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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13202/misesian-vs-marxian-vs-ip-views-of-innovation/

Misesian vs. Marxian vs. IP Views of Innovation

July 8, 2010 by

BK Marcus drew my attention to this passage from Mises’s Theory and History that illustrates that Mises really understood the subject of innovation, and that his view contrasts with both the Marxian view (impersonal forces) and the IP view (innovation is a result of ex nihilo creations by isolated idea owners). As usual, the Misesian perspective offers a middle way:

While the group-mind school tried to eliminate the individual by ascribing activity to the mythical Volksgeist, the Marxians were intent on the one hand upon depreciating the individual’s contribution and on the other hand upon crediting innovations to common men. Thus Marx observed that a critical history of technology would demonstrate that none of the eighteenth century’s inventions was the achievement of a single individual. What does this prove? Nobody denies that technological progress is a gradual process, a chain of successive steps performed by long lines of men each of whom adds something to the accomplishments of his predecessors. The history of every technological contrivance, when completely told, leads back to the most primitive inventions made by cave dwellers in the earliest ages of mankind. To choose any later starting point is an arbitrary restriction of the whole tale. One may begin a history of wireless telegraphy with Maxwell and Hertz, but one may as well go back to the first experiments with electricity or to any previous technological feats that had necessarily to precede the construction of a radio network. All this does not in the least affect the truth that each step forward was made by an individual and not by some mythical impersonal agency. It does not detract from the contributions of Maxwell, Hertz, and Marconi to admit that they could be made only because others had previously made other contributions.

(I should add that this once again reinforces my long-held opinion that Theory and History by Mises contains more truth in one book than most of the rest of the university library.)


Kerem Tibuk July 8, 2010 at 1:22 pm


What a sad sad post.

First,this claim,

“IP view (innovation is a result of ex nihilo creations by isolated idea owners)” is pure nonsense.

IP is about property rights, not about isolation or interaction. It is actually about the rule of law regarding the interaction. People who repect property rights claim, interaction solely depends on the wishes of the property owner, while IP socialist claim otherwise. Do you also claim that private property view is the same thing as “production is the creations by isolated property owners”?

Secondly, Kinsella’s view is the same as the Marxist view and one must be intellectually blind not to see it. The core of the Kinsella IP socialism is to separate the individual who is the creator, from the the creation itself, impersonalizing the whole thing. He, and other IP socialist like him, even go to the length of trying to equate labor theory of value and labor theory of property. Just like socialists who try to equate, equal liberty with equal might.

Also in this quote, Mises isn’t trying to find a middle way at all. He doesn’t talk about two different extremes, Jeff, you do. He is just challenging the Marx/Kinsella view that production/innovation is impersonal.

Seattle July 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

His statement wasn’t about IP, it was about the theory of innovation espoused by many pro-IPers. Property ownership based on creation can never work because everyone contributes to the creation of everything in some way. And IP based on homesteading can never work for obvious reasons. IP can only come about by the arbitrary dictates of royal fiat.

Skrag July 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm

His point, as is Kinsella’s, is that innovation can not occur without the free flow of information(ideas). The main thrust of Kinsella’s work, and all of those who oppose IP, is that no one but each individual can own their own thoughts and ideas. Scholarship and intellectual endeavors are quite pointless if they are not meant to be freely shared, as this site has proven. That you miss this most obvious point is truly sad.

Kerem Tibuk July 9, 2010 at 2:21 am

“His point, as is Kinsella’s, is that innovation can not occur without the free flow of information(ideas)”

You got that right.

The problem is not the flow but the “free” part.

There is no reason interaction, collaboration, and flow can not happen when property rights are recognized. You don’t even have to pay each time, because some IP is deliberately being made available for free for many different reasons.

Again, the problem is not isolation vs interaction, it is about property rights. No one ever claimed any IP creation can be done or is being done in isolation.

Claiming otherwise, as Jeff here does, is no different than collectivist claiming, individualism is the principle that requires individuals being isolated, where collectivism is social cooperation. These kinds of statements are either due to ignorance or intellectual dishonesty.

Also the Mises quote has nothing to do with this except a sad attempt to appeal to authority.

But if you want to see the parallels, it is very clear that Kinsella/Tucker thought is very closely aligned with the Marxist one, where the individual creator is nowhere to be found and eventually has no sovereignty over his creation.

And this is no accident, since Kinsella’s property theory is very similar to Marxist property theory. According to Marxist/Kinsella property theory scarcity is the only reason property rights are established by the society where property is a necessary evil and when and if scarcity is no issue property rights dissolve, disappear. Marx claimed, productivity will increase so much that scarcity will disappear thanks to capitalism and communism would follow. Kinsella doesnt worry about that much and more obsessed with IP issue but the premises and the conclusions are the same.

Rothbardian/Lockean property theory on the other hand is totally different. According to this theory, property rights are just a reflection of reality and there are no social prerequisites and sovereignty over the property can not dissolve. Even if/when a property is so abundant that it is economically worthless, the sovereignty of the owner over it doesn’t not disappear because its creation, its reason for existence, is ultimately dependent on an individual.

newson July 9, 2010 at 9:38 am

why should someone be able to force his neighbour to protect him, or to socialize his property protection costs?

Peter Surda July 15, 2010 at 2:14 am

You are mentally stuck in irrelevant aspects of your opponents’ arguments. The question of scarcity/rivalry is not a necessary requirement for an anti-IP stance. Of course, the non-rivalry argument helps to better understand some aspects of the problem. The core issue is slightly deeper. Property requires boundaries, and immaterial objects do not have them. They don’t even have an existence separate from the human mind. But, I have already pointed this out to you numerous times.

mpolzkill July 15, 2010 at 3:33 am

“[a] thought…where the individual creator is nowhere to be found”

Whenever I think, enjoy or use a thought that someone else thought before, I light a candle.

- – - – - – - – - – - –

Tibuk paraphrase:

“This is a sad appeal to the authority of someone I respect by people whose philosophy tenuously reminds me of someone I don’t respect.”

Peter Surda July 15, 2010 at 2:06 am

Secondly, Kinsella’s view is the same as the Marxist view and one must be intellectually blind not to see it.

Actually, it is IP proponents like you who mimick Marxian arguments. You both argue that the direct rewards of labour should extend beyond the scope of contracts the labourers voluntarily enter. You both fall prey to metaphors and think that labour has an existence on its own, separate from the humans performing it. You both see the effects that extend beyond the scope of contract as a claim and derive from this a theory, you just differ in the labels you use for this claim. I have already spent a huge amount of time demonstrating all the IP-fallacies, including pointing out that IP proponents haven’t actually provided a definition of IP. I however cannot influence IP proponents’ reluctance to address the issues.

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