corporation is still around and kicking, you have to go through some sort of transition. Maybe when a financial empire assumes the size of a state or country, some additional responsibilities kick in; with great power comes great responsibility and all that jazz. I don't have a solid answer here, but it's clear we need to address this.
We have to break out of the institutions which unnaturally polarize us. Political parties -- and their associated opinion outlets and advocacy organizations -- do this, as do Big Jesus, Ghettos, Universities and a lot of other institutions which are important, but which set up false barriers between us.
We have to drive human solidarity, build trust, create social capital, create bridges between small worlds.
Tall order, I know, especially given how fallible human beings tend to be. But it's not like we've got many options. Solidarity doesn't mean everyone has to love one another, even that we have to be friends, just that we realize on some level that we're in the universe together and we have a lot in common, and there's very rarely any reason for killing or brutality.