Archive for May, 2017

Why Jeff Bezos is a Billionaire and I’m Broke

Evidently nobody remembers Xerox PARC and how the lack of IP protection made Bill Gates rich. So nobody got the joke in my title, which said “Bill Gates” instead of “Jeff Bezos.”

Do I think I have ownership in an idea? Nope. I’ve already written endlessly that “Ideas can’t be owned.”

But, damn. My idea can be used without any compensation just because it’s unsolicited?

Stephan Kinsella’s screeds to the contrary, that just ain’t right.

“No compensation is offered for unsolicited business ideas.” —

Subject: From an author of 11 Kindle books
Date: Mon, 8 May 2017 23:00:06 -0700
From: J. Neil Schulman
To: Jeff Bezos
CC: Justin Ptak, Friends of J. Neil Schulman, Ken Holder, Editor, The Libertarian Enterprise

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I’m author of eleven Kindle books currently on sale via Amazon, producer/writer/director of two feature films currently streaming on Amazon Video/Amazon Prime, plus additional hardcover and paperback books, and an Audible audiobook, also on sale via Amazon.

Back in 1989 I was one of the earliest distributors of downloadable books by best-selling authors, SoftServ Publishing, and in 1995 was the founder of Pulpless.Com which marked up additional publishing milestones.

I predicted almost all of what has come to pass in publishing in a 1987 article titled “Here Come the Paperless Books,” and I taught a graduate course called “Book Publishing in the 21st Century” for the New School/Connected Education in 1991.

Book Publishing in the 21st Century

Being as immersed in writing and publishing as I’ve been I note the superiority of digital book editions to printed books in all ways but one: the direct personal contact between author and reader that used to take place in bookstore author readings, Q&A, and book signings.

I propose we now enhance the Kindle experience by introducing the Virtual Kindle Author’s Personal Appearance.

The VKAPA would be a scheduled and publicized Amazon Kindle Bookstore online event where an author speaks by live video-conference to Kindle readers, reads a portion of one of the author’s Kindle books, answers live questions from the on-line audience, then personally inscribes and autographs readers’ individual Kindle editions using an app that affixes the personal inscription/autograph to that reader’s individual Kindle edition.

I propose that Kindle authors participating in the VKAPA not be charged for this service by Amazon but instead be treated as honored guests and share in the additional revenue generated by the Amazon VKAPA event.

As originator of this idea I ask that Amazon respect my authorship of this proposal and that Amazon publicize me as the first author to be given a VKAPA, and that I be given a small percentage of revenue from all future VKAPAs, to help me survive in my impending old age.


J. Neil Schulman
Kindle Author and originator of commercial downloadable books

Reply from

Subject: Kindle Direct Publishing – Executive Customer Relations
Date: Wed, 10 May 2017 20:49:15 +0000
To: J. Neil Schulman

Hello Mr. Schulman,

My name is Abbey Washington with Kindle Direct Publishing Executive Customer Relations. Mr. Bezos received your business proposal and I’m responding on his behalf. I have shared it with the appropriate department. If the team has any questions for you or interest in the proposal, we will contact you. No compensation is offered for unsolicited business ideas. Thank you for taking the time to share your proposal.


Abbey Washington
Executive Customer Relations
Kindle Direct Publishing

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Repeal and replace ObamaCare? Like this is hard to figure out?

Look. I’m an anarchist-libertarian but I also take notice of politics.

The libertarian position is getting the State completely out of the business of health, healthcare, healthcare insurance, and medicine, whether at the federal, state, or local level.

No drug laws.

No Drug War.

No requirements for drug prescriptions.

No legal penalties for possession or sale of any quantity of drugs, so long as no violence, force, coercion, or fraud is involved.

No FDA approval or control of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or supplements.

No restrictions on the importation of pharmaceuticals.

No Drug Enforcement Agency.

No medical licensing of doctors, nurses, dentists, or any other healthcare provider.

The premise of a free society is that what you put into your body, what you see as beneficial for your pursuit of happiness, what free people trade, are all private matters protected as preexisting unenumerated rights under the 9th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and — since not specifically granted to any branch of the federal government within the text of the Constitution — denied all branches of the federal government under the 10th amendment.

Oh, and all federal legislation and regulations are null and void ab initio, and prosecutable as criminal activity “under color of law” under Title 18, Section 242 of the United States Code.

If you’re feeling generous all these restrictions are incorporated to the States as well under the 14th Amendment.

That’s the libertarian position. That’s my position.

So let’s move on. The “Overton window” of the politically possible is not where a libertarian like me is.

Conservatives and Minarchists (this latter a term coined by my old friend, Samuel Edward Konkin III) believe in restricting the State as much as humanly possible.

Democrats, liberals, progressives all favor Universal Health Care, also known as “Single Payer” also known as Socialized Medicine.

Even a former Nixon administration economist like Ben Stein sees this as inevitable.

I don’t.

I see a possible stopgap from destroying all remnants of the free market in medicine, health care, and health insurance.

It’s my point One in the list below.


The issue the Democrats, liberals, and progressives all use against the “Repeal and Replace” of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is the disposition of those with preexisting conditions. The “heartless” Republicans want to kill off the poor because they oppose (they really don’t oppose it) Universal Socialized Medicine.

So let’s remove everyone with a preexisting condition from the health insurance market by putting them all on Medicare.

Yes, this is single-payer. But it’s not universal single-payer. It limits those who are single-payer clients to those who are currently breaking the back of the health-insurance market.

The Affordable Care Act — by legally requiring those with preexisting medical conditions to be included in the insurance pool — denies the purpose and nature of insurance, as a market product, itself.

Insurance, by definition, is based on risk of something happening in the future, a happening to which there can be an actuarial projection.

Someone with a preexisting medical condition is to health insurance precisely like buying automobile liability insurance after you’ve already crashed. It’s a past, not future, event.

Take these people out of the insurance market by putting them all on Medicare and everyone else can participate in a market for health insurance.

It’s not a libertarian solution. It is, however, a solution that limits government and preserves a free-market in health insurance for everyone else.

It’s a conservative or Minarchist solution.

My other points all address increasing competition, breaking up medical and pharmaceutical cartels and increasing market entry to healthcare providers.

Here then is a nonlibertarian proposal for JNeilCare:

1. Anyone with a preexisting condition regardless of age can sign up for Medicare.

2. All restrictions and barriers to Americans purchasing pharmaceuticals from foreign manufacturers and foreign pharmacies are hereby repealed.

3. Any health-insurance-qualified provider is allowed to provide services directly to a patient at a cash discount of their choosing.

4. Any physician’s, surgeon’s, nursing, dental, or other medical or health service provider’s license issued by any state or U.S. territory is good throughout the United States and its territories. Any foreign physician, surgeon, nursing, dental, or other medical or health service provider licensed in any state or U.S. territory may practice anywhere in the United States and its territories.

5. Anyone may purchase health insurance from any company selling such policies regardless of location of either seller or buyer.

It ain’t libertarian but it sucks a whole lot less than the United States adopting Universal Socialist Single-payer Medicine.

Oh, and feel free to sweeten this with as much of the libertarian position as you can get away with.

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Violon Chinois

Back in 1999 when I spent a couple of days at Epcot/Disney World I saw a performance of an ethnic Mongolian group performing on traditional Chinese musical instruments.

One of the traditional musical instruments was the Mongolian “horsehead fiddle.”

This is an instrument sized in between a viola and a cello, placed between the knees of the performer while sitting, and bowed like a cello. But just listening to it I knew I was seeing and hearing the grand-pappy of the modern string instruments that came out of Italy, particularly Cremona, ancestor to my father’s 1716 Guarnerius violin. In a November 1985 trip to Italy (obviously prior to my 1999 visit to Epcot) I’d visited the Stradivarius museum in Cremona which contained Stradivarius, Guarnerius, Amati, and other such violins, violas, and cellos.

One of the Chinese musicians performing at Epcot spoke English. I asked how far back in history the horsehead fiddle went and where it originated. The answer came back after discussion among the musicians that it was played in Inner Mongolia in the 12th century — well before Marco Polo’s 13th century visit to the region. I asked the Chinese musicians if Marco Polo could have brought back a horsehead fiddle with him to Italy. They didn’t know but said it was possible.

From that experience and conversation I concluded that Marco Polo must have brought a horsehead fiddle back to Italy, and it became the basis for the modern Italian-developed string instruments.

Ironically, as seen in the movie The Red Violin, when Mao’s Cultural Revolution was destroying violins as Western contamination they were actually destroying their own cultural heritage.

I was unable to prove the direct connection until — with my sister’s help — we found the proof I’d been looking for:

Mongolian Horse-head Fiddle

So it turns out that while I’m not anywhere the musician my dad was, I’m not half bad at being a cultural anthropological musicologist.

J Neil Schulman

Note: A web page I made about my father’s Guarnerius violin when my mom and I were selling it back in 2005 is still up at Million Dollar Violin.

Julius Schulman: Life With a Violin

Julius Schulman Violin Hero

Julius Schulman YouTube Channel

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