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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11288/have-you-changed-your-mind-about-intellectual-property/

Have You Changed Your Mind About Intellectual Property?

December 19, 2009 by

It’s my impression that in the last 5-10 years, there has been a striking movement towards the anti-IP camp among libertarians and Austrians. This is a result of the mounting everyday evidence of injustice resulting from the digital age magnifying the baleful effects of IP that have always existed; and the mounting scholarship, from a pro-property rights, pro-free market perspective, against both the moral and principled case and the utilitarian case for IP (resources listed in the final section of my “The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide“).

I’m personally aware of dozens of people who have changed their minds or seen the light on this issue–including, say, myself, Jeff Tucker, and many others. For some things I’m writing and just for general curiosity it would be interesting to get a better idea of this trend. Please feel free to add a brief comment to this post specifying whether you have moved toward the anti-IP position in recent years.Update: Some here may also find of interest the Patent Rights Web Poll I did a while back, pasted below. Feel free to take it if you haven’t:

***

On a patent practitioner email list I posted the following:

It seems to me that many small/medium companies live in fear of a big patent lawsuit. Even if they had their own IP, I suspect many companies would gladly give up forever their right to sue for patent infringement, in exchange for some kind of immunity from patent liability–at least, if they could eliminate the threat of an injunction, so that the worst penalty they might face is some kind of mandatory royalty. Surely IBM et al. would not take this deal, but I bet a lot of other companies would. What do you think?

Second, in view of this, does this mean there is some kind of market for a service that would let a bunch of companies get together and “pool” their IP and have some kind of agreement (a) never to sue each other; (b) to have access to this pool of patents to countersue any company that sues any of the members.

This post drew some interest so I am doing a simple webpoll. I think the results might be interesting. (DIGG it here.)

Patent Rights

Would you give up your right to sue others for patent infringement in exchange for immunity from all patent lawsuits?

Yes
No



In Seen and Unseen Costs of Patents, Jeff Tucker notes, “Intel’s CEO spoke for many when he said he would be glad to cut patents to a tenth of its current rate provided that others did the same.”

{ 195 comments }

Brian Drake December 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Didn’t have strong pro-IP thoughts, but accepted the mainstream “guilt” associated with “stealing” software/music/movies/etc…

Read Kinsella’s “Against IP” and was instantly convinced.

I’ve come to see all human conflicts in terms of property rights and found fictional property rights (IP) to be incompatible with real property rights.

But, as Walter Block is fond of saying, just because something should be “criminal”, doesn’t mean it’s “good” and desirable. I don’t advocate prostitution or recreational drug use, but don’t see those as criminal acts either. Fraud is crime (as trademark infringement can be), but even non-fraud plagiarism is “not cool”. But that’s a personal morality issue, not a legal one.

jack hooper May 10, 2011 at 6:47 am

It is correct. I am agree with you Brain.

Jay Lakner December 21, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Kerem Tibuk wrote:
**********
I claim rights are natural and individual. They exist and they are carried over to the society. Crusoe doesn’t need Friday to exist or have rights, mainly property rights. Crusoe is the ultimate free man. He can not be freer if he wanted to. But he needs division of labor to better his life and that requires society. So the point is keeping the liberties he had, carrying them to the society and also take advantage of the society.
**********

But Crusoe doesn’t keep the liberties he had. You said yourself, “he can not be freer if he wanted to”. Now that Friday has arrived, he needs to give up many of his liberties. He is clearly not “keeping the liberties he had”. Therefore, the above paragraph is illogical nonsense.

Kerem also wrote:
**********
To me the premise “property rights are established to resolve conflict regarding scarce resources” is as arbitrary as “property rights are established to resolve conflict regarding movable resources” and don’t think there are nobody that thinks the second premise is true, either.
**********

That’s because of the way you word it. You make it sound like a social contract when, in fact, it is not.
A more correct way to word it would be:
Since tangible materials cannot possibly be consumed by more than one person, the concept of property must emerge.

A truly arbitrary definition is: “property is extension of mans sovereignty to the external”.
This statement is extremely broad and does not explain how a man “extends” his “sovereignty to the external”. The “mixing one’s labor with resources” isn’t much better either. You need to define “mixing labor”. Both attempts fail on the basis of subjectivity and arbitrariness.
Does looking at a waterfall give you rights of ownership? Aren’t I extending my sovereignty to things I look at? What about if I gain pleasure by looking at it? What if I think very hard about ways to use it? Isn’t ‘thinking very hard’ a form of labor? Isn’t ‘thinking very hard’ about something a way of extending my sovereignty to that thing? What if I go to the efforts of placing a fence around the waterfall? Haven’t I “mixed my labor with the resource”? Do I have to physically alter the waterfall in order to own it? To what extent do I need to alter it to “extend my sovereignty” to it? Put a roof over it? Put a fence around it? Rearrange the rocks that it consists of? Urinate on it? Yell at it? Shine light on it? And whatever your answer to this question is, why exactly does it give me some sort of right to the waterfall?

And you still haven’t seemed to grasp the fact that, using your definition of property, there is no way to differentiate between “ownership” and “possession” in a one-man society. By your definition of property, both terms are equivalent and only diverge in meaning when additional humans become present.
But this is illogical. They have two different definitions. They cannot be the same thing. So we have to consider what is it that differentiates between possession and ownership.
Ownership establishes the difference between “mine” and “yours”. There cannot be a “mine” if there is no such thing as a “yours”. Therefore, “ownership” cannot exist if there is only one human.

And you treat this line of reasoning as somehow illogical in the context of natural law. You say things like “rights are individual and natural” as if laws that rely on the existence of prerequiste conditions are not natural. The dependency of property rights on the existence of multiple human beings does not mean they are unnatural. The existence of prerequisite conditions does not render something unnatural.

The laws of physics combined with a large concentration of hydrogen results in the existence of stars. The concept of a “star” does not make any sense if these conditions are absent. It is obviously absurd to claim that a “star” exists prior to the prerequisites that give rise to its existence. And stars are certainly natural. It’s just that they require specific conditions to form. In this case, the laws of physics and the existence of a large concentration of hydrogen.

Similarly, the reality of the scarcity of tangible goods combined with multiple humans results in the existence of “rights”. If one of the prerequisites is not present, then the concept is meaningless. But this does not make rights unnatural. It is a natural consequence arising when certain prerequisite conditions exist. In this case, the law of scarcity and the existence of two or more humans.

overtheedge December 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Odd that I would have forgotten plant patents especially when I spent a portion of my career in the field of horticulture.

Re: plant patents. I will be the first to argue against any plant patent that might occur by accident. As an example, the crossing of two different broccoli strains in a garden. Therefore if it can happen in nature, it must NOT be patentable. On this I assume we have some agreement.

“Patent and copyright have nothing to do with authenticity and attribution. That is more trademark and reputation rights–the latter of which are unlibertarian and the former of which are also unlibertarian to the extent they give a right to the markholder instead of the defrauded consumer.”

Herein is where the argument gets slippery. If the idea has no ownership, then any and all matters subsequent to the idea have no ownership. There must be a foundation to build the house on. Reputation is but an idea often not shared by other consumers. The customer/consumer can’t be defrauded unless and until claims are ascribed to the product or idea by an owner. We can easily claim a product is owned, but any and all ideas associated with the product are not; by definition of “non-ownership of an idea.”

Hence the failure of the consumer to correctly identify the utility of the idea and its subsequent product to meet the consumer’s needs MUST be the consumer’s fault exclusively. The idea has no ownership (by definition) and consequently no party can claim fraud when the party willingly purchased the product based upon the idea. Is advertising not just an expression of an idea? If so, it can not be claimed that the tenderence of the idea is fraudulent. “Truth in advertising” is meaningless when it comes to claims. Witness TV advertising claims: Voted #1 by …, increase the size …, get a better night’s sleep …, yada, yada.

I wouldn’t tender the claim that ethics shouldn’t be a concern to the manufacturer of the product based upon the idea. In a perfect marketplace, the consumer would boycott the maker of any product who misrepresents the utility of the idea and its subsequent product. However we can all see that the marketplace readily spends ever more money for perpetually broken goods. An example: computer operating systems.

Does the whole IP system need retooling? Of course. Does the IP system serve utility? Usually. Is utility neccessary? Undoubtedly. Does this debate serve a useful purpose? Most assuredly and it needs more debate. IP rights laws are broken and need major realignment with the reality of “just what constitutes “new and novel” rather than some obscure tweaking of a previous idea.

I seem to recall that during the 18th and 19th century, England use to award monetary prizes to inventors. Perhaps this has some not-so-small merit when it comes to inovation and renumeration.

Admittedly, utility has a purpose that often fails the test of one or more philosophical arguments. Keep in mind that philosophy is just an idea. No owners and therefore “no harm-no foul.”
——————–
Insert standard disclaimer here:

I have no beliefs. Everything is just data to be assimilated, analyzed, cataloged and perhaps implemented. All ideas are subject to change as new data becomes available.

I may disagree, but I welcome the disagreement in the pursuit of logical reasoning.

Russ December 21, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Gil wrote:

“But Russ isn’t the ‘labour theory of ownership’ the basis of ‘homesteading’?”

Sure. And homesteading involves something *material*!

Kerem Tibuk

“I find the issue of scarcity irrelevant. It has no bearing on the concept of property and it is a purely arbitrary prerequisite.”

Scarcity has *everything* to do with the concept of property, because if material property weren’t scarce, the concept of property would be unnecessary for human survival, and completely irrelevant to human life. Also, when thinking about a thing, you must consider its nature. When thinking about material property, part of its nature is that it is economically scarce. When thinking about “intellectual” property, part of its nature is that it is *not* economically scarce. If you ignore fundamental differences in the nature of the two things, you’re not really thinking about them seriously.

I truly think this is where you’re getting stuck. You seem to think along the lines of “Mr. Smith created this wheel, therefore it should be his property”. That’s perfectly valid for a material object, like a wheel, that Mr. Smith creates. That’s because of, I hate to break it to you, a basically utilitarian argument. If wheels are scarce goods, then Mr. Smith can’t get any use out of a wheel he made if Mr. Jones takes it. If Mr. Smith can’t get any use out of the wheel, he won’t bother to make it. Extend this propertyless state of affairs to all other material goods, and people wouldn’t do much of anything to improve their environment, and we’d all still be living like animals. Therefore, we came up with the idea of property as a way of ensuring that Mr. Smith does get use out of things he improves, like tree trunks he’s turned into wheels, or land he’s cultivated.

But you don’t consider the reasons why we came up with the idea of property. You seem to think it’s just a moral axiom of the universe. Then you treat the case of “intellectual property” as if it is exactly the same as the concept of material property, when it is not. Material property is scarce, intellectual property is not. This difference in scarcity is not an irrelevant difference; it is fundamental to the concept of property, because scarcity is why the concept of property is necessary in the first place.

If material property and intellectual property should be considered similarly, then whoever first had the idea for the number zero and wrote it down on a slate tablet, would not only own the tablet, but the concept of zero itself. Do you really think it would benefit mankind if, every time somebody used the number zero, they had to pay a royalty to this man’s decendants? And if you say that there should be a time limit involved, how can you pick a limit in a non-arbitrary way?

“Also it is contradictory in the sense that it doesn’t follow cause and effect.”

I have absolutely no idea what you’re getting at here.

terry_freeman December 21, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Several ideas greatly influenced my thinking about IP. The first was software patents — I have been writing and working with computer code for about 37 years now, and every time I hear about another software patent, I think “there is nothing new under the sun” — it’s just a modification or combination of ideas which, while interesting, can not be patentable under any reasonable definition of “unique” or “creative.” I conclude that the folks at the Patent Office have little knowledge of “Prior Art” in the field of computer software.

Second, I’ve been seen Open Source or Free Software thrive in a way that demolishes the notion that copyright and patent are the only way to encourage creativity.

Third, I’ve watched one attempt after another of locking data and code fail, up to and including today’s DRM efforts. Such codes take away value from the customers – they make it difficult to back up one’s “stuff”, they sometimes fail to work, they make it harder to use multiple computers; for those reasons, people discover hacks to break the DRM codes.

I’d be happy to pay authors through some sort of PayPal or micropayment system. Just don’t lock up my digital “stuff.” I should be able to copy, use, lend, or give away, without having an eye over my shoulder for a patent or copyright troll.

Bala December 21, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Kerem Tibuk,

” Property is the extension of an individuals sovereignty (self ownership) to the external. ”

With such a poor definition, it’s no wonder you are drawing truly meaningless conclusions. By using the word sovereignty in a loose manner, you are guilty of using the concept “property” to define the concept “property”. My point will become clear if you try defining the term “sovereignty”. Especially if you ask yourself the question “Why sovereignty over a specific entity?”, you will realise that the concept “property” is already embedded in your “definition”.

In other words, sovereignty is an OUTCOME of the application of the term “property” to an existent. You have “sovereignty” because it is your “property”. But then why is it your “property”?

That’s why I prefer Ayn Rand’s position on man’s nature (which I paraphrase) – that he is a rational animal with a volitional consciousness whose values are not automatic and given and who needs to act to gain/keep the value needed to sustain his life.

To this, I added the point that it is the value that man acts to gain or keep that become his possessions. When these possessions are gained and kept in a morally sound manner (which I have further defined as without the initiation of force), it becomes his “property”.

In my definition, I have sovereignty over my “property” BECAUSE it is MY property. No one else has a moral locus standi to use those values that are morally mine except with my permission.

(This is apart from the lacunae Jay Lakner pointed out.)

Vanmind December 22, 2009 at 12:34 am

“Imaginary Property”

Nice. Gonna use that for sure.

Kerem Tibuk December 22, 2009 at 5:35 am

Jay,

“But Crusoe doesn’t keep the liberties he had. You said yourself, “he can not be freer if he wanted to”. Now that Friday has arrived, he needs to give up many of his liberties. He is clearly not “keeping the liberties he had”. Therefore, the above paragraph is illogical nonsense.”

See, this paragraph says a lot. I have heard this many many times over the years, and not really about IP but about rights and liberties in general. It is the cliche of the statists, that claim “society” comes before the individual and rights are derived from scoiety by some kind of contract. Whenever a someone talks about limiting a type of liberty this line is used. And “take it or leave it” usually comes after it.

And to tell you the truth, it is complete bullshit. Crusoe does not have to give up any liberties that he had when joining in a society or in most cases for many different people, choosing to stay in a society.

I challenge you to name one liberty that Crusoe had and then lost when Friday came to the island and both formed a society.

And for the rest of your post you claim that you have problem with the concept of homesteading. Extension of self ownership, or sovereignty, is the act of homesteading.

I also challenge you to explain how property comes into being without homesteading.

Many people who take this famous premise as true, which H. H. Hoppe formulated and Kinsella used and applied to IP problem, do not really think about the origin of property.

They don’t worry about homesteading and how property came to being among real humans but use it as an abstract justification regarding legitimacy of property rights, in a world where private property is already established to some degree and there aren’t really much unowned resources left.

Imagine Crusoe, or the people colonizing unowned lands and the absurdity of the premise becomes clearer.

Firstly an individual finds an unowned natural resource and homesteads it. There is no other way of property coming to existence. It is necessarily one man homesteading and making something his property. It is never the case that two or more people coming to the said resource at the same exact time and start debating who should own it because they have conflicting desires, as the premise suggests.

So the concept of “conflict” is a useless and arbitrary concept too. There is never a genuine conflict regarding property. There is one man homesteading, and only after this fact, there is a possibility of another individual coming and aggressing against the homesteaded property.

So if we replace “conflict” with “aggression” we can see the absurdity of the premise because aggression necessarily has to come AFTER the homesteading of property. What must necessarily come AFTER (being an effect) can not be a prerequisite (being the cause).

You may say that, Person B can come to the homesteaded property and challenge the owner, Person A, regarding his ownership. But this is a non issue because there are only two options. Either person A owns the property or he doesn’t. There is no genuine conflict but a case of judgment regarding what really happened. There is one truth and judgment may acknowledge it or fail to give the right call and this would have no relevance to the ethical principle.

Also, I am very comfortable with the calculation argument. But I don’t like to use it because it is an utilitarian argument and even if you agree regarding the validity, which anyone with an economics knowledge would, you can easily avoid it by claiming that “the production of IP wouldn’t need this much commercialization anyways”. You could concede to the fact that there wouldn’t be a sophisticated industry regarding IP based on division of labor but you could be ok with that. You could be happy with a smaller music industry for example.

My view of property is based on ethics not economics.

Kerem Tibuk December 22, 2009 at 5:50 am

Bala,

“With such a poor definition, it’s no wonder you are drawing truly meaningless conclusions. By using the word sovereignty in a loose manner, you are guilty of using the concept “property” to define the concept “property”. My point will become clear if you try defining the term “sovereignty”. Especially if you ask yourself the question “Why sovereignty over a specific entity?”, you will realise that the concept “property” is already embedded in your “definition”.”

I dont know how else to say it. But I will try again.

Private property stems from self ownership. You extend your self ownership to the external and by doing this you extend your ownership. This is how you homestead.

Or you can use the concept of sovereignty. You extend your self sovereignty to the external and by doing this you extend your sovereignty. This is how you homestead.

So if you want to deny this you have to deny that individuals are self sovereign, that they are not really in control of themselves (they may act on instinct or randomly, or they may be in control of some other external force like a deity or another human). I don’t think you would deny this and that is why I didn’t dwell on it, but you are still having a hard time, like Jay, with the extension of this self ownership, which is called homesteading.

“In other words, sovereignty is an OUTCOME of the application of the term “property” to an existent. You have “sovereignty” because it is your “property”. But then why is it your “property”?”

Self sovereignty is not an outcome it is a fact, Extension of this sovereignty to the external can be viewed as an outcome, but since it is natural outcome it is part of the natural law ethics.

In short,

Why? Because it is. Because A is A.

“That’s why I prefer Ayn Rand’s position on man’s nature (which I paraphrase) – that he is a rational animal with a volitional consciousness whose values are not automatic and given and who needs to act to gain/keep the value needed to sustain his life.”

I agree but why aren’t you asking “why” regarding this premise, like you were asking about the premise before. You are not asking why because you are aware that “why” is meaningless.

Also my answer to the previous question stems from this premise which I also agree and plus self ownership.

It is because it is. This is the basis of natural law.

Kerem Tibuk December 22, 2009 at 6:56 am

Russ,

You are repeating the same argument based open the same wrong premise. Please read the responses I gave to others like Jay an Bala. I don’t want to repeat myself over and over again.

In short that premise you base your views on property,

“Property rights are established to resolve conflict regarding scarce resources” is an arbitrary and wrong premise, which doesn’t even cover self ownership and homesteading and views property. It may be useful in questioning the legitimacy of IP arbitrarily but it does nothing about the theory of property. And since the premise is about property in general, this means it is a useless and wrong premise.

Bala December 22, 2009 at 7:28 am

Kerem Tibuk,

” Private property stems from self ownership. ”

and I do not think very highly of the concept of self-ownership because ownership is a moral concept and cannot itself be the basis of a system of morals/ethics. In addition, this is circular logic. Even worse, you are treating the concept “ownership” as an axiom. Sounds pretty absurd to me.

” You extend your self ownership to the external and by doing this you extend your ownership. This is how you homestead. ”

Wrong. You gain possession of existents and then exclude others from using them. That’s how it becomes property. Homesteading is a term that encapsulates this entire process.

” You extend your self sovereignty to the external and by doing this you extend your sovereignty. ”

Over what is it appropriate for me to extend my “sovereignty” and over what is it not? (For instance, your “sovereignty’ cannot extend over other people even by your definition).

What is the metaphysical nature of ideas and what is the relationship of ideas/patterns to man? How do men form “ideas” or develop “patterns”?

Given all this, is it moral to extend the concept of sovereignty to ideas/patterns? I am asking this because I see claiming sovereignty of ideas/patterns as tantamount to claiming sovereignty over other human beings’ minds. The mind being an inseparable part of a human being, you are in effect asking for sovereignty over another human being.

” Self sovereignty is not an outcome it is a fact, ”

A fact is verifiable. Self-sovereignty is not. Hence, it is absurd to call it a fact. In fact, self-sovereignty is an “ought” and not an “is”.

” You are not asking why because you are aware that “why” is meaningless. ”

This is getting hilarious and I see you clutching at straws. Existence exists. There is no “why” associated with it. To ask a “why” is to presuppose the existence of a consciousness apart from and independent of existence.

” Also my answer to the previous question stems from this premise which I also agree and plus self ownership. ”

Arbitrary, unnecessary and unjustified addition.

Russ December 22, 2009 at 9:06 am

Kerem Tibuk wrote:

“It is because it is. This is the basis of natural law.”

The basis of *natural* law is the *natures* of the things under consideration. In the case of ownership, the things under consideration are the owners (men), and the things owned (material or intellectual property). If the natures of these things are ignored, then the “natural law” will not mesh with “nature” (i.e. reality).

For instance, Rothbard, in my opinion, was guilty of this with respect to children. He built up a political system based on the nature of (adult) mankind. Then he applied that system to children as if children are just miniature versions of adults, completely disregarding the fact that adults and children have very different natures. Thus, his political and ethical views on children don’t mesh with reality; they are absurd.

I believe you are doing something similar with IP.

Jay Lakner December 22, 2009 at 11:34 am

Kerem Tibuk,

Bala has hit the nail on the head when he says “you are guilty of using the concept “property” to define the concept “property”".

Let’s look at the case where only one human being exists.
You assume here that the concept of self-ownership automatically becomes true. In your mind, this human “owns” himself. I am trying to show you that this is not true. This human has “possession” of himself, but he does not “own” himself.
Why? Because “owning” yourself automatically implies that you are preventing another person from “owning” you. If there is no other person in existence, then the concept of “ownership” is clearly the incorrect description to use. “Possession” does not require another human being to exist. Therefore, what you have been describing as “self-ownership” has in fact actually been “self-possession”.

Now, if we bring a second human being into existence, suddenly things need to change.
Since it is impossible for both human beings to use the same resource, “possession” becomes inadequate. We need a way to determine what is “yours” and what is “mine”. This is where the concept of “ownership” emerges. “Self-possession” is not sufficient anymore because there is nothing that says the other human can’t “possess” you. But if we decide that each human now has “self-ownership”, that places the necessary limitations on how these humans can interact in order to ensure cooperation.

Kerem wrote:
**********
I challenge you to name one liberty that Crusoe had and then lost when Friday came to the island and both formed a society.
**********

You’re kidding right?
Before Friday came to the island Crusoe could walk anywhere, climb any tree, pick and eat any apple, drink from any water source, kill any animal, urinate on any rock, set anything on fire, dig holes anywhere, etc, etc.
Now that Friday has arrived, Crusoe cannot walk on Friday’s land, climb Friday’s trees, pick and eat Friday’s apples, drink Friday’s water, kill Friday’s animals, urinate of Friday’s rocks, set Friday’s property on fire, dig holes in Friday’s land, etc, etc.
The scarcity of the resources on the island results in Crusoe’s liberties being greatly reduced. As I tried to explain in my last post:
scarcity + muliple humans —> rights

Kerem wrote:
**********
Firstly an individual finds an unowned natural resource and homesteads it. There is no other way of property coming to existence. It is necessarily one man homesteading and making something his property.
**********

Person A finds a resource and takes possession of it. Person B tries to take possession of that same resource. Person A demonstrates that he has a better claim to ownership than person B because he possessed it earlier. Person C comes along and demonstrates without doubt that he possessed it before either person A or person B. Since person C is the earliest possesser, person C has the most rightful claim to ownership.

Possession precedes ownership. “Property” does not come into existence until there exists other human beings who wish to take possession of your possessions.

Kerem wrote:
**********
So the concept of “conflict” is a useless and arbitrary concept too. There is never a genuine conflict regarding property.
**********

You are using the wrong definition of “conflict”.
I generally avoid the word conflict because it has multiple meanings. That is why I often use words like “impossibility” or “contradiction” in its place. For example:
- The impossibility of multiple human beings using the same resource leads to the concept of property.
- The concept of property emerges due to the contradiction created when multiple human beings try to utilise the same resource.

As you can see, “conflict” is not meant to mean “fights” or “wars”. It means a contradiction or an impossible event.

Kerem wrote:
**********
You could concede to the fact that there wouldn’t be a sophisticated industry regarding IP based on division of labor but you could be ok with that.
**********

You simply refuse to address my arguments. The only conclusion I can come to is that you do not understand the calculation argument at all.

Removing monopolies on intangible entities will in no way affect the ability to calculate.
There would still exist a sophisticated industry based on the division of labor.
Intangible entities would still have prices. They do not need to have an owner to have a price. Intangible entities merely need to have a “possesser” to have a price. Ownership is not required because no contradiction occurs when multiple human beings try to use the same intangible entity.

Stop completely evading this issue and address the arguments being made.

Kerem Tibuk December 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

I will give one more try and start from the basic premise and this time I will not assume that you guys have any knowledge on basic concepts like self ownership and homesteading.

And I will address both Bala and Jay because they are having the same difficulty interpreting the natural rights position regarding property.

Every human is the absolute sovereign over his actions. This means he is in absolute control. This is a fact of the universe and a fact. It is an undeniable axiom. Even when some other individual coerces another, the coerced person is the ultimate decision maker. He may comply with the coercer but not because he has no choice as if he is a puppet or an Avatar, but because he choses to do so after evaluating the consequences of his actions. That is why there is a difference between the concepts of “slave” and “puppet”. As Rand put it, you can not make some other think. You may prevent him to think by the use of drugs, for example but he thinks and acts according to his own decisions.

This is not an “ought” propoposition but an “is” proposition. This is based on the nature of humans thus a natural law.

This natural law is called different things, like self ownership or self sovereignty. It doesn’t really matter, you can call it anything you want.

Another human being “ought” to respect this fact. If he doesn’t and defy natural law there will be consequences. Maybe not a direct consequence like defying a natural law of physics but an indirect one.

This main “ought” is called many things. The non aggression principle, or non initiation of force principle but I don’t thing any one covers all the possible meanings.

Now, coming to external. Humans are not spirits or ghosts either. According to their nature, they need to occupy space, they need clothing, food, etc.

This is why they extend themselves, thus their sovereignty, to the external and homestead unowned natural resources. This is called homesteading. By doing this they gain property. Whatever is true for the individual extends to the property. Thus aggression against an individuals property is the same as aggression against himself.

Self ownership concept, doesn’t take the “ownership” part from the external, quite the opposite the external takes the concept of ownership from the individuals. Ownership of the external is process of mimicking the self ownership.

Homesteading only needs an individual and a nature given resource. It doesn’t need a second or third party to be present, or some arbitrary condition like movability or scarcity. It is a purely natural outcome of being a human just like breathing air.

Once the extension of the self ownership, in other words homesteading, happens, the external becomes the individuals property until he abandons it. Just as the individual has complete and absolute control over himself, and this should be accepted and respected, he also has absolute and complete control over the external and that should also be accepted and respected.

This parts sometimes gets confusing because we pass from “is” to “ought”. So sometimes people equate the ability to control the external, or the might to control the external with the moral right to control the external. And they fall in the trap of “might makes right”. That is why we constantly hear things like “if he wanted to keep owning the idea he should have kept it to himself”. But this is the same as saying “if he wanted her jewelry not stolen she should have kept them in a safe”.

This is the property theory of natural rights based on objective reality.

Andras December 22, 2009 at 1:44 pm

@Jay LAkner,
You wrote:”Removing monopolies on intangible entities will in no way affect the ability to calculate.
There would still exist a sophisticated industry based on the division of labor.
Intangible entities would still have prices. They do not need to have an owner to have a price. Intangible entities merely need to have a “possesser” to have a price. Ownership is not required because no contradiction occurs when multiple human beings try to use the same intangible entity.”

Without trade there is no price.
Without price there is no calculation.
Without calculation there is no co-operation.
However, trade is always preceded by due diligence. But due diligence of an idea infects the mind of the potential buyer (and transfers ownership by your standards). Who, in their right mind, would want to offer any original ideas for due diligence without any protection? Only the altruists.
Do you want to build your system on altruism?

For me this is the calculation argument!

Stephan Kinsella December 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm

“Andras”:

Without trade there is no price.
Without price there is no calculation.
Without calculation there is no co-operation.
However, trade is always preceded by due diligence. But due diligence of an idea infects the mind of the potential buyer (and transfers ownership by your standards). Who, in their right mind, would want to offer any original ideas for due diligence without any protection? Only the altruists.
Do you want to build your system on altruism?

So, again, it seems you guys are saying: we need to be able to calculate to have productivity, therefore, property rights are conferred whenever we can see that there is no wya to calculate. Calculability is the foundation of property rights now? What?!

Jay Lakner December 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Kerem Tibuk,

Did it ever occur to you that we understand your viewpoint on the origins of property and that we are simply trying to demonstrate that there is more complexity to it?

In your last post, you nicely laid out the natural law definition of property as you would to someone uneducated in these matters.
But it is not entirely correct. The situation is more complex than that. Bala, Russ, Peter Surda, myself and others have been trying (in vain it seems) to demonstrate the areas which need to be more precisely defined.
The definition of property you laid out is not the most fundamental starting point. It may be sufficient for a general discussion with laymen. But you need to be aware of its implicit assumptions.

Firstly, the natural law definition of property as expressed by you is already assuming a world in which more than one human being exists. How do I know this? Because the use of the word “ownership” automatically implies that there are others who can own things. Furthermore, “extending to the external” and “homesteading” are subjective concepts as I tried to point out earlier. Your reply to me earlier saying, “you claim that you have problem with the concept of homesteading”, is not true. I have no problems with the concept of homesteading at all. I was merely trying to demonstrate its subjectivity. This is necessary to show that both “ownership” and “possession” are not aspects of objective reality but are simply constructions in the human mind.
Furthermore, the concept of “Possession” can exist in the mind of a human in the absence of all other humans. However, the concept of “ownership” requires at least two humans to make any sense.

Secondly, the natural law definition of property as expressed by you does not define “external” and does not define “extending”. If we follow your logic, there are two types of “external” entities, tangible and intangible. Ignoring the differences between these leads to illogical conclusions. I would more precisely define “extending to the external” as, “the application of intangible entites to tangible entities”. Here we can see that I consider the “external” to only mean tangible entities and “extending” to mean the application of intangible entities. Also, only “externals” can be homesteaded. You cannot homestead an “extension” because the act of homesteading is an “extension” itself.
It should be noted that this does not rule out the possibility of new intangible entities being produced. Applying an intangible entity (a thought process of some kind) to a tangible entity (your brain) can result in a new intangible entity (an idea, pattern or new thought process) being produced. This would not be considered an “externality” but an additional “extension” that you can utilise.

The property theory of natural rights, as you define it, is certainly not based on objectively reality. It can’t be. It makes implicit assumptions, contains subjectivity and imprecise definitions.
Natural law is only be based on objective reality when formulated in more precise manner.

Andras December 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Stephan,
You always find a way to cite out of context. Again, you conveniently left out my last sentence “For me this is the calculation argument!” and connected to property rights somehow. I have to believe that you do it on purpose. On property rights please consult Kerem’s great replies.

Calculations are no more of a problem for me on IP than for Mises when he discusses the impossibility of economies under socialism. Jay Lakner presupposed the existence and maintenance of sophisticated industries without the potential ability to calculate. I just saw another contradiction.

Jay Lakner December 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Andras wrote:
**********
However, trade is always preceded by due diligence. But due diligence of an idea infects the mind of the potential buyer (and transfers ownership by your standards). Who, in their right mind, would want to offer any original ideas for due diligence without any protection?
**********

Firstly, “transfers possession” is the correct wording. “Ownership” of an idea is impossible.

Secondly, you can describe what your idea does rather than reveal the idea itself. That is the purpose of book reviews, blurbs, advertising, etc.

Thirdly, “protection” of your idea does not require a monopoly on it. When meeting with someone (eg a publisher) to produce tangible manifestations of your idea, you can contract with them not to release your idea. If it does get released, and if you have been very careful, it shouldn’t be difficult to prove who leaked the information. For example, you can purposely make slight modifications to your work when dealing with different publishers. That way, if a third party gets hold of your idea and spreads it around, the existence of those modifications reveals exactly who it was that broke the contract. This is just one of many ways to protect your idea.

Fourthly, all this has very little to do with the economic calculation argument.
Try to understand the following:
The monopoly price of idea A does not give you information regarding the success, and therefore viability, of uninvented idea B. All it does, is give you information as to the viability of re-creating idea A, which you do not need to do because idea A has already been created.
The monopoly price of idea C does not improve the calculation of the viability of producing entity D that requires idea C. All it does is decrease the viability of producing entity D because the monopoly price is always going to be higher than the free-market price (which, given enough time, will become zero).

Andras, you haven’t seemed to grasp the fact that intangible entities do not need to be “owned” to have a price. “Possession” is all that is required. Why? Because intangible entities are “indestructible” and “multiply” when communicated to another person. There is no need for “ownership” in order for prices to emerge.
Tangible entities can be modified, damaged, consumed, destroyed, etc and do not multiply when given to another person. We need a further condition, “ownership”, in order for the trade of tangible entities and therefore the emergence of prices.

Andras December 22, 2009 at 5:26 pm

@Jay,
You are always using examples of copyright issues where creations of single contributors enter the market. I agree, in those cases it might work, especially when the creator is an altruist.
However, I see the impossibility of cooperation where creative minds come together with each other, with investors, with managers and marketers. E.g., a scientific project. In this case inventor’s ideas are competing for capital then capital competes for the professionals of ideas in a whirlwind of feed backs. The tangible product is somewhere decades away, you can not use them as reference. How do you keep track who did what and most importantly when. How do you rank them. The patent system is a catalogue of this information as well. How do you do research in cooperation without becoming all of this activity just something like herding cats? It might be trivial for you but if you knew scientist this single question would give you pause.
Some say “IT” is currently a mess. I don’t care when biotech works. You want to throw away centuries of evolution to satisfy your “revolutionary” quest. It is never abolish IT patents. It is always abolish patents (and IP)!
By the way, when I know something, however “intangible” it is, that saves your life, your existence depends on it, that is ownership. You will be happy to trade it for almost any price. Possession is what you have if you wanted it free.

Natanael L September 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm

“By the way, when I know something, however “intangible” it is, that saves your life, your existence depends on it, that is ownership. You will be happy to trade it for almost any price. Possession is what you have if you wanted it free.”

Now this is random.
You have possession of the idea. You are the only one who have possession, so you have absolute control. This is not ownership. This is being the only one with the idea.
If he also gets the idea somehow, he possess it as well, at the same time as you.
And there are still no contradictions with lack of ownership, because you could choose to prove to him that your idea works by only applying it in a limited way, and asking him to pay a certain price and/or sign an agreement of not sharing the idea with others in order to get the full treatment.

Russ December 22, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Kerem Tibuk wrote:

“Now, coming to external. Humans are not spirits or ghosts either. According to their nature, they need to occupy space, they need clothing, food, etc.”

Very good. According to the nature of men, they need food, clothing, etc. But why do they need *exclusive* access to articles of clothing, pieces of fruit, etc.? In other words, why do they need *ownership* of these things? Why can’t men share the clothing, fruit, etc.? Because these things cannot be used by two men at the same time. Only one man at a time can benefit from any given article of clothing, piece of fruit, etc. (In fact, since a piece of fruit is consumed when it is eaten, two men can’t even eat it in succession, as they could wear an article of clothing in succession.) If these goods were superabundant, like air, there wouldn’t be a problem. But they are not superabundant, they are limited in supply; they are scarce. If they weren’t scarce, if we lived in a world of superabundance of material goods, then private property wouldn’t be necessary. In fact, if we lived in this land of Cockaigne, then claiming something as your own private property would probably be considered rude and unethical! It’s only because of the scarce nature of material goods that this is not the case.

Once again, the ethical concept of ownership specifies the right relationship between different individuals with respect to material goods. That being the case, it must take into consideration both the nature of men and the nature of material goods. If you take into account only the nature of the men, your analysis in incomplete, one-sided, and thus necessarily incorrect.

“Homesteading only needs an individual and a nature given resource. It doesn’t need a second or third party to be present, or some arbitrary condition like movability or scarcity.”

The concept of ownership may not need multiple individuals or economic scarcity to be *present*. But it does need both multiple individuals and scarcity in order to be *relevant*. Ownership is a claim to the exclusive right to control a given object. If there are no other men in the world, then this exclusive right is superfluous; there are no other men in the world to contend with you over the object. If the object is not an economically scarce object, then this exclusive right is again superfluous, because superabundance renders this right unneseccary.

In short, your mistake is your contention that scarcity is an “arbitary condition”. Scarcity is an *essential* property of material goods with respect to the concept of ownership, because without it, ownership is not necessary. That is, scarcity is part of the *essence* of material goods with respect to the concept of ownership, not just an accidental property, like whether or not the object is blue.

Bala December 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Kerem Tibuk,

” Every human is the absolute sovereign over his actions. This means he is in absolute control. This is a fact of the universe and a fact. It is an undeniable axiom. Even when some other individual coerces another, the coerced person is the ultimate decision maker. He may comply with the coercer but not because he has no choice as if he is a puppet or an Avatar, but because he choses to do so after evaluating the consequences of his actions. That is why there is a difference between the concepts of “slave” and “puppet”. As Rand put it, you can not make some other think. You may prevent him to think by the use of drugs, for example but he thinks and acts according to his own decisions. ”

To say that a person who is being coerced is a “decision maker” is downright hilarious. When a hold-up man points his gun at me and says “Your life or your money” and I give him my money, are you saying that I am making a choice? Even if so, do you realise that I am making the choice between existence and non-existence? Do you realise that I had made this choice long before, that it is the reason I earned money and that the hold-up man is pushing me back in time to make that same choice again? Do you realise that this is a false choice because of the presence of force? Do you realise that the metaphysical nature of force is essentially that it eliminates the volition in man and reduces him to a sub-human existence (at least during the period of initiation of force)? Do you realise that man whose volition is being disabled by force is not man (consult my earlier definition of man)?

” This is not an “ought” propoposition but an “is” proposition. ”

The only “is” propositions here are
1. Man needs to act to gain value if he chooses to survive
2. Material goods are “value” to man since their appropriate “consumption” enhances his life (this is part of the metaphysical nature of man and the material goods themselves)
3. To “consume”, man must first take act to take possession
4. Man’s mind is his sole guide to action for he is not born with an automatic mechanism that helps him choose the right course of action

Ownership or sovereignty is not implied in these “is” statements.

” This natural law is called different things, like self ownership or self sovereignty. ”

No. These are called suitably as “existence” or “identity”. To bring in “ownership” or “sovereignty” is to introduce stolen concepts.

” Humans are not spirits or ghosts either. According to their nature, they need to occupy space, they need clothing, food, etc. ”

That’s why they need to act. The proximate goal of action is to gain value. The ultimate goal of action is the sustenance of life (happiness being a standard to measure one’s success in doing so in consonance with one’s values).

” This is why they extend themselves, ”

This is where you are losing the plot. This whole concept of “extending themselves” is balderdash; poppycock; unadulterated nonsense; a figment of your fanciful imagination.

The reality is that man acts to gain value. Since man’s range of concept formation is very wide and includes temporal concepts too, he is capable of acting to gain value not just for today but for an entire life-time and even for his progeny, their progeny and so on.

Once he has gained value (actually, possession of material goods that are “value” because they make it possible for him to implement his choice to live), he needs to keep them. When he is the sole living being on an island that can consume that value (actually the material good), he has no need to act to keep it. The only “keeping” he needs to do is to protect it from degradation by the forces of nature.

It is only the presence of other living beings that too could consume the material good (and thus deprive him of the value he has acted to gain) that makes him realise that he needs to protect it from them. This act is what we call exclusion.

Even here, there is a difference between man’s dealing with other men (rational animals with a volitional consciousness) and other animals. With other animals, the only way to protect one’s material possessions is to deny access and if that fails, use force to drive them away. An example of this is when I use a moat-like arrangement (on a plate of course) to prevent ants from getting to a box of sweets that I wish to consume slowly.

When this act of exclusion is applied to rational human beings, we call it staking claim or “homesteading”. Tigers do it too when they spray their urine on trees and rocks to mark out the boundaries of their territory but we do not call it homesteading. That’s because a concept such as homesteading can only be formed by a rational mind. However, the tiger example is useful to show that it is the realisation that there are others who would otherwise attempt to use the same material goods that leads to attempts to mark out what is “mine”.

Even after homesteading, man exists only within the boundary that we call his body. What you call “extensions” are only metaphors that describe how closely he feels related to certain elements of his physical environment. To treat a metaphor as a part of physical reality is a grave error and you are guilty of indulging in it. You are guilty of raising “feelings” to the level of “facts”.

” By doing this they gain property. ”

Sorry!!! They gain possession combined with on-going attempts to exclude. Using the word “property” is a brazen act of smuggling in a concept without defining it in the first place.

” Homesteading only needs an individual and a nature given resource. It doesn’t need a second or third party to be present, or some arbitrary condition like movability or scarcity. It is a purely natural outcome of being a human just like breathing air. ”

Nonsense. Why do human-beings not homestead air? That apart, how conveniently you forget that the need to homestead arises ONLY when there is competition for limited material resources and that man is not capable of forming concepts that he has not experienced directly or indirectly through perception/abstraction/abstraction from abstraction!!! If I am Robinson Crusoe and I find an apple tree on my island, I would not even realise that I need to put a fence around it until Friday comes along and starts eating the apples that grow on that same tree. I take it for granted that the apples shall be available to me whenever I choose to pluck them off the tree.

How conveniently you also forget that “homesteading” is the very act of excluding others from a resource and it is utter stupidity to try to define it in the absence of “others”.

Bala December 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Andras,

” Without trade there is no price.
Without price there is no calculation.
Without calculation there is no co-operation.
However, trade is always preceded by due diligence. But due diligence of an idea infects the mind of the potential buyer (and transfers ownership by your standards). Who, in their right mind, would want to offer any original ideas for due diligence without any protection? Only the altruists. ”

You are really missing a lot out here. An idea can enhance the value of a material good. As long as I can convince someone of the value my idea can give him (I don’t need to reveal my idea to do this), calculation is possible since the recepient can calculate the additional profits he can gain in the time it takes for his competitors to get the idea and incorporate it in their products too. This calculation makes the calculation of the worth of an idea possible.

So, as long as the producer of an idea is careful enough to withhold it till the price is fixed and the money transfer guaranteed, it is possible to gain by sharing ideas.

So, to say that only altruists would offer original ideas without IP protection is contrary to reality.

Russ December 22, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Russ wrote:

“Scarcity is an *essential* property of material goods with respect to the concept of ownership, because without it, ownership is not necessary. That is, scarcity is part of the *essence* of material goods with respect to the concept of ownership, not just an accidental property, like whether or not the object is blue.”

I should probably have used the word “attribute” instead of the word “property” here. Using the word “property” in two different senses may be confusing:

Scarcity is an *essential* attribute of material goods with respect to the concept of ownership, because without it, ownership is not necessary. That is, scarcity is part of the *essence* of material goods with respect to the concept of ownership, not just an accidental attribute, like whether or not the object is blue.

Andras December 22, 2009 at 7:13 pm

@Bala,
When only one potential inventor tries to improve the existing product your suggestion might work. In that case there is no need for IP protection since you have monopoly by default. But what happens when two show up or, hundreds. How do you rank them? Who promises more? Real due diligence would want to know the background, the idea.
And that is just in the context of the inventor of an original idea and the investor. Every time you reveal it to a (potential) cooperator you will face the same dilemma. Also you have to rank the potential labor force and be sure they don’t become your competitors. Ultimately you spend more time and resources on protection than under the current system with much less efficiency. Just imagine the billion dollar magnitude of drug developments.
(But that is just utilitarian even if it makes cooperation impossible). Welcome to the Manhattan Project of the Science Gulags.
You just need to attach a cardinal number, a price to every competing ideas to rank them.

Russ December 22, 2009 at 8:15 pm

For all you pro-IP’ers:

Let’s say I write out a number that nobody has ever written out before. Let’s say it’s a simple counting number, a positive integer to be precise, but in order to avoid all counting numbers that have actually ever been used, let’s say that it’s very large. Do I own this number? Is it my intellectual property?

Bala December 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Andras,

” When only one potential inventor tries to improve the existing product your suggestion might work. ”

Firstly, it was not a suggestion. I was trying to show how men of the mind will extract monetary benefit in exchange for their ideas in an IP-free society.

Secondly, what I said is relevant irrespective of whether it is a new product or an improvement of an existing product.

” Just imagine the billion dollar magnitude of drug developments. ”

Interesting to note that IP proponents always come around to this point. How conveniently you ignore the point that in an IP-free market, innovations would be more often incremental in nature and would not involve multi-billion dollar investments.

Further, you are taking the present structure of the market for granted in your discussion without even realising that the present structure is in itself a product of an IP-regime. This is no different from the way IP proponents defend the concept of protecting movies being sold on CDs/DVDs/Blu Rays since millions need to be invested to produce a movie. Since there is a very good parallel, I suggest that you read this article to understand how the healthcare industry (including pharmaceutical research) is likely to work in a free market.

http://mises.org/freemarket_detail.aspx?control=178

If you doubt the existence of the parallel I am speaking of, ask yourself 2 sets of questions.
1. Would producers of movies release their movies on DVDs if there were no copyright protection? If not, how would they organise the production and distribution process? Has it ever been done in the past and is there room to consider the alternatives feasible? If it has happened in the past, why did it stop happening? (The answer to the last question is obvious – Anti-Trust)
2. Similarly, would manufacturers of drugs release their drugs into the market as they do now in the absence of patent protection? If not, how would they organise the production and distribution process? As in the previous case, has it ever been done in the past and is there room to considering the alternatives feasible? If it has happened in the past, why did it stop happening?

Andras December 23, 2009 at 1:14 am

@Bala,
You wrote:”Interesting to note that IP proponents always come around to this point. How conveniently you ignore the point that in an IP-free market, innovations would be more often incremental in nature and would not involve multi-billion dollar investments.”
-Multi-billion dollar investments show the size of co-operations. I believe it is a great thing. I think by saying what you said you assume that an anti-IP regime will be a limitation to co-operations. I agree, it will be, down to close to zero.
I do not know the entertainment industry so I would not be so arrogant to try to regulate it. You should also learn at least the basics of drug research if you want to regulate it. After a short study you would not use an argument of the generic drug industry as the foundation of original research like in your point 2.
IP opponents usually forget that patent life is only 18 years but practically no more than 5-10 years left to capitalize on an innovation. That is the price you pay now for the innovations of multi-billion dollar co-operations. After that it is free prey under the current system.

Natanael L September 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm

“-Multi-billion dollar investments show the size of co-operations. I believe it is a great thing. I think by saying what you said you assume that an anti-IP regime will be a limitation to co-operations. I agree, it will be, down to close to zero.”

You seem to intentionally ignore the point.

Situation 1: One big company spends billions on product A.
Situation 2: Everybody collaborate around making something out of an idea, and that results in Company A, B and C making products that are slight variations and combinations of the present ideas that have been shared. Think how it is with Linux – billions HAS been spent, but not by one single company. It has been spent by so many that the individuals that participate don’t care about the to them minimal effort they spend.

Natanael L September 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm

“IP opponents usually forget that patent life is only 18 years but practically no more than 5-10 years left to capitalize on an innovation.”

Oh, and that is totally not the point. It is the abuse that we want to get rid of, and it is nearly impossible to get rid of the patent trolls’ abuse without getting rid of the entire patent system.

Kerem Tibuk December 23, 2009 at 4:04 am

Jay,

“Did it ever occur to you that we understand your viewpoint on the origins of property and that we are simply trying to demonstrate that there is more complexity to it?”

No it didn’t occur to me because you are still demonstrating that you do not understand what I am trying to say. It probably is my fault to communicate, that is why I still take the time.

“Firstly, the natural law definition of property as expressed by you is already assuming a world in which more than one human being exists. How do I know this? Because the use of the word “ownership” automatically implies that there are others who can own things. ”

Now this is the point where you demonstrate that you do not understand me. “Ownership” doesn’t imply more than one person. You still believe this because you can not cope with the idea that rights arise from the state of the individual. This is the reason I keep saying that you are wrong, when you imply that rights arise from the society. You are not claiming this outright but you are implying it..

Ownership means having sovereignty or control over something. As in self ownership it implies only the individual is in control over himself as I tried to explain above. The second individual doesn’t add anything to the concept of ownership and is not a prerequisite. The second individual only adds the possibility of aggression against ownership.

Let me try to put it with the concepts you use. You keep making a distinction between “property” and “possession”. Lets say we need two different concepts. In that case we can say that, “ownership” is a case of “possession” where there is no aggression towards it by another individual. But I honestly think this distinction is meaningless. I use it only because it might help you understand my point.

Even if we put it this way the sequence of causality remains. First there has to be one individual homesteading and take something in his “possession”. Then and only then another individual may come with two choices regarding that possession. Either he respects it or he agresses against it. This is the point where a choice is present, thus an ethical dilemma.

Lets put it in context.

Catching a fish is an act of homesteading. When I catch the fish, I make the fish mine. Then you come along and you have two choices. Either you accept my sovereignty over the fish or you may aggress against it. I am saying you “ought” to respect it, because this is natural law and if you defy natural law there will be consequences.

OR

Writing a novel is an act of homesteading. When I write the novel I make it mine. Then you come along and you have two choices. Either you accept my sovereignty over the novel or you may aggress against it. I am saying you “ought” to respect it, because this is natural law and if you defy natural law there will be consequences.

Peter Surda December 23, 2009 at 4:24 am

@Andras:
> By the way, when I know something,
> however “intangible” it is, that saves your life, your
> existence depends on it, that is ownership. You will
> be happy to trade it for almost any price. Possession
> is what you have if you wanted it free.
Do you realise you just proved yourself wrong? If one is willing to pay a price voluntarily, why do you claim that a price doesn’t exist? And why do you need a law that established a supply monopoly?

Kerem Tibuk December 23, 2009 at 4:38 am

Bala,

You are having trouble with “is-ought” dichotomy. I can understand this because this subject is controversial in its own right, and because Randian concepts are sometimes confusing.

I believe “ought” can be derived from “is”. Many people don’t but that is ok because in essence all natural rights theorist, including Rand also believes this in essence. Since you claim to be an Objectivist and believe in natural rights, we can say “ought” can be derived from “is”.

Between the two propositions “is” is based on objective reality and no there is no place for “choice”. As in the proposition of A is A. You don’t say A ought to be A, you say A is A.

“Ought” propositions on the other hand assumes there is an agent capable of making a choice.

Rationality of humans is an “is” proposition. This part may confuse an Objectivist because Rand uses the concept of irrational. I think this is a wrong concept and Mises uses it better You can not be irrational. You are either rational or (a)rational. Humans are rational, cats are (a)rational.

What Rand means by irrational is in fact “immoral”. You can be immoral because morality, or ethics in general is about human choices thus they are about “ought” propositions. And on this you can not be amoral although that is a concept that is used as much as irrational. You are either moral, or immoral. You either made the right choice (what you ought to do) or a wrong choice.

Coming back to the self ownership. The proposition that “humans makes their own choices” is an is proposition. A proposition regarding these choices are “ought” propositions.

For example a human can choose life or death. This is necessarily so and an “is” proposition.

A human ought to choose life, is an ought proposition and is about ethics.

“To say that a person who is being coerced is a “decision maker” is downright hilarious.”

No it is not.

“When a hold-up man points his gun at me and says “Your life or your money” and I give him my money, are you saying that I am making a choice?”

Yes, you are choosing life.

“Even if so, do you realise that I am making the choice between existence and non-existence?”

Yes.

“Do you realise that I had made this choice long before, that it is the reason I earned money and that the hold-up man is pushing me back in time to make that same choice again?”

It doesn’t matter when you make the choice, what matters is can you make a choice or not. Humans make this choice in every action they take. If they are acting immorally (or irrationally in Randian terms) they are in fact choosing death.

“Do you realise that this is a false choice because of the presence of force?”

It is a very real choice. It may be immoral on the part of the coercer but the choice is real.

“Do you realise that the metaphysical nature of force is essentially that it eliminates the volition in man and reduces him to a sub-human existence (at least during the period of initiation of force)?”

It doesn’t eliminate volition. But I agree that it in way reduces him because it is an act of defying natural law.

“Do you realise that man whose volition is being disabled by force is not man (consult my earlier definition of man)?”

He is still a man he still makes choices and acts upon them.

“The only “is” propositions here are
1. Man needs to act to gain value if he chooses to survive
2. Material goods are “value” to man since their appropriate “consumption” enhances his life (this is part of the metaphysical nature of man and the material goods themselves)
3. To “consume”, man must first take act to take possession
4. Man’s mind is his sole guide to action for he is not born with an automatic mechanism that helps him choose the right course of action”

What you miss here is the concept of “action” you use as a premise presupposes self ownership whether you realize it or not. So in a way my premise is a more basic premise that “human action” premise.

The rest we have be over before. You can also read my responses to Jay because it covers them.

Peter Surda December 23, 2009 at 4:50 am

@Andras:
> On property rights please consult Kerem’s great
> replies.
Do you realise that Kerem opposes patents? How come that you agree with his arguments but come to different conclusions?

> Jay Lakner presupposed the existence and
> maintenance of sophisticated industries without the
> potential ability to calculate. I just saw another
> contradiction.
It has been shown several times that the calculation argument does not fit your / Kerem’s descriptions. Allow me to reiterate:

1. You have been shown that calculation is empirically possible.
2. Even if you don’t see that as sufficient, you need to show that bundling is an insufficient remedy. If you do this, however, a lot of material goods that cannot be unbundled (for practical or principal reasons) or assigned to outputs on a 1 on 1 basis will also be drawn into the problem, and therefore you would invalidate large parts of existing cost accounting and business processes.
3. Even if you manage that, you need to prove that the calculation argument is causally related to the ability to exclude, and not causally related to the ability to use and to trade.
4. Once you overcome this hurdle, since current laws do not implement ownership of immaterial goods (only restrict their expressions), you would need to propose an alternative implementation that fixes this.
5. Even if you overcome all those hurdles, you still face the problem that trading immaterial goods without the transfer happening on the material level is theoretically impossible, i.e. pure immaterial goods cannot be traded anyway.

In my book, I call this epic fail.

> -Multi-billion dollar investments show the size of
> co-operations. I believe it is a great thing. I think by
> saying what you said you assume that an anti-IP
> regime will be a limitation to co-operations. I agree,
> it will be, down to close to zero.
Allow me an alternative interpretation, to show you the things not seen. Huge costs could be also interpreted as a result of protectionism and a stagnating development. Progress is accompanied by a reduction of prices.

Peter Surda December 23, 2009 at 6:53 am

I think the discussion is pointless. Kerem has managed to drag you (Russ, Jay, Bala) into the irrelevant. Why? Because even if there was an agreement on whether ownership makes sense with only one person, and on whether non-scarce goods can be owned, that still doesn’t solve any of the issues. There is no explanation forthcoming how that definition helps to demarcate immaterial goods and to determine ownership boundaries, how to decide what portion of the causality scale is relevant for property, why copying word order (copyright) is a no-no but copying composition or functionality (patents) yes-yes, and why the pro IP theory does not at all match the actual implementation.

The agreement on the definition would not solve anything and would not reduce the arbitrariness of conclusions of the pro-IP crowd.

Obviously, to me, it is evident that property is an emergent feature of a society that faces rivalry of goods and has nothing to do with ethics. However, it is also true that the other “definitions” are just a convoluted narrative that explains nothing, just like the debates here demonstrate. To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, if you eliminate the irrelevant, whichever remains, no matter how unappealing, must be the relevant.

Kerem Tibuk December 23, 2009 at 8:02 am

Peter,

The one most important fact of this universe is the law of causality. Everything follows something else. This is also true for arguments. You may find it convenient to jump in the middle assuming axioms you haven’t proved right or thought about and deduce from there but it is not helpful.

That is why we are trying to agree on premises and then go from there.

With you our problem is more fundamental. You do not believe in objective reality. As far as I can tell Bala, Jake or Russ don’t have problem with this but you do.

For us to argue we even have to go farther back. You think you can deny objective reality just in the case of IP but if you try to remove your contradictions and keep your premise, you will see that you will eventually question objective reality regarding tangible objects.

Like when you said,

“Obviously, to me, it is evident that property is an emergent feature of a society that faces rivalry of goods and has nothing to do with ethics. ”

This conclusion, I believe, is the result of our arguments. If we argue further you may, actually will, even question the existence of, or need for ethics in general and claim actions of humans in general is an emergent feature of a society and there is nothing to talk about.

Peter Surda December 23, 2009 at 8:58 am

@Kerem
Yet again you demonstrate all my objections. Half of your post contains tautologies and the rest is dragging the discussion into the irrelevant, the vague and the arbitrary.

On a more general scope, there are two problems with your arguments. The first one is that you do not follow your claims to their logical conclusions. The second one is that you fail to address the holes of your arguments.

As I said before, logic trumps ethics. Your arguments fail in the logic area, therefore it makes no sense to discuss your ethical groundwork. On the other hand, my objections to you do not require any ethical framework, they merely show logical inconsistencies. As I hope to have demonstrated sufficiently, these inconsistencies remain even if I accept (for the sake of your discussion) your ethical premises.

Jay Lakner December 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

Kerem Tibuk,

Kerem, it seems that every time someone replies to you pointing out 4 or 5 faults in your argument, you pick the one which you feel is the weakest and reply only to that.

You completely ignored my other criticisms and only addressed the one where you felt we could have a “yes it is, no it isn’t, yes it is, no it isn’t” argument on.
And even with this argument you are completely wrong. You seem to be unable to put yourself in the mind of a human living in the world without any other humans. If you managed to do so, you would immediately realize that “ownership” becomes a nonsensical concept.
I’m also beginning to think the problem might be that you don’t know the definition of the word “ownership”.

But no matter. It is more important to point out your complete refusal to address the following:
- “Extending” is not defined.
- “External” is not defined.
- Homesteading is a subjective process.
- You make the assumption that “external” refers to both tangible and intangible entities, yet you have not accounted for their different objective characteristics.

The property theory of natural rights, as you expressed it, can NOT be based on objective reality with the above problems present. If you cannot understand this, then you simply do not understand what “objective reality” means.

ChanceH December 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I’ve become just about 100% anti-IP. I’m pro actual-property. And the lameness and shallowness of the pro-IP arguments are just astounding.

Bala December 23, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Kerem Tibuk,

” You are having trouble with “is-ought” dichotomy. ”

I am not because I see no dichotomy. However, I see the real problem as your derivation of utterly laughable “oughts” because of ridiculous choices of what “is”.

” It is a very real choice. It may be immoral on the part of the coercer but the choice is real. ”

This is going from ridiculous to ludicruous. “Choice” requires the possibility of more than 1 option to choose from. To a person who has chosen life, death is NOT at option. Your stubborn insistence does not make it one.

” It doesn’t eliminate volition. ”

It does. That is the metaphysical nature of force. The presence of force always introduces disvalue into the value equations and eliminates the very possibility of acting on one’s own volition. Left to myself, I would not even consider the disvalue as one of the options available. It would always be OUTSIDE my value equations. It is the gun and the threat to pull the trigger with the certainty that the bullet would pass through me terminating my life that brings it in. That this escapes you explains a lot of your errors.

” He is still a man he still makes choices and acts upon them. ”

He is a shell of a man. A rational animal with a consciousness is not “man” as fits the nature of man. By his nature, volition is an inalienable aspect of man. Go ahead and deny it to support your nonsensical theories.

” What you miss here is the concept of “action” you use as a premise presupposes self ownership whether you realize it or not. ”

Unadulterated nonsense. Life by the very defnition I am using is a sequence of self-generated, self-sustaining actions. Action is a basic attribute of life – a a part of the very definition of the concept “life”. Life is an EXISTENT. There is at this stage no room or necessity for the concept of “self-ownership” (whatever that nonsensical term means).

” The rest we have be over before. You can also read my responses to Jay because it covers them. ”

Yeah!! And I have repeatedly shown that every “argument” of yours is utter garbage. Your “theory” of natural rights is garbled nonsense because your definition of the “nature” of man is laughable at best. Your concepts of “homesteading” and “morality” are a monstrosity because they are incomplete and are rooted in certain arbitrary constructs rather than on reality. You have not given a a definition of “extending”. Your concept of “sovereignty” has no morality attached as shown by the lack of an answer to my question on what it is (and is not) proper for a man to extend his “sovereignty’ over. You have failed to identify what is “external”. Above all, the epistemology you seem to display is just not man’s. You fail to understand that there is no existent that you can call “property”. You are unable to see that “property” is only a concept that describes man’s relationship to physical existents, specifically the moral aspects of the possession of (and the subsequent exclusion of others from) specific existents by specific individuals. You therefore talk as though property “exists”.

You fail to recognise that the concept of non initiation of force is extremely fundamental because it is a logical corollary of the Right to Life – the fount of all rights. You therefore have no problem defining the concept “property” in an arbitrary manner irrespective of the clashes such a definition has (and has to have) with the concept “Right to Life”.

I tried showing the flaws, but you insist on repeating the same thing and avoid addressing my criticism (probably because it stings). Unless you show some honesty and address my criticism, there is actually no point in continuing the discussion. The only reason I am arguing with you is that I think you are polluting these comment threads with high-sounding nonsense which irks me.

Bala December 23, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Kerem Tibuk,

I forgot to add one point. Your concept of “causality” is mystical. I have only one point to make on causality. Existence exists. That is axiomatic. It is utterly ridiculous to talk of a “cause” for existence. To talk of a “cause” for existence, you need to look outside of existence, i.e., in non-existence and say that existence sprang from non-existence. Like saying that it is the “0″ that explains the concept “1″. Reification of the zero is what Ayn Rand called that (and so do I).

There can only be a cause for existence of a particular kind/form, but that falls in the realm of science, not of philosophy.

Bala December 23, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Kerem Tibuk,

” I think this is a wrong concept and Mises uses it better You can not be irrational. ”

The cause of your confusion is obvious. “Human Action” was a treatise on ECONOMICS, not on philosophy. His statement was apt as a foundation for economics and does not in any way contradict Ayn Rand’s position on rationality. Frankly, it is you who are guilty of taking Mises’ statement out of context and twisting it completely out of shape.

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