Wednesday, October 12, 2016

David Stockman's Web Site Goes Gated

David Stockman's website Conta Corner has gone gated.

It's a hefty price, $400 per year or a monthly subscription of $39 ($468 annually).

As a result of ad blockers, it is very difficult to generate significant revenue on a non-gated basis.

Despite what anti-IPers claim, there is no such thing as free intellectual effort. You either deal with ads or you will end up with access on a very expensive basis.



  1. I would rather contribute to a site deliberately than watch stupid ads I don't care about. I am a daily alert subscriber, I own a copy of your book, The Fed Flunks, and I recently purchased your investing course. Not only do I find value in the content I purchase from you, but I want to support the free content as well because I enjoy that too. My ad blocker will stay on because I will choose how I support those whose content I value.

    1. I like your comment and agree Jesse. I subscribe to the Daily Alert and bought "The Fed Flunks" as well.

  2. $400 per year is pretty steep. Obviously how you value the return on that investment will determine its value to you. Considering all of the sites that have no fees this is probably going to fail.

    Gary North has a membership fee of $180 per year to access some of the info on his site. North also offers quite a bit of content for free. This is probably what Stockman will need to do.

    Newspapers like The NY Slimes online subscription is $325 per year. USA Today is $225.

    I value Contra Corner more than any newspaper I know of. Not only for the newspaper content that might interests me but also because most of the content included in newspapers I am not interested in.

    Another example: Shadow Stats is $175 per year.

  3. I don't know any anti-IPers that claim there is such thing as free intellectual effort. Who is saying you have to give up your ideas for free? This seems to be a misrepresentation of anti-IP arguments.

    1. Exactly. "Intellectual Property" is bullshit, it's all about off-loading costs of exclusion onto others, and about using force of State to cartelize the content distribution.

    2. The idea of intellectual property makes sense on a superficial level, like many statist policies. Lets say for instance, I create a video game and I sell a copy of it to person A under the condition that you will not create or distribute any copy of the game, that they are only allowed to enjoy the game for their own benefit. For the sake of argument lets say the game is only in digital form, with no physical copy being transferred. Now let's say Person A gives a digital copy of the game to Person B, breaching the contract I have with him. Any reasonable person would agree that Person A owes me restitution for breaching the contract.

      What is less clear is what happens to Person B. Is he morally obligated to cease playing the game and erase his copy? Superficially one could argue that he is in possession of property that isn't his and he has no right to it, thus the property must be returned. However, this is not the case at all. Person B has acquired information in the form of the game, and information is not property, nor can it be. Let me illustrate why, using another example:

      Let's say I invent the game of Soccer. I invent all the rules, the boundaries, scoring, everything. Now let's say I am hired to teach Person A how to play Soccer under the condition that he cannot teach the game to anyone else. Person A teaches the game to Person B, breaching our contract. Person A owes me resitution of course. Person B has broken no contract, he is not in possession of any property that isn't his. All he has is information, in mental form rather than digital form, but can Person B really be expected to never play the game again, even though he knows how? Can he be expected never to teach anyone else?

      What if Person B modifies the game. Instead of being played on grass with a ball, it is played on ice with a puck, and instead of players kicking it, they hit the puck with sticks. Under IP rules, is this new game his, or is it too similar to the original game? What if he invents a game called Baseball, still played with a ball on a field of grass, but the rules are quite different. Is it unique enough now to be his own property? What if Person C invents Soccer completely independently of Person A? Who has claim to the IP?

      The fact is that information should not be treated like property. Treating information like property creates all sorts of problems when contract law is sufficient to protect ideas if implemented properly and if people properly control the dissemination of the information they wish to profit from.

    3. @Jesse, you ask what about person B? If it was a stolen car sold by A to B, and purchased innocently by B, B loses title. Whether it is a car wrongly sold, or IP, someone has to lose.

  4. "Despite what anti-IPers claim, there is no such thing as free intellectual effort."

    I'm glad to see that you're pro-IP, as there are so many anti-IP fanatics running around posting self-congratulatory columns about how they're the genius vanguards of future thought. Do we need copyright? Why, no, and they can prove it! Because here's an example of someone who succeeded without copyright, and oh, here's another. So clearly copyright is an outdated concept that no one needs. That's about as good as it gets in their crowd.

  5. the interviews have been soft sales to subscribe...too much free macro-analytics out thre...relevant still or a has been? Not worth my dough finding out...rather buy some options or something with $400 in his "casino"

  6. I really don't have any problem with pay for access sites or ad-blockers.

    Technology is such that if people don't want to offer their ideas ad-free they can cut out those not willing to pay and that's that.

    Personally, I think the reason people started run ad-blockers was in response to "annoying" ads(me included)- ads that automatically start up your audio/video player for example and make a big "scene" or "pop-ups" that open windows and wreak havoc on your computer.

    There's really never been a good "balance" per se for the most part on the internet-that is advertising that is not as intrusive/annoying. Google/Youtube does the best at advertising in a manner that isn't super annoying- and there's still some room for improvement there, especially on Youtube.

    I think a site that has no advertising, but paid access can be a viable model if the information has value- and for those that value the information but don't have the means, well you can have a separate site with advertising that simply doesn't work if you have an ad-blocker enabled. (the WSJ comes to mind)

    Of course, you can always offer "free trials" too on a pay-walled site so people can judge the value of the information.

  7. Stockman's not a daily read for me. I bought the Great Deformation and it was pretty good but, 4 years later, kinda forgettable. HIs Trump book? Forget it. Not sure what ol' Dave thinks he's got now but good for him. I'm sure the good stuff, the juicy stuff, will still be free via LRC and other sites. As for paid sites trying to be tipsters and touts, I'll pass on that as well. There's no liberty or libertarianism behind those walls.

    1. Agreed, Hollow Daze. Stockman is generally an interesting read but not irreplaceable. I will pay for the top 2-3 sources of unique insight (such as EPJ Daily Alert) but regret that Stockman is not among them. His style will be missed.

  8. --- Despite what anti-IPers claim, there is no such thing as free intellectual effort. ---

    Wbo argues that, again? Intellectual *effort* cannot be free because that is labor. Don't misconstrue the argument.

    The pro-IP argument is that Idea X BELONGS to Individual Y even if Individual A comes up with the exact same Idea X independently. Individual Y can still sue Individual A for "stealing" his Idea X.

    Now tell me that ain't so and I'll point you out several court cases that say it IS so. According to the State, of course. Our contention is that Individual Y cannot "own" Idea X - PERIOD.

    1. "Intellectual effort can not be free because that is labor"

      What are you a Marxist?

    2. "The pro-IP argument is that Idea X BELONGS to Individual Y even if Individual A comes up with the exact same Idea X independently."

      Who has made that argument in the "pro-IP" crowd? I've never read/seen it.

    3. I think, rather, he is having a hard time conveying his point.

    4. @Nick That's the thing. The anti-IP crowd intentionally, and continually conflates ideas with the expression of ideas. Ideas cannot be patented or copyrighted.

      Personally, I think patents are problematic as there are probably a small handful of legitimately-patentable inventions in any given year, but the government Patent Office typically rubber-stamps patents and lets the courts figure it out at a 7-figure cost for both plaintiff and defendant should they fight it out. So, while patents are theoretically legitimate, the government makes such a mess out of it that we'd be better off without them.

      Copyrights, on the other hand, are far easier to assert (yes, there are examples of abuses, but it's much rarer than patent abuse).

    5. Nick - this is what "IP" is. It is explicit in patents (i.e. a patent is awarded to whoever has priority), and implicit in copyrights (the copyright law presumes that two similar instances of some content share the common origin).

    6. @ averros & Unknown:

      I think there is a problem here in distinguishing between "copying" and coming up with the same idea "independently", setting aside the issue of enforcement...which is a whole different ball of wax.

      I would assume that in a world of private courts that would be an issue for "discovery"....

    7. @ Jesse

      "I think, rather, he is having a hard time conveying his point."

      In giving Torres the benefit of the doubt- he might be harkening back to Rothbard & Locke in their definition of what property "is"- they both reference a component of "labor mixing" to some degree in defining "property".

      To RW's point, just because someone uses their labor on something doesn't mean they are guaranteed any kind of payment or that they have used their labor in a manner to homestead/create property- to argue otherwise would be Marxian, but I don't think that what Torres meant to say. (hopefully)

      As we all know, the IP debate turns primarily on what someone's definition of "property" is...I myself like Bastiat's definition- which talks about a defining quality of "property" includes it having "market value"- Mark Thorton wrote a nice paper on the topic.

      Anyway, the IP debate is a difficult one but the best summary I heard was from a prominent libertarian that once stated(paraphrasing) "I would never presume to tell others what they should or shouldn't consider "property"".

      I agree with that sentiment. It would seem perfectly libertarian for different libertarian societies to form on the basis of how they define property.

    8. What the hell does this mean: "I would never presume to tell others what they should or shouldn't consider 'property'"?

      You could just as easily say: "I would never presume to tell others whether to institute minimum wage laws in their region."

      The entire point of a Private Property Society is that private property is recognized because it will generally bring about the best general standard of living including recognition of intellectual creations/property.

    9. @ RW

      Please see my response below, I fat fingered it's location.

    10. ""Intellectual effort can not be free because that is labor"

      What are you a Marxist?"

      Labour is a specific kind of action and requires resources. Therefore, it has alternative costs. Because of that we conclude that it's valuable. You don't have to subscribe to labour theory of value to find that argument true.

      Second of all, he could as well be a Smithian or a Ricardian.

    11. @Nick Badalamenti

      > I think there is a problem here in distinguishing between
      > "copying" and coming up with the same idea "independently"

      Yes, there *is* a problem, but not of the kind you assume there is. It is virtually impossible to come up with a new idea without quite a few people already having the same thoughts. In fact, the running joke among scientists is that a scientific law is never named after the guy who actually came up with it first.

      Same goes for inventions. What happens in reality is that a community of professionals explores a frontier, using the shared base of knowledge and ideas as the starting ground. The ideas are literally "in the air", being tossed around. Eventually somebody hits on a tiny incremental step from that zone and recognizes its importance to the point of actually writing a paper or filing a patent. But the actual idea behind that increment was discussed and known by hundreds of people by that time. Who is the real inventor?

      Even the major and seemingly out-of-the-blue scientific revolutions (like the theory of special relativity) which in popular opinion are ascribed to a sole genius (Einstein in this case) are in fact a small step from the stuff which was well known before (i.e. Lorentz transformations (which were also independently invented by FitzGerald) and Minkowski space (first described by Poincare) which provide the complete mathematical structure of the special relativity - the genius of Einstein here was to recognize that these actually describe reality, not inventing the actual mathematical description of the theory, which existed before his work).

      It is even worse in conventional high-tech patents. Practically all of this stuff is invented by somebody other than the claimed authors, often decades before, or is completely trivial and obvious to anyone who actually is in the field - literally, the first thing which comes to head if you need to solve the particular problem.

      As for credibility of my statements: I'm both an inventor with a bunch of patents in my name, and served as an expert witness in patent litigation, so I actually know what I'm talking about here.

  9. David stockman is a mediocre writer in my opinion. I loose interest after 3 paragraphs. He is always selling depressing stories. I know that is popular with many folks, but I will take some positive waves.

  10. "According to a new IAB report, 26 percent of desktop users and 15 percent of mobile consumers use blockers"

    Additionally, some percentage of those people would simply NOT go to your site if ad blockers were somehow disabled. If that is 50%, then the above numbers become 13% and 7.5%. Now consider that the additional overhead of more numbers to your site is extremely low, and services like Amazon AWS make it extremely easy to scale servers. All considered, your claim that it's very difficult to generate revenue due to blockers looks pretty silly.

    RW, you have a gated service. Why are you still posting here? Your free content is a gateway to the gated, and yet you can't stop complaining about ad blockers.

    On top of all this, there are solutions to this problem that are used by major web sites. You choose not to do this. Why? My guess is, again, this site is a gateway to your gated content.

    What exactly is it you want?

    1. Congratulations, you do not understand my model at all.

  11. "You could just as easily say: "I would never presume to tell others whether to institute minimum wage laws in their region."

    My point is this:

    If a bunch of moron's want to get together and say, "Yea, we're all for minimum wage laws" and they have 100% consent, well then that's libertarian even if we don't agree, right?(because everyone agreed voluntarily- assuming they don't try to force it on us)

    Sometimes, as in the case of how someone defines "property", you can't get consensus. I think IP is valid form of property. Many libertarians don't.

    I'd just assume live in a society that was structured around my cultural beliefs(which include a belief in the NAP) and that includes people who agree with my definition of what property "is".

    My belief is that respect for IP breeds the same results as respect for physical property. The results include "civil society"(free of NAP violations) and prosperity(due to everyone able to keep their property).

    If the anti-IPers want to have a society where IP is not property, in effect becoming an intellectual "commune", let them have it! (if they all agree and don't impose it on me- they stay in their "region")

    It seems to me that the issue of multiple libertarian societies(think HOA's) with different rules based on their viewpoint of the NAP is completely compatible with libertarianism.

    Block has made this case several different ways.

    1. Suppose one group gets together and decides that your land is their property, or at least partially their property through their property definition?

      I have one socialist, old-college friend who insists ownership of physical property is aggression against him as no one has rights to deny him his fractional ownership of all the universe based on his existence (I'm putting words in his mouth, but that's the only logical way I can see to define his rationale). These people will seek to enforce their definition of the NAP against you.

      Ultimately, for a private-property society to exist, the society will need to be able to assert enough force to defend you, your community, and your property against those who would seek to take it -- rationalizing their aggression by claiming you and your society are the aggressors. That would also include IP.

    2. "Ultimately, for a private-property society to exist, the society will need to be able to assert enough force to defend you, your community, and your property against those who would seek to take it"

      I agree with all of this, I'm not sure I fully understand your point.

      But to clarify, I view the concept of "secession" as libertarian. Along those lines, a system of property protection, courts, etc. could all be handled privately(see Walter Block) and contractually.

      The assumption anti-IPers make is that the only reason IP exists in American society today is because of government monopoly of the courts & the funding mechanism for enforcement- they never consider that many people do agree with the concept of IP and though the foundational premise of how the monopolized US gov't court system and it's enforcement arms is "funded/agreed to" is flawed(not voluntary), they proceed on throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water by suggesting that a private/voluntary court/enforcement system would never yield IP. (to which I disagree- but I burned out on the IP debate long ago and don't feel like re-visting everything at this moment)