Science & Intellectual life

Letter to the Editors
Why we don’t make a pitch for communism with a “well thought-out concept of a planned economy”

Dear Gegenstandpunkters,

If I correctly understand what I’ve read of yours so far, you reject any constructive criticism of society because it seeks to improve a system that needs to be abolished. In your articles, you offer evidence that society’s evils are due to the system and that the state, Keynesianism, the World Bank, the UN, etc. cannot remedy them.

Noam Chomsky
A Radical Critic from, of, and for the Land of the Free

Noam Chomsky is a rare bird indeed. On the one hand, he is an established intellectual, a member of the respected academic elite; on the other hand, he is a world-famous, radical leftist critic — especially of the U.S. On the one hand, he is a professed anarchist and socialist whose critical views lie far outside the mainstream, having nothing to do with the typically constructive proposals usually offered to business and the state. On the other hand, he insists that his anarchist and “libertarian socialist” views are anything but extreme, but rather merely express the natural desire of all mankind: the desire for freedom. Chomsky regards himself as part of an intellectual tradition that is as humanistic as Europe and as American as apple pie, a tradition that includes intellectual luminaries such as Humboldt, Schelling, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Jefferson, J.J. Rousseau or Michael Bakunin. For Chomsky, regardless of the theoretical and practical disputes between these thinkers, as ardent advocates of freedom they agree on the most important point of all: “‘Man is in his essence a free, searching, self-perfecting being…’ [whose] true end [consists in] the full harmonious development of human potential in its richest diversity.”

The head as a source of revenue
The contradictions of intellectual property

Intellectual property is a controversial matter. Many people don’t see why they should pay for text, software, music, or movies when they can be copied without effort or downloaded for free from the Net. And some people discover the ugly, unjust side of property in the ownership of “immaterial” goods, while the ownership of tangible, physical things they consider entirely proper. On the other side, it is not only the majority of artists who insist on the right to their works, from which they also have to be able to live. Politicians for their part find that especially intellectual property gets too little respect. They are willing to listen to the complaints of the media companies, which need a fully enforced copyright for their profits. The German government considers that already quite well realized within the country, but only inadequately put into practice outside it. The world abroad is rife with the “theft of ideas” and “product piracy,” by which not only the profits of multinationals are stolen, but also the “technical edge” of “our” economy in general. For the leading economic powers, it is a challenge to look after the protection of intellectual property abroad where foreign rulers decide how to deal with copyright, patent, and trademark complaints. Intellectual property has consequently become the object of a political struggle in global competition.

Culture: how does it work?

Lovers of culture generally know that it has been around for a while. It hasn’t gotten any better though. Nowadays, just about everything that is outside the realm of necessity indulges in a rather peculiar use of the freedom that comes into its own in cultural matters.

But first to the exciting question of when the business got started.

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