Academy of Lies:
6 June 2014

¶ Here’s hoping that the Massachusetts legislature passes a bill that will severely narrow the enforceability of “non-compete” clauses in employment contracts — and, hopefully, restore some of the luster that Route 128 has lost to Silicon Valley. When we read on the front page of this morning’s Times about the difficulties that a nineteen year-old summer camp counselor was having finding another job, we almost went into a socialist fugue state. Here is what her former employer told reporter Steven Greenhouse:

Joe Kahn, Linx’s owner and founder, defended the noncompete that his company uses. “Our intellectual property is the training and fostering of our counselors, which makes for our unique environment,” he said. “It’s much like a tech firm with designers who developed chips: You don’t want those people walking out the door. It’s the same for us.” He called the restriction — no competing camps within 10 miles — very reasonable.

You can imagine how wickedly the editor’s wife, a long-time summer-camp counselor herself, snorted at this nonsense. Chips, indeed. She’d like to give his little canoe a nice paddle.

We recovered from our socialist fever, but not without a sharper sense that there is a difference between business operators and intellectual property, and that we ought not to be too eager to respect ownership claims by the former to the latter. Non-patented business practices (and such patents ought to be granted most grudgingly) are hardly more confidential or deserving of legal protection on behalf of alleged owners than published cookie recipes.

We’re all for capitalism, wherever it works. We’re very much against mere ownerism.

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