Sunday, July 19, 2009

a businessman between a scholar and the public

 It is crucial that scholars make their work available to the largest possible audience.

Today there is a sort of battle over the flow of information, and I am happy every time
I visit the website of a scholar who has made all of his or her research available.

But, I want to draw an analogy with a particular bit of self-serving rhetoric used
by the established exploiters of human infirmity, otherwise known as the for-profit
health care industry.

Why is it wrong to steal candy from a baby?  That's why it's wrong for people to profit
from health care.

It's always wrong to make a profit from human weakness.

In the case of information, it is disturbing to me that many articles I've read over
the past year are controlled by organizations which have contributed nothing,
but simply scanned articles to make them available on the web.

(And in some cases they haven't even done that right. They've scanned, e.g., 
the wrong article.....or left a page out....)

But the motto of the databases might be:  Let's put a bureaucrat between you
and the scholar who has information that you need.

thus does capitalism allow middle-men to profit from the work of those who
genuinely contribute

objection:  am I relying upon a facile and false distinction between true producers
and middle-men?  No, if you publish my book, you have contributed something.
But the bottom line is this, to what extent do your publishing activities impede
rather than foster the flow of information?  To what extent do less people 
have access to information because the middlemen have to get what they see
as their rightful share?  Who says whether the share they get is fair?

I am inclined to think that they get more than their fair share, that they impede
more than they facilitate.

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