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Swiss Voters Reject Book Price Controls

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the abbie-hoffman-smiles dept.

Books 129

New submitter hinterwaeldler writes "In 2007 Switzerland abandoned book price control (which requires publishers to fix prices for their books and forbids any dealer to sell at another price), reducing prices by 30% to 50% for online buyers. The brick & mortar book stores lobbied the parliament into creating a bill to reinstate the price fixing, against which a referendum was taken by liberals and the Pirate Party, forcing a popular vote. On March 11, after an intense debate, Swiss voters decided against book price control (German-language original) with a majority of 56%."

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Protectionism by any other name... (4, Informative)

ControlFreal (661231) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339343)

... because that is exactly what this initiative ("Buchpreisbindung") was aiming for. Protectionism is wrong, no matter what you name it.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (5, Interesting)

willpb (1168125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339417)

It would be nice to have a functioning democracy. I just wish we could have a referendum on protectionism here in the U.S.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339593)

It would be nice to have a functioning democracy. I just wish we could have a referendum on protectionism here in the U.S.

What makes you think it would help? The US would vote overwhelmingly in favor of protectionism -- it's a hugely protectionist country despite claiming to want free trade.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (4, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340087)

The US would vote overwhelmingly in favor of protectionism -- it's a hugely protectionist country despite claiming to want free trade.

The US does want free trade though. It wants free trade that benefits itself exclusively. The whole goal is to be as protectionist as possible, but allow token free trade that benefits it. For example, by allowing US companies to sell to other countries freely, but putting up roadblocks when other countries try to sell their goods in the US. The US benefits because its companies are selling more, while being protected from being undercut in other markets by what that country tries to sell the US.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (3, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340497)

For example, by allowing US companies to sell to other countries freely, but putting up roadblocks when other countries try to sell their goods in the US. The US benefits because its companies are selling more, while being protected from being undercut in other markets by what that country tries to sell the US.

How do you reconcile this opinion with the US trade deficit [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340873)

That's easy.
Other countries are better at stacking the deck, that and US goods tend to be expensive outside our borders.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (2)

yuje (1892616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341681)

The one area where the US (and the other industrialized countries in Europe, as well as Japan and South Korea) do not practice free trade is in agriculture. All these countries want to practice free trade for industrialized goods, so that they can sell their manufactured products at competitive prices, and also purchase raw materials and industrial goods cheaply, but they heavily subsidize agriculture. Often this is done in the name of "protecting farmers", "food safety", "national food security".

What this means in effect is that the poorer developing countries, where agriculture is the largest sector of the economy, and hoping to export their agricultural goods in order to get the money needed to build up their infrastructure and industrial base, are screwed. They have no way to compete on the international market with the cheap and heavily subsided farm goods of the industrialized countries, nor can they sell their products easily with all the trade barriers in place. The US has guaranteed prices for its farmers, and a lot of this is simply given away as food aid to countries. This helps feed them in times of famine of course, but it also means the poor farmers in those countries have a hard time making a living, as their crop prices have to compete against free.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (4, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340089)

What makes you think it would help? The US would vote overwhelmingly in favor of protectionism -- it's a hugely protectionist country despite claiming to want free trade.

Well, to some extent, yes.

However, I'd argue that we in the US would be a little happier if we could at least compete on a more equal basis against the countries that don't worry about pollution and don't have to mess with the added cost of environmental issues.....those countries that pay $1/hour....and those that manipulate their currency unfairly.

I wouldn't mind a tax/tarrif on imported goods, that only brought the cost of the final product closer to what it costs to manufacture in the US based on those type of metrics. That way, all things being even for cost, quality would prevail in the US consumer's decision making.

No, this couldn't be absolute...but as long as it made it reasonably close to equal.

On the US side...I wish we'd get rid of a lot of the subsidies we have on food, like corn products.....so that natural sugar could compete more closely with HFCS....

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Sean (422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340381)

However, I'd argue that we in the US would be a little happier if we could at least compete on a more equal basis against the countries that don't worry about pollution and don't have to mess with the added cost of environmental issues.....those countries that pay $1/hour....and those that manipulate their currency unfairly.

Getting the US to lead by example and stop manipulating its currency would be a good start. It's by far the worst offender in that area.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (2)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340409)

Getting the US to lead by example and stop manipulating its currency would be a good start. It's by far the worst offender in that area.

I don't see how we're bad at doing that...if we were manipulating out currency, I kinda doubt the dollar would be as weak as it is.

Talk to me when you get China in line with currency manipulation.....

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340749)

The US government WANTS a weaker dollar - that's the only way to reduce the trade deficit with China among others. A weaker currency increases exports while reducing imports, thereby (hopefully) reducing unemployment. It also indirectly taxes wealth and subsidizes debt, increasing risk taking. At least these are the arguments for weakening the dollar. The market abhors arbitrage though, so in reality I suspect that there are hidden mechanisms offsetting these benefits.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39341357)

I don't see how we're bad at doing that...if we were manipulating out currency, I kinda doubt the dollar would be as weak as it is.

Talk to me when you get China in line with currency manipulation.....

That doesn't make any sense at all. The accusation against China is that it keeps its currency artifically weak to boost exports. You can't really support that accusation while at the same time saying it can't be manipulation if your currency is weak.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342509)

Yes, you can. The goals are different, so the action is different. China doesn't have a huge trade deficit to finance. The U.S. of A. can tax the rest of the world by printing more dollars. This devalues Chinese trade reserves, and gives spending money to the domestic economy. Nobody else holds Chinese reserves because they don't allow legal trade of the currency outside of China.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

willpb (1168125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340503)

China manipulating their currency is really just protectionism on their part. I'm sure they say we also manipulate our currency unfairly.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

danbob999 (2490674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340505)

However, I'd argue that we in the US would be a little happier if we could at least compete on a more equal basis against the countries that don't worry about pollution and don't have to mess with the added cost of environmental issues.....those countries that pay $1/hour....and those that manipulate their currency unfairly.

The US pollutes much more per capita than any country where workers are paid $1/hour. So if there is a country that doesn't worry about pollution, it's the US.
Even most others rich countries have a far better respect of the environment than the US.

The US is the problem here, not the solution.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340537)

The US pollutes much more per capita than any country where workers are paid $1/hour.

Anecdotal....or do you have evidence you can post to back that up?

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340925)

Kyoto.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341041)

For just CO2 emissions for example look here: http://www.mnp.nl/images/Top20-CO2andGHG-countries-in2006-2005(GB)_tcm61-36276.xls [www.mnp.nl]
For total green house gas emissions an example source: http://pdf.wri.org/navigating_numbers_chapter4.pdf [wri.org]

You will note that the US has over 5 times the emissions of China and over 10 times the emissions of India per capita. If you think about it it is quite crazy since most products that the US consumes, are manufactured outside the US! And yet the US is not keen on reducing emissions (or ratifying Kyoto).
And then comes the Slashdoter from the US who has not RAFA in his life complaining how the other countries don't care about emissions!

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341597)

Interesting.

I was just asking....personally, I'm not all the worried about emissions. The problems won't really show up till I'm long gone from this planet....so, as long as I have a good life NOW...I'm happy.

As for Kyoto....I don't believe the US is the only one that didn't ratify it....and I've heard others are trying to get out of it, etc.

Something like Kyoto is useless unless everyone signs on...even emerging industrial countries.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342649)

It was just the US, Canada and Australia that had not signed it originally. Australia later did, so it is just US/Canada the ones that have not ratified Kyoto.

I was just asking....personally, I'm not all the worried about emissions. The problems won't really show up till I'm long gone from this planet....so, as long as I have a good life NOW...I'm happy.

Hmm, it is not sarcasm? Interesting. Well, that is the exact reason the US is not willing to lower emissions, but they don't spell it out like that. I guess you are at least honest. Of course, you want to reap the benefits of civilization without caring about preserving it for future generations, so as far as human society is concerned you are but a foreign body, like, say, a tumor. Of course, you are in company of a large percentage of the population and I certainly cannot claim that it is for the benefit of the universe or some other grand scheme to preserve human civilization. Perhaps it is better if it just ends sooner rather than later ;)

Environmental rules are only one part of it (0)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340507)

there are so many regulations that complying with them all is an undue burden on business. The recent Dodd-Frank rules have not been fully implemented but if the numbers are to be believed they are close two twenty two MILLION hours of time required to comply. This all money being spent not producing anything!

Now go add in all the tax laws, all the environmental regulations you listed, the work laws, various state and even obscure local laws, and it comes clear very quickly that it isn't that America business is non competitive by choice. The economy as with business is victim of the inability of Washington DC to get anything done.

Ever since Enron we have had one knee jerk over reaction followed by another. Worse, the same people writing the rules tend to be involved directly with those who are subject to them. Hell we even put some of the people who violate the rules into positions of power.

Subsidies and protectionism are all part of the same coin. It all comes down to using political power to protect those they like and punish those they do not like. Show me how many politically oriented families who come away from Washington poorer than they started.

Re:Environmental rules are only one part of it (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341141)

The recent Dodd-Frank rules have not been fully implemented but if the numbers are to be believed they are close two twenty two MILLION hours of time required to comply

Now there's an alarmist, meaningless, out-of-context number if ever there was one.

--Jeremy

Re:Environmental rules are only one part of it (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342155)

there are so many regulations that complying with them all is an undue burden on business.

That's what the guy in the penthouse bringing down millions per year in salary and stock options says, but I, for one, don't believe a fucking word of it.

Now go add in all the tax laws,

How are you to fund government without taxes? Or are you an anarchist?

all the environmental regulations you listed,

Look here, boy, that's a sore spot with me. I grew up in Cahokia, IL a couple miles south of the Monsanto plant in Sauget. Before environmental regs, you had to roll the windows up driving past, even in 100 degree heat and no AC because the air BURNED YOUR LUNGS. Rivers caught fire back then. You ignorant kids have no fucking clue how bad the environment was before the regulations.

I didn't see Monsanto going out of business, but drive past there now and you can actualy breathe. It doesn't even stink any more.

the work laws

You mean like the ones this comapny broke? [washingtonpost.com] Like OSHA, which if it were in place in 1959 my grandfather wouldn't have fallen down four stories? Son, I hate to break it to you, but you are a damned fool who listens to those who would do you harm in the guise of doing you good. Wake up and smell the sewage.

Re:Environmental rules are only one part of it (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343245)

It isn't the big companies that have trouble with all the regulations and endless paperwork...it is the SMALL business that it kills.

And so far, in the US history, it has been the small businesses that have driven the economy and employed the majority of people.

If nothing else, there should at least be exceptions to most of the regulations if you are a business of less than say, 100 people.....

I just have a one person company, to contract myself through...and it sucks the hoops you have to jump through, but you have to do it to :

1. Limit your personal liability

2. Keep the company your working with safe from getting hit by IRS for tax not withheld from 'employee', and for insurance purposes.

3. Keep as much of your hard earned dollars, by writing off every expense you can legally.

So many laws of old and most new ones, just seem almost to target the small businesses for some reason.....

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340769)

Wow! What pompous misinformation! You do realize that the rest of the world has signed the Kyoto treaty, do you not? It is the US who is the polluter and has been. According to the statistics, the US is responsible for 30% of historic emissions, despite the fact that it has not even 1/10th of the world population. If an Asian country continues down a bad path and in the future becomes the #1 polluter, then you start complaining again.
For now, leave the complaining to most of the rest of the world.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341127)

However, I'd argue that we in the US would be a little happier if we could at least compete on a more equal basis against the countries that don't worry about pollution and don't have to mess with the added cost of environmental issues.....those countries that pay $1/hour....and those that manipulate their currency unfairly.

I wouldn't mind a tax/tarrif on imported goods, that only brought the cost of the final product closer to what it costs to manufacture in the US based on those type of metrics. That way, all things being even for cost, quality would prevail in the US consumer's decision making.

Careful, you're sounding like a business-hating, job-killing liberal there.

--Jeremy

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

willpb (1168125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340217)

I don't know about that there are a lot of people who'd like lower tariffs on foreign cars for example.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340929)

Yeah, but think: The Swiss get a referendum on the price of books. We don't even get one on major issues like going to war, trillion dollar gifts to bankers instead of jailing them or even stuff like the TSA.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (2)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340931)

Perhaps.

But it should be noted that all almost all models of a 'free market' include all people working under the same rules.

I consider it both morally and functionally problematic to have free trade with a country with vastly different environmental/labor laws.

It's morally wrong because I don't think an American is *worth* more than a Mexican just because they happen be born in America. So why would we think the American worker too good to work for less than the American minimum wage, when we're perfectly fine buying the same good Mexico, where a Mexican manufactured it for less than the American Minimum wage? It's morally wrong because it is a very colonial mindset.

It's functionally wrong... because well... look around you. Trade deficits. Countries not willing to adjust to the reality. It's politically problematic to see such huge changes in industry and worker wages... Governments have counted on growth for future obligations...

What's particularly interesting is the US... as a federation of States was actually pretty wise in how it handles internal trade issues.

For example, when the minimum wage first started coming about... it occurred at the state level. Now it doesn't take a Phd to see that if New York implemented a minimum wage of $10, but Alabama didn't... a lot of work would go to Alabama and New York would suffer. So what did the federal government do... they used the interstate commerce clause... and made a very wise ruling... any good crossing state lines has to obey the federal minimum wage. Makes a lot of sense... so all American play on the same field in the free market.

Now the question is, what happened to this kind of very wise, rule oriented thinking? Today we sign trade deals with countries with vastly different minimum wages, environmental laws...

I don't believe there is anything protectionist about a law like: Any country wishing to trade with the US must obey the US federal minimum wage.

The practical impact of such a rule might be protectionist, but as a rule... it just makes sense.

I'll go on a small but highly related tangent here. You know the whole Euro disaster. What did all these brilliant technocrats/progressives learn?

You cannot have a monetary union without a political union.

They tried and it failed miserably. You need common political policies (deficit limits...) to stay a part of the monetary union.

I would say the say thing applies to free trade. A bunch of technocrats/progressives (used as a political philosophy.. not just leftists... there are right-wing progressives), thought we could have a trade union with political union... but they're wrong again.

If you want a trade union, you need a political union (common labor laws...)

Now it's possible these technocrats are just working towards a goal. In the Euro... using the fiscal union as a trap to make everyone into a political union. Or in the case of free trade... using a trade union to force common political union.

But who knows... all I can say... is that I do think the American people as a democracy would do a far better job of 'rule' based thinking than the politicians. Your average person has a sense of fairness and law that technocrats, progressives, and bureaucrats don't/

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341023)

But it should be noted that all almost all models of a 'free market' include all people working under the same rules.

Which is why a 'free market' is an abstract notion that has never existed, and cannot exist.

Yet people still cling to it like it's a real, tangible thing, and continue to believe that "if only we had this" it would solve everything efficiently.

To me, the "free market" is a fantasy that people cling to because their ideology won't allow for anything else -- it's a friggin' unicorn. And since it's never truly existed, all of those things people claim it does are based on their belief system.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341921)

All political thought is a belief system. This is especially true of progressivism even though they claim not to be ideological. Belief in expert panels, administrative state... is just as much a belief as the 'free market'.

It only matters how closely that belief system matches with reality over the long term.

I'll still put my lot towards any action that furthers a RULE-based free market as it reflects reality the best and has a pretty long history that keeps coming back.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342819)

I don't believe there is anything protectionist about a law like: Any country wishing to trade with the US must obey the US federal minimum wage.

Especialy since in the country where workers earn a median $1000 per year income, they can feed four in a nice restaraunt for a buck, take a taxi anywhere in the country for a buck or a bus for a nickle, buy a hand-stitched tailored shirt for $5, or rent a house for $30 a month.

I'm twice as rich as someone living 300 miles away in Chicago who earns the exact same salary as I do, because prices are all twice as high there.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343217)

Even if you account for cost of life, workers in developing countries still get paid less for the same work as workers in paid countries. All you need to do to see that is to look at how an average U.S. worker in a certain profession lives compared to an average Chinese (Mexican, ...) worker in the same profession.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339869)

agreed.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339493)

To be fair, there can be things that a society feels are more important than low prices. For instance, perhaps a subsidy is needed to provide incentive for the small Swiss market, which doesn't even have a common language. If the Swiss people thought that they needed more literature than the free market could support, then it is reasonable to subsidize it. As another example, I happen to support some kind of incentive for over-production of food, because I'd much rather over-pay than run out.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340223)

I happen to support some kind of incentive for over-production of food, because I'd much rather over-pay than run out.

Be careful what you wish for....look what that type of thing has done for the US.

The corn industry alone with its subsidies....and encouragement to grow as much as possible...had led to the obesity and general downfall of decent nutrition in the US, which is consequently spreading to other parts of the world now.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340815)

Be careful what you wish for....look what that type of thing has done for the US.

The corn industry alone with its subsidies....and encouragement to grow as much as possible...had led to the obesity and general downfall of decent nutrition in the US, which is consequently spreading to other parts of the world now.

All better than starving.

I'm not saying that the way the US government does it is right, and yes I realize that any government interference is subject to corruption and inefficiency. That said, I still want some kind of subsidy, and even the US version is better than none.

My favored subsidy is to pay farmers to plow excess under. Waste the extra food. People recoil in horror but I think it is the most direct and effective way to overproduce without changing market prices too much. Of course, you have to police the farmers somehow to make sure that they actually dispose of the food, which is where the corruption part comes in...

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341587)

My favored subsidy is to pay farmers to plow excess under. Waste the extra food. People recoil in horror but I think it is the most direct and effective way to overproduce without changing market prices too much. Of course, you have to police the farmers somehow to make sure that they actually dispose of the food, which is where the corruption part comes in...

People would be right to recoil in horror. How can you justify wasting good food when there are millions starving in other countries? Why not use that money to ship the excess to people in need, earning a lot of good will in the process?

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (2)

alexborges (313924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339603)

I disagree. There are instances when this kind of regulation may have a positive outcome on a market. The extremist way you put it just warrant that only popular ideas get sold (have more demands, thus get more or all of the rack space).

Books are kind of an important thing. We are not talking about cheese here.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340311)

Sorry.. are you saying that cheese is not important?

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340519)

Not as important as books anyway...
Unless its a book about cheese!

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342163)

WRONG!

This isn't about protecting choice - it's about protecting a distribution method.

Look at how we buy music. Online retailers and distribution killed the record stores. Do we have less choice now?

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (-1, Offtopic)

steve.cri (2593117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339623)

Protectionism is wrong

herppolitics is derp.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (2)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340135)

Protectionism is not "wrong" in any moral sense, just "wrong" according to economic theory.

Protectionism has the short-term effect of increasing prices for local consumers and funneling their money into the pockets of those who own the protected industries. (But if you consider that transfer "wrong", then your problem is with capitalism, not protectionism.) On the other hand, the protected industries provide jobs and livelihoods for their workers which would otherwise vanish, and need to be replaced. Comparative advantage would suggest that other industries would make up the shortfall, but in the real world it's not instantaneous, and workers cannot magically acquire new skills.

In the longer term, protectionism coupled with a locally-competitive market can produce an industry that can then compete on the global market. This is to the benefit of everyone, at home and abroad.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

steve.cri (2593117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340899)

... and while this is much more of a statement than the original post, it is still pretty general regarding this premise:

Protectionism is not "wrong" in any moral sense, just "wrong" according to economic theory.

... because protectionism is not "wrong according to economic theory", but wrong according to _an_ economic theory.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340631)

Interesting point. So protectionism is wrong, no matter what you name it. Ok. I stand corrected.

Re:Protectionism by any other name... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343255)

Protectionism aimed to protect a specific industry from other actors within the same country is wrong. I don't see anything wrong with protectionism in international trade, given the inherently uneven playing field (quality of life differences), and lack of true freedom of movement for labor.

Capitalism, ho? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339351)

Supply and demand?

Our business model is dying! (2)

skovnymfe (1671822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339377)

You must make laws to ensure its survival!

Another blow to the failing consignment market (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339391)

I'm just shocked that it was only 56%.

I'd have thought a greater portion of the Swiss constituency would have better sense than this.

Re:Another blow to the failing consignment market (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339473)

The number is quite high, actually. Don't count on 100% of the population to care about 100% of topics. Not everyone reads so many books to the point that a price increase would matter to them.

Re:Another blow to the failing consignment market (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339499)

Most referendum in Switzerland usually end up with a score like that, accepted (or rejected) by 50 to 60% of voters, irrespective of the question asked. On rare occasions the score is much higher. For instance, on Sunday we also voted against two extra weeks of paid holidays (from four to six) by 67%.

Re:Another blow to the failing consignment market (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340033)

Here in America, the congress gets 52 weeks paid vacation.

Re:Another blow to the failing consignment market (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340745)

Here in America, the congress gets 52 weeks paid vacation.

Hey, that's only 364 days! The 365th day must be a Sunday or public holiday or something.

e-books that cost the same as hardcover books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339409)

I will never ever buy an e-book that costs more than the dead-tree version. Publishers think I'm proving them right, saying e-books aren't profitable. No, I'm saying I want those publishers to go out of business.

I get more value from the Baen Free Library, and it has induced me to actually go buy a book by one of the authors, twice.

There's so much to read, I don't have time to waste on expensive stuff that turns out to be crap. If I can read a book for free, instantly, when I want to, then I will be much more comfortable shelling out my scare bucks for hardcopy or even e-books (but not at the same price as hardcopy for F's sake!)

Re:e-books that cost the same as hardcover books (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339635)

I get more value from the Baen Free Library...

Low-quality genre fiction is nice and all, but it does not fulfill all of a society's needs for literature. Geez, man, get some sense of perspective.

Re:e-books that cost the same as hardcover books (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340961)

Shakespeare wasn't exactly high society in his day, maybe you are the one who needs perspective. Meaningful literature is what society considers important over time - LotR's depictions of various creatures have become fairly standard in fantasy yet at the time of Tolkien's death the Silmarillion was somewhat rushed to get it out while there was still a market for it.

A fair amount of Baen's stuff does make one think about the rights and duties one has to society, the Honor Harrington series for instance compares many different forms of government and discusses ways to ensure the society remains true to its founding beliefs. It examines polygamy in a modern society, the risks stemming from a perpetual underclass, etc. Tom Krautman pretty much beats you over the head with the ills of "transnational progressives." Eric Flint's Ring of Fire/1632 universe heavily examines the effects of grand politics on the average person.

Most SciFi races are archetypes that allow us to examine social behavior. In Star Trek you have the Ferengi as the 80's "Greed is Good" view of capitalism, the Klingons the embodiment of an honor bound society, the Romulans as the paranoid closed society, the Borg as the end result of utilitarianism, Cardasians as racial supremacists, Dominion as a caste based society ruled by a formerly abused underclass.

I'm Swiss and I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339421)

... why on earth did this story make it into a slashdot headline?

Re:I'm Swiss and I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339457)

slow day?

Re:I'm Swiss and I wonder... (0)

tiberus (258517) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339459)

Apple is vetting their new pricing controls plan.

Re:I'm Swiss and I wonder... (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339535)

Someone probably thought it was related to e-books, and in a way it probably does.

Re:I'm Swiss and I wonder... (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339989)

Price-fixing IP cartels?

Majority? (5, Insightful)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339451)

"...a majority of 56%"

Still sounds pretty divided to me.

Although I agree with the outcome. It is simply common sense. Prices at a brick and mortar store will be higher, you are paying for the convenience of buying something immediately. Online prices will of course be lower, they don't have the overhead, however you have to wait days, weeks for your order, as well as pay for shipping.

So no I don't feel bad for the dinosaurs of industry that think they can legislate profits. @%$#^! you. If the market says we want more online stores than brick and mortar, then so be it. Quit saying the market is king on one hand and with the other lobbying government to legislate monopoly powers to manipulate the market!

Re:Majority? (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339465)

Not that I am Swiss or anything...

However it does show the legitimate and responsible use of power by the "Pirate Party". Hopefully this will translate elsewhere.

Re:Majority? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339521)

"legitimate and responsible" -- you sound surprised. Surely you realise their platform is not actually legalized theft on the high seas... right?

Re:Majority? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340075)

I figured there was some sacking and pillaging in there as well...

Re:Majority? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339509)

56 to 44 is nearly a 12 point gap. It really is a clear majority. What you're thinking of is a Super Majority which would be 60% and higher. That is kinda rare even when people mostly agree. There will always be on or two details that end up killing a Super Majority.

Re:Majority? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339751)

It is a huge majority by Swiss convention, >5% and you get caned 98 to 2 if you ask the same question in the next 25 years, no salami slicing here.

MFG, omb

Re:Majority? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340003)

It is a huge majority by Swiss convention, >5% and you get caned 98 to 2 if you ask the same question in the next 25 years, no salami slicing here. MFG, omb

I really wish more AC posters could speak proper English.

More divided than that (4, Informative)

DingerX (847589) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339847)

The German-speaking Cantons all had majorities against the ban. The French-speaking cantons all had majorities [i]in favor[/i] of the ban. Swiss-Germans outnumber everybody else by a wide margin, so they won.

The argument for price-fixing is the same one behind the death of record stores. Remember record stores? Turns out there are a few hits out there that most people buy, and then those interested in music have wider interests, and therefore want a broader catalog to choose from. The record store business model is built on selling those hits and using some of that revenue to pay for the space to hold a broad selection and the expertise to guide customers. Even before the internet was making dents in music sales, the big labels were already running exclusive deals with Walmart and Target, sinking the record store business model. The same thing is going on with books: the competition to worry about isn't the internet; it's the big chains that can serve 80% of the market by distributing a handful of best-sellers, and screw the rest. And it's the publishers themselves, who cut deals with the big chains on their top sellers, and in so doing, contribute to killing off the market for their own books.

And yes, it's protectionism in the same way mandating broadband to rural areas is protectionism.

Re:More divided than that (1)

danbob999 (2490674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340555)

Language division, just like the minarets ban.

Re:More divided than that (1)

greatpatton (1242300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343101)

No because in this case both side voted differently but with the same goal -> price decrease! Currently there is no price fixing, and the price of books in french speaking part of Switzerland is about 50% more than in France...

Fine (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341039)

The same thing is going on with books: the competition to worry about isn't the internet; it's the big chains that can serve 80% of the market by distributing a handful of best-sellers, and screw the rest.

Let BuyNLarge have the exclusive to the Oprah / Today garbage du jour; that will leave talented authors to sell directly to the folks whom aren't unintentionally auditioning for a walk-on part in Idiocracy.

Re:Majority? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340173)

You should change your name to DarthTotallyFuckingCorrect.

Re:Majority? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340317)

Online prices will of course be lower, they don't have the overhead, however you have to wait days, weeks for your order, as well as pay for shipping.

Hmm...I buy onlinie 99% of the time over brick and mortar, unless I have to have it THAT day.

But really....with amazon.com (I have amazon prime), I get 2x day shipping...and if I'm really impatient, I can spend $4 for overnight....

But really, for online, it is nicer, I don't pay tax on the item, shipping is free (even without prime, if you order $25 or more, shipping is free)...and really what's a couple days for shipping?

I found with amazon prime...it has more than paid for itself. I can stream movies from them (less per year vs netflix), and I get one book a month from their 'loan' dept for free...so, it is like getting a book which is usually $14-$16 or so a month for free.

That alone makes it worth the paltry $79/yr....and as a side benefit, 2 day shipping for free, no minimum purchase.

About the only thing I used land stores for...is to try out a product hands on, then, if I like it, I go home and order online.

Hell, sales tax down here is almost 10%....I'm about to drop money soon on a new Danon 5D...ordering online I'll save nearly $400 on tax over buying local.

Why? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339495)

What on earth do you need to fix prices on books for? I could understand the argument for things people need (milk, gasoline, electricity), but price fixing for entertainment that is not a necessity??? Nuts.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340385)

It's not the state fixing prices for book. It's about the state forcing the publisher to name a price and all sellers selling people that one book for the same price.

Freedom vs. localism (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339525)

This is going to be one of those issues that ties many liberals in knots. On the one hand, they like the idea of fighting corporate greed and collusion price-fixing, on the other hand they're big on romanticizing local mom-and-pop stores (like many of the bookstores that will be hurt by online competition). But it seems to be the inevitable direction that things are going, not just for bookstores, but for a LOT of other types of retail store. If you're a retail bookstore these days and you can't answer the question "What do you offer that Amazon doesn't/can't?" then you're probably in trouble. And if price-fixing by government mandate is your only hope, you're in a LOT of trouble.

I have to admit that I much prefer the online experience myself. But it's not just the price that attracts me, but the selection. I just bought a pair of great shoes in my weird size online that I could have never in a million years found locally. Similarly, I can find books through Amazon which would never be stocked in any of my local bookstores (which all seem to be 90% Harry-Potter-Twilight and 10% over-priced-coffee-shop these days). But your mileage may vary.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340025)

I'm Swiss, so I think I can give some insights in the vote.

The law wasn't so much about online retailers, but more about big retail store (Walmart-like) that could sell bestseller at a much lower price than independent bookstore because of agreement they (apparently) have with importers.

Now, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, most books are imported from France. Basically, there is only one importer for each book and this situation allow the importers to fix outrageous prices (up to 80% more than the price in France for the same book). Now, an independent bookstore cannot put any pressure on the importer since the importer has the monopoly on a range of books. Big retail store can put more pressure on the importers because the importers somehow depend on them.

So, this law was a way to protect the independent bookstores and allow a governement body to fix limit on the swiss price/french price ratio.

The situation is kind of different in the German part of Switzerland, because they have some kind of regulation by the association of bookstore. Interestingly enough, all of the French-speaking county accepted the law, but all the German-speaking one refused it (so it got refused because we have more German-speaking).

Now, there are some other way to fight against the book importers cartel and the "Swiss competition commision" said it will start an investigation about the prices and possibly illegal agreements between big retail store and monopolistic importers.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340369)

Hmm...so, Switzerland is some kind of divided country?!?!

There's a German and French side to it?

I've never been there, but just assumed it was full of Swiss people...speaking one Swiss language....

Re:Freedom vs. localism (0)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340545)

Electrons travel fast, too, and that's why everybody who reads this now knows you're stupid. Switzerland has FOUR official languages: German (actually a lot patois versions of it), French, Italian and Rumantsch Grischun (which is what James Caviezel speaks in his sleep, probably). It's a Confederation, which is not a divided entity. Except for loserboy nerds like you who can only use Google to look for kiddie scat bestiality snuff porn.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341433)

First time I went there I was an ignorant 18 year old & was quite confused when the signs switched from French (which I could get by in) to German (which I couldn't).

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39341889)

It's full of Swiss people who speak one of several official languages, depending on their geographic areas. (German, French, Italian, Romansh). They typically speak a few of the others, and English.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39341217)

There's your problem - why is there only one importer? Why wouldn't you just buy from a French wholesaler and hire a delivery truck/have it shipped?

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

Elendil (11919) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342611)

Because the most offending importer belongs to the same parent company as the main French publishing company.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

greatpatton (1242300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343179)

Currently there is one big winner: Amazon. Last time I went to a DHL office (in french speaking part of Switzerland) I thought it was an Amazon warehouse! You get French price and free shipping, no other book seller can compete with this.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340171)

what B&M offers: browsing. the browsing experience of an organized library type environment beats anything presentable on Amazon. Google books is trying, but its just all too serial.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340313)

One of the big problems for B&M is that people go browsing there, scan the barcode on their phone and buy it online because the price is slightly cheaper.

The B&M stores need to find alternatives ways to make money (like coffee shops in the bookstore) and ways to get people to buy on the spot (special offers tailor made for the person in the store at that time).

Re:Freedom vs. localism (1)

HCase (533294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341947)

I agree with this. My local bookstores would make a lot more money off of me(they already make a bit) if they could make their coffee shops large enough that I could actually sit down. Also, it surprises me how few bookstores seem to host book clubs and events.

Re:Freedom vs. localism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340943)

Also they don't take books away after they've sold them to you.

Voting for Culture (1)

phikapjames (811889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339543)

From reading his article, he makes it seem less of a money issue (at the end of the day, it is), but more of one for increasing the amount of culture created by these small books stores. He cites Germany that has book prices fixed and how much goes on in the stores at a cultural level with spectacular events, readings, people paying just to partake in the activities. He then goes into how in the US, this is very rare and he feels it's mostly being there are no small book stores for people to have these events.

My opinion is of course, he's wrong. I think it's the culture that wants to do these things, not the fact that small book stores are around. Nothing in the United States is stopping people from putting on their own events like the ones he described in a different venue. The difference is, the two countries just have different tastes in general that aren't tied to the cost of a book and the ability to keep smaller book stores open. I don't completely rule out that more events would probably be available if there were small book stores, just because it would be easier to put them together. I think in general though, if there was a motivated person that wanted to put on a book reading and events like Germany, it would probably get the same response as a smaller bookstore doing the same thing.

He also mentions that it's a problem because the supermarkets that are putting borders out of business only carry a few of the top sellers and that the vast majority of availability of books will be lost. The level of effort to open a book store that carries many different kinds of books is actually very low, if you take into account the internet; Amazon, eBay, your own storefront which could be put together very cheaply with very low operating costs. The super market doesn't have it, the internet will somewhere. You might have to wait a day or two if it is a physical copy.

Moral of the story is, price fixing is price fixing. If you want to delve into the cultural benefits of price fixing books, how about you just organize your own book reading event, advertise by word of mouth, viral, etc, and get the cultural benefits that way. My opinion is there is more cultural benefits to people being able to afford more books to read, then a couple books with the posibility to attend events around that book.

Re:Voting for Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339861)

We (US) have readings and shit, my son loves them. They take place at libraries, not book stores. e.e
 

Re:Voting for Culture (2)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339927)

I agree with your summary of the issue. I'm against it on general free-market liberal grounds, but it was never an on-line vs. brick-and-mortar issue. (It looked like the on-line stores were going to be able to get around it anyhow.) It was about the grocery stores buying 50,000 copies of the most profitable books, taking the cream of the market. Because the grocery stores have more total turnover, they can get by on smaller margins, but they are only ever going to carry the most current best sellers.

If we take the on-line sellers out of the equation, the cultural question is whether it's obviously better to have lots of cheap Danielle Steel books than to have more book stores with robust selections. I'm not sure of the answer to that, but I still think that allowing limited cartels is probably not the best approach to promoting culturally-valuable businesses.

As for organizing a reading event for the cultural benefit that would otherwise come from better availability of books, don't forget that allowing the grocery stores to undercut the book sellers will probably mean the books that aren't best sellers will be more expensive, since the retailers who actually stock a decent selection will have lost volume on their most profitable items. A lot of the votes for the price fixing were from people who read books not available in grocery stores, and who didn't want to see the prices increase.

I wish they would abolish fixed book prices here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339613)

We have fixed book prices in the Netherlands too and the result is that books are ridiculously expensive, often four to five times the price of a comparable book from, say, Britain. The end result is that I rarely buy any Dutch books and I import almost all my foreign-language books. I cannot see how this benefits anyone.

Re:I wish they would abolish fixed book prices her (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339785)

It benefits your local book seller.

Do you think wholesale prices on books is regulated? (If it is you should go into bulk importation of books. In French anyhow, I doubt many phlemish books are published outside Holland.)

Re:I wish they would abolish fixed book prices her (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340117)

It doesn't benefit my local book seller, because books are so expensive that I only buy a tiny fraction of the number ofbooks I would have bought without a fixed price.

In France book prices have always been fixed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339711)

In France, a publisher fixes a book's price, and then by law, all (new) copies of that book have to be sold at that price, or with, at most, a 5% rebate.

The thinking behind this, which predates Internet of course, is that books should never become a commodity, something that should be bartered. The intention was that a book's value should not be artificially inflated or depreciated because of some commercial tactic.

While that might be a bit outdated at this time, I don't see anybody trying to deprecate this law, and to be honest, I can't see how it has harmed culture and/or literature in France...

This is not protectionism, as it also applies to any imported book — as a matter of fact it applies to any new book that is sold in the country.

Score one for Open Markets (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339787)

Open Source, Open Markets. It's all about unrestricted access and fewer controls on your things.

completely different thing (1)

steve.cri (2593117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341997)

in terms of markets, open source is the ideal regulated economy, where the price for source code is regulated to be zero. From that, the wage most open source programmers get for their work is zero, too. Unless they have a product that combines open source with another commodity that pays more and thus generates income for them.

free markets (1)

steve.cri (2593117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341653)

are not the solution to each and every economic problem
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