Added (April 19, 2011):
Cathy L. Z. Smith sends me links to her articles defending Intellectual property rights. She correctly points out that it is the uniqueness of the human being who creates/writes/thinks that is the source of the property claim….not the supposed scarcity of ideas.
Money quote (about anti-IP):
“an army of little entitlement babies, children of the Internet age who think that because they are able to do a thing they must, and that the ease with which they do the thing becomes the whole of their justification for doing it.”
“So what I’ll settle for, for the time being, is the right to call a thief a thief and not let the act be carried out without at least the psychological and social stigma it deserves.”
http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2010/tle587-20100912-04.html http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2010/tle583-20100815-02.html http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2010/tle585-20100829-04.html http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2010/tle589-20100926-04.html http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2010/tle591-20101011-03.html http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2011/tle604-20110123-02.html
Added (April 7, 2011):
Libertarians, including classical liberals, who acknowledge the existence and validity of IP (note the word IP), differing in their justifications of it or their explanations about how/to what extent varieties of it should be protected:
John Locke, Adam Smith (who was continually concerned with plagiarism – and also accused of it**), the Founding Fathers, Lysander Spooner, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Frederic Bastiat (by inference from The Law), Andrew Galambos (who took his ideas about IP to crankish lengths, but otherwise held mainstream libertarian views), Zora Neale Hurston (“She had a deep sense in the thirties of intellectual property..”) Ayn Rand, J. Neil Schulman, L. Neil Smith, Morris and Linda Tannehill, Milton Friedman, David Friedman, Richard Epstein, Harry Browne (indirectly – he wrote admiringly of Galambos), Thomas Sowell, Richard Posner, William Landes, Robert Nozick, Hernando de Soto, Tibor Machan, Israel Kirzner, Fr. James Sadowsky (indirectly), Tyler Cowen (possibly a liberal?), Bryan Caplan, David Boaz , George Reisman, John Stossel , Frank Easterbrook, Peter Leeson, Jacob Hornberger (to be continued)….
(**Given Smith’s caliber, it’s highly likely that he did conceptualize things on his own, without the influence of writers who anticipated him, as is noted by Per-Olof Samuelsson)
One would be justified in inferring from this list that the validity of the notion of IP is acknowledged by the majority of leading libertarian theorists and writers, especially on the right. And no wonder. Many of the arguments used by anti-IP proponents can easily be redeployed against property rights in tangible goods. Indeed, that has happened already . Without a strong defense of IP, copying and/or cheating is bound to take the place of innovation as the preferred strategy of competitive businesses, since it will save them the costs of R&D.
As for the so-called novelty of IP, I quote the following from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“There are at least three other notable references to intellectual property in ancient times—these cases are cited in Bruce Bugbee’s formidable work The Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law (Bugbee 1967). In the first case, Vitruvius (257–180 B.C.E.) is said to have revealed intellectual property theft during a literary contest in Alexandria. While serving as judge in the contest, Vitruvius exposed the false poets who were then tried, convicted, and disgraced for stealing the words and phrases of others.
The second and third cases also come from Roman times (first Century C.E.). Although there is no known Roman law protecting intellectual property, Roman jurists did discuss the different ownership interests associated with an intellectual work and how the work was codified—e.g., the ownership of a painting and the ownership of a table upon which the painting appears. There is also reference to literary piracy by the Roman epigrammatist Martial. In this case, Fidentinus is caught reciting the works of Martial without citing the source.”
[See the universal condemnation from other bloggers when blogger Rohan Pinto was caught reposting other people’s posts as his own, a reaction hard to explain if intellectual property is just some nebulous mirage].
“There is of course nothing wrong with one man using another man’s ideas (or paraphrasing his formulations), as long as proper credit is given. But what is the moral status of using another man’s ideas while at the same time attempting to deny the very existence of the man from whom one is borrowing?”
- Per Olof Samuelsson (on intellectual property fraud committed against George Reisman by fellow libertarians)
For an extended discussion of the anti-IP forces (Hoppe is not cited), read the lengthy and rich history of the IP tradition described in Spinello and Bottis’ A Defense of Intellectual Property Rights. Again, the defense of IP is non-economic, as it should be.
ORIGINAL POST (March 25, 2011, modified, March 27)
(If I didn’t want anyone to copy my ideas I only have to keep them to myself and never express them.)
Lila: Hoppe uses the sleight-of-hand so many anti- IP libertarian theorists use. They confuse the ownership claim with the manner in which an IP claim is made… and then they confuse both of those claims aspects with the difficulty of protecting them.IP claims.
All three are different issues.
The creator of a symphony “owns” his symphony, yes. But he doesn’t own it like he owns his shoes. Thus, the way he stakes his claim to his symphony is different, naturally, from the way he stakes his claim to his shoes. In the latter, he restricts use. In the former, usually, he claims “recognition” or “credit”.
What Hoppe is not seeing is that the property right of the author arises from his work, as embodied in the creation, not from the thing in itself.
Now imagine I had been granted a property right in my melody or poem such that I could prohibit you from copying it or demanding a royalty from you if you do.
Lila: Again, Hoppe is conveniently running a bunch of things together, confusing the question of whether IP exists with the question of how to stake a claim to it and then with the question of how to protect the claim. He does this so that he can arrive at spurious conclusions.
Hoppe: First: Doesn’t that imply, absurdly, that I, in turn, must pay royalties to the person (or his heirs) who invented whistling and writing, and further on to those, who invented sound-making and language, and so on?
Lila: And here is the absurd conclusion.
First, it is clear that whistling and writing were not invented by any single person. Rather, across the world, human beings refined the use of their own bodies by imitation, incrementally. It is highly unlikely that any single human being woke up one morning, put a sustained effort into the act, and suddenly began whistling.
Second, even if some individual had come up with the technique of whistling, his name has long been lost, so, practically, one couldn’t acknowledge him. If there were such an individual, by all means, let us acknowledge him. However, at this point, the invention has become public property, by dint of repeated use without any claim being asserted by any single inventor over centuries. IP ownership in the lifetime of the creator is obviously a completely different situation.
Third, the issue is not solely about use. Most authors like their ideas being used…what they claim is “credit”. So again, Hoppe is thoroughly confusing several levels of analysis to reach his conclusions.
Second: In preventing you from or making you pay for whistling my melody or reciting my poem, I am actually made a (partial) owner of you: of your physical body, your vocal chords, your paper, your pencil, etc. because you did not use anything but your own property when you copied me.
Lila: If Hoppe’s argument made sense, I could as well argue that when I forbid you from crossing over my property lines into my garden, I am also preventing you from using your body. After all, when you enter my garden, you are not preventing me from using the garden, are you? So what is the difference in context that makes it alright for me to stop you entering my garden but doesn’t allow me to prevent your use of my work without acknowledgment? I could use even stronger comparisons. I could even ask, when I stop you assaulting me, am I not also preventing you from using your own limbs? Where does that leave Hoppe’s reasoning on IP?
If you can no longer copy me, then, this means that I, the intellectual property owner, have expropriated you and your “real” property. Which shows: intellectual property rights and real property rights are incompatible, and the promotion of intellectual property must be seen as a most dangerous attack on the idea of “real” property (in scarce goods).
Lila: See above. By Hoppe’s own reasoning, one shouldn’t be able to prevent a stranger from entering one’s home, which is obviously not the case. Neither “scarce goods” nor “expropriating the use of one’s body” are substantial arguments in claiming IP doesn’t exist and can’t be protected. The mistake arises because of Hoppe’s lack of precision in defining or separating the elements he is analyzing. As for dividing property into tangibles and intangibles, and stating that only the first can be owned, this is truly the dangerous, unlibertarian move, because ownership, even in tangibles, doesn’t arise from the thing itself, but rather from the creator’s ownership of the labor and talent which he used and with which he infused added value to either create or transform the thing. This labor or talent is not different from the labor or talent that goes into the creation of intellectual property.
Seriously, how difficult was it to poke holes in Hoppe’s argument (all of ten minutes in the middle of making Sunday brunch, while the TV is blaring). And how seriously can one take those who offer such arguments?
Which makes me think these AREN’T serious positions at all….but no more than disingenuous attempts to create a rationale for future corporate/mass marketing expropriation of the intellectual creations of individuals unable to defend themselves.
For more fallacies of anti-IP thinking, see this post at Strangerous Thoughts.
Added (April 7):
- More here on why socialism is, in fact, what anti-IP is about.
- Robert Wenzel puts the anti-IP brigade to the sincerity test….with predictable results.
- A passionate defense of IP on moral grounds (which I believe are the only grounds on which an individualist should argue), has been made by the gifted libertarian thinker/novelist, L. Neil Smith.(Coincidentally, I note that a word I coined for this piece, illiterati, shows up in Smith’s piece too…which I put down to subconscious influence, since Smith holds passionate views on the subject, and since a single word can easily be picked up without recollection. I would have said coincidence, except that Smith did write to me after reading the piece. In any case, I bring it up only because I happened to notice the word and because while trivial claims of this sort are supposed to show the unreasonableness/untenability of IP in general, they actually help to make the underlying issues clearer…as I will show elsewhere).
- Greg Perkins, at Diana Hsieh’s blog Noodlefood, points out that the Palmer/Kinsella attack on IP begs the question in its central assumption of scarcity.
- For a debunking of the many fallacies in Hoppe’s version of “argumentation ethics,” see this critique by Bob Murphy and Gene Callahan
- For a critique of the use of the notion of “scarcity” in anti-IP arguments, read this analysis by Bob Schaefer.
- In “Praxeology and Ethics” Adam Knott points out inadequacies in H’s notion of “performative contradiction,” as well as in his version of argumentation ethics. (In any case, to the degree that I grasp the implications of H’s argumentation ethics/performative contradiction – and I don’t know that I do – they seem to me to support the validity of IP).
- For problems with Hoppe’s reasoning in other areas, see Jacob Hornberger’s critique of Hoppe on immigration. My objections, I should point out, are to Hoppe’s leaps of logic, not to any alleged racism/homophobia, which I consider unproven from H’s public statements; irrelevant, if inferred from private statements; and secondary in both cases.
Added: March 27:
Note: While this blog is dead, in so far as posting new material, as far as defending my own material and work, it’s still kicking. A hat-tip or link back is all that’s needed most of the time, folks. Not hard. And not the first time, as I’ve noted ad nauseum. I have stopped blogging for reasons described in my previous post, but this kind of thing forces me out of hiding. Other writers lift ideas, leads, and in some cases even specific language or analysis, without giving me the life-blood of viable writing – credit. I will be adding other suspicious cases of “lifting” to this post, as they occur…. friends and foes, be warned.
David Kramer at LRC analyzes the New World Architecture of George Soros. Note the almost identical format and style of a lengthier analysis I made a while back in 2009. I know from previous experience that Mr. Kramer reads my blog….. I’m happy he does. I like for people to read and use. I’d just like credit. Especially, when I’ve meticulously cited them. Even hunting up some of these pieces, let alone parsing them, takes knowledge and effort. Same goes for other writers/sites that I’ve noticed picking up stuff from me without acknowledgment (though some try to spin it like they’re not)….
Kramer (March 2011):
“…the world faces another stark choice between two fundamentally different forms of organization: international capitalism and state capitalism. The former, represented by the United States, has broken down, and the latter, represented by China, is on the rise.” [“International” capitalism and “state” capitalism? What the heck is this economically-ignorant billionaire talking about? Oy!]
“While international cooperation on regulatory reform is difficult to achieve on a piecemeal basis, it may be attainable in a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order.” [In other words, rearranges the entire financial order in order to finally bring about the Banksters’ One World Government fiat currency.]
“In addition, a new Bretton Woods would have to reform the currency system.” [I’m sure, George, that it will be as successful as the old Bretton Woods—at least as far as making you and your Bankster puppet-masters even richer are concerned.]
“Reorganizing the world order will need to extend beyond the financial system and involve the United Nations, especially Security Council membership.” [“..the world order will need to…involve the United Nations.” I thought the world order already did involve the United Nations—like…uh…since its creation?]
“President Barack Obama has deployed the “confidence multiplier” and claims to have contained the recession. But if there is a “double dip” recession, Americans will become susceptible to all kinds of fear-mongering and populist demagogy.” [Sort of like Soros’s fear-mongering and populist demagogy in this op-ed piece.]
“The financial system did not collapse altogether. The Obama administration made a conscious decision to revive banks with hidden subsidies rather than to recapitalize them on a compulsory basis.” [So which form of “capitalism” was that, George? The “international” one or the “state” one?]
From George Soros on Project-Syndicate.org. (Nov. 4, 2009), his vision of the new world order.
My comments are in italics.
NEW YORK – Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, the world is facing another stark choice between two fundamentally different forms of organization: international capitalism and state capitalism.
LILA: International capitalism is also state capitalism and state capitalism (Chinese) has its international face………….
…..While international cooperation on regulatory reform is difficult to achieve on a piecemeal basis, it may be attainable in a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order.
LILA: Yes, negotiating your way peacefully is hard work because you have to respect other people’s rights and preferences. Naturally, a latent totalitarian like Soros would prefer a “grand bargain” (bargain, as in “hold to ransom” – after all, wasn’t that what the bankster bail-outs were about?)
A new Bretton Woods conference, like the one that established the post-WWII international financial architecture, is needed to establish new international rules, including treatment of financial institutions that are too big to fail and the role of capital controls.
LILA: Ah, yes. Now the banksters have got ahead of the competition, they have to cut them down to size and keep them manageable (too big to fail won’t apply to Government Sachs, I’m sure). And capital controls will prevent the population from eluding the tax-man.
It would also have to reconstitute the International Monetary Fund to reflect better the prevailing pecking order among states and to revise its methods of operation.
LILA: Let’s centralize power even more among the Western oligarchs, via the little-known Financial Stability Board, while pretending to expand the IMF leadership to empower the G20.
In addition, a new Bretton Woods would have to reform the currency system. The post-war order, which made the US more equal than others, produced dangerous imbalances. The dollar no longer enjoys the trust and confidence that it once did, yet no other currency can take its place.
LILA: Indeed the dollar has lost world trust. Largely through the efforts of the speculator-hedge funds, banks and Federal Reserve that have colluded for a century, and most recently, since the 1970s, to turn the economy into a casino that works to their benefit and no one else’s.
The US ought not to shy away from wider use of IMF Special Drawing Rights. Because SDRs are denominated in several national currencies, no single currency would enjoy an unfair advantage.
LILA: The word “fair” here reveals that Soros is not for free markets, but for managed markets
The range of currencies included in the SDRs would have to be widened, and some of the newly added currencies, including the renminbi, may not be fully convertible. This would, however, allow the international community to press China to abandon its exchange-rate peg to the dollar and would be the best way to reduce international imbalances. And the dollar could still remain the preferred reserve currency, provided it is prudently managed.
LILA: Yes. manage international currencies from a central board, so that insiders can rape the system more easily than they already do.
One great advantage of SDRs is that they permit the international creation of money, which is particularly useful at times like the present.
LILA: Take the money- making power outside national borders, where they might be under popular scrutiny and pressure.
The money could be directed to where it is most needed, unlike what is happening currently.
LILA: And George and his buddies (known and unknown) will decide where it’s most needed…which is already what they’re doing but they’d like to do more of the same, please
A mechanism that allows rich countries that don’t need additional reserves to transfer their allocations to those that do is readily available, using the IMF’s gold reserves.
LILA: Who determines what is “needed” or not? Soros? Countries with surpluses will be coerced into transferring allocations to where the banksters “need” them, with the IMF being the central exchange where there will be ample room for hanky-panky in obscure off balance-sheet transactions, double entries of all kinds, and special purpose vehicles.
Reorganizing the world order will need to extend beyond the financial system and involve the United Nations, especially membership of the Security Council. That process needs to be initiated by the US, but China and other developing countries ought to participate as equals. They are reluctant members of the Bretton Woods institutions, which are dominated by countries that are no longer dominant. The rising powers must be present at the creation of this new system in order to ensure that they will be active supporters.
LILA: Oh, doesn’t that sound good? Lure emerging markets into the same shady international game with promises of becoming one of the big boys.
The system cannot survive in its present form, and the US has more to lose by not being in the forefront of reforming it. The US is still in a position to lead the world, but, without far-sighted leadership, its relative position is likely to continue to erode. It can no longer impose its will on others, as George W. Bush’s administration sought to do, but it could lead a cooperative effort to involve both the developed and the developing world, thereby reestablishing American leadership in an acceptable form.
Lila: Didn’t Soros just write (see previous paragraph) that the developing countries were to be “equal”? Now he writes the US is to “lead the world” “far-sightedly”. Only instead of openly “imposing its will,” Soros-style imperialism would refashion US hegemony into an “acceptable form.” (Bush with a French accent)
The alternative is frightening, because a declining superpower losing both political and economic dominance but still preserving military supremacy is a dangerous mix. We used to be reassured by the generalization that democratic countries seek peace. After the Bush presidency, that rule no longer holds, if it ever did.
LILA: Uh-oh. Scare tactics. A new Bretton Woods is needed because otherwise we’re going to whack you. We’ll do just like Bush did, and it will be your fault for not letting us “lead far-sightedly” with SDRs.
In fact, democracy is in deep trouble in America. The financial crisis has inflicted hardship on a population that does not like to face harsh reality.
LILA: The population would be able to face harsh reality if the media outfits you pay handsomely weren’t doling out propaganda all the time.
President Barack Obama has deployed the “confidence multiplier” and claims to have contained the recession. But if there is a “double dip” recession, Americans will become susceptible to all kinds of fear mongering and populist demagogy.
LILA: Apparently, George wants to retain the monopoly of demagogy.