Scientific Investigation 2

CONTINUED FROM PART ONE: So it is for scientists practically to apply the findings and interpretations of findings from controlled tests done in isolation, to a practical situation  The empirical world asks of them to ‘release into the wild’ these applied findings which have been found by them when, as findings, they were as if ‘a single and just-fertilised animal cell in a womb’.

What is meant by this is that it is a given that nature abhors a vacuum; yet our scientists’ experiments necessarily were carried out in as if in a ‘sanitised vacuum’ as far as was humanly possible at the current stage in scientific development.  Thereafter any results are then applied practically in a bustling free-for all of n-1 phenomena and among the interchanges and conflicts within this n-1 phenomena, and so are being applied to what we call ‘the world’, or ‘real life’, or ‘actual fact’.

Thus scientists are introducing their ‘single cell embryos’ into a ‘world of adult forms’ so to speak.

Now my model in explaining what I mean in this essay has been simple and maybe simplistic – to a point that I have laid out my exposition in an elementary way. But this simple exposition of scientific method I am able to build up a bit more and so introduce some complexity.  I can add one or two factors. Firstly there is a general working interconnectivity of the fragments comprising the scientific understanding we have; and secondly there is an appliance of scientific understanding en bloc; as a philosophy derived from such an interconnected understanding.

These two factors ameliorate to an extent the gravity of the criticisms I am able to make.   Because scientific understanding in its diverse disciplines is generally interconnected, as it is also in inter-disciplinary terms. This means that when one theory of some historical firmness is demonstrated to be false, perhaps by an advance of understanding, that falsified theory is likely to bring down like a house of cards considerable amounts of previous understanding which had been related to and/or dependent on it.

Thus scientific understanding is applicable and is applied in larger units like blocs of interdependencies. These interdependencies add up and accumulate so as to give credence and firmness to their scientific content.  And so the single-cell embryo released into the wild is not wholly an isolated fragile vulnerable animal, but it will have family and relatives, friends and well-wishers – other pieces of blocs of understanding which will support it as a newcomer.

Large blocs of applied understanding, in their use then, represent a probable greater stability in the science comprising them; and usually greater confidence in them accompanies this..

Now, to go back to the experimental stage of a theory, to when we spoke of having to foreknow all the potential interferences so as to be able to get the best vacuum possible for the experiment to take place in; and thus to do our best to eliminate them from, neutralise and account for them, in our results.

Scientific understanding, even when applied in durable blocs and so with a level of confidence, is scientific understanding being applied without any person or group knowing anywhere near the full story in any level of depth about what further untapped understanding else might be ‘out there’ in ‘reality’ undiscovered, undisclosed, and so able to intervene and to interfere ‘in reality’ to our net benefit or to our net detriment.  As the poet said:

‘Our beginnings never know our ends’

My own opinion is that our effort at understanding, in science as elsewhere, the natural world and any other areas of study, is, like St Augustine’s humility, endless.  There have been seen in history too many places where people of science and of other pursuits have unilaterally called time on nature, existence, and knowledge.  There has been hailed in our own age The Global Triumph of Capitalism and a consequent End of History. There is The Death of God.  There has been eminent men in The Royal Society in 18th century London who felt that humanity was nearing its apotheosis in learning, and that for future ages there would be no place further for them to investigate and to reveal.  Bertrand Russell expressed in his writings in the early 20 century that soon all that there was to be known about the natural world shall have been discovered by men (not women?).

There are our science folk heroes of these present days who chase The Philosopher’s Stone of ‘A Theory of Everything’, and who in prejudice preclude so much of that knowledge having been arduously discovered and painstakingly recorded for us in the course of previous ages. In truth, so much of value hits their waste baskets; data which any theory truly pretending to an encompassment of everything should have need to take heed of.

The Business

There are guys and girls who head up businesses and organisations, who like Jack Sparrow, are in a position to ‘make it up as they go along’, because within their domains they assume the position like Judge Dredd and are able to say ‘I am the Law’.

There are not often Fools or Jesters in their inner circles who are privileged and so are to able to criticise and by way of satire and clowning, and in this way to speak out and pit truth against a Top Banana’s poor decision or unjust behaviour.

Even in days of old when these things were the vogue sometimes even Kings would not hear their Fool speak and jest against them, and would punish them for speaking out and not falling into line.

The game is the same today.  Once upon a time the rest of us depended on our Liege Lord for bread, drink, shelter, protection, law, and order, and when the Liege Lord cast a person aside he or she was faced with hunger and homelessness.  It was a case of finding another Liege Lord or dying.

These days we know it as ‘getting the push’ or ‘being fired’.  Our brief is not to go so far as outright objection or contrariness, to toe the line and kowtow if need be: we have our babies at home and mouths to feed.

But this extent of power to hire and fire, to elevate or to cast down, and the running stream of sedative and tranquilising pussyfooting agreement and assent to their ideas from their circles, right down to concession to and condolence on even the most trivial fit of pique: these are the causes of those who had sight becoming blind, and those who had direction becoming lost.

Once upon a time Bob Dylan saw it clearly. He sang of these guys and girls with their swollen heads immersed in clouds of glory, saying:

‘Your corrupt ways have finally made you blind’

and again

‘The blind men make the rules

For the wise men and the fools

It’s all right ma

It’s life and life only’

Where there are no boundaries to behaviour there are no rules for social intercourse. Like the young boys in the school yard playing soccer, the kid with the ball is king and the rest trail after him like a swarm of bees wherever he goes and whichever way he turns. The soccer match turns out like follow my leader and tactics, positions, game plays, infringements and penalty kicks are wholly unconsidered and unused.

The guys and girls at the helm of companies and corporations have vast freedom; so much so that temptations to indulge and to rage and to dismiss and to order and to generally play at prima donna come more and more easily upon them day by day, until, in the words of historian Lord Acton:

‘Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely’

These guys and girls are like the philosophers looking up at the stars who fell into a pit. Their sights are upon the ascendant and the increase and the aggregation, and their appetites for these feed upon them, so that the appetites in them increase at a rate faster and further than they can be sated. A lame man chases a butterfly, but only intending to capture it and mount it in his album – uncovetous inclinations to appreciating its pendant beauty and natural state are not enough, they do not figure on the register. Possession is nine tenths of their law.

Mass production is a symptom of this runaway surge of covetous and desperate insatiable appetite in the guys and girls at the helm who want, and want, and want to accumulate to an nth degree.  Like an illness it has been caught by contagion by the very masses who are those who feed the wayward and runaway desires at the top for more and more production. Consumerism is like consumption; a tuberculosis, a wasting illness, gradually depleting not just material resources; it depletes our reasonable self-regards and like a main line fix its hold on us is very hard to be kicked and we be made clean.

There was a guy once who said:

‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’

And he got the reply:

‘I will: be thou clean’

The guy was a leper, like us.  There were ten in another story, and only one came back to say thanks. The others just partied and had a hoot. The guy who said thanks was the guy who offered what was due.

The Top Bananas made mass production. Mass production made working masses to supply it and to demand it.  The Top Bananas made consumerism.  Consumerism made nine out of ten blasé and forgetful of a natural thanksgiving for grace.  The sickness of aggregation, addition, and increase was passed down to the masses as consumerism.  The uncontrolled, uncontrollable appetite of the Top Bananas was passed down to the masses in consumerism. The masses were hooked on the same fix.

Nine out of ten have said yes to the Top Bananas. Have agreed and acquiesced and kowtowed and shied away from contradiction and confrontation of Top Banana unrestricted uncontrolled appetites, and have ended up with the same sickness, the same infection, as the consequence.  Like sheep their way has been lost, and every one has gone their own way.

The appeasement by Neville Chamberlain of Adolf Hitler encouraged Hitler, emboldened him, signalled to him, made way for him, to annexe the Rhineland and Austria and to invade Poland. Thus began World War Two.

The appeasement being made to Top Banana no boundaries blind and lost, stumbling unaccountable, unaccounted, guts and groins – and where is this leading?

‘…. what rough beast, its hour come round at last

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’

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Fear and Change

There is a real fear of change in most hearts. Not change like going on vacation or getting a promotion at work; but shifts to the fabric and the fundamentals we like rest our lives upon and place a faith in.

There are proverbs like: ‘Better the Devil you know…’ and ‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’; or ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush’, ‘don’t count your chickens’ and ‘Be careful what you wish for’.  All are in their ways conservative sayings and rest their wisdom on staying with what one has presently or else on one not being too eager to go forward.

There’s good sense behind this natural conservatism and I believe it can be demonstrated by an appeal to history that when alterations to the fabric of a business, or a society and its foundations change too fast the inevitable result is chaos and control of the situation is lost to everyone.

There is the disarray into which the French Revolution of 1789 fell into quickly simply because the size, range and pace of its changes were railroaded so quickly and so radically that the resulting fragmentation of social relations and connections, of people simply not knowing what was the current state of play in their lives, resulted in a collapse which let in Napoleon to ascend to power.

In Germany in the 1920s in the wake of a war defeat which left the nation literally exhausted of men, materials, industry, means to live, and willpower; there followed the fragmented, tottering successively weak governments of the Weimar period during which no clear direction could be found up front on which to rebuild Germany and its national self-belief.  The war had altered the physical map and the psychological map of the German people so utterly and to the core of their being. This chaos and inability allowed the Nazi Party to rise to power.

The fall of the Soviet Empire in 1989 was so sudden and extensive, across Eastern Europe particularly, where the Soviet Satellite states had been held in political chains since their annexation by Russia in 1945 as its share of the war spoils.  When Soviet Russia fell, the restraint came off these states more or less overnight, with a result that a third Pan-European conflict was narrowly averted starting up in the Balkans only by a concerted and intense kid-glove handling of the situation there.  This happened because there had been no time for consideration and consolidation and easing gently into the new state of affairs. An enormous power vacuum having been created there meant that every tinpot commander in charge of his home-brewed local militia was up for becoming Generalissimo.  Fractures along ethnic lines and an abrupt resort to settling long suppressed old scores exploded in political confrontations that nearly destabilised a whole continent

Too much foundational change too quickly, in business and in politics, generally ends in tears all round; and this we instinctively understand and so we remain generally conservative as a species.

And this is the fear and the concern of many people here in the UK right now, now that a new Labour Party leader has been elected whose message to most ears here represents a radical departure and introduces a set of unfamiliar and so disquieting policies and approaches.   Most adults in the UK today are too young to have had any experience of living under a left-of-centre government. Most adults here also have little knowledge, and no experience of socialist, Marxist, or any left of centre politics. Other than the stereotypical caricatures of ‘lefties’ offered by the political right over the past 30 or 40 years, there is a blank sheet..

Few adults remember as far back as the 1970s when Britain was being destroyed by class war between Industrialists and their employees, and inflation was running at close to 15%, and the lights and power went out two days in every five. These were the fruits of our last dealings with a political attempt to overthrow or to bring into line the arch-capitalists who run our world. At that time the monied big shots were locked in a struggle to retain their dominance in Britain – and they won.  Since then Britain has never looked back – unfortunately.

Since then and across the Western world we have had sanguine pundits taking a view that capitalism is the definitive means of production, the system of choice for humanity that has triumphed globally.  In deliberate mockery of Marx, pundits have bandied beliefs like the one that economic history as ideology is at an end because there is no alternative position viable which is able to seriously challenge capitalism.  Instead of the state withering away, Marxism and the left of centre in general is concluded to have done so.

So, it is the general belief that ‘fear keeps us safe’. Fear is not just of change, but of the enemies which our states and their media hold up to us their publics as if they were glove puppets being worked in their hands. Thus they present to us a fear-fest show of good and salutary instruction which subdues and mortifies our local discontent.

In other words, so as to make the governing of us more effortless and their policies and actions more self-serving our leaders use and abuse our native sense of fear and apprehension, our desire and our need for stability – our innate conservatism – they use it against us and thus they abuse us.  The new Labour Party Leader then, because he is so radical (in comparison with the torpid status quo of the past 35 years that I have outlined) is going to be shown by the right of centre politicians and in their media which serves their interests – the interests of a capitalist establishment – and who are its owners – the Labour Leader will be portrayed as being our enemy – without doubt.

The ‘our’ in ‘our enemy’ is rhetorical.  Because this collective ‘our’ is spoken of as if to include in it the likes of you and I, the governed classes, but in actuality it demarcates only the rich ruling despots of global capital in so far as they hold financial, political controlling interests in British industry and commerce.

The guy himself, The New Labour Leader, has sane and attractive ideas for Britain.  So many swords on threads hang over him and them however. Not just the question whether our media will succeed in annihilating him politically; he knows and uses the power of social media, and so the power of traditional media is not an open and shut question.  But his policies and plans need also to be feasible, viable and practicable as well as wholesome and good; especially given a world wherein the lingua franca and the vade mecum has been for so long so distorted into fierce and monolithic proclamations of global victory to the West and its means of production.

I predict the new leader of The Labour Party will meet with a bloody, ruthless, treacherous, underhand, below the belt, beating from the greater capitalist league.

This league will form a perfect storm out of their prevailing joint interests and gang up to tear him like a prey amongst a pack of wolves.  He will never be allowed to proceed to power – or if he becomes our elected Prime Minister he will be forced into failure by them, dismally. His whole set of his good and proper policies will be blighted absolutely at their hand, by these coercive Angels of Death.

Goodness and properness are not good business as business is recommended to be done these days; they do not sell; they cut no cake; they make no dough; they would mean a draining away of power from the bases of commercial robber barons of great longstanding – sometimes whole dynasties in the making and aggregating.  The wicked shall triumph; although the bad guys will not see themselves as wicked. Like the smart guy who asked God Incarnate ‘And who is my neighbour?’ they will justify themselves to their own satisfactions.

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Victims of our own Enthusiasms: Technique and Jaques Ellul

Jacques Ellul described his central concept of ‘technique’ as being:

 “…the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.”

He was concerned here with organisation – particularly with the organisation of society, of technology and of the ways of doing business we pursue – and the consequent levels of deleterious effect on people like us arising out of these kinds of organisation.

Simply put, Ellul saw well that the applications of what he calls ‘technique’ in areas like the means of production and distribution; the financial and economic methods in use; the laws and the regulations we are bound by and subscribe to; are, as ways of doing things, harmful to our societies and to our lives.

For the most part and in affluent societies most of this harm takes the form of constraints and deprivations of freedoms and capabilities.  The case for populations in non-affluent societies, in regard to how peoples there are adversely affected by technique as it is being used in affluent countries, is more tangible and more greatly pronounced in the forms of physical constraint and physical deprivation.  Nonetheless and moreover – no-one wins out of it; not even the affluent law makers and captains of industry and government members.

I want to add that technique is used inthe way it it is, because it has become necessary for it to be used as it is, and that we are locked-into a self-fulfilling inevitability for further development which has arisen out of the paths we chose as nations and individuals way back in the early the days of industrialisation.  My argument then will be circular, in that the rise of these Shibboleths of ‘technique’ so for to become the standard, accepted, ways of doing things – the open markets, the ownerships of capital and labour, even our representative democracy, our debt, credit and interest arrangements, and so on – their powerful grip has locked us into certain consequences arising from them as forms of social, political and economic organisation.  These consequences demonstrate that technique, as Ellul denominates it,  being applied and carried out automatedly without further thought by us in and as its own justification and for its own sake.

The simile I want to use to help covey what I mean concerns an item of baggage packed for a trip abroad and locked by a lock at the top when zipped up.  The trip is our life-journey as we and our societies head towards what is to come in future. Like all trips, it was booked some time back and the arrangements for it put in place – ticket, seat, destination, departure point, hotel, and so on.  The item of baggage was packed well previous to the trip also; and its contents zippered and locked up some time before the trip actually began.

Now most trips these days go ahead and pass fairly well as much as they were planned to pass  – lost baggage and in-flight disruptions are in recent years largely managed down to a minimum by carriers. And unless there arises a serious problem – like an engine shut down – equating in our simile to a major war breaking out or a natural disaster of magnitude occurring in the world, then our futures in general, like our trip on an airplane, are mapped out fairly well in broad terms in respect of how they are going to flow.

The baggage we packed is zippered and locked up – there are no changes in and no access to its contents whist the air journey is taking place – thus the contents in it are fixed.  Lots of contingent things might happen on a trip – coffee spilt; stormy weather; a diversion; toilet blocked; movie great; a good sleep – are amongst the myriad things possible, even likely. But the contents of the baggage are fixed and shut in the hold; and thereabouts are isolated and not able to be tampered with.

This item of baggage – in our simile – includes amongst other things our legacy means of doing technique, of organising ourselves in society, and with these are also carried in the bag their inevitable consequences and effects that arise inevitably out of these means.

Let us call these consequences attitudes, laws, rights, obligations, regulations, duties, conventions, conformities, traditions, all clustered around and governed by the forms of technique which give rise to them; the monthly credit card payoff, the monthly visit for a prescription medicine, the daily getting the kids ready for school, the school run in the car; the car’s servicing due soon, and so on. These small daily obligations and routines are shaped and necessitated by the way technique is being applied to our lives and so life, our life, is being organised even in our narrow localities and events.

(I was born and brought up in Tottenham, North London. As a youth I would travel by train to work. Every morning for five years I stood on the platform beside a man with a cloth cap a brown mackintosh and a pipe smoking.  I then moved away and left the area. Some twenty-five or so years later I found myself on that platform one morning again and there beside me in an older version was the cloth cap mackintosh and pipe.  Ever-after to my mind the fellow concenred represented to me a symbol of how an enslavement of uneducated working persons is imposed and organised by way of the application of what Jacques Ellul describes as technique.]

The short thesis of this article is then: that we have built a society on enthusiasms for, on an overplus faith in, science, scientific method, technological innovations, market forces, capital, regulation, law, credit, commerce, consumerism, production, including celebrity and its hero-worship; and thus historically we have placed an unwarrantable faith in these items, by believing them to be the solutions to the problems and issues we face in living our lives – problems like the getting of food and shelter, obtaining a job of work and means to live, finding entertainment and recreation, getting education and training. The ways we have elected to pursue these things like a cuckoo in a nest have grown up to rule the roost for us. They are the bedrock we laid down unwittingly and our everyday activities form their overlying strata and so are now our bed we must lay upon it.

Like Macbeth we cannot easily turn back:

‘I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er’ [Act 3]

We have organised our means and amenities of life and their procurement for our use and consumption so thoroughly that a mass consumerism has been made possible.  This consumerism in its turn has been put together in such a way as to be deeply dependent on this straightjacket technique and organisation being kept in place. The upshot, the bill, the price we have to pay for this static underlying status quo is that our own selves and our lives, in unspeakably minute detail and with close levels of control have been made themselves objects of ‘technique’ to be lived out.

Hence we are, we have made ourselves, and have colluded in making of ourselves, an organised people in every detail by way of imposing via application of technique a coercion, entailing a general management of our outlooks, of our habits, of gettingour necessities, of us having no clear alternative.  So far gone are we that not only are we unaware we are so far gone; we are so far out of the way of what would be far better, far more human and fulfilled, that we stand contained and constrained by our acquiesicence in accepting technique’s ‘mind-forged manacles’

Technique then has been hallowed and espoused by us; hyped up and bigged-up so much that even our leaders now believe it as their own propaganda. It is now so firmly and deeply embedded within us in our daily lives and in how we do things, organise things, that it is almost immovable, and for the most part it is unconsciously perceived by us as being like our ‘second nature’ – a bad unkickable habit which we retain, and think we are clean.

Just like all the product on our retailers shelves it is being sold to us, has always been being sold to us, as a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey; the apotheosis of the ages, after centuries of striving and venture by our struggling ancestors – the big payoff for our history of human ingenuity and invention:  Because you’re worth it. We are all labelled prize winners – but the prize-givers have feet of clay.

So we find ourselves a society at large which has been by its own means locked into a kind of Bedlam, a madhouse; and it is just as if it were our own selves, our essential humanity and heaven-promised ‘life in abundance’, which has been zippered up in that baggage in the airplane hold and locked up with a lock for our journey through life.

Be assured there is always a metanioa possible; a turning around; even for mile-long seagoing tankers. Any such change of direction has to do with us being helped to ‘awaken’ (see article) and with us thereafter bearing the responsibility thereby laid upon us ‘awoken’ person ready able and willing to work selflessly for the true good of others.

[NOTE: There was in recent years a UK Secret Service Agent found dead in a flat in London. He was found zippered up in an item of baggage. No satisfactory enquiry into his death was made and many observers considered this lack of due process by the authorities was deliberately allowed and that his Secret Agent career was involved in the affair. A few ‘semi-official’ putative ‘explanations’ of his demise were passed to the media to broadcast. One was that he had zipped himself in and could not free himself – a failed Houdini. Another hinted at a ‘sex-game’ which ‘had gone wrong’.  Murder was never really truly considered as an explanation. The inquest found ‘death by misadventure’]

 

Fear and Trust

For all the misgivings one has in business, and in business relationships, the bottom line for the presence of adequate peace of mind for one to continue trading or developing is, and is always: Trust.

One cannot proceed very far without it in any social interaction and especially in those business areas which set out to solve problems.  This need for trust is one reason why there are Brands; because for goods and services carrying a Brand name one knows, one has a cool idea of what one is about to get when one buys an item.

Brands, when sound and reputable, go some way towards guaranteeing a level of quality and after sales support etc. And this is one reason why counterfeiting is at bottom parasitic – because it trades upon the reputation of someone else’s goods and services. It offers no guarantee of quality or of after-sales service etc, and when a person has been hoodwinked by a counterfeiter and the product he has bought is scrap; it is the Brand name which was traded upon which tends to suffer in its reputation; and also the company who is the legitimate owner of the Brand name; irrational though this might seem?

The reason for a decline in a genuine reputation of a bona fide Brand and its company being caused by illicit traders trading upon the Brand’s repute; is the knock which is taken on the Trust in that Brand name, and to the almost complacent ready expectations one has, when one has been used to buying that Brand. Thus customers loyal to a Brand can suddenly be shaken by a bad experience with it and so no longer buy its products.

The scale of the shock and distrust escalates enormously for a person hoodwinked by products counterfeited such as medicines, and say, vehicle parts like brake shoes and tyres, because of the perceived major risks of harm which accompany taking a drug which is not approved nor bona fide; or the large risk experienced in having brake shoes or tyres fitted to one’s car when they are possibly substandard.

These considerations then, show some of the ways that trust is central to trading and to doing business.

Because we are destined to ‘live by the sweat of our brows’ we are constrained to do business so as to earn our livings.  This also means that we are compelled to have to trust others who come to us to do business with us, and also to trust those from whom we seek out business.  The default position for doing business then, necessarily has to be one of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and a prima facia openness of one’s approach to others, up to the point where that openness is no longer seen by us to be circumspect in regard to this person or that company, and so on.

There is much theology in this position in which we find ourselves, whereby we are compelled to trust in the first place; and to have to do so in a world which is often harsh and wherein many persons and groups are out for themselves without any social or moral qualifications on their relational behaviours.  We know the world is like this by reference to our own experiences; and that fortuitous remoteness of and anonymity for persons who use the Internet, make it a playground for those who thrive on catching out the unlucky; those who make some poor and regrettable decisions.  The web is brimming with scams and sharks and people who are simply of ill will or else hooked on schadenfreude.

Despite all this being the fact of the case; and despite us knowing full well that this is the fact of the case, we are compelled again and again when doing business via the Internet (and elsewhere) into and back upon that immovable default position of bona fide prima facie initial trusting of our newly met business associates.

And this is why old and returning customers and associates are so prized by us; because we know them and are able to assess any risks they might pose to us to a fairly exact extent. And now comes in a further paradox. For those who are ambitious in business old and returning customers and associates are never enough. Ambitious persons are always seeking new business and new business opportunities, which means necessarily meeting and doing more and more business with untested persons.

In addition it is the ambitious person who is most likely to be tempted to pick up a missed opportunity even when knowing it is to the cost of a competitor for him to do so; or else to be tempted to even less upright business practices as being convenient and expedient short cuts to wealth and position. (I discount from this generalisation the motivations of persons in dire straits or grasping at straws because they are say going insolvent, whose bad behaviour might be ameliorated by their obvious distress)

The paradox here is then that in the normal course of doing business it is the most ambitious who expose themselves to higher risk levels and are compelled to offer prima facie trust the most and most often; whereas the business person who is happy to earn and to live comfortably without great expectations exposes himself to less risk and is compelled to place less prima facie trust down than an ambitious person is compelled to. And so it is that the least trustworthy, the ambitious, are taught by experience that trust is an essential for them to be able to advance towards the orders of magnitude they desire.

Of course in here steps The Law; on the side of and in support of higher risk takers who meet with foul play against their businesses. The Law is then an arbiter of fair play which may be called into action by an aggrieved party in order for that party to attempt redress for what has been essentially an (alleged) breach of trust by an associate or client.  It is at bottom a breach of trust always; and it is always based upon the breach of the holy commandment: ‘Do as you would be done unto’.

John Milton:

‘Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden , till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse…..’

I quote Robert Burns also (back on the subject of Law):

‘Courts for cowards were erected

Churches built to please the priest

A fig for those by Law protected

Liberty’s a glorious feast!’

It is no co-incidence that ambitious persons and businesses are those who most frequently use the law and its courts so as to defend their positions against rivals and against swindlers and thieves.  Not only are they normally those who are most exposed to risks like these we are presently discussing; they as business entities present the best pickings for the scammer or for the counterfeiter, since – as we have pointed out elsewhere – the big guys and their companies go to extreme lengths to present a perfect and seamless front-end image and marketing regime to their multitudes of customers. Their Brands are thus considered some of the most stable, lucrative and sound in the world because of this window dressing of theirs; and damage when done to their Brands is some big bad news for them.

So the Law is from one angle a kind of backstop for the risk takers by it deterring and chastising those who would do to them ill for gain. The Law is the inferno one has to invoke and through which one must go so as to purge oneself by condemning one’s enemies to its raging fire.

Law in this case then is artificial and put in place to be evoked so as to take the place of trust whenever trust has been lost by a breach or by an abuse of business practice and of normative rules. But Trust in its pro tem prima facie default position remains the natural value by which day to day business is oiled and with which its engines run for the most part reasonably smoothly.

Trust and placing trust, especially in an unknown person or business and being under constraint to do so – this can be very stressful. The only solace at this time of initial contact when doing business is that the same stress applies equally – in almost Newtonian exactness – to the other side, to the other Party to the deal.  The curse of ‘the sweat of our brows’ then transpires to be a Godsend sent to us so as to bring us together – if not as undesigning amicable disinterested and extempore cordial strangers, then – and better than not at all – as persons looking after their mutual interests and in joint hopes for the sharing of benefits.

‘They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.”

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Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement and Statistical Measurement

In regard to seizures of counterfeit products, a typical reported story in the news media, even in the trade media of the items of product concerned, let’s say cigarettes and tobacco, might read something like as follows:

The Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £2 billion a year, and the sale of illicit alcohol which costs the UK around £1 billion per year.” (28 Jan 2015)
http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/customs-officers-seized-one-million-8533541

There is the old chestnut of an adage which assures us that there are : ‘lies; – damned lies – and statistics’; but do you ever wonder to yourself from whence originate assured assertions like these, usually alarming in their tenor, which emerge from the lockers of cargo within the minds of those who are termed by spokespersons as being ‘opinion formers’?

Now what I am able to tell you, and it is a veritable fact, is that figures like this item concerning the scale of counterfeit cigarettes smuggling in UK, are, for the most part, compiled and based upon ‘data’ taken from the streets of our major cities.

The UK cigarette manufacturing and marketing industry uses employees of its representative trade body to walk the streets of London, Birmingham, Glasgow, and to pick up cigarette packages which have been discarded by smokers in gutters. These packages are examined and segregated into a) counterfeit, b) duty not paid, and c) duty paid items, and it is from this kind of exercise that statistics like the HMRC guy bandied around arise.

Now this practice of the cigarette manufacturers is one of the better ones amongst those used in industry in general and on which are based statistical aggregations of magnitudes of counterfeiting and piracy. It has going for it one important thing – it is, albeit very broadly, empirically based and evidenced.

Of course one would never accept the calculation of one’s monthly salary based on such a schemata as this cigarette carton collecting entails, but as a very rough and ready ballpark it might just hold an iota of credibility for the tobacco industry? Although for the most part this guesstimate of theirs is on the cusp of acceptability for us simply because one asks oneself: what more is the industry able to do so as to guesstimate its losses? We soften and give them a few brownie points of empathy for their trying so earnestly.

Other industry sectors subject to counterfeiting and piracy almost always use evidence much less solid than the cigarette industry and quite frequently have zero empirical evidence on which to base their claims for scales of losses incurred. Local Government, National Governments and International Authorities all likewise, as often as they pronounce a figure or a percentage in the area of Intellectual Property fraud, are attempting ‘plucking geese out of the air’ – or might as well be.

This is why figures stated for the exact same scenario are very often in huge conflict with their colleagues’ and competitors’ figures in other countries or in other jurisdictions. It is likely, virtually certain, that if every EU nation was asked to give a figure estimate of say illicit ‘Brand X’ denim jeans imported into the EU in the course of a given year; there would be no satisfactory agreement between them. Their individual estimates would fluctuate wildly and merely act to muddy the waters still further rather than go anywhere towards solving the issue.

Why is this? Well, let’s keep it simple. Calculating a company’s money losses to counterfeiters is usually done by means of a concept called a ‘lost sale’. A lost sale in the abstract is the cost to a legitimate company of a consumer buying a counterfeit when the same consumer (had counterfeits not been available) would have had to have bought genuine. Hence the genuine manufacturer loses the price of one item of sale.

The problems begin when the abstract concept of the ‘lost sale’ begins to be applied to actual commercial day to day realities. Questions arise such as:

What is the genuine item’s price? In a free and open market such as the EU retailers are able to compete on prices and to undercut one another should they wish to; and they do. Furthermore identical genuine products are pitched at variant prices in different trading areas across the world. It is not uncommon that genuine items – say bankrupt stock – are offered heavily discounted to consumers. Discounts are also given for bulk buys and also to wholesalers. Many products have variant sets of accessories or bundles, and a like for like cost price is hard to ascertain.

Why use the genuine item’s price? A National Government statistician economically-speaking would be more interested in using the price the counterfeit item was being sold at perhaps?

There is a good argument broadly accepted in the music industry these days that, like mild inflation is desirable in an economy for it to thrive; so also a modicum of piracy and counterfeiting is conducive to greater genuine sales for the entertainment industries. The argument runs that people download free so as to ‘taste’ and if they like they will buy the genuine item thereafter.
In this last case it seems a ‘lost sale’ to the victim of piracy can represent in fact a plus money value sum!

But you will still hear the music companies and musicians beating up on the download and on the downloader, often sending out in the post to ‘culprits’ exorbitant compensation demands, and laying claim in the media to ruinous injuries. Companies on top of sales losses also lay claim to reputational and Brand status losses, and to damage to other intangibles. Music Collecting Societies likewise hit social clubs and old folks’ homes, church services and the gal who likes to listen to radio as she runs her market stall, criminalising them as nascent pirates and asking seriously wild fees for the privilege.

I grow so hot under the collar because there is a whole industry of half-baked statistical offerings which these rights holder guys promulgate and persist in. It is persisted in and promulgated precisely for this reason: to give a specious validity to their claims of grievous injury by the granny who plays The Beatles in her shop, or by the guy who likes to sing The Carpenters at the local karaoke.

One will note, this is a final flourish of mine, that always and without fail year on year, or at whatever period they are reckoned in, the statistical fictions bandied around increase in size and in monies lost to counterfeiters and pirates. They not only keep pace with inflation, they have an inflation bias of their very own. The industries themselves are in sole charge of, in control of, their own compilers of reports and reviews and of pseudo-statistical and other ‘calculations’. There is no balance.

The numbers are increased period on period because of two reasons, and two reasons only. One – to keep the pressures on legislators and the legal executive, which together with Parliamentary lobbying ensure, they believe, the best deals for the business environments of their industries.
And so they maintain a ‘siege mentality’ within all ‘right-thinking-people’ (excuse the pun)

Two – So as to put forward a sympathetic public face for stakeholders and rights owners, the songwriters and the musicians, the actors and the artists, the creatives, and so on; which helps to keep the public sweet towards them and so keep buying their saleables; since so much of the actual value due to them is ‘being lost’ to Intellectual Property theft. (Such incubated sympathy has generated a recent increase in copyright protection term in UK; now standing here at 90 years)

In the first book of The Republic, Thrasymachus attacks Socrates’ position that justice is an important good. He claims that ‘injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice’ . In the course of arguing for this conclusion, Thrasymachus makes three central claims about justice.

Justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger
Justice is obedience to laws
Justice is nothing but the advantage of another

Thrasymachus

This is the way the big Intellectual Property rights’ holder guys see things, is it not?

 

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