I have three problems with it. First is this:
Second, there’s this:
There is a good argument that (some sorts of) property rights generate economic success. Mandelson seems to be reversing this, and claiming that economic success should generate property rights.
Third, and most objectionable, is the line cited by Watson:
What’s going on here is a form of legitimation ritual. This takes two forms.
1. Smear one‘s opponents. They do mere abuse. By implication, rational “thoughtful” argument is the monopoly of the great and good such as him.
2. In not engaging properly with bloggers, Mandelson is reinforcing the sense of distance between the (hereditary) ruling class such as himself and the ordinary public. The thing about proper debate is that it takes place between equals. But Mandelson does not - cannot - countenance even such a chimerical equality. The mystique of the ruling class must be preserved.
You might have an obvious objection here: the government is in fact consulting about its policy upon its policy of “addressing the problem of illicit use of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing technology to exchange unlawful copies of copyright material” (my italicized words are all, I think, examples of question-begging.)
We must, however, distinguish between two forms of consultation, indeed of democracy: preference aggregation on the one hand, and - to use Sen's term - public reason on the other.
The two are not just distinct, but in some senses opposed. Preference aggregation gives weight to irrational preferences, or to those with loud voices and an inflated sense of their own entitlements. It heeds what Tom calls the “spasms of the cretinocracy.”
Public reason, however, involves an effort to slough off our own interests and biases, and ask: What is right? What is just?
I’m not at all sure which of these forms the consultation will take. Here, though, is a test. If the consultation involves public reason, it will give little weight to either the stated vested interests of the music industry or to those of downloaders. It will instead heed careful thinking and proper research as to the relative weight of these interests. And some of this research - such as this new paper (pdf) - calculates that downloading has generated an “immense gain in total welfare.”