All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

Is it read-worth? I actually just wrote a review about this in my ‘3 Most Recently Read Books’ post and, as I stated there, I have mixed feelings about this book. I find the central concept behind the book wildly interesting. But, when it segways into a story of rebellion against a corrupt society, it drops the ball. I wanted a piece that explored the main character Speth Jime’s journey, not a rebellion piece that reminds me too much of a thousand other books.

However, I did want to do a separate post about this book in particular because this morning I remembered that I tried to define the economic value of each word we spoke. I didn’t succeed in assigning one, but I did ask many of the questions that this book answered for me. I literally theorized about the concept behind this book and, while in part my topic of choice was a cop out because I didn’t really like studying economics, I did enjoy thinking about a world that could assign a dollar value to each word. Perhaps that’s why I’m more interested in the first half of All Rights Reserved than its more predictable second half.

Back of the Book Summary

When every word has a price, her silence could spark a revolution.In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.

In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, Speth can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech, she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again.

Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

‘Sorry’ is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt.

Every nod and every scream is $0.99 per second.

My Take On It

Oh, the beginning. I had such high hopes. It began with a Terms of Service agreement that made me extremely excited to read the rest of the book. I felt enveloped in this world Katsoulis was building from the get-go. I was literally reading off that the words I was reading were at my own risk and that I would not infringe on the copyrights of each individual word included in the book. It was excellent. That feeling of envelopment for the most part continued throughout the book.

I also particularly enjoyed the contents section where the cost of each chapter title was listed.

The beginning itself was promising. I enjoyed getting to know Speth and her family. I felt sorrow at the loss of her parents and anger at the way they were living. The more I found out about their social system, the more this book interested me.

When she went silent, I just about lost it in my excitement. An entire book where the main character struggles to communicate? Where her own society refuses to allow her even small gestures? I was hooked. How can you communicate when all your means of communication are stolen from you?

However, the story itself lost me when it left behind the concepts and ideas I adored so much and turned into a trite rebellion story. I’m honestly still a little bit disappointed about it.

The Economic Value of a Word

Because I mentioned it, I figured I’d include a copy of the essay I wrote below:

In your lifetime, you will speak over 860 million words. You will speak the equivalent of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary more than 14 times, speak the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica over 19 times, or, put another way, you speak the equivalent of the King James Bible, Old and New Testament, more than 1,110 times (“How Many Words do we Speak in a Lifetime?”). The number of words that come out of your mouth will be more than the number of miles it takes to circle the sun… by  a factor of nine. Thinking about it in that manner, if each word you speak is worth a mile, you can travel around the sun nine times. Undoubtedly, the words you speak have validity and have value. They are worth something. But what exactly is that worth? Within our current concepts of valuation, which is primarily based off a currency system in our own economy, it’s impossible to put a number to the overall value of each word you communicate to another person. However, if you consider communication systems to be an economic system within itself, that changes the value. Instead of being related to another form of currency, each word spoken (or written) becomes the currency itself. That may seem like a stretch until you realize something simple: communication systems and economic systems aren’t as different as you would initially believe. In fact, they’re very similar.

And they’re actually similar in a plethora of ways. An economic system is considered to be the means by which countries and governments distribute resources, trae goods, provide and receive services, and monitor overall trade systems at large. These systems do all of those things by controlling the five factors of production: labor, capital, entrepreneurs, physical resources, and information resources. Different economic systems, such as planned economies versus market economies, view these resources and responsibilities in different ways and implement their understanding of the concepts in ways that reflect their innermost values, goals, beliefs, and overall interests/well-being (“Economic Systems: Definitions, Types, and Examples”). 

The core concepts behind how people communicate with one another are very similar. For example, akin to bodies in an economic system, individual groups within communication systems direct their actions, or their words, in ways that reflect their own unique beliefs or goals. They succeed in this by meeting the needs of the six pillars of communication. These pillars include purpose, audience, resources, ethics, collaboration, and security (Detlef). By controlling the pillars of communication, individuals control the distribution of their communication resources, primarily information. While economic systems may provide a wider subject of control (the distribution of resources and control over large scale trade systems), the general idea behind both systems is control over the distribution of something with value. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the theories and concepts surrounding our understanding of the systems are both derived from the human mind and human actions.

Irregardless, the similarities can result in a comparison: if money is the currency of the economy, expressed words are the currency of communication. So how do we address setting an economic value to our words within our current system? As said prior, it’s basically impossible to do so. To put an individual value one each word that comes out of an individual’s mouth is an enormous, essentially impossible, task. It would require that whoever defined the value would be able to meet too many specifications including: Does each word have the same value? Do the words communicated by one individual have the same values as the words spoken by another? Does the overall impact of the words affect the economic value of each word? There is no way to set a dollar amount to the inherent value behind each word within our current system. Communication is too situational for that. For example, the same three words, ‘sign here, please,’ could signify the closure of a multimillion dollar deal and, in another situation, could simply be someone signing off on their $4.50 receipt at a coffee shop. Would the three words have a different economic value during the closure or during the signature of the receipt? How would you assign them a rotating value, if so? Once again, in our current system, impossible.

In a new system, however, the value of a word might not be impossible to address if looked at per individual speaker instead of per individual word. In an article written by Rachel Botsman, it is discussed that the country of China plans to launch a Social Credit System in the year 2020 in order to judge the trustworthiness of each of its residents. Daily activities, such as purchases, locations, and hobbies, would be monitored and valued, along with other areas such as who you interact with and what bills you pay. All of these behaviors are rated as either positive or negative and assigned a number, according to government set regulations, and the composite of those numbers would determine the “Citizen Score” of an individual (Botsman). This score aims to impact the job placement, educational opportunities, and overall social and political well-being of an individual by letting others know whether or not the government believes them to be a trustworthy individual. 

While the goal of this system, and the manner by which it judges people, may be different than the general idea of assigning value to a singular word a person says, the manner in which it operates could be a useful way to put economic value to the words we speak. This could be in a simplistic manner such as in monitoring the number of words an individual communicates per day on average versus how much income they are generating, therefore assigning a rough estimate value on their economic gains in comparison to how often they communicate. It would also be more complex, including that system as well as a rating system similar in which others rate an individual’s communication to a degree that corresponds to a dollar amount. The way in which people address one another, distribute information, and relate within groups could change the economic value of their overall communication skill score. Combining that with the consequences of their communication, such as how much money they earn and how much money they convince others to spend, could assign a rough estimate on the average value of any word that comes out their mouth. When implemented on a large scale, an average for the entire country, or world, could be determined.

But that’s all it would probably ever be able to be: an average. The economic value per word would be too difficult to address and, furthermore, it probably isn’t even necessary. Furthermore, a system like this could result in reputation fraud and could severely negatively impact the economy by introducing a new type of currency that could lead to inflation or, worse, anarchy as the current system tries to adjust to fit the creation of a new governmental body within the economy. In any case, the impacts of communication are monumental, with or without a dollar amount assigned. Without it, we wouldn’t even have economic systems to begin with. Perhaps the easiest way to handle this would be to take all the forms of communications, all of the words and expressions that can possibly be communicated, and give them all the entire economic value found within every economy in the world. 

 Works Cited 

Botsman, Rachel. “Big Data Meets Big Brother as China Moves to Rate its Citizens.” Wired, 21 Oct. 2017, 

“Communication.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2018.“Communication.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. We

Detlef, Pete. “Six Pillars of Communication.” 24 Hour Translation, 23 Mar. 2016, 

“Economic Systems: Definition, Types, and Examples.” Study, Header. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.

“How Many Words Do We Speak in a Lifetime?” ProEdit,  Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.

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