Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, October 28, 2002
SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY. And Monday morning no better.

You may have noticed that Uncle retains a fondness for Auntie's good qualities. Some of you have called me a masochist, or would have if you knew the word.

But there are times when my long-suffering optimism is tested beyond breaking point. Sunday October 27th was one such day.

To tell you the truth, if a government of either political persuasion could face the political pain of acting, yesterday's performance by the communards would provide them with all the evidence they would need to convince any person of open mind that our publicly-funded flagship broadcaster has sunk to such a depth that scuttling is the only reasonable option. No-one would mourn more than Uncle the priceless sources of information that would be lost in the process, but the alternative is truly ugly.

The morning began with a respite from the Pre-schoolers who gave all their time over to Jared Diamond. Diamond is used to give catatrophism a respectable scientific pedigree, but it's not his fault that he's used that way. Even post-adolescent thinkers can benefit from listening to him.

As the clock struck ten minutes past noon, as Uncle's clock is trained to do, I prepared for my post-prandial doze with the aid of Pastor Lane's Sunday drone. Now, Lane's pathetic and auntique Marxism is made almost tolerable by the quality of some of the talent he or his minders recruit. The Pastor is prepared to listen to whole sentences from the talent, unlike the Gastropod, even if he never learns anything that might upset his faith.

Yesterday, however, the Sunday roast's steady progress down the intestines was churned by the sounds of a stroking session horrible enough to have been hosted by the Gastropod himself.

The subject of the discussion, you see, was intellectual property, and this is a form of property that our son of Marx feels confident he can expropriate without anyone noticing the difference. Unlike the other, more visible means of production, distribution and exchange, where the results of collective ownership and control have produced results that even the left finds unacceptable.

The talent, Peter Drahos, hates microsoft and favours open-source software. Good for him. We don't have to buy Microsoft, but most of us have to buy a marketed form of the open-source equivalent since we're not nerdy enough to use it without having our hands held by someone.

Pastor Lane, however, lives in such a cloud-cuckoo land of collectivist fantasy that he can not even see the difference between discovery and invention. Drahos tried to point it out, but you can't tell the Pastor; Marx got there first.

Lane believes that all new knowledge comes from the public sector, and lousy, greedy capitalists just grab it for free and charge the rest of us large sums to use it.

So there you have the dreadful truth. Someone to whom Auntie gives a peak hour each week (plus repeat on Monday) is so bone-ignorant he can not see that development of new inventions costs ten times as much as discovery, and if we expropriate the investors' revenues they may just stop investing.

There are of course many interesting issues in intellectual property law that deserve controversy, and discussion on Auntie, but there is just no prospect of that with this ignorant, fundamentalist, contemptible numbskull.

And yet Sunday was not half over. I need a break.