The combination of reading Mr. Civil Libertarian’s post on Ayn Rand and an item on BBC breakfast set me off thinking this morning, not really on the subject of IP (although I may visit that at some point) but on the subject of principles and living by them.
It was the IP argument that sent me thus: I am generally against IP rights, but that is in the main because I don’t like DRM, I find it a pain in the arse! The Devil is in favour of IP rights, as he says because he is an artist. That’s fine, we both have an opinion but neither of us seem to be arguing from a position of principle, merely from a position of what’s good for us.
Which leads me to the question: “is it wrong to take advantage of something that we are against, if it benefits us?” The BBC segment concerned the government’s plan to keep DNA samples of innocent people for up to six years, which is against a ECHR ruling. Now, we libertarians are generally against supranational organisations and big government, so would it be wrong, for example, to use the EU or the ECHR to take our own government to court to fight such an illiberal measure? Surely, a few court victories may well force the government to change it’s plans (or it may not) but would it be wrong to try?
To revisit (and paraphrase) Rand for a minute, it could be argued that we were “giving sanction to the enemy” (validation of their institutions) even while pragmatically using their own institutions against them. A practical argument -it may well be a trap to be avoided- but also a position of principle.
Staying on the EU subject, consider the anti-EU politicians with seats in the EU parliament. The UKIP MEPs, Dan Hannan and now the BNP MEPs. All against the EU, but they took their seats, because it gives them a platform they may not have had otherwise. Hypocrisy or pragmatism? Sinn Fein MPs famously refused to take up their seats in Westminster, but of course those I mentioned above don’t have the advantage of armed wings blowing things up to grab the headlines.
So where does one stand, should one cut off ones nose to spite one’s face? Or should one stand on principle and put the good fight at a disadvantage?