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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11383/intellectual-property-and-the-structure-of-human-action/

Intellectual Property and the Structure of Human Action

January 5, 2010 by

There are various ways to explain what is wrong with IP. You can explain that IP requires a state, and legislation, which are both necessarily illegitimate. You can point out that there is no proof that IP increases innovation, much less adds “net value” to society. You can note that IP grants rights in non-scarce things, which rights are necessarily enforced by physical force, against physical, scarce things, thus supplanting already-existing rights in scarce resources. (See, e.g., my Against Intellectual Property, The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide” and other material here.)

Another way, I think, to see the error in treating information, ideas, patterns as ownable property is to consider IP in the context of the structure of human action. Mises explains in his wonderful book Ultimate Foundations of Economic Science that “To act means: to strive after ends, that is, to choose a goal and to resort to means in order to attain the goal sought.” Or, as Pat Tinsley and I noted in “Causation and Aggression,” “Action is an individual’s intentional intervention in the physical world, via certain selected means, with the purpose of attaining a state of affairs that is preferable to the conditions that would prevail in the absence of the action.”Obviously, the means selected must therefore be causally efficacious if the desired end is to be attained. Thus, as Mises observes, if there were no causality, men “could not contrive any means for the attainment of any ends”. Knowledge and information play a key role in action as well: it guides action. The actor is guided by his knowledge, information, and values when he selects his ends and his means. Bad information–say, reliance on a flawed physics hypothesis–leads to the selection of unsuitable means that do not attain the end sought; it leads to unsuccessful action, to loss. Or, as Mises puts it,

Action is purposive conduct. It is not simply behavior, but behavior begot by judgments of value, aiming at a definite end and guided by ideas concerning the suitability or unsuitability of definite means.

So. All action employs means; and all action is guided by knowledge and information. (See also Guido Hülsmann’s “Knowledge, Judgment, and the Use of Property,” p. 44.)

Causally efficacious means are real things in the world that help to change what would have been, to achieve the ends sought. Means are scarce resources. As Mises writes in Human Action, “Means are necessarily always limited, i.e., scarce with regard to the services for which man wants to use them.”

To have successful action, then, one must have knowledge about causal laws to know which means to employ, and one must have the ability to employ the means suitable for the goal sought. The scarce resources employed as means need to be owned by the actor, because by their nature as scarce resources only one person may use them. Notice, however, that this is not true of the ideas, knowledge and information that guides the choice of means. The actor need not “own” such information, since he can use this information even if thousands of other people also use this information to guide their own actions. As Professor Hoppe has observed, ” in order to have a thought you must have property rights over your body. That doesn’t imply that you own your thoughts. The thoughts can be used by anybody who is capable of understanding them.”

In other words, if some other person is using a given means, I am unable to use that means to accomplish my desired goal. But if some other person is also informed by the same ideas that I have, I am not hindered in acting. This is the reason why it makes no sense for there to be property rights in information.

Material progress is made over time in human society because information is not scarce and can be infinitely multiplied, learned, taught, and built on. The more patterns, recipes, causal laws that are known add to the stock of knowledge available to actors, and acts as a greater and greater wealth multiplier by allowing actors to engage in ever more efficient and productive action. (It is a good thing that ideas are infinitely reproducible, not a bad thing; there is no need to impose artificial scarcity on these things to make them more like scarce resources; see IP and Artificial Scarcity.) As I wrote in “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism“:

This is not to deny the importance of knowledge, or creation and innovation. Action, in addition to employing scarce owned means, may also be informed by technical knowledge of causal laws or other practical information. To be sure, creation is an important means of increasing wealth. As Hoppe has observed, “One can acquire and increase wealth either through homesteading, production and contractual exchange, or by expropriating and exploiting homesteaders, producers, or contractual exchangers. There are no other ways.” While production or creation may be a means of gaining “wealth,” it is not an independent source of ownership or rights. Production is not the creation of new matter; it is the transformation of things from one form to another — the transformation of things someone already owns, either the producer or someone else.

Granting property rights in scarce resources, but not in ideas, is precisely what is needed to permit successful action as well as societal progress and prosperity.

This analysis is a good example of the necessity of Austrian economics–in particular, praxeology–in legal and libertarian theorizing (as Tinsley and I also attempt to do in “Causation and Aggression“). To move forward, libertarian and legal theory must rest on a sound economic footing. We must supplant the confused “Law and Economics” movement with Law and Austrian Economics.

{ 99 comments }

Russ January 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Ohhh Henry wrote:

“It is called intellectual property by the proponents of copyright and patents ….”

Nonetheless, trying to disprove the validity of a concept simply by deconstructing a name given to it, as you have tried to do, is ridiculous and pathetic.

ABR January 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm

If people agreed that anyone may use land in any way he likes, so long as he occupies it, I see no contradiction.

Why, then, do some of us (most of us, now, but few of us millennia ago) prefer a more permanent form of ownership? Because a more permanent form satisfies our mutual self-interest, now, in most cases. There are exceptions.

Why would we wish to recognise IP as some form of property? Only if to do so were to satisfy our mutual self-interest. Does the current system fit the bill? Many seem to think otherwise.

Ethical arguments are dandy, but they are effective politically only if people can perceive the outcome of those arguments, the ethics proposed, as satisfying mutual self-interest.

Ohhh Henry January 6, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Russ:

“Nonetheless, trying to disprove the validity of a concept simply by deconstructing a name given to it, as you have tried to do, is ridiculous and pathetic.”

I simply deconstructed the name because on its face, the idea of owning another person’s thoughts is absurd. You cannot own another person’s thoughts therefore intellectual property, or “thought ownership”, is an invalid concept.

Russ January 6, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Ohhh Henry wrote:

“I simply deconstructed the name because on its face, the idea of owning another person’s thoughts is absurd. You cannot own another person’s thoughts therefore intellectual property, or “thought ownership”, is an invalid concept.”

*sigh*

But “intellectual property” does not necessarily *mean* “thought ownership”. I can see how it could be construed as such with respect to patents, or even Mickey Mouse. But with respect to digital content, controlling digital content on your computer is not equivalent to controlling your mind, no matter how much you try to twist words to make it mean that.

James January 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm

IP Question wrote:

When it comes to fashion, people buy the name not the dress.

Sometimes, but not always. Many women—particularly ones without big piles of disposable income—are perfectly happy to purchase a no-name dress that they like.

When it comes to high food, people buy the restaurant’s reputation, not the food.

Yes, people decide which restaurants to patronize for factors other than the food. But by far, the food is the most important criterion for the vast majority of people. It doesn’t matter how trendy your restaurant is, or how elegant it is; if your food isn’t good, you’ll quickly be driven out of business.

“You’re only as good as your last service.” – Gordon Ramsay

When it comes to groceries, people buy brands, not food.

Now you’re just being silly.

People go to the grocery store to buy food. Moreover, most grocery shoppers are extremely sensitive to price; they will cheerfully dump their favorite brands if they kind find a similar product for less.

Bala January 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm

ABR,

” Because a more permanent form satisfies our mutual self-interest ”

A lot depends on how you define “interest” and I suspect your definition of “interest” is very different from that of mine and is hence the cause of apparent disagreement (I am not for IP).

To me, “interest” means my long-range well-being. That in turn translates into creating circumstances that foster my survival qua man. If IP exists, my assessment is that human life would operate at a sub-human level. Hence I am not for IP.

” Land is not scarce ”

It is if you interpret the term scarce as it is used out here correctly. “Scarce” here means that only one of its kind exists. It is not a relationship of total number of men living to total land available on Earth. It means that if I have homesteaded a plot of land, that plot of land is unique, i.e., scarce. The outcome of such “scarcity” is that only 1 person may truly free to use it as he needs to to support his life.

” It is not necessary that we own land, but only that we own (temporarily) the land our bodies currently occupy. ”

Once again, I think you misunderstand the way the term “necessary” is being used out here. It means necessary for the survival of man qua man or in other words for man to be free to survive as per his nature. The question is whether it is proper for man to live as per his nature or is it alright if he is forced to live a sub-human existence.

Once again, ownership of ideas and patterns is not necessary for man to live as per his nature. Hence, I am not for IP.

” If people agreed that anyone may use land in any way he likes, so long as he occupies it, ”

The problem here is viewing “rights” as originating in society. It’s as though if other people don’t recognise it, a right does not exist. A lot of people out here (me included) would disagree and say that rights are a concept that evolve straight out of man’s “nature”. That’s why we call them “natural rights”.

The only addition that the anti-IP crowd is making is that while defining his “rights” he should not try to command nature while refusing to obey it. IP is an attempt to refuse to submit to “nature” because it demands exclusivity where it is not possible by the very nature of ideas/patterns and of human beings. Hence, I am not for IP.

ABR January 6, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Bala, it was once Man’s nature to live a nomadic life. Agriculture is a relatively recent development made possible by global warming.

My point is that different people or cultures may have different views on what constitutes ownership.

Clearly, people have different views on IP. Were we to wake up tomorrow under anarchy, in the absence of governance, it would be for the pro-IP people to make their case.

But also, it would be for the pro-RP people to make theirs. And so forth.

Politics requires negotiation. It’s one thing to make an ethical claim, and promise to abide by a principle so stated.

It’s quite another to convince others that they should agree to follow that principle.

Stephan Kinsella January 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

ABR: “Clearly, people have different views on IP. Were we to wake up tomorrow under anarchy, in the absence of governance, it would be for the pro-IP people to make their case.

But also, it would be for the pro-RP people to make theirs. And so forth.”

Well… in a sense, mostly trivial, this is true. But most people would simply appropriate unowned land etc. And then they would mark it as theirs, as a warning to others to stay away; and they would use force as necessary to defend it–and most of their neighbors would support these efforts.

Same with IP: if someone tried to “enforce” IP he would be the same as a trespasser trying to use force against someone on their own property, and he would be repelled as an invader as well.

ABR January 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I don’t have a crystal ball telling me what people would do under anarchy.

Bala January 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm

ABR,

” it was once Man’s nature to live a nomadic life ”

Describing the state of his life as his “nature” reflects a fundamental error. “Nature” reflects what he fundamentally is irrespective of his circumstances. It is that which distinguishes him from the rest of his animate and inanimate environment. It is that which most effectively explains all his other characteristics. Going by this, I am not able to see anything other than being a rational animal with a volitional consciousness as properly reflecting man’s “nature”.

” It’s quite another to convince others that they should agree to follow that principle. ”

While this is true, the starting point is stating one’s principle clearly. That’s all, IMO, is being attempted out here. In fact, what you have said above is why I have been urging Stephan to build a moral case against IP. I believe that it will be easier to convince ordinary people if you can show them that IP is immoral. I was indeed very happy to see him post this note.

Russ January 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I think these arguments founding property on scarcity, or possession, or entending your sovereignty, or whatever, are all very interesting. And fantasizing about how things would be in Ancapistan is always fun.

But most people who think that IP is necessary think that it is necessary because, without it, we would not be able to produce the software that is required for a modern information-age society. They don’t buy into these philosophical or moral arguments. So, if you want to convince these people that IP is unnecessary, you have to … well… convince them that IP is unnecessary. Come up with arguments explaining how labor-intensive software will still come into existence without the possibility of selling the software being a motivation for producing it. Otherwise, you’re just preaching at the choir and wasting your time.

ABR January 6, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Bala, if people agree to respect IP rights in some form, how is that immoral? It seems to me the immorality of IP, as constituted presently, stems mainly from the State itself.

As for stating a principle clearly as a first step, very good. I am only cautioning that the next step had better be a bridge from one’s principles to the self-interest of the listener.

Sure, some will buy into the ethics on its own merit, but most people want to hear: what’s in it for me?

Suppose, for example, you live in a community where renters outnumber owners 100 to 1, and tomorrow there is anarchy. Stephan’s idea of protecting one’s property with a gun won’t work. The owners are vastly outnumbered.

They need an argument to convince those renters why the latter should recognise the previous owners as the new owners.

Stephan seems to think these negotiations are trivial. I think they’re crucial.

Stephan Kinsella January 6, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Bala, my case against IP is of course a moral one, since it ultimately shows that IP violates rights, is a type of theft. We libertarians believe this is immoral. My view is that you cannot bridge the is-ought gap so you can never deduce morals from the ground up. You can only appeal to already-held morals. Thus, we appeal to the most basic, common ones necessarily held by the relevant discursive community–whether that be libertarians, or participants in discourse per se. (Which is why I think Hoppe’s argumentation ethics is the only way to go.)

Curt Howland January 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm

“I used to work at the IT department of Ford, and once I heard two management wonks in the bathroom talking about Linux. They didn’t like it for the web farm because the TCO (total cost of ownership) was too high!”

Microsoft invented the term “total cost of ownership” for their marketing materials, in order to convince stupid people that paying Microsoft for programs somehow bought them something. The numbers were made up, their conclusions self-serving, their results unique to those marketing materials and found no where else.

In one word, lies.

Smart IT people know that what matters is the application, not the OS. If your application runs on Windows, use Windows. If your application runs on Linux, or Mac, or BSD, etc etc etc.

Smart IT people also know that support counts more in the long run than initial price, and the support costs for Linux are miniscule compared to Windows, because there is only one monopoly source for Windows.

Now this is an economics site. What happens where there is a monopoly?

Figure that out, and you’ll understand why smart IT people run, mostly, Linux.

Curt Howland January 6, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Russ,

“Come up with arguments explaining how labor-intensive software will still come into existence without the possibility of selling the software being a motivation for producing it.”

Have you been asleep the last 20 years? Have you never heard of the GNU project, Linux, OpenOffice.org, SourceForge, BSD, Creative Commons or Copyleft?

PostgreSQL, X11, KDE, Debian, RedHat or Firefox?

How about the Internet Engineering Task Force or NANOG?

All huge projects (Linux is actually one of the smaller ones) with millions of lines of labor intensive code, or in the case of the IETF and NANOG thousands of participants and no salable product, yet they are all actively developed and have hundreds or thousands of contributors each working heroically to make the world work smoothly.

But to look back past those 20 years since GNU was founded, examine each and every mainframe shop in the world, with its own team of systems programmers, tweaking and refining code continuously to get the jobs done that were required by the people who wanted the jobs done. Applications were bought and sold, yes, but the real money was made customizing and maintaining the code.

Copyright was practically meaningless, just as it is meaningless in terms of supporting Free and Open Source Software now.

If you want a long winded explanation of why complex software will still be produced without copyright, read “The Cathedral And The Bazzar” by Eric S. Raymond.

…and yes, the book is available free online. As if books would not be created without copyright. Sheesh.

Russ January 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Curt Howland wrote:

“Smart IT people know that what matters is the application, not the OS. If your application runs on Windows, use Windows. If your application runs on Linux, or Mac, or BSD, etc etc etc.”

When the application is a web app with database access that you write in-house, you can write it on Linux, Solaris, Windows Server, whatever… You choose the platform and write the apps to suit.

“Smart IT people also know that support counts more in the long run than initial price…”

Yes, exactly. And Linux admins are rarer and more expensive than MS admins.

“…and the support costs for Linux are miniscule compared to Windows, because there is only one monopoly source for Windows.”

Get real. Large IT shops have their own admins that do 99% of the support; they don’t shop out their support to Microsoft. Microsoft’s support group isn’t big enough for that. In fact, I don’t even think that Microsoft will accept support calls for back-office apps unless they are from MS certified admins. The certification process is their way of making sure they don’t get swamped by a volume of support requests that they can’t handle. There are thousands upon thousands of MS certified admins out there, and they mostly don’t work for Microsoft. It’s hardly a monopoly situation, from a support point of view.

“Have you been asleep the last 20 years? Have you never heard of the GNU project, Linux, OpenOffice.org, SourceForge, BSD, Creative Commons or Copyleft?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I have run Slackware since v3.5.

“How about the Internet Engineering Task Force or NANOG?”

Funding for NANOG comes from vendors; you know, companies that make money from selling software? It used to come from the NSF. The IETF’s “volunteers” are also usually funded by their employees (vendors) or “sponsors”. For instance, the current chairperson of the IETF is “sponsored” by VeriSign and the NSA, according to Wikipedia.

“If you want a long winded explanation of why complex software will still be produced without copyright, read “The Cathedral And The Bazzar” by Eric S. Raymond.”

Read it years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. I am anti-IP. And I think that software would still be produced if IP laws went away. My point is, to get IP laws to go away, you have to convince everybody else that software will still be produced. Some people just don’t get it yet. And philosophical discussions about praxeology, Lockean homesteading theory, scarcity, or self-sovereignty won’t convince them.

Bala January 6, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Stephan,

” my case against IP is of course a moral one, since it ultimately shows that IP violates rights, is a type of theft. ”

That it violates “rights” is your claim. It would not appear so to someone who considers IP legitimate and a form of “property rights”. Such people would see these “rights violations” as legitimate restrictions aimed at securing legitimate property rights.

This problem is all the more severe so for people who consider themselves to be on a stronger moral footing than you (Libertarians) are (like Objectivists do).

” We libertarians believe this is immoral ”

What about all the people who don’t think it is stealing and hence do not believe it to be immoral? Are they not part of your target audience? Does this not make your efforts “singing to the choir”? (no offence intended)

” My view is that you cannot bridge the is-ought gap so you can never deduce morals from the ground up. ”

I beg to disagree. I think that if one defines the terms “moral” and “morality” clearly and properly and starts from fundamental aspects such as the nature of man and of his environment, it is possible to inductively arrive at a sound moral framework.

And yes… I think that the “is-ought” dichotomy is a false one.

” You can only appeal to already-held morals. ”

What conviction can you then have that your morality and hence your approach to law is “natural”? Does this not make morality a social convention, the very approach that makes morality impossible and confounding for most people?

Further, what do you do if those “already-held morals” do not give you sufficient and clear guidance? Sadly, that is part of the problem.

” Which is why I think Hoppe’s argumentation ethics is the only way to go ”

I will read it before I say anything, but at this moment, I have only one thing to say – It is at this point of the discussion that I see one thing – that Ayn Rand is relevant.

scott t January 6, 2010 at 11:46 pm

…. your concepts of “homesteading” and “morality” are a monstrosity because they are incomplete and are rooted in certain arbitrary constructs rather than on reality…..

well…i expect the homstead and morality concepts (or whatever historical names they had) are rooted in constructs that do exist in reality.

if i stand in this spot and you stand in this spot we will either have to be ground up together and placed in the same spot or there is a problem….we cant both be in the same spot.

overtime i guess the term property came into being to denote common spotness – getting to the spot first.

if we could both use the same obscenity at the same time from our respective spots then it seems that the intellctual property (voiced obsceneties) was in a different state.

scott t January 6, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Smart IT people know

aside…did a hardware maker (processor, disk manufacurer, etc) ever attempt to produce an osOS with a personal computer or other type (mainframe)? development supported by revenue from hardware sales?

that could be built upon with improvements and independent software programmers – like open source does today?

scott t January 7, 2010 at 12:06 am

….my case against IP is of course a moral one, since it ultimately shows that IP violates rights…

or does IP concept attempt to extend attributes to things that are in a differerent state of existence?

where an agreement to not tell the ‘ancient chinese secret’ to something doesnt form a property but is simply and agreement to action.

many people could actually have the ancient chinese secret….but if they took my calgon away, i wouldnt have any calgon?

is it a state or force that gets into rights violations?

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2010 at 12:59 am

Bala,

” my case against IP is of course a moral one, since it ultimately shows that IP violates rights, is a type of theft. ”

That it violates “rights” is your claim. It would not appear so to someone who considers IP legitimate and a form of “property rights”. Such people would see these “rights violations” as legitimate restrictions aimed at securing legitimate property rights.

Yes, but they obviously infringe property rights in scarce resources. Once you see this, you cannot maintain this fallacious view.

” We libertarians believe this is immoral ”

What about all the people who don’t think it is stealing and hence do not believe it to be immoral?

If we all agree that stealing is immoral, then it is merely a matter of showing that it is stealing. This is not hard.

Are they not part of your target audience? Does this not make your efforts “singing to the choir”? (no offence intended)

I thought we were talking about truth and substance. I do not see the relevance to what you are asking.

” My view is that you cannot bridge the is-ought gap so you can never deduce morals from the ground up. ”

I beg to disagree. I think that if one defines the terms “moral” and “morality” clearly and properly and starts from fundamental aspects such as the nature of man and of his environment, it is possible to inductively arrive at a sound moral framework.

Have you read Binswanger’s Life Based Teleology article? See my comment here. Even Rand’s view was hypothetical and does not pretend to cross the is-ought gap. THe choice to live is pre- or a-moral. You can only make normative arguments in Rand-world by appealing to the *contingent* values that people who are alive happen to have accepted by virtue of still living. People make a pre-moral choice to value life; Rand’s ethics (attempts to) flow from this.

” You can only appeal to already-held morals. ”

What conviction can you then have that your morality and hence your approach to law is “natural”?

I don’t use the term “natural” that much. I think natural law is deeply flawed. See a quote re Hoppe’s views of the problems of natural law in this post, where he writes:

Agreeing with Rothbard on the possibility of a rational ethic and, more specifically, on the fact that only a libertarian ethic can indeed be morally justified, I want to propose here a different, non-natural-rights approach to establishing these two related claims. It has been a common quarrel with the natural rights position, even by sympathetic readers, that the concept of human nature is far “too diffuse and varied to provide a determinate set of contents of natural law.”

Furthermore, its description of rationality is equally ambiguous in that it does not seem to distinguish between the role of reason in establishing empirical laws of nature on the one hand and normative laws of human conduct on the other.

The relationship between our approach and a “natural rights” approach can now be described in some detail, too. The natural law or natural rights tradition of philosophic thought holds that universally valid norms can be discerned by means of reason as grounded in the very nature of man. It has been a common quarrel with this position, even on the part of sympathetic readers, that the concept of human nature is far “too diffuse and varied to provide a determinate set of contents of natural law” (A. Gewirth, “Law, Action, and Morality” in: Georgetown Symposium on Ethics. Essays in Honor of H. Veatch (ed. R. Porreco), New York, 1984, p.73). Furthermore, its description of rationality is equally ambiguous in that it does not seem to distinguish between the role of reason in establishing empirical laws of nature on the one hand, and normative laws of human conduct on the other. (Cf., for instance, the discussion in H. Veatch, Human Rights, Baton Rouge, 1985, p. 62-67.)

In recognizing the narrower concept of argumentation (instead of the wider one of human nature) as the necessary starting point in deriving an ethic, and in assigning to moral reasoning the status of a priori reasoning, clearly to be distinguished from the role of reason performed in empirical research, our approach not only claims to avoid these difficulties from the outset, but claims thereby to be at once more straightforward and rigorous. Still, to thus dissociate myself from the natural rights tradition is not to say that I could not agree with its critical assessment of most of contemporary ethical theory; indeed I do agree with H. Veatch’s complementary refutation of all desire (teleological, utilitarian) ethics as well as all duty (deontological) ethics (see Human Rights, Baton Rouge, 1985, Chapter 1). Nor do I claim that it is impossible to interpret my approach as falling in a “rightly conceived” natural rights tradition after all. What I claim, though, is that the following approach is clearly out of line with what the natural rights approach has actually come to be, and that it owes nothing to this tradition as it stands.

Does this not make morality a social convention, the very approach that makes morality impossible and confounding for most people?

It is what it is. Whether you like it or not is irrelevant. I think it’s not arbitrary, since we do have a nature, and part of that nature is that we are justifying actors–we seek to justify our actions, via discourse. And discourse has a nature, and rules. For more on this, see Revisiting Argumentation Ethics.

Further, what do you do if those “already-held morals” do not give you sufficient and clear guidance? Sadly, that is part of the problem.

What if Rand’s do not?

” Which is why I think Hoppe’s argumentation ethics is the only way to go ”

I will read it before I say anything, but at this moment, I have only one thing to say – It is at this point of the discussion that I see one thing – that Ayn Rand is relevant.

See the link above–you should investigate Hoppe’s Arg Ethics approach first.

DixieFlatline January 7, 2010 at 1:02 am

@Russ, if people won’t accept the arguments, move on to the people who will. There are endless opportunities to share ideas, getting hung up on the holdouts is a waste of energy. They will come around when everyone around them has come around.

Scott, your 11:55 post is unreadable. Could you please post it in English?

Bala January 7, 2010 at 5:31 am

Stephan,

” See the link above–you should investigate Hoppe’s Arg Ethics approach first. ”

I did (Chap 10 is what I went through). I did not find it good. I see enough reasons to disagree with a lot that is said out there. The most fundamental of them are lack of proper definitions and a lot of putting the cart before the horse. So, how do we take this “argument” forward? Or should we?

Russ January 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

Bala wrote:

“[quoting SK]We libertarians believe this is immoral ”

What about all the people who don’t think it is stealing and hence do not believe it to be immoral?”

Apparently Stephan has either read such people out of the libertarian movement, or believes that he speaks for all libertarians. He does this all the time. I think he’s really oblivious to how conceited it makes him appear.

DixieFlatline wrote:

“@Russ, if people won’t accept the arguments, move on to the people who will. There are endless opportunities to share ideas, getting hung up on the holdouts is a waste of energy. They will come around when everyone around them has come around.”

But I don’t think that the pro-IP people are “holdouts”. I believe they are the majority. And I also believe that their positions are not entirely preposterous. I don’t agree with them, but unlike a lot of people here, I don’t believe that their ideas are inherently unlibertarian, self-contradictory, or immoral. The natural law justifications for regular property are utilitarian, when you get right down to it, so what’s wrong with a utilitarian argument for IP? The way to get rid of IP laws is to meet the utilitarian justifications head-on and demolish them. Ignoring the utilitarian justifications, or trying to replace them with rationalistic property models from the ground up, will never convince these people, because you’re completely ignoring their premises. As Bala noted, that’s akin to preaching to the choir. It’s a waste of time. We don’t need a systematic theory of property here. We just need a devastating critique of the current utilitarian justifications for IP.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

Russ wrote:

“We just need a devastating critique of the current utilitarian justifications for IP.”

I should add that the “devastating critique” should not take the form of an attack on utilitarianism in general. That would again be ignoring the opposition’s premises, and would be a total waste of time. The critique should take as a given, for argument’s sake, that a utilitarian justification is valid in principle, but that none of the current utilitarian justifications are convincing, hence IP has not been proven necessary.

Bala January 7, 2010 at 11:01 am

Russ,

” I think he’s really oblivious to how conceited it makes him appear. ”

I think it goes beyond being oblivious. I am afraid a lot of the theory is being built on the highly questionable and epistemologically unsound concept of “self-ownership”. Frankly, I don’t see it making any sense at all. That unsound premise and how tightly he has tied himself to it is actually making it impossible for him to reach out to anyone else with a different set of premises.

Deefburger January 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

A lot has been said in this discussion about property and society and Human Nature, natural law, reason, etc.

I went back and reviewed the posts, arguments, “raves” etc. and I think there are some answers and more questions brought up from some experiences I have had engaging the natural world.

I used to live in the Redwoods near the coast of California. We have Ravens there, who are very intelegent birds who have the smarts to count to 8, and use counting in their communication with each other, especially their mate. In the mornings, the pair head out from their homesteaded nesting site to patrol their “property”. One bird will fly to the top of a nearby tree and “cluck” several times, and then caw. The caw is counted. He will caw 3-4 times after his cluck. His mate will respond by cawing the same number of times + or – one caw.

Then the mate moves to the next tree on the periphery of the “property” they claim and upon landing, cluck, and then caw x number of times + or – one caw from the last count. They continue this process, as the other pairs in the neighborhood are also doing, until the pair encounters another pair. When they do, both pairs manuever for the high spot in the disputed part of the territory and yell at each other. No violence occurs, just a discussion about who goes where and how far. When the match is over, both pairs continue their rounds.

My neighbour and I learned to mimic their caw count and cluck sounds, and would answer for the mate before the mate could do so. They would both come down and yell at us for messing up their communications! This sounds anecdotal, but the reality is that these birds are doing the same thing that people do concerning property and ownership. They are patrolling their homestead, meeting their neighbours at the borders, hashing out agreements not to trespass, and going about their business.

This behaviour is not brought about by any sense of society. It is a by-product of the need to control territory of all the Ravens. Dogs do it with faeces and urine. Cats and Bears do it by scratching posts and trees. The higher up the scratches, the bigger the animal who’s territory you have entered.

More important is the outcome, no blood.

I have observed my cats having similar “discussions” with the neighbour cats. No claws, no fangs, just a lot of posturing and “talking” in cat of course. The cats do not recognize the fences as fences, but they do recognize the space as space. Their property agreements stand, once established, and they honour the agreements because to do otherwise is to invite the use of claws and fangs. Such an encounter is not wanted by either party for the most part.

The only aggressor in the neighbourhood is an un-fixed Siamese and he only respects the boundaries of the dog.

Property and ownership are not just human qualities. Contract and agreement are not just human qualities. Homesteading and territory are not just human fictions. They are real, and have impact on all thinking animals.

What then are the fundamental qualities at work, in the animal world, that are the same for all animals including humans? The needs and requirements are the same for the Ravens as they are for Humans, in some way that is non-specific to Ravens and Humans.

First of all, it’s not the scarcity per se of the space, it’s the proximity of the space to the nest that is scarce.

Second, whatever resources that can be utilized within that space to feed the kids needs to be protected, controlled.

Third, the borders of the space need to expand if the resources are inadequate to the task of feeding the kids.

Fourth, communication, and the ability to challenge and agree in some way without blood is required or there may be one less parent available to feed the kids.

These animals have free will and intent, like us.
They are not automatons, pre-programmed by their biology. Their biology, like ours, has needs that must be satisfied, but it is through their ability to think, and reason, and make a decision, that results in what they do, to the limited extent of their minds, and the limited ability of their natural biology, just like us.

We just take the communications to new levels, the size of the controlled territory to new scales, and the ability to reason to new heights, as Humans.

“Good fences make good neighbours” is true because it avoids the need for fang and claw. This model only works in the physical. Try to extend it into the non-physical space of thought and mind and ideas, and you run into trouble right away. You have no means of erecting a fence, patrolling your territory, or even detecting a trespass! There is no need because the resources of the mind are limitless.

We forget, too quickly, that the value we give to the world of ideas comes from the creation process itself, to the bringing into the physical world an example copy of what we observe in the non-physical. We forget that the Van Gough is valuable because HE created THAT image, and his original is valuable because it is copied by many who wish to view it. It is Identity and the Creator that have the value, not the idea per se. The idea is, and always will be, copyable ad infinitum. The Identity, and the Creator are not copyable and are very very scarce resources, universally unique in fact.

Ideas are found in metaphysical space, like passages to the top of a mountain. Whoever gets there first is remembered for having gotten there and showing the way. Creativity in Metaphysics is the discovery of possibility, not the creation of it.

If you and I can speak of a metaphysical object as a real thing that both of us can see, then the object must be existent in the same space that both of us are observing. If this is so, then, it follows that anyone could possibly see the same object.

If you assume that the object is yours, by virtue of the fact that you know of no other that has been there, then you must have some means of backing up your claim that you are first. Show me the lack of footprints in the area and I might believe you.

We live in a vast Universe. How many other intelligent beings have been to the metaphysical place of any given idea? You have no way of knowing. You can observe it, you can manipulate it, you can explore it, but you can’t defend it, you can’t erase it, and you can’t claim it.

Property only makes sense in the physical world.

Kerem Tibuk January 7, 2010 at 11:31 am

Kinsella,

“I don’t use the term “natural” that much. I think natural law is deeply flawed.”

Well, that explains the IP socialism. I have never heard a natural rights theorist defending socialism.

People who think, rights are “granted” are another matter. If they are consistent they tend to be full blown socialists. If they are confused they may call themselves libertarians and defend some parts of property rights while defending socialism in other issues.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Kerem Tibuk wrote:

“Kinsella,

“I don’t use the term “natural” that much. I think natural law is deeply flawed.”

Well, that explains the IP socialism. I have never heard a natural rights theorist defending socialism.”

Nah. SK has a point. You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”, so from a strict point of view, all natural rights or natural law based theories are suspect. (Of course, that includes Rothbard’s theories…)

But SK’s alternative isn’t any better. He tries to derive his theories from basic moral premises that everybody agrees with. The only problem is that not everybody agrees that certain things are *always* wrong. For instance, they might agree that theft is wrong in general, but believe that taxation is necessary, and so either a justified form of theft or not theft at all. So his whole argument falls flat for such people.

In short, he bases his argument on moral absolutes. The only problem is, most people don’t really believe in moral absolutes. Then the argument devolves into him calling these people unprincipled cads, and them calling him an unrealistic dogmatist.

On another note; your “natural law” theory of IP completely ignores the difference in *nature* between material property and intellectual property. That makes your criticism of SK for not embracing natural law particularly laughable. Stephan is a lot of things, but socialist isn’t one of them.

Kerem Tibuk January 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

So Deefburger,

After watching ravens you came to the conclusion that humans are animals are not that different and humans property theory should be similar to animals?

If so,

Why don’t we first find a Raven that writes a poem and see if it can defend it or not before we decide IP is legitimate or not?

Humans have free will, thus a possibility to act against their nature thus we have something called ethics that says people ought to act a certain way, a way that is consistent with their nature.

Animals dont have that luxury thus there is no ethics for Ravens, etc

Kerem Tibuk January 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Russ,

“You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”, so from a strict point of view, all natural rights or natural law based theories are suspect. (Of course, that includes Rothbard’s theories…)”

Yes you can.

“On another note; your “natural law” theory of IP completely ignores the difference in *nature* between material property and intellectual property. ”

I don’t have natural law theory of IP, just a complete theory of property. Of course material and immaterial have different natures. But they are all products of man, which has a unique nature and the property theory is based on mans nature.

The difference regarding the nature of the product is important in some senses but not important regarding rights. Otherwise you can also categorize material goods, which have different natures and give them different rights.

Should movable and unmoveble goods be treated differently regarding property rights? Or durable and nondurable goods?

Kinsella wants to socialize privately produced property thus he is a socialist. He cant even make distinction between production and reproduction because the individual is meaningless. Only the society that may or may not “grant” certain rights. There is no need for discussion there. Only the issue of honesty or dishonesty

Bala January 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Russ,

” You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is” ”

Why?

Peter Surda January 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm

@Kerem Tibuk:
> I don’t have natural law theory of IP, just a
> complete theory of property.
You don’t have a theory, just a vague narrative that you repeat like a mantra.

> The difference regarding the nature of the
> product is important in some senses but not
> important regarding rights.
Long time ago I presented you a theory which exactly demonstrated that IP and property are disjunct sets.

Repeating the same nonsense and invoking the morality card does not close the gaps in your logic. Instead it makes you into a preacher.

Stephan Kinsella January 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Russ:

Nah. SK has a point. You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”, so from a strict point of view, all natural rights or natural law based theories are suspect. (Of course, that includes Rothbard’s theories…)

But SK’s alternative isn’t any better. He tries to derive his theories from basic moral premises that everybody agrees with. The only problem is that not everybody agrees that certain things are *always* wrong. For instance, they might agree that theft is wrong in general, but believe that taxation is necessary, and so either a justified form of theft or not theft at all. So his whole argument falls flat for such people.

In short, he bases his argument on moral absolutes. The only problem is, most people don’t really believe in moral absolutes. Then the argument devolves into him calling these people unprincipled cads, and them calling him an unrealistic dogmatist.

Russ, “He tries to derive his theories from basic moral premises that everybody agrees with.”

This is not true. Argumentation Ethics, which I agree with, appeals to moral premises that anyone engaged in normative justification necessarily, does agree with by virtue of participating in the norm-laden activity of justificatory argumentation. These are not arbitrary nor subjective; they derive from the nature of argumentation itself.

Second, even if I were doing this–so what? As I noted here, what’s wrong with appealing to the values of peace, prosperity, and justice? So what if “not everybody agrees that certain things are *always* wrong” or “his whole argument falls flat for such people.” So what? There will always be criminals and outlaws, people who don’t share our views of justice. Our arguments will “always fall flat for them”. So what? I have decided to join the civilized human race. So have you. Among this community of people we can reason and appeal to shared grundnorms. For outlaws, we have to regard them as mere technical problems, dangerous things like wild animals or hurricanes. So what?

Russ January 7, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Kerem Tibuk wrote:

“Yes you can [derive an "ought" from an "is"].”

Well, I’m not going to get into this argument other than to say that your contention is highly debatable.

“Of course material and immaterial have different natures. But they are all products of man, which has a unique nature and the property theory is based on mans nature.”

Material goods are not always a product of man. If I find a lump of gold, that was not produced by me, nor by any man. Picking it up is not the same as producing it. So, why should it be considered property? Because it is a *scarce* good. The only workable way we have come up with of deciding who gets to control scarce goods is property. It is the attribute of scarcity, not the attribute of being produced by a human, that is important when considering property rights.

Not only are you focusing on the wrong attribute, you are also assuming *a priori* that, when constructing a theory of property rights, the *only* attribute of either material or immaterial goods that is relevant to the discussion is that they are products of man.

“Should movable and unmoveble goods be treated differently regarding property rights? Or durable and nondurable goods?”

There is no *a priori* reason why movable and non-movable goods should be treated the same. There is likewise no *a priori* reason why durable and non-durable goods should be treated the same. Only by considering these differences can we come to the conclusion that these *particular* differences are irrelevant with respect to property.

When one does this with man-made vs. naturally occurring, such as with a lump of gold, one also discovers that this distinction is irrelevant when considering property.

“Kinsella wants to socialize privately produced property thus he is a socialist.”

You are simply assuming that anything privately produced is property; if it is not, then SK isn’t socializing it.

I will repeat an old argument; hopefully you won’t ignore it this time. Numbers are the product of man’s mind. They do not occur in nature. You cannot show me a three, for instance. So, should people be able to own particular numbers that they have come up with, that no other individual has ever written down or completely specified before?

“He cant even make distinction between production and reproduction because the individual is meaningless. Only the society that may or may not “grant” certain rights. There is no need for discussion there. Only the issue of honesty or dishonesty.”

Yes. Your dishonesty. Nowhere have I ever seen Kinsella say that society grants rights. You are completely mischaracterizing his argument. Either you are doing so due to a complete lack of understanding of his argument, or due to malice, I’m not sure which.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Bala wrote:

“Russ,

” You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is” ”

Why?”

Because they are categorically different things. It would be like trying to derive a mathematical theorem from a kumquat. An “is”, a statement of fact, is a statement of the way things are. An “ought”, a value statement, is a statement of a particular person’s view of the way things ought to be. The very fact that an opinion about the way things ought to be does not necessarily match the way things are, is an indication of the fundamental disconnect between them.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:
” “He tries to derive his theories from basic moral premises that everybody agrees with.”

This is not true. Argumentation Ethics, which I agree with, appeals to moral premises that anyone engaged in normative justification necessarily, does agree with by virtue of participating in the norm-laden activity of justificatory argumentation. These are not arbitrary nor subjective; they derive from the nature of argumentation itself.”

Firstly, sorry I misrepresented your position. I saw something else you wrote here that led me to believe that you were trying to do what I said. My bad.

Secondly…. Wow. Argumentation Ethics is even worse than what I thought you were doing. I won’t get into this whole debate here. I think Callahan and Murphy sufficiently demolished AE years ago on anti-state.com. Suffice it to say that, regarding IP, if the government didn’t try to justify their pro-IP enforcement, but simply did it without justification, there’s nothing AE could say against it.

“Second, even if I were doing this–so what? As I noted here, what’s wrong with appealing to the values of peace, prosperity, and justice? So what if “not everybody agrees that certain things are *always* wrong” or “his whole argument falls flat for such people.” So what? There will always be criminals and outlaws, people who don’t share our views of justice. Our arguments will “always fall flat for them”. So what? I have decided to join the civilized human race. So have you. Among this community of people we can reason and appeal to shared grundnorms. For outlaws, we have to regard them as mere technical problems, dangerous things like wild animals or hurricanes. So what?”

So what?! If you blow off 99 & 44/100ths% of the human race as criminals, simply because they don’t agree that your moral absolutes are absolute, then you render your philosophy a completely irrelevant piece of mental masturbation. That’s what.

Silas Barta January 7, 2010 at 6:28 pm

@Stephan_Kinsella:

As I noted here, what’s wrong with appealing to the [value] of … prosperity…?

Because only unprincipled terrorist utilitarians care about prosperity, I thought?

Bala January 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Russ,

” Because they are categorically different things. ”

My point is simply that an “ought” statement, by its very nature, is a “value statement” (I agree with you on that). “Value” presupposes value of “something”. That something necessarily has to be that which “is”. “Value” is a judgement. Man can only judge that which he is conscious of. To be conscious is to recognise the fact that something “exists”. In fact, it is the recognition of the “existence” that forms “consciousness”.

The “ought” statement is fundamentally a comparative judgement of what “is” to something else that it “could be”. What “could be” is in itself something derived from what “is” (not necessarily that particular “is”) by the living being exercising its powers of consciousness. It is an identification of a possible alternative arrangement of that which exists.

Out here, we need to remind ourselves that only a living being is capable of being “conscious” (by the very meaning and definition of the word).

Therefore, once what “is” and what “could be” are identified, the living being that is “conscious” of both evaluates the consequences of the two arrangements for the effects they each have on its own survival. The “ought” statement is only the outcome of this process of evaluation.

To say that there is a “dichotomy” between “is” and “ought” statements and that the latter cannot be derived from the former is to deny the very facts and the processes of consciousness and action, i.e of life itself since those two indeed constitute the difference between plain existence and life.

In fact, the attempt to drive a wedge between “is” and “ought” statements amounts to a dismissal of the simple fact that living beings, by their very nature, choose and to say that such choice is completely arbitrary and a matter of whim. Frankly, for a living being, the choice is actually one between “existence” and “non-existence”. Given that, the fact that living beings indeed choose and given their particular method of choosing, i.e., by first becoming aware of that which exists, I am left with no option but to dismiss the “is-ought” dichotomy as false and the product of an evasion of reality.

Bala January 7, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Russ,

Just adding to what I had said.

” In fact, the attempt to drive a wedge between “is” and “ought” statements amounts to a dismissal of the simple fact that living beings, by their very nature, choose”

People who say this reminds me of the Architect

” and to say that such choice is completely arbitrary and a matter of whim. ”

This comes straight out of the mouth of the renegade Smith.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Bala,

Wow. I must confess that most of that made absolutely no sense to me.

“”Value” presupposes value of “something”. That something necessarily has to be that which “is”.”

This is not true. Let’s say that you see a man being beaten upside the head by a mugger. You say that the mugger ought not do that. You are then *not* choosing something that “is”. You are wishing that something which is the case were not the case. You are saying that an alternate reality, which is not, would be better than the true reality, which is.

But how can you derive the one from the other? How can you derive that which is not from that which is?

If you read G.E. Moore, he has other examples of the naturalistic fallacy besides the case that violates the is/ought dichotomy. Let’s say that you are a socialist, for the sake of argument. You want to come up with a theory of justice that fits socialist goals. So you derive a theory of justice from the idea of fairness. But, fairness and justice are not the same thing. They are distinct concepts with different meanings. The word “justice” does not mean the same thing as “fairness”, and there is no real connection between them. Trying to derive justice from fairness would also be a case of the naturalistic fallacy.

A mathematical analogy, if that helps, is orthogonal vectors. Take the 3D Euclidean vector space. Try to derive the unit z vector from the unit x and unit y vectors. You can’t. If you could, then they wouldn’t be orthogonal vectors. “Is” and “ought” are similar, in a sense. They are orthogonal concepts.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Bala wrote:

“People who say this reminds me of the Architect

” and to say that such choice is completely arbitrary and a matter of whim. ”

This comes straight out of the mouth of the renegade Smith.”

Huh? Architect? Is this a reference to Howard Roark? Or is this Indian religion (Architect=God and renegade Smith=Satan)? I’m really confused here.

Anyway, I’m not saying that ethics are a matter of whim. I think that “the nature of things”, as Lucretius would have put it, needs to be taken into consideration when thinking about ethics. I just think that there is more to it than that.

Bala January 7, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Russ,

” Wow. I must confess that most of that made absolutely no sense to me. ”

Oops!!! Failure (mine) right there. I really thought I was simplifying it. :) If a very intelligent person cannot make sense of it, I must be making it complicated.

” But how can you derive the one from the other? How can you derive that which is not from that which is? ”

Reason. Causality. Non-contradiction.

In simpler terms, let’s say that I am hungry and I come across an apple. The first “is” I recognise is that I am hungry. Reason tells me that I need food. Causality tells me that the sustained lack of food will lead to death. The second “is” I see is the apple. I recognise it as food based on prior experience. Reason tells me that the action of plucking/picking up the apple and consuming it will help me survive. Non-contradiction tells me that I cannot go on refusing to gather and consume that which I can recognise (rightly) as food and still stay alive. At this point, I am also reminded of my choice to stay alive.

Thus, I reach the conclusion that “I” “ought” to pluck/pick up the apple and consume it.

” Let’s say that you see a man being beaten upside the head by a mugger. You say that the mugger ought not do that. ”

The confusion in this statement is that you are deriving an “ought” on behalf of the mugger based on your premises. The correct “ought” for you to try to derive is “What ought I to do given that there is a mugger out there who is whacking someone on the head?”.

Saying that the mugger “ought” not to do what he is doing attributes rationality to the mugger’s choice and action, something that may not be true. The statement “Man is a rational animal” does not mean that all men at all times act rationally.

Bala January 7, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Russ,

” Huh? Architect? ”

Nothing Indian about it. I am referring to the Architect of the Matrix who treats human choice as the “singularity” and the flaw in the system of complex mathematical equations that he uses to “model” life.

The renegade Smith actually says this in the final clash when Neo is lying down beaten up but trying to get up. It is part of the Smith’s argument that life is pointless and the goal of life is to end.

Russ January 7, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Bala wrote:

“Oops!!! Failure (mine) right there. I really thought I was simplifying it. :) If a very intelligent person cannot make sense of it, I must be making it complicated.”

Well, it’s not necessarily your fault. Sometimes I can be dense, and need concrete examples. I have this problem when reading Hayek, as well. He’s very abstract, and doesn’t give concrete examples, and so I find it very hard to follow him sometimes.

“In simpler terms, let’s say that I am hungry and I come across an apple…”

OK. Let’s take the facts; the “is’es”:

1) You have not eaten for some time.

2) Continued lack of food will lead to death.

3) There is an apple nearby.

4) Eating the apple will stave off death.

“Thus, I reach the conclusion that “I” “ought” to pluck/pick up the apple and consume it.”

Ah, but in order to reach your conclusion, you also have to be thinking “I want to live”. That is, you have to have the thought “I *ought* to continue living”, or “I *value* continued life”. However you phrase it, this does not follow logically from any of the above *facts*. Nor can it. The act of valuation cannot come from knowledge of mere facts. It must come from the human will. The above facts alone do not dictate any particular response. The facts and reason, *plus* the value judgment that continued life is good (which is independent of the above facts), do dictate a particular response; that you should pick up and eat the apple.

“Saying that the mugger “ought” not to do what he is doing attributes rationality to the mugger’s choice and action, something that may not be true.”

So you’re saying that one should not make ethical judgments about the actions of others?!

“Nothing Indian about it. I am referring to the Architect of the Matrix…”

D’oh! See, I told you I can be dense sometimes!

Bala January 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Russ,

” Ah, but in order to reach your conclusion, you also have to be thinking “I want to live”. ”

I said this too. Of course “oughts” exist only for someone who is contionuously choosing to live. Once death is chosen, there is only 1 “ought” – How best to end life.

” So you’re saying that one should not make ethical judgments about the actions of others?! ”

No. One does. But at the end of the day, the what one is trying to understand by figuring out the oughts is what one should be doing.

For instance, in the case of the mugger, reason tells you that what he is doing indicates that he is living out a contradiction and is hence dangerous to you. This leads you to the question “What am I going to do?”. This would include the “now and here” and the future too. Whether it is “I ought to help the victim because…..” or “I ought to be armed because….” or “I ought not to hesitate to use force against the mugger because…. ” – they all flow out of the fact that people like the mugger exist.

Frankly, the bigger problem with accepting the “is-ought” dichotomy as a real one is to make it impossible for man to have a rational morality/ethics.

Let me explain it in (what I think is) simple terms. To survive, man desperately needs to figure out his “oughts” because he chooses to live. He is not given with an automatic mechanism that helps him know what he “ought” to do in any circumstance. He has only two resources at his disposal to help him figure this out

1. His perceptual faculty that helps him form percepts of existence (that which “is”)

2. His conceptual faculty which uses reason to help him understand the relationship betwen different elements of existence and their relationship with him and his life

Man’s ONLY means of “knowing” what he “ought” to do is “reason”. He uses “reason” to process the percepts he receives of that which “is” to “know” that which he “ought” to do. There is no other way open to him that fits with his nature – that of a rational animal with a volitional consciousness.

Given that man’s senses give him only the “is”, to say that the “ought” cannot be derived from the “is” is to say that reason, man’s only means of knowing, is impotent to help him “know” what he “ought” to do. Morality/Ethics being the science of “oughts”, this essentially means that it is not possible for man to have a rational morality/ethics.

This brings up the very important question as to “Where and how else is man to derive his “oughts” from?”. People offer a variety of answers including God, Society, Nation, etc. The common feature of all these is that they are something other than the person himself. Interesting, isn’t it?

In summary, acceptance of the “is-ought” dichotomy places morality/ethics in the realm of the arbitrary and is hence an intellectually incorrect and dangerous thing to do.

Therefore, I am left with no option but to reject the “is-ought” dichotomy as not only invalid but also “evil”.

Stephan,

” What if Rand’s do not? ”

Sorry. They do. I have shown with sufficient explanation out here that the “is-ought” dichotomy is false. That you have not understood what Rand has said properly and are hence not able to derive it does not indicate a flaw in HER approach. A bad workman blames his tools.

Kerem Tibuk January 8, 2010 at 2:42 am

Russ,

“”Yes you can [derive an "ought" from an "is"].”

Well, I’m not going to get into this argument other than to say that your contention is highly debatable.”

No it is not debatable at all.

In order for a debate there needs to be at least two persons that are alive which necessarily values life above everything else. If one of the persons debating would like to prove that this is not true, the debate must end right there.

The fact that humans still exist proves “ought” is derived from “is”. Some people are aware of this, some aren’t.

And don’t confuse this with Hoppe’s weak argumentation theory. This is much more fundamental than an amateur Kantian can graspç

“Not only are you focusing on the wrong attribute, you are also assuming *a priori* that, when constructing a theory of property rights, the *only* attribute of either material or immaterial goods that is relevant to the discussion is that they are products of man.”

I represent my case from ground up, and I don’t pick arbitrary attributes to fir my case.

Regarding property rights the only relevant attribute IS the man, individual. That is why individualism is fundamental in libertarianism.

“There is no *a priori* reason why movable and non-movable goods should be treated the same. There is likewise no *a priori* reason why durable and non-durable goods should be treated the same. Only by considering these differences can we come to the conclusion that these *particular* differences are irrelevant with respect to property.”

You can find many reasons, actually excuses to make distinctions. They are all arbitrary unless they are related to “human nature”. Because all property arises from the individual. The nature of the individual as I stated at the first comment of this post.

Georgist have many excuses regarding how land can not be property and it is not different than this IP socialism in regards to arbitrariness.

“I will repeat an old argument; hopefully you won’t ignore it this time. Numbers are the product of man’s mind. They do not occur in nature. You cannot show me a three, for instance. So, should people be able to own particular numbers that they have come up with, that no other individual has ever written down or completely specified before?”

I have answered variations of this question so many times I cant keep count. The reason you are asking this question is that you can not wrap your head around the concept of homesteading.

Anybody can homestead any nature given resource. If you can independently homestead the same, or rather very similar thing by all means go do it. I wrote a poem influenced by birds, you may also be influenced by birds and write your own poem. Just don’t come to me and say you have right to my poem because you can reproduce it easily thus I can not own it in the firs place.

Can you refrain from copying someone else’s product? Can you imagine a world where people either produce IP themselves or gain consent of the producer? Is this possible?

Yes.

In other words, can you differentiate a nature given good, a good that you yourself have produced and a good that has to be produced by some other human being?

Yes you can.

“Yes. Your dishonesty. Nowhere have I ever seen Kinsella say that society grants rights. You are completely mischaracterizing his argument. Either you are doing so due to a complete lack of understanding of his argument, or due to malice, I’m not sure which.”

Did you read the post that was written by Kinsella?

When Kinsella writes,

“Granting property rights in scarce resources, but not in ideas, is precisely what is needed to permit successful action as well as societal progress and prosperity.”

I suggest you read the post agains and after you read it, you would understand that it is not my intellectual dishonesty but your intellectual inadequacy to not to ask “what the hell does granting mean and who the hell grants what?”.

Russ January 8, 2010 at 11:24 am

Bala wrote:

“Frankly, the bigger problem with accepting the “is-ought” dichotomy as a real one is to make it impossible for man to have a rational morality/ethics.”

This is true. The is/ought dichotomy does make it impossible to derive ethics from reason and facts alone. And yet I believe that the dichotomy is a real one. Distaste for the implications of the dichotomy do not prove it false.

Kerem Tibuk wrote:

“In order for a debate there needs to be at least two persons that are alive which necessarily values life above everything else. ”

“The fact that humans still exist proves “ought” is derived from “is”.”

Nonsense standing upon the shoulders of nonsense upon stilts. The above sentences are complete non sequiturs.

“I have answered variations of this question so many times I cant keep count. The reason you are asking this question is that you can not wrap your head around the concept of homesteading.”

Yes or no? Can one own a number? You seem to be saying yes. I find that absurd.

“I suggest you read the post agains and after you read it, you would understand that it is not my intellectual dishonesty but your intellectual inadequacy to not to ask “what the hell does granting mean and who the hell grants what?”.”

The verb “grant” has several shades of meanings. Among those meanings is “to be willing to concede” or “to assume to be true”. English is a bitch of a language, isn’t it?

Bala January 8, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Russ,

” Distaste for the implications of the dichotomy do not prove it false. ”

Now you’re being a wee bit unfair. This was not the basis of my argument. My approach has been to show that since, given what “is” and “ought” are, it is indeed possible to derive “ought” from “is” and that the dichotomy does not exist. That they belong to different categories is a red herring.

To my previous arguments, let me add one more. We agreed that an “ought” is a value statement. Only a living being can see “value” in an existent. A living being cannot stay alive if it does not judge the “value” of different existents it encounters. By its very nature, a living being needs to use other existents in the service of its life. This life is the source of “value”, which in turn can exist only as long as life does. A non-living or dead thing has no values. Thus, a “value statement” presupposes a living being that either lives (because it has no choice in the matter) or chooses to live (that’s the human way).

Hence, the “choice to live” is built into the “ought” statement. It is erroneous to bring up the point that such an assumption is not necessarily valid (in support of the “is-ought” dichotomy) is erroneous.

Hence, the “is-ought” dichotomy is patently false.

I was just mentioning the fact that it makes a rational morality impossible to indicate that it serves as ideal ammunition for those who wish to peddle alternate schemes of morality.

If you still think it is valid, it would be good if you could either present arguments to support your position or show why I am wrong.

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