Re: Lawrence Lessig, Tax-Payer "ReadyReturn" and Research Access

From: J.F.B.Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 2 May 2006 16:32:35 +0100

Quotes from Lessing:

"And what if private schools pushed to reduce public school money so more
families would flee the public system?"

In effect isn't that was tax-cutting governments seeking to 'cut public
expenditure' and made up mostly of private-school alumni do all the time?

"Or what if taxicab companies managed to get a rail line placed just far
enough from an airport to make public transportation prohibitively

There are certainly places where taxi drivers' organisations lobby against
public funding of improvements to public transport.

Fytton Rowland, Loughborough University, UK.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Stevan Harnad" <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Sent: Saturday, April 29, 2006 11:10 PM
Subject: Lawrence Lessig, Tax-Payer "ReadyReturn" and Research Access

> Lawrence Lessig, in Wired magazine, has written a brilliant allegory
> on how a powerful status quo with profitable inefficiency can and will
> lobby to try to block anything that favours a competing efficiency.
> --
> Larry's example is California's withdrawal of a cheap, efficient
> tax-filing system -- "ReadyReturn" -- much praised by tax-payers,
> under pressure from lobbying on behalf of the tax-filing service
> industry. Larry's point is that there is not an inefficiency under
> the sun that cannot be defended, nor a potential benefit that cannot
> be blocked, if the government hews to this sort of pressure from the
> business status quo, protecting its current revenue streams at all costs
> -- to the consumer, to society, or to the planet itself. Larry casts
> this as government's being pro-business status-quo-preserving interests
> instead of pro-competition, change and efficiency.
> This may all sound familiar to the Open Access community from the
> rocky fate of the RCUK self-archiving proposal, the still-birth of
> the NIH "public access" policy, and even the inbuilt birth-defects of
> the Wellcome Trust self-archiving policy (with its counterproductive
> 6-month embargo at science's all-important early-growth tip) --
> although the Wellcome Trust, being a private charity rather than
> a government agency, has had a freer hand, and the result has been
> welcome and evident (and lately rightly rewarded with the SPARC Europe
> Award for Outstanding Achievements in Scholarly Communications --
> ).
> All the more reason that the distributed network of universities and
> research institutions should stop waiting for their cue from the
> government or a big research funder in order to mandate what is as
> surely in the best interests of research, researchers, and their
> institutions as the (defeated) California tax ReadyReturn is in the
> interests of the tax-payer. Indeed the tax-payer, being the
> research-funder, is the beneficiary here too, if self-archiving is
> mandated -- and the loser as long as it is not.
> Distributed institutions have the advantage of not being fixed lobbying
> targets, the way governments are. Indeed, the only conceivable basis for
> hesitation by universities is fear of copyright infringement: This fear
> is groundless, but mandating immediate deposit of the full-text without
> mandating the setting of access privileges immediately to "Open Access"
> -- --
> effectively moots the copyright issue completely, deflecting any embargo
> pressure from the deposit to the access-setting, and, most important of
> all, allowing semi-automated eprint-emailing -- directly by individual
> authors to individual eprint-requesters who discover the Closed Access
> full-text from its Open Access bibliographic metadata (author, title,
> journal, date, etc.) -- to tide over any delay period in setting full-text
> access to Open Access.
> So, unlike governments, the world-wide network of universities and
> research institutions need not heed the lobby from interests vested in
> preserving the restricted-access status quo at the cost of needless
> research access-denial and impact-loss to research, researchers,
> their institutions, and the public that funds them. They can mandate
> immediate self-archiving immediately.
> Stevan Harnad
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Excerpted from Peter Suber's Open Access News
> Why government-provided OA isn't unfair competition for publishers
> Peter Suber: What's wrong with publishers lobbying Congress to
> stop the federal government from providing OA to publicly-funded
> research? What's wrong with AccuWeather lobbying Congress to stop the
> government from providing OA to publicly-funded weather data? Lawrence
> Lessig hits the nail on the head in his May column for Wired.
> --
> Excerpt (from Lawrence Lessig in Wired):
> "Imagine if tire manufacturers lobbied against filling potholes so
> they could sell more tires. Or if private emergency services got
> local agencies to cut funding for fire departments so people would
> end up calling private services first. And what if private schools
> pushed to reduce public school money so more families would flee
> the public system? Or what if taxicab companies managed to get a
> rail line placed just far enough from an airport to make public
> transportation prohibitively inconvenient?...
> "[T]his one, unfortunately, is true. In 2005, the state of California
> conducted an experiment. Hoping to make paying taxes easier, it
> launched a pilot program [called ReadyReturn] for people who were
> likely to file "simple returns."...Praise for the program [from
> taxpayers who used it] was generally over-the-top....Soon after
> ReadyReturn was launched, lobbyists from the tax-preparation industry
> began to pressure California lawmakers to abandon the innovation.
> Their opposition was not surprising: If figuring out your taxes were
> easy, why would anyone bother to hire H&R Block? If the government
> sends you a completed form, why buy TurboTax? But what is surprising
> is that their "arguments" are having an effect. In February, the
> California Republican caucus released a report highlighting its
> "concerns" about the program - for example, that an effort to make
> taxes more efficient "violates the proper role of government." Soon
> thereafter, a Republican state senator introduced a bill to stop
> the ReadyReturn program.
> "Inefficiency has become a virtue in government - and not
> just in California. Last year, the US Senate passed a funding
> bill with an amendment prohibiting the IRS from developing its
> own "income tax electronic filing or preparation products or
> services."...[I]ncreasingly, the [Republican] party - as conservative
> columnist Bruce Bartlett says of George Bush in his book, Impostor -
> is "incapable of telling the difference between being pro-business
> and being for the free market." It favors specific competitors rather
> than favoring competition....Such pro-business and anti-efficiency
> policies will continue to prevail until someone in our political
> system begins to articulate principles on the other side....Free
> markets aren't pro-business - they don't favor incumbent companies
> if upstarts do the job better. Competition is good wherever it
> comes from - even the government - so long as it lowers social
> costs and increases wealth. And efficiency is good regardless of
> who it might hurt; it is especially good if it hurts those who feed
> off inefficiency. Thus, lawyers are good, but a world that needed
> fewer of them would be much better. Doctors are great, but that's
> no argument against better health. And TurboTax is fantastic, but
> it shouldn't prevent the government from making paying taxes easier."
Received on Tue May 02 2006 - 17:03:59 BST

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