From J. Robert Lennon’s rant, I learn about an article by Mark Helprin advocating unlimited copyright. Lennon writes:
It seems he [Helprin] would like copyrights to extend forever, thus allowing Disney to get rich off its stale creations for eternity. Here, though, is the money quote:
Were I tomorrow to write the great American novel (again?), 70 years after my death the rights to it, though taxed at inheritance, would be stripped from my children and grandchildren.
Can you see the mistake [writes Lennon]? No, no, not the parenthetical “again?”, which is almost too pathetic to mention. The mistake is that the rights to his imaginary masterpiece would not be “stripped” from his heirs–in fact, his heirs would keep all their rights. They would just have to share them with everybody else.
I’m pretty sure that in 70 years my descendants will have more important things on their minds than royalty checks for Bayesian Data Analysis, so I can’t say I have a dog in this fight–what interests me here is the political angle.
Helprin is well known as one of the few literary-type writers with strong Republican sympathies. (I’m sure there are others . . . well, obviously there’s Tom Wolfe, and John Updike wrote about his support for the Vietnam War, hmm, Evelyn Waugh would be a Republican if he were living now, right? And P.J. O’Rourke isn’t really a literary-type writer but surely he has the ability to do so if he were to put his mind to it . . . then there’s Christopher Buckley, but does he really count? Maybe that Deliverance guy was pretty conservative, I dunno–hard to tell the politics from the novel. Kingsley Amis. And there’s Kipling but that takes us back a bit. Anyway, you get the idea.)
I don’t know anything about the background of Helprin’s interest in copyright law, but I wonder whether his opinion came partly in reaction to the fact that leftist anti-corporate types are the ones opposing copyright extensions. (This is the chicken-egg question referred to by my title above.) Just as, in reverse, a Democrat might oppose the death penalty in reaction to the people who are its most visible supporters. It’s an instinctive pro-business stance or an instinctive anti-business stance; either can be appropriate in any specific situation but either represents an “ideology” in the sense of being a perspective from which each specific situation is viewed.
In our recent research, Delia and I have found surprisingly low correlations between issue attitudes–but, to the extent these correlations are increasing, one possible explanation is that people are starting to align their attitudes with the attitudes of their allies (and against those of their enemies).