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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13277/the-l-neil-smith-freetalklive-copyright-dispute/

The L. Neil Smith – FreeTalkLive Copyright Dispute

July 14, 2010 by

I have long been a fan of libertarian sci-fi author L. Neil Smith. I’ve read perhaps eight or ten of his novels, my favorites being The Probability Broach and The Gallatin Divergence, both of which I highly recommend. The only one of his I disliked–and I disliked it a lot–was Hope, co-authored with Aaron Zellman. (As I noted in my LRC article “The Greatest Libertarian Books,” other favorites include Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night, and quasi-libertarian John C. Wright’s The Golden Age trilogy.) I’ve also praised Smith’s great speech “Unanimous Consent and the Utopian Vision, or, I Dreamed I Was a Signatory In My Maidenform Bra,” especially for its interesting conclusion about just how much richer we would be in a free society (his answer: at least eight times).

I’ve long been aware that Schulman was pro-IP–he is the author of the “logorights” theory of IP, which I have criticized at length elsewhere (see my comments to Schulman in this post; also On J. Neil Schulman’s Logorights; Reply to Schulman on the State, IP, and Carson; IP: The Objectivists Strike Back!). And Wright is too–he blogged about it on his LiveJournal account a while back, though I can’t find it now–he is for copyright, because he is an author of novels. I had no idea Neil Smith was also pro-IP, but apparently he is, as a minor brouhaha yesterday revealed. Apparently libertarian sci-fi authors, even anarchists like Schulman and Smith, go astray on IP–perhaps, in part, due to the influence of another libertarian novelist, Ayn Rand.

Back in 1985 or so, Smith started circulating “A New Covenant,” a declaration of libertarian principles excerpted from his The Gallatin Divergence novel. Libertarians were encouraged to copy, sign, and mail it in with a $2 “processing and archiving” fee. I myself did this back in 1991. Recently, a group called The Shire Society, which apparently is associated with the heroic, New Hampshire-based FreeTalkLive radio show (hosted by Ian Freeman and Mark Edge) and the NH-based Free State Project, was formed, as noted here: “The Shire Society is a voluntary association of sovereign individuals committed to the ideals peace and liberty. The Shire Society Declaration is intended to announce their non violent withdrawal of consent from the coercive state society.”

The Shire Society Declaration was based on Smith’s New Covenant, but was altered–improved, in the minds of the advocates of the Shire Society. Smith got wind of this and was upset, since he viewed it as plagiarism, theft, and unauthorized modification of his “property.” This led to an escalating exchange of emails between him and Ian Freeman, and others, as can be seen on this thread. After Smith called Freeman “socialist scum,” demanded restitution, cc’d his lawyer, and threatened to take it public, Freeman announced he would take it live to his national radio program that night–last night (July 13, 2010). Which he did. The MP3 file for that night’s show is here (local copy); Ian starts discussing this issue at 1:44:17, until the end of the show, about an hour later. I was asked to call in, and did so, participating from 2:10:15 for a good 15 or so minutes. The thread linked earlier and the podcast discussion is very good and interesting. As I noted, I’m a huge admirer of Smith and what he’s done for liberty. And I can understand him being angry if someone stole from him. But that’s the issue, for libertarians: was he stolen from? Asserting he was stolen from presupposes he has a legitimate property right in a pattern of words; i.e., it presupposes IP is valid. For the libertarian, that is the question itself: is IP legitimate? To assume there was theft is thus question-beggging.

To his credit, Smith has run anti-IP pieces on his site previously; but according to some of Smith’s emails posted by people in the comments in the FTL thread, he intends to write a defense of IP rights on his site, The Libertarian Enterprise, this weekend. I will be interested to see what Smith comes up with, but I can’t see how he can justify IP. First, it requires legislation and the state, and he’s an anarchist so can’t support that. Second, granting rights in nonscarce things always invades rights in already-owned scarce resources. Back in 1991 when I signed Smith’s Covenant, I was not yet anti-IP. If I were, I might have realized the words “we shall henceforward recognize each individual to be the exclusive Proprietor of his or her own Existence and of all products of that Existence” was a Rand-inspired “Creationist” view of property rights that does in fact imply IP rights. And although the framers of the Shire Declaration meant to improve on the New Covenant, they left in the language “we shall henceforward recognize each individual to be the exclusive Proprietor of his or her own Existence and of all products of that Existence.” In my view, the Shire Society Declaration should be further modified to excise or change this language: we are not “proprietors” of all “products” of our “existence”; this is vague, loose, quasi-Galambosian-Randian terminology that is subject to equivocation. Rather, we have property rights in our bodies and in all scarce resources homesteaded by us or ancestors in title, unless and until these rights are altered by an act of aggression or some consensual title transfer. (For more, see my “What Libertarianism Is“; aslo links in this post:  Objectivists: “All Property is Intellectual Property”, including The Intellectual Property Quagmire, or, The Perils of Libertarian Creationism, Rand on IP, Owning “Values”, and “Rearrangement Rights”; Libertarian Creationism; Objectivist Law Prof Mossoff on Copyright; or, the Misuse of Labor, Value, and Creation Metaphors; Inventors are Like Unto …GODS….; Intellectual Products and the Right to Private PropertyOwning Thoughts and Labor; Elaborations on Randian IP; and Objectivists on IP.)

I’d like to reiterate my respect, admiration, and gratitude for Smith and his heroic libertarian activism and wonderful novels. But I disagree with him–strongly–on IP. We who oppose IP are not collectivists or socialists. In fact it is precisely because of our reverence for property rights and justice, and our opposition to statism and socialism of all forms, that we oppose IP, as explained in my articles “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism” and “The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide.”

Update: FreeTalkLive had further discussion of this on their July 14 show, from about 44:00 on.

Another update: See Guest Comic by The Muslim Agorist: The Revolution will be Plagiarised

Update 3: Smith has written a reply of sorts: Little Criminals: The Context of Consent; Seth Cohn provided a good dissection of it in a comment on FreeKeene.com. I have to say I cannot discern an argument at all in Smith’s piece. He simply assumes that what you create is your property, and throws in a few utilitarian considerations.

Update 4: See also my post Replies to Neil Schulman and Neil Smith re IP.

Update 5: FreeTalkLive’s July 19 show discussed Smith’s Little Criminals: The Context of Consent (start at 1:02:35) and also, in response to a call-in by Todd Andrew Barnett, on the July 21 show (start at 50:41); and again, on the July 23 show (28:14) and on the July 25 show (15:10).

Update 6: Smith has posted a couple of anti-IP articles on his site, The Libertarian Enterprise, Seth Cohn’s A response to “Little Criminals” with a challenge… and Theodore Minick’s IP is dead, Long Live Media!


Curt Howland July 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I listened to the FTL from last night, I think you did very well to bring reason into the very emotional reactions that Ian had to the email exchange.

When Ian first talked about printing up his own “social contract” to actually show to people who tried to argue with him that civil disobedience was breaking the proverbial “social contract”, since the standard argument against social contract theory is that it doesn’t exist, I sent him a link to the _Covenant_ suggesting that there was no reason to re-invent the wheel.

I may not have been the only one, but I’m reasonably sure I was the first.

What I didn’t know is that that he’d actually started with it, until I saw the Shire Society flyer at PorcFest. I found the web site, and forwarded a link to L.Neil, because, well, the genesis is obvious.

Thank you for your pointer to _The Issue Of Copyright_. I was rather surprised when L.Neil said, after he read it, “I think I’m going to have to set my mind to the issue soon.” Now I know why.

We, the people trying to actually enact liberty, must deal with this issue.

Russ July 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm

“We, the people trying to actually enact liberty, must deal with this issue.”

With all due respect to SK, I think there are much more important issues for libertarians to focus on than IP.

Stephan Kinsella July 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm

There are more important issues, like taxes and war and government education, perhaps, but this is one of the big ones, IMO.

Matthew July 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm

IP is an especially “big one” because it’s a key way that government essentially bribes opinion makers to promote its continued existence.

Artisan July 15, 2010 at 5:29 am

I think that bribery argument is flawed as it is not specific to IP at all. On the contrary, most of tax redistribution is much more arbitrary than IP royalties.
Patent has also nothing to do with bribery, while it is a much greater evil (or can you say a new screw-driver design is essentially a praise to the power of the State ?

I don’t even understand how Mr Kinsella can state “copyright’s wrong because first of all, you need the state to inforce it” Why wouldn’t copyright be enforceable within a system of competing justice agencies – like any other libertarian right – I wonder? This is only an acceptable argument for patent and their exclusive claim on some “universal functionality” as written in some national register…

Curt Howland July 15, 2010 at 8:01 am

In my opinion, attribution would be “enforcible” without statute, because it’s easy to show who wrote something first by the simple mechanism of a registry.

Rather like what the Library of Congress was, back when Copyright required sending a copy for archiving there.

J Cortez July 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Russ, I respectfully disagree. IP is becoming more and more an issue everywhere and it needs to be dealt with. It’s just one front of many.

Consider it a function of the division of labor.

At LvMI, Block is the roads scholar, Hoppe keeps building the philosophical groundwork, Rockwell is the cultural and policy critic, DiLorenzo is the economic historian and Lincoln scholar, Murphy and Salerno are Fed watchers, Woods is the historical writer of popular books, Raico is the historian of liberal thought, etc, etc. Everybody has their own little niche.

Kinsella is an IP lawyer. Being a lawyer, he could probably go after other things, but to my mind, he’s better equipped to attack IP than any other.

mpolzkill July 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Nice, Cortez. What’s Russ?

J Cortez July 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm


I was responding to Russ, the commenter who posted above. My comment appeared under Kinsella’s because he responded to Russ first.

mpolzkill July 14, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Mr. Cortez,

Haha, understandable.

No, I was taking a dig at Russ.

You made a very nice list of the specialties of some of the vanguards of libertarian thought today (not to be a fanboy, but who else is expending this kind of effort and putting it all on the line today? Please let me know). And I took the opportunity to take a gratuitous potshot at this anonymous longtime potshotter, Russ. What is Russ’s function?

Russ July 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Russ’ function, as he sees it, is to try to keep the anarchists here honest and on target (and to refer to himself in the third person *grin*). If that requires the occasional potshot, so be it.

Russ July 24, 2010 at 10:08 pm

“Kinsella is an IP lawyer. Being a lawyer, he could probably go after other things, but to my mind, he’s better equipped to attack IP than any other.”

Point taken.

I just think that there are a lot more IP threads here than there are threads dealing with Obamacare, cap and trade, etc., that are much more imminent threats than is IP. I think it would be good strategy for LvMI to plan their posts a little more intelligently, and in proportion to the threat involved. But that’s just me. Perhaps asking anarchists to plan their work and work their plan is a bit too much like asking cats to march in formation, eh?

Stephan Kinsella July 24, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Russ, different people post on what they know best. I post a lot on IP. Shoudl I post less, if others don’t post enough on Obamacare? And no, you can’t coordinate a bunch of volunteers.

RWW July 15, 2010 at 12:53 am

…I think you did very well to bring reason into the very emotional reactions that Ian had to the email exchange.

I think an emotional reaction is very appropriate when someone threatens to hurt you.

Curt Howland July 15, 2010 at 8:09 am

“an emotional reaction is very appropriate”

Both were emotional.I heard Kinsella speak to Ian on FTL, so I can only comment on that exchange.

When someone initiates an emotional interaction, I try to base my reaction in reason as much as I can, specifically because it has been my experience that facing emotion with emotion only makes things worse.

Brian Singer July 14, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Mr. Kinsella,
I’ve written to you previously regarding my personal struggle with the issue of IP. Thank you so much for posting this and further complicating said struggle just when I thought I was about to arrive at a resolution.
Reason dictates that we continually question ourselves to determine what we know and what we believe. Seriously, I appreciate the diesel fuel you just threw on my personal fire.

Renegade Division July 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Surprisingly Brian, Liberty is not about the ideological compromise of two individuals.

Manuel Lora July 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I don’t quite think this is “one of the big ones” yet, at least not in the US. Taxes, inflation, war, empire, war on drugs, police state and government education I think are much more devastating. It’s a problem to be sure, and causes a reduction in wealth and a loss of culture but not to the extent that the others do, IMO.

Ian Freeman July 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm


Thanks for the article – minor correction. You misquote the Shire Society document, claiming it says, “we shall henceforward recognize each individual to be the exclusive Proprietor of his or her own Existence and of all products of that Existence.”

when the relevant line from the Shire Society Declaration actually says:

“FIRST, each individual is the exclusive proprietor of his or her own existence and all products thereof, holding no obligations except those created by consent;”

I think that our version pretty much nullifies IP claims, but Mark disagrees. Perhaps it could have been better.

Stephan Kinsella July 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Ian, you’re right–I was quoting Smith’s own document by accident. My mistake.

Your formulation still says an individual is the “proprietor” of all “products” of one’s existence. This could be taken to mean ideas or reputations that you “produce”. I’m not sure the “consent” thing gets you off the hook–after all, if A has property in something, B has an obligation not to invade it. But I see what you are saying and what you intended. I think it would be better to have said each individual is the initial owner of his own body and any scarce resources he homesteads or acquires contractually from a previous owner. But that’s Monday morning quarterbacking–overall it’s a beautiful Declaration. SK

Kevin Carson July 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I guess the lesson is, if you’re trying to build a free society, you should only be influenced by ideas that are in the public domain, unless you want a DMCA letter served on your ass. Maybe Smith should go the Galambos route and make everyone reading his ideas sign a contract promising not to talk about them. Jesus wept.

Cory Brickner July 14, 2010 at 9:30 pm


I, like you, think Neil has done wonders for painting the picture of an anarchocapitalist liberty in his books. He alone helped me move from being a small government Libertarian to a no government capitalist because The Probability Broach, and my favorite, Pallas, allowed me to grasp the concepts I couldn’t comprehend before. This is not unlike what you’ve done for me with respect to being able to conceptualize the issues surrounding IP. Neil can be a cantankerous, stubborn, son-of-a-b*tch when he feels he’s been wronged. Let’s hope you can help enlighten him the same way he has enlighened us!

Stephan Kinsella July 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Thanks, Cory. I would not presume to lecture Neil, who is my senior in this movement and from whom I’ve learned a lot. He can make up his own mind about IP. As Rand said of Mises, “Let him alone. He’s done enough.” That said, if he maintains his IP stance then I think it’s an error. But none of us is perfect.

I’ve loved a lot of his books. I bet I’ve read 10 of them, including Pallas, Nagasaki Vector, Tom Paine Maru, and on and on. In fact if I’m not mistaken it is one of his books (I am not sure, but I think so) that I found a cool formulation about the interminable free will debate. Two of his characters were talking about free will. One of them was debating whether our actions are determined by nature or nurture–environment or genetics, something like this. The other says no, that’s a false dichotomy: sure nature and nurture play a role, but there is also free will. So, he says, better to think of it as 1/3 nature, 1/3 nurture, 1/3 free will. I have tried to find that passage again but haven’t been able to.

Matthew Alexander July 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Bravo, Mr. Kinsella.

RWW July 15, 2010 at 12:40 am

Of LNS’s works, I’ve only read The Probability Broach. I had planned to read others, but I don’t think I could stomach them after this.

Jim Davidson July 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

It might amuse you to read “Ceres” which is available for free on the web here:
Big Head Press has a graphic novel version of “The Probability Broach” free for viewing, and also “Roswell Texas,” “Phoebus Krumm,” and “The Time Peeper” graphic novels, also free.

Some people say that certain authors only have one book in them, and that their subsequent books are basically the same as the first. I don’t think that’s true of Neil, and I would encourage anyone to read “Pallas” and “Forge of the Elders” at least, perhaps “Crystal Empire,” “Tom Paine Maru,” and “Venus Belt Wars.” He also has done some impressive work with Lando Calrissian in Star Wars novels. There are many others, and I think the coordinated arm series is very distinct from his other work, as are the three Star Wars novels.

Certainly anyone interested in the best of his works could do well following the advice of the LIbertarian Futurist Society which gave Prometheus awards to Neil for “The Probability Broach,” “Pallas,” and “Forge of the Elders.”

Peter July 15, 2010 at 1:55 am

Well, L. Neil (and “Cathy” in that thread, if she’s not his sock-puppet), is clearly a Randian; his reaction is only to be expected of a Randian. (I had to laugh at his note about people “calling themselves libertarian, but clearly not being libertarians”, coming from a Randian, who are in no way libertarians. Randians have a lot of overlap with libertarian ideas, yes, but also a lot of ideas that are way outside the sphere of libertarianism…as Rand herself recognized in denying that she was one!)

Jim Davidson July 19, 2010 at 10:27 pm

It would be a mistake to suppose that Neil’s wife Cathy is a sock puppet. But I suspect you’ve never met either one, so what would you know? lol

I also think it would be a mistake to suppose that Neil is a Randroid. He’s certainly read Rand. I don’t think he would agree to call himself a “student of Objectivism.” You might want to actually read some of what he’s written. A huge amount of his non-fiction is available free for the reading at ncc-1776.org where he (and, incidentally, I and quite a few others) has been published since 1995.

Peter July 19, 2010 at 10:54 pm

You’re right, I’ve never met either one…I didn’t know Cathy was his wife; I suspected she was probably L. Neil himself in “drag” (i.e., sock-puppet).

(I’ve read several of his books and one or two of his Libertarian Enterprise articles over the years, but I don’t frequent that site. If you’re the Indomitus Report Jim Davidson, I’ve read a few of yours, too :))

roy July 15, 2010 at 4:55 am

I used to like TPB, then I started reading Vernor Vinge….

I heartily recommend “The Ungoverned”, fun little novella, but I absolutely love “A Deepness in the Sky”. The Realtime series is also excellent and a very good exponent of libertarian philosophy and practice.

Jim Davidson July 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Well, of course, “The Ungoverned” is a story set in the “realtime” series. “The Peace War” is first, followed by “The Ungoverned” which introduces the main character in “Marooned in Realtime.” I think ‘A Deepness in the Sky’ is excellent. I’m also enamoured of “A Fire Upon the Deep” for reasons of my own, and “The Witling” for a look at an author in his early days. I did not find “Rainbow’s End” at all enjoyable, though I gather there was a version on the web for free for some time.

Michael McLees July 15, 2010 at 9:27 am

I wonder, if Kinsella made physical copies of Smith’s books and then sold them online at http://www.halfpricesmithbooks.com without Smith’s permission, if you all would be so charitable to the anti-IP folks like Kensella.

Matthew Alexander July 15, 2010 at 9:32 am

What are you getting at?

mpolzkill July 15, 2010 at 10:02 am

I don’t know either, strange. Probably has something to do with this spanking he received:


Michael McLees July 15, 2010 at 10:18 am

Well, let’s see…

If you answer yes, then effectively, you’re saying that Kensella should be able to profit from Smith’s ideas without Smith’s permission. If that’s your position, fine, but I doubt you’d find much support if such a thing actually occurred.

And if you answer no, then you’ve just undermined Kinsella’s stance on IP.

mpolzkill July 15, 2010 at 10:24 am

I’d be charitable to Kinsella if he started this business. He’d have to of suffered major brain trauma.

Matthew Alexander July 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Answer yes to what? You didn’t ask a yes-or-no question. You just wondered something.

Are you asking whether we think he should be permitted to sell those books without someone resorting to violence or the threat thereof to stop him? My answer is yes. It would be incredibly rude, but if he owns the ink and paper and puts it into book form, then we have no justifiable recourse to violence to stop him.

A book dealer in the US tried to do this to Tolkien. Tolkien politely asked his fans not to purchase the unauthorized version and the dealer soon went out of business.

Jim Davidson July 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I share your view that L. Neil Smith has done enormous work for freedom. He has inspired a great many people since his 1979 novel “The Probability Broach” was first published. I am one of those persons.

When I saw the Shire Society Declaration, it was very pleasing. First, I think the more people who are promoting a free society based on zero aggression, the better. Second, I had very, very bad experiences trying to convey ideas about self-defence on the Keene forum, where I was chastised by Ian Freeman as inappropriately violent. Of course, I really don’t believe Freeman when he includes a right of self-defence in his Shire Society Declaration, because of his long standing pattern of attacking all dissent that involves self-defence as a tactic. Since I’m clearly not welcome on his forum, I’m not interested in discussing the issue of self-defence dissent on that forum any further.

My own view is that Neil, by blind copying his attorney, is not threatening the force of the state. He is, however, acting to protect what he sees as his interests. I am not convinced that his interest in the Covenant for Unanimous Consent extends to the Shire Society Declaration. These seem, to me, to be two different documents. The later one clearly derives inspiration and some text from the earlier. I’m not convinced that efforts by myself and Dennis Lee Wilson to promote the Covenant at various events has resulted in anything like a windfall for Neil.

Rather, I think it is just another one of those things people tried to do while fighting off the depredations of the state in the early centuries of our struggle. I think imitation in this case is meant as flattery.

I’m not convinced there is any IP involved here. It also isn’t clear to me that the zero aggression principle was never previously enunciated before Neil wrote the Covenant. One can go back to Epicurus and Laozi for similar ideas, and to Ayn Rand in 1961′s Virtue of Selfishness for an inclusion of the idea of initiating force as the source of error. Murray Rothbard in Myth of National Defence writes essentially the entire zero aggression principle. To my knowledge, none of these other authors are credited by Neil in his published versions of the Covenant.

This lack of primacy might have some impact on the issue of whether anyone owes anyone else compensation. Personally, I think the Shire Society could do worse things than offer Neil a licence fee of 10 cents for every person who sends in the Shire declaration with $5 or more. Besides, what is ten cents going to be worth next year?

RWW July 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

My own view is that Neil, by blind copying his attorney, is not threatening the force of the state.

What other purpose could it possibly serve?

Jim Davidson July 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Notifying his attorney of something he thinks his attorney should know. An attorney may be involved in a contract negotiation, in a private discussion, in giving advice, in talking Neil down from something stupid. An attorney is counsel, and you may recall that one of the innate, inherent, important freedoms we all are supposed to enjoy is the right of counsel. You might prefer to get counsel from a priest, you might not.

Everyone has a right to counsel of their choice. For whatever purpose they please.

Having a court serve papers on Ian Freeman would threaten the force of the state. Copying an attorney does not. If you don’t understand the difference, I’m pretty sure I cannot help you at this point. If you do the constitution thing, you might want to take a peek at amendment six. It enshrines the right of counsel which you seem to feel has no meaning except as a threat of force.

Peter July 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm

While what you say is perfectly correct, it wasn’t copying his attorney on the email that was the issue, it was the statement in the email that he had done so: the way it was phrased made it sound threatening, and the only possible threat an attorney (as such) poses is the threat of state force. He could have CC’d his attorney without pointing out that he had done so; or, if he thought it polite to inform the addressee who else was getting a copy, could have said so in a less “threatening” manner.

Jim Davidson July 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm

In his essay at ncc-1776 dot org Neil reiterates his purpose in copying his attorney. You can believe whatever you wish to believe. But copying someone, and saying that you have copied someone, does not initiate force.

Peter July 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I agree, and I don’t believe and didn’t say otherwise; I just said that the way he said it made the assumption that he was considering a lawsuit a reasonable one. Possibly not to someone who knows him well enough, but certainly to strangers.

Renegade Division July 15, 2010 at 6:09 pm

@Jim Davis
I understand you like a lot of Libertarians wonder if its perfectly justify defending yourself or responding to aggression with aggression, then why is it that some people have so much objection on using violence against state’s violence.

The truth is both of you are correct. Sure technically its justified to respond to state’s aggression against aggression, but people like Gandhi and other non-violent liberty resistors have understood is that for some reason the more you respond against them with violence, the more powerful they get.
Look at 9/11, lets assume that terrorists were being aggressed against by the US govt, they went ahead and destroyed WTC towers and killed 4000 something people. What happened? Who become more powerful? The US govt. And it got legitimacy to invade countries.

Same goes with responding to any kind of aggression to state. Yes if you try really really hard you may be able to completely squash the state’s aggression, but there was something Gandhi observed about the means used to acquire anything.

He gave an example, which went something like this:
“You may have a watch in your possession, but your relationship with that Watch is established by the way you acquired it. If you created it or purchased it, then you are its owner, if you borrowed it, then you are its renter, if you stole it/robbed it then you have a stolen property in your possession”

Now just because a watch is stolen vs its rightfully acquired doesn’t affect the watch physically, a watch will not show accurate or wrong time if it was owned justly or acquired through aggression, but what really changes is essentially your long term possession of it.

If you stole that watch then rest assured someone has a claim on it so they will eventually come for it and the society will have the watch handed over to its rightful owner.
Someone else might just steal it from you, after all its a stolen property, and you won’t be able to say or do anything about it, it didn’t belong to you to start with, you used aggression to acquire it, now how can you show someone else’s aggression against you.

If you justly acquired the watch then the society, and the property rights will be with you. Someone may yet steal it but compared from the previous situation its much different.

Essentially the goal you want to achieve must match the path you want to take to reach that goal(and it works for good as well as evil philosophies), if you wanna establish a peaceful society, using war will give you very temporary peace, if you want to establish a warring society(such as third Reich) then using peaceful methods to achieve that goal will result in a very weak warrior society(Imagine if Hitler was doing Satyagraha in front of the Reichstag).

That’s why you cannot use violence against state to achieve a non-violent goal.

So what is the solution for this issue, when is it ok to respond aggression with aggression(After all you wouldn’t want to use non-violent means to defend your sister from being raped, or car being destroyed by a bomb).

My conclusion comes down to a simple principle:
If the aggressor’s right and wrong are twisted around, his polarities are reversed, if what you consider right is wrong for them, and what you consider is wrong is right for them, then there is no way you could win against them by responding to their aggression with more aggression.

Jim Davidson July 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm

You might be aware that Gandhi once said that the greatest crime of the British empire was disarming the entire subcontinent. I don’t think that Gandhi used non-violent means to the exclusion of defensive force because he preferred it that way. You are welcome to believe whatever it is you wish to believe.

For reasons of my own, I have come to believe that the apes who support the state are always going to outnumber everyone else. Bullies and jocks and frat rats seem to breed more of the same. So it would surprise me very much if anyone ever resisted the state with force and were successful. My analysis of the history of efforts to use force to overthrow the state, going back to the 1649 beheading of Charles I, indicates to me that all such efforts have failed utterly.

I agree with Laozi (and Etienne de la Boetie, and others) that the best we can do at this point is withdraw our consent to be governed and reduce the amount of support we provide to the state. I believe that agorism has a secret weapon just now arriving on the scene in the form of free market money combined with high level crypto. It is now possible to have a private economic transaction between two people anywhere in the world that cannot be detected by anyone else. Accordingly, it cannot be regulated, taxed, nor prohibited. When these technologies become widespread, as I believe they are going to become, the state will starve. In its death throes, much pain and anguish will be spread around. But we are going to kill it. And I’m going to dance on its grave.

Egon Spengler July 15, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Second, I had very, very bad experiences trying to convey ideas about self-defence on the Keene forum, where I was chastised by Ian Freeman as inappropriately violent.

That’s because you were advocating the INITIATION of violence in your posts. This is because you have an interest in making those who love liberty appear to be violent and not in control of their emotions. You have shown a very evident pattern of this throughout the years. Freekeene.com is a fine website and is inhabited by very peaceful people. You should be very ashamed by attempting to intentionally portray them in a negative light.

Some people have been watching your actions and have found out that you show up for pro-liberty events, then try your best to foment hatred and division at them. You also do the same on liberty forums and groups on the internet. These people watched you because you brought such an incredible amount of negative attention upon yourself, you had to be deemed insane, anti-social, or just an agent provocateur of some type. Nothing happens in a vacuum, Jim and somebody always takes notice of it should it be loud and offensive enough. Please let your handlers know that, so they may better program a willing slave like you.

Their tactics are as tiresome and transparent as you are.

Jim Davidson July 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I was, of course, not advocating initiation of force, you liar.

What I wrote was on a thread about a pig who had smashed the face and body of one of the activists in Keene. You can go to hell, and take your lies with you.

Augie July 15, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I downloaded the (local copy) which ended at around 1:22:00… Maybe the off site version will get me to the meat of the matter. Though I’m already on board the “IP is beyond farcical train” I enjoy hearing it hashed over.

The MP3 file for that night’s show is here (local copy); Ian starts discussing this issue at 1:44:17, until the end of the show, about an hour later.

TokyoTom July 15, 2010 at 10:55 pm


Thanks for bringing this to our attention, laying it out for us and providing all the links. I’ve been listening to the radio show.

I also appreciate your effort to expose what you see as fundamental problems with statist IP and to explore a different intellectual foundation.

I have a few comments.

First, the co-host, Mark Edge, basically has it right: FreeTalkLive radio host Ian Freeman has acted like a jackass and a jerk, and appears “congenitally incapable of not being condescending”. Someone else on the show mentions Freeman’s “d*ck move”. And “crusty” L. Neil Smith clearly over-reacted as well. This is not simply a surface issue, but a deep one. What the brouhaha is about is REALLY about is about frustrated human reactions when community breaks down and leaves us with little but emotion and self-righteous posturing on “principle”.

Rather than really being about IP, the whole thing seems to me to be about Smith feeling – understandably in my view – like he was slighted, and the negative pissing contest that resulted. The eager young Shire guys got caught up in their own project, and it seemed never even to enter their minds that they should have troubled themselves to let Smith know in advance that they intended to use Smith’s work in drafting their own declaration. If that happened in a real community of people who knew each other, wouldn’t we all think that the Shire guys had ignored what seems like a natural protocol? Where is the “compassion” that some on the talk show referred to?

This discussion of human interaction and emotion is NOT a side issue — in a real stateless word, how would people deal with each other, and reach agreement on principles and how they apply in particular circumstances? Our mass society makes it easier to act more shallowly and self-interestedly, and easier to diss and mock others while finding convenient self-justifications – including statements of principle (“my work is property!” or “IP is theft!”) – for doing so. This is clearly evident in the Smith-Freeman IP dispute, but we also see it on practically every blog, including threads here. Modern technology makes it possible for us to have great conversations with interesting people all around the world, but it also makes it difficult to satisfy our need for REAL community, and makes it easy for us to act more immaturely and less responsibly.

Second, as to what IP “should” be, Stephan will not be surprised to hear that I agree with Mark Edge’s suggestion is that “property” is really no more than what a community of people AGREE is property … and it there is a very wide realm of economic interests that human societies have treated and do treat as a legitimate property interest. (A separate, but related issue, is the negative role that the state can play.) In short, a society can very well agree that a producer of intellectual work has some claims regarding control, compensation and copying, even when the work passes out of his/her hands.

I made a few comments to Stephan’s November 2009 post on “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism”, which I have gathered together here: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/12/20/what-is-quot-property-quot-a-few-weird-thoughts-on-evolution-society-quot-property-rights-quot-and-quot-intellectual-property-quot-and-the-principles-we-structure-to-justify-them.aspx

At that time I made two comments on society, property and IP that Stephan left unaddressed; I copy them here for the interested reader:

2.1 http://blog.mises.org/11045/intellectual-property-and-libertarianism/#comment-628161
Basically, “property” is simply the name we give to the resources that we are able personally to protect, as well as those which – via sophisticated shared mechanisms that continue to be developed within communities over time – we can protect, plus our recognized share of common assets.

In a state of nature, very little is secure, as most life forms have limited means of securing or maintaining exclusive control over assets. What one predator catches, another often soon steals. Different species have developed different ways of coping with the ongoing struggle, utilizing varying degrees of cunning, speed, strength and cooperation.

Humans have triumphed over the rest of nature because we have found sophisticated ways of balancing individual initiative and moderating intra-group struggle with cooperation, and devised methods to acquire, use and defend resources.

Property has been a key tool, but we can readily see that our “property” has its roots in the ways that our cousin creatures invest energy in marking out territory, fighting (individually or in groups) to protect their young, and growling over bones. At the same time, we can see that animals treat each other as dinner, make calculated decisions as to when to “steal” resources that others are guarding, and as well find advantage in cooperating, both with relatives of their kind and with others.

Our need to defend property from other groups has fed our inbred mutual suspicions of “others”, and our ongoing battles, both for dominance within groups and to acquire the resources held by rival groups, – and has led directly to states.

Bruce Yandle has addressed the ascendance of man through methods such as property to facilitate cooperation and to abate ruinous conflicts over resources; he has an interesting short piece I`ve excerpted here: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/11/20/bruce-yandle-on-the-tragedy-of-the-commons-the-evolution-of-cooperation-and-property.aspx#

To tie this in more closely with Stephan’s battle with libertarians and others over IP, I note I have further discussed the ways that groups have, in order to strengthen group cohesion and dampen conflict, of developing and inculcating mores; formal religions are obviously just one branch of this tree:

- see my discussion with fundamentalist here: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/08/30/a-few-simple-thoughts-on-the-evolution-of-moral-codes-and-why-we-fight-over-them-and-religion-liberty-and-the-state.aspx

- and my discussions with Gene Callahan and Bob Murphy on whether there are “objective” moral truths, or simply a felt need on their part to find some: http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/search.aspx?q=callahan+moral

These are relevant because they explore not property per se, but our related need to make our property rules stick, by tying them to “sacred postulates” of one kind or another. The problem with this, of course, is that it makes us difficult to abandon what we all pretty much assumed was sacred, like IP. (Of course it also makes even discussing property quite difficult at times.)

Published: November 20, 2009 9:13 AM

2.2 http://blog.mises.org/11045/intellectual-property-and-libertarianism/#comment-628253
The deep roots of “property” are not in principle but in simple competition, physical defense of assets valuable enough to make the effort worthwhile, and in the grudging recognition by others – more willingly offered by those who share bonds of community – that yielding to others’ claims may be more productive than challenging them. This is as true for rest of creation as it is for man. While we have developed property to a a very sophisticated degree, at it’s core property remains very much about the Darwinian struggle to survive and prosper, violence, theft and calculations as to when challenging control over an asset is not worth the effort.

To the extent we’re past that, which is quite a ways indeed, property is a social construct that is flexible (though rigidified in various ways, including legislation) and based primarily on practical considerations as to what parameters best engender wealth and respond to shared purposes by minimizing free-for-alls, externalities, free-riding & rent-seeking and facilitating voluntary transactions.

Elinor Ostrom has spent alot of time documenting sophisticated local community property rights, all of which at the end of the day all supported by threats of sanctions and violence against rule breakers and outsiders. http://bit.ly/2caqUr

It’s natural that we feel strongly about what we consider to be ours, but this feeling is a gut one that is not in essence grounded on principles deeper than our sense of fair play and just desserts in a community to which we feel we have bonds of common purpose.

And we have a natural tendency to dress up our shared institutions – such as property rights – in moral precepts.

But we always remain subject to problems of theft, especially so as our bonds of community and shared purpose loosen. Libertarians are absolutely right to keep shining a spotlight on how the state has become an instrument of theft.

As for IP, as specialized knowledge can be quite valuable, it seems quite possible for me to imagine a society that developed IP and enforced it mutually, as a way to minimize high costs for protecting trade secrets.But such rules would not be enforceable against other societies, unless resort is made to government. And it seems clear to me that there are substantial rent-seeking costs now associated with state-granted IP.

Published: November 20, 2009 at 11:54 am

Kind regards, your local friendly misanthropic enviro-fascist,


Stephan Kinsella July 20, 2010 at 12:09 am

I don’t think the shire guys did anything wrong at all, I must say. Maybe Neil should have been given a bit more prominent credit,but it’s clear that he doesn’t want that at all–he doesn’t want them to have used it at all. Given this, what compromise can there be? He has no right to stop them. Period.

As for Ian’s overreaction: you know he tried to apologize, and then Smith wrote the reply “Little Criminals” linked above in Update 3 of my post. Do you still think Ian’s reaction was inappropriate?

TokyoTom July 20, 2010 at 2:49 am


Thanks for your note.

My point is that people should be discussing not simply IP principles but how people tick and how cooperation and community work. If you want to operate without a state, people are going to have to start thinking seriously about elemental issues of how to get along.

You prefer to talk about principles, but it’s pretty obvious here that the chief issue is both parties getting onto self-righteous snits because Freeman and others who reworked Smith’s “Covenant” completely ignored Smith before rolling out their Declaration. This elicited a nasty response from Smith, and then both sides preferred blustering, public posturing, line drawing and name-calling to any attempt at private discussion or mollification.

Isn’t rule No. 1 the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? And isn’t Rule No. 0 the Consideration Rule: Before you act, think about who might be affected by your actions, and how they might perceive them? (Actually, just made that one up right now, but it’s simple common sense and good manners.) Where did Ian Freeman display any foresight, consideration or concern for how Smith might respond – either in advance, or in his “apology”?

Yes, I listened to the podcast, in which Freeman reads from his completely insincere and insulting “apology”. I think his co-host Mark Edge was completely right in criticizing Freeman over it. Did Freeman make another apology after that that I missed?

Yes, it’s clear NOW that Smith doesn’t want Freeman to have used the Covenant at all, but who knows how he would have reacted if he’d been given notice of the Shire attempt before it was finished, invited to participate, or given a chance to review/comment before it was made available to sign? If at that time he was still adamantly opposed, the Shire guys might also have decided to do further wordsmithing to avoid directly lifting from Smith.

No, there’s not alot of room for compromise now, but that just proves my point. The hard feelings very well could have been avoided; what good do they serve now, other than to reinforce one’s selection of principles that conveniently support one’s position, while interfering with an open discussion?


Dennis Lee Wilson July 16, 2010 at 12:56 am

In my article in The Libertarian Enterprise titled “Why I think the Covenant is more important than the Constitution” ( http://tinyurl.com/yhqrr82 ) I stated that I thought it “important to explore the virtues and possible applications of the Covenant of Unanimous Consent” and, given the pending collapse of the USA government, that the future we should be preparing for now, begins the day after. And that “An important part of that future SHOULD BE the emergence of some communities, somewhere, based on the Covenant.”

I was very disappointed at the prospects for the future after reading the goals of the Shire Society followed by the founder’s modified version of the Covenant. My first impression was the total lack of integration. By chopping the entire Supersedure paragraph, the whole purpose of such a Society is meaningless. If our future is to be fashioned by such shallow, expedient thinking, we are—in the words of the immortal Mogambo Guru—freakin’ doomed.

The only valid concern I have read was that mentioned by Mr. Kinsella.. However, thanks entirely to the body of work that he has created regarding Intellectual Property (IP)—and the fact that it requires a government to enforce—I don’t see how the “all products” wording of the FIRST precept could possibly include what we currently classify as Intellectual Property. I would hope to convince him of that and that he not secede from the Covenant, but instead explore—via articles and essays—where and how Covenant communities could be formed, who could populate them and how they might expect to interact with the surrounding culture(s) and what an individual Signatory could do to free him/her self from our bankrupt and collapsing culture.

These are only some of the many issues that I think should be addressed NOW rather than after the collapse described in my article.

Except for early articles by L Neil Smith himself, I have been unable to find ANY articles supporting the Covenant—except those I wrote. There is much yet to be written on ways to utilize the Covenant.

Dennis Lee Wilson
Signatory: Covenant of Unanimous Consent http://tinyurl.com/c2h2u3

Stephan Kinsella July 16, 2010 at 7:14 am

Dennis, I have no intention to “secede” from the Covenant. I like it. I like the Shire thing too. Anything for liberty.

I am curious–is there a list of signatories posted online anywhere? I cain’t find it.

Peter July 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm

By chopping the entire Supersedure paragraph, the whole purpose of such a Society is meaningless
I have to disagree: the supersedure clause in the “New Covenant”, in particular, is empty nonsense. Clause 3 says “any Relationship not thus mutually agreeable shall be considered empty and invalid” — i.e., anything that would be superseded by Clause 6 is already “empty and invalid”, without having to wait for “UNANIMOUS CONSENT of the Members or Inhabitants of any Association or Territory”; also, it doesn’t define what “any association or territory” means: since I am the only inhabitant of the area within, say, 5 feet of where I’m now sitting, “unanimous consent” means my own consent (which is presumably given by signing the document), so “UPON UNANIMOUS CONSENT of the Members or Inhabitants of any Association or Territory” could mean “as of this moment”. If an area of 5 feet around me isn’t sufficient to trigger the clause, what is? 1000 feet? The political entity that happens to claim me? The Earth?

(Also, Clause 1: “each individual to be the exclusive Proprietor of his or her own Existence” — what does that mean? You can be the “exclusive proprietor” of your body, but you can’t be a proprietor of “existence”. And the use of the word “own” could be interpreted to mean the opposite of what you think it means: OK, you’re the “exclusive Proprietor of your own Existence”. Is this your Existence, then? If not, you’re not necessarily the exclusive Proprietor of It)

TokyoTom July 16, 2010 at 1:13 am

FWIW, I ran acroos the following piece and vid clip on the launch of the Shire Society declaration at the SF Muslim Examiner by Davi Barker, who reportedly enscribed the declaration:



Richard Garner July 16, 2010 at 7:44 am

I disagree with both the content (suh as that “no obligations not formed by consent” line) and the purpose of the Shire Society declaration (seems pretty pointless to me). However, I agree with both Stephan’s views about what an important and amazing author L Neil Smith is, and Stephan’s views on IP.

It seems to me, though, that it is a pity the blood got bad so quickly between two sides. How much would Neil have made from his covenant? The matter could easily have been dealt with by apologising, including a public declaration that the Society document was developed from the Covenant, and tossing Neil $5. Whether you believe in IP or not, $5 for some good will is not much of an expense.

Dennis Lee Wilson July 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm

@peter: “… since I am the only inhabitant of the area within, say, 5 feet of where I’m now sitting, “unanimous consent” means my own consent…”

That is EXACTLY RIGHT, Peter. Awesome, isn’t it. YOU have the power over your own life and what you do with it! ANY new way of living, any “new order” can ONLY start with the individual.

Jeremy July 19, 2010 at 4:55 am

L. Neil Smith’s response is online and it’s a doozie http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2010/tle579-20100718-02.html

It’s a nothing more than a rant and I’m not sure there’s one relevant or rational point in the whole article.

“The very next thing I knew, I was being defamed, by the leader of these scavengers and parasites, to all sixteen of the listeners to his Internet radio show, and all over the Internet.”

“Even more, it’s like a rapist saying afterward, “Hey, if you were a virgin, at least that’s taken care of now. And if you weren’t, then you haven’t really lost anything, have you? True, I have benefited from your sexuality, but you still have it, don’t you? And if you didn’t want to get raped, you had no business going out in public and spraying pheromones all over. In fact, I think I’m the real victim, here.”"

“They informed me, loftily, that just because I think of an idea, that doesn’t mean it belongs to me. That if I don’t want something I created stolen, then I shouldn’t communicate it to the world. Fine—and if everybody followed this “advice”, these creeps wouldn’t have any opposition to their thievery, and no stories or books would ever be published, no songs would ever be written, no music would ever be composed.”

Peter July 19, 2010 at 6:41 am

Wow. Meltdown.

I have a small bet with myself that if I had informed these opponents of common, civilized behavior that I consider what they have done amounts to an act of initiated force against me—with all of the consequences that entails—intervention on their behalf by the State, most likely in the form of badged and uniformed policemen who could prevent me from dealing with them directly, myself, would suddenly, miraculously appear a whole lot more attractive and morally acceptable.
I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds suspiciously like “I would be justified in killing these people now, and they ought to be damn glad there are statist police around to stop me or I would!”

Stephan Kinsella July 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Dennis Lee Wilson July 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Very well written, as are ALL the articles you have written on the subject of IP.

When I first became aware of the value of living without the State, I realized that IP was the one field that remained to be addressed—the “last mile” to living without government—and you addressed it! I had my mind changed. (Actually it was more like seeing something for the first time!) The challenge is to discover ways to make money from ideas—and true idea men should be up for that challenge. There are many historical examples to use as models. Ben Franklin leaps to mind.

I hope others will read your material with that ultimate goal in mind—living without government.

TokyoTom July 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Stephan/others in the LvMI/libertarian community:

I tried to post a long comment on this on July 16, but it got caught in moderation limbo (and though I’ve said a dozen Hail Marys, it’s still stuck), so allow me to note to anyone who hasn’t seen it the backup copy of the comments that I posted to my blog:

IP Flamewars, Community and Principles; A few thoughts to Stephan on “The L. Neil Smith – FreeTalkLive Copyright Dispute” ; http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2010/07/16/ip-flamewars-community-and-principles-a-few-thoughts-to-stephan-on-quot-the-l-neil-smith-freetalklive-copyright-dispute-quot.aspx

(My purpose of a cross-link is not to capture traffic, but simply to provide access to comments that, because of too many links (I guess), I could not post here.)

The gist, which I see as semi-self-evident, is that libertarians and others who would like to build a non-statist society need to pay sincere attention not simply to “principles” but to the hard work of building the sine qua non of cooperative society: a strong sense of community.

Without real community, which entails trust, mutual respect, commitment, patience, more than a little common courtesy and, yes, shared principles and rules, we are merely bickering and self-justifying and self-aggrandizing individuals and factions – for which “principles” can simply be a line of division.

Are those here genuinely interested in a free society? If so, they should understand what they need to do to actively help and not hinder the effort.

Kind regards,


Stephan Kinsella July 20, 2010 at 7:57 am

Someone wrote me as follows:


My own skepticism at the self-contradictions in “intellectual property” was kindled over two decades ago with an essay on its historical roots by Tom Palmer. Your reasoning, a model of clarity, has been dragging me the last few figurative feet recently, and it speaks for itself above (and in your links).

What gripes me is the cavalier attitude of Neil Smith and Neil Schulman, whose novels I’ve admired for over 30 years, and whom I both know personally. They are both ready to presume that anyone who questions whether IP is logically coherent, or even enforceable with the guns of the State, is thereby a collectivist and wants to make them and their families starve. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If a wrong conceptual turn has been made, and is foundering, as IP is against the Internet, “the world’s largest copying machine” (Cory Doctorow), it needs to be corrected and our steps retraced. This is true with what libertarians are doing to challenge “eminent domain,” for example, which is even more venerable than copyrights and patents. This is true for all science: Why shouldn’t all faulty models and their political superstructures be examined, such as with “global warming”?

What I find especially dismaying, beyond LNS’s and JNS’s uncharacteristic and unbecoming shrieking on this issue, is their utter lack of a sense of irony. Smith’s own recent Libertarian Enterprise blog that contains his farrago of non-arguments about IP includes a report from a man who had his home ransacked and his property looted by police, because of a suspicion that he had (horrors!) actually downloaded a particular eBook that met official disfavor.

The IP regime is cracking to pieces, and giving yet another excuse – especially with the approaching abomination of the ACTA treaty – to send a dying State system’s armed minions after us. And libertarians who examine this fully and question this vigorously are the villains here? No, Neil, and no, Neil.

Kerem Tibuk July 20, 2010 at 8:15 am

Why is it so hard for some people to ask for the consent of the person who is the cause that the covenant exist?

Is parasitism that desirable for some?

Stephan Kinsella July 20, 2010 at 9:13 am

You don’t need consent of someone to use ideas. They don’t own them.

Libertarianism is against aggression, not “parasitism,” whatever that is.

Kerem Tibuk July 21, 2010 at 3:54 am

I am trying to look at this from another perspective.

Leaving aside the issue of who owns what, the creator is known but it seems no one even tried to get his consent.

Why is that really?

Do these people think they have right to someone else’s creation? Then why not come out and say it like that proudly? Do they actually know, at a subconscious level that they are parasites and can not admit it?

It is really hard to imagine the perspective of a parasite, which means who that depends on other some organism to survive instead of producing himself, for me at least.

Peter Surda July 21, 2010 at 6:14 am

Do these people think they have right to someone else’s creation?

Same objection as elsewhere. First of all, “someone else’s creation” is a metaphor. Second of all, you also admit exceptions, in the form of externalities. Despite your attempts below, you have not managed to explain this. Smith obviously didn’t anticipate Shire Society Declaration, it is an unintended consequence of his New Covenant. So, according to your own argument (just below this one), it is an externality rather than property. So what’s your problem?

Peter Surda July 20, 2010 at 10:49 am

… consent of the person who is the cause … parasitism …

Ah, so, drawing benefits from causality without consent is a property rights violation, yet, magically, externalities aren’t. In the world of IP cowards that is.

Kerem Tibuk July 21, 2010 at 2:25 am


IP and externality is not the same thing. Just like object and subject aren’t the same things.

I have told you this many times but I am trying to level with you, and really reach down.

First of IP is the result of a deliberate action while externality is an mostly an unintended consequence of other primal actions.

And more importantly, IP doesn’t need a third party to exist. Only the “creator/producer” is enough.

Externality does. And that is precisely the reason why externalities can not be owned because they are dependent on the third parties for their existence, and owning them means owning the subjective valuations of third parties, which would be absurd.

Reputation of an individual is an externality, and Crusoe can not have a reputation, unless Friday comes to the island.

Or the negative externality that may be caused by Crusoe building a seemingly ugly house. If there is nobody else on the island there is no externality to talk about. So the externality solely depends on the subjective valuations of a third party to exist, let alone be negative or positive.

But Crusoe can write novel, compose music, or even write software code all by himself and there is no requirement for some other individual to exist. He homesteads, and extends his sovereignty over his creation. He can create it, use it, forget about it and this all depends solely on him.

These really aren’t hard concepts at all. If you read about the arguments regarding externalities and try to understand them, instead of trolling for IP socialism and trying to hijack concepts that are irrelevant just to get a “gotcha” moment, that is.

Peter Surda July 21, 2010 at 6:03 am

Finally, some actual attempt to reply. If I hadn’t harassed you verbally, you might have just continued to pretend there is nothing to reply to.

IP and externality is not the same thing.

This, however, you need to prove, rather than assume.

I have told you this many times …

You may have assumed it, but you never (until now) tried to prove it.

First of IP is the result of a deliberate action while externality is an mostly an unintended consequence of other primal actions.

This is easily disproved (even ignoring vagueness-enhancements like “mostly” and “primal action”). A lot of actions have intended consequences that are nevertheless not property. For example, if I decrease the price of my goods, this will decrease the market share of substitutes, and maybe also increase the demand for complements. Yet there is no property claim in such consequences. Also, if I publish a press release that I discovered a cheaper way to produce X, the market price of shares of competing companies producing X will sink. However, I do not have a claim to the gains the traders of the shares made, even if I explicitly mention it in the press release. The reverse is also not true, IP, even in the form you promote, applies also in unanticipated consequences. For example, if you quote a question in a reply, it is not necessary that the inquirer anticipated the answer for the copyright claim to be valid. Thus, the attribute of intent is not a decisive factor for the distinction between property and externalities.

And more importantly, IP doesn’t need a third party to exist.

Externality does not require a third party either. It only requires that the beneficiary is neither trespassing nor violating contracts, so two parties are sufficient.

Only the “creator/producer” is enough.

The question whether one person is enough for the concept of property to have meaning is an ongoing point of disagreement between you and others (I think Jay Lakner). Nevertheless, it is irrelevant for solving the problems I am describing. You might remember that long time ago I divided the property right to three subsets: right to use, right to trade and right to exclude third parties. The first two are irrelevant from the perspective of IP, and last two are irrelevant if there is only one party. Or, to turn it around, the question of problematic part of IP (exclusion) is irrelevant when there is only one person. So, your objection not only does not explain the distinction between IP and externality, it explains nothing at all.

Externality does.

See above.

And that is precisely the reason why externalities can not be owned because they are dependent on the third parties for their existence, and owning them means owning the subjective valuations of third parties, which would be absurd.

As I showed above, a necessary part of IP also depends on the existence of third parties, so IP would lead to the same conclusion.

Reputation of an individual is an externality, and Crusoe can not have a reputation, unless Friday comes to the island.

Reputation is only necessarily externality for third parties. If you regulate it contractually by restricting the actions of the other party, even though no property violation occurred, modifying reputation in an undesired way might be a breach of contract. Just like a copy is an externality for a third party, but for someone who agreed to certain limits in a contract, copying might result in a breach of contract, even though there might not be any property right claims.

So the externality solely depends on the subjective valuations of a third party to exist, let alone be negative or positive.

However, the exclusion subright of property also depends on a third party to exist. To muse about the merits of IP versus physical property (or no property at all) when only one person exists is a moot point. Pray tell, what is the difference between different property systems if only one person is present? No matter how you define or divide property, you cannot execute your right to trade, you cannot execute your right to exclude third parties, and noone can violate your right to use. The concept of property makes no sense with only one person, there is no way to apply it to any situation arising in such a condition. To base the definition of property on a situation where only one person makes sense therefore is a completely useless endeavor.

But Crusoe can write novel, compose music, or even write software code all by himself and there is no requirement for some other individual to exist.

However, at the same time, the concept of excluding third parties while no other individual exists makes no sense.

These really aren’t hard concepts at all.

No, they are not, but you seem to be struggling. Especially when it took you half a year to construct reply. You probably just looked googled for “externality” and picked random parts of them and started from there, without thinking the whole argument through.

trolling for IP socialism

I explicitly formulate my theories in a falsifiable way, so that it leaves it open for attack. But instead of actually trying to refute me, IP coward, you go on rambling about ideologies and whatnot.

and trying to hijack concepts that are irrelevant just to get a “gotcha” moment

I’m attempting to work as a proper scientist by formulating falsifiable theories, and asking questions, instead of reverting to mysticism, metaphors and “pull-assumptions-out-of-one’s-assisms”.

Kerem Tibuk July 21, 2010 at 6:51 am


I do not how much clearer I can get but I will give it one more shot.

Do you know the difference between an “object” and an “subject”?

IP is object and externality is subject.

IP is meaningful by itself, it doesn’t depend on anything else to exist.

A novel is an object. When the author writes it, it comes to existence and it doesn’t depend on anyone else to exist.

Externality is by definition, is a subject. When you take an action, if that action effects another “subject” it is called an externality. Like when you decrease the price of you goods, this might effect other “subjects”, substitute goods, as an externality. The value may go up or down but since change depends on other things to exist, and more importantly depends on subjective valuations of other individuals you can no claim the result of the difference as property.

Property is the extension of individual sovereignty and meaningful in an isolated state. It is the extension of “isolation” to the social context. When you are in isolation there is no challanges to the soveirgnty of your property. The “right” part becomes meaningful when there is a social context and if you can extend the previous isolated situation to the social context.

Crusoe homesteads an apple. When he is alone the apple is his, it is his property but there is no natural challenge to this. When Friday comes to the island, the possibility of a challenge comes to existence. If Crusoe can extend his situation in isolation to the new social situation and still maintains his sovereignty over the apple just as he was doing prior to Fridays arrival, then we can say that he is exercising his property rights.

Externalities have nothing to do with this, and more importantly it is just the opposite.

Unlike property, externality can not exist for an individual in isolation. It requires at least Friday to be present. So externalities and bringing about the externalities is not extending the isolated state to the social context but only a consequence of the social context itself. It is an uncontrollable effect of the social interaction.

Property is not social creation it is the result of individual action and is the basis, corner stone of the society. If you believe in individuality and self ownership you must accept that property must precede the society.

Peter Surda July 21, 2010 at 7:31 am

Do you know the difference between an “object” and an “subject”?

It depends on the background. From legal perspective, object and subject have one meaning, but I assume you meant something else. You probably meant that object has an existence independent of people, which subject doesn’t.

IP is object and externality is subject.

Huh? I mean really, huh?

IP is meaningful by itself, it doesn’t depend on anything else to exist.

No, it’s not. I’ve been arguing this for a long time. The boundaries of IP, just like anything else that is based on causality and/or similarity, require interpretation, outside of the interpretation they do not exist.

A novel is an object. When the author writes it, it comes to existence and it doesn’t depend on anyone else to exist.

Pull-out-of-your-assism. Arbitrary assumption. Circular reasoning. Falling prey to metaphors. This is exactly the same sort of nonsense as “creation of mind” or “fruit of labour”.

The value may go up or down but since change depends on other things to exist, and more importantly depends on subjective valuations of other individuals you can no claim the result of the difference as property.

The scope of any immaterial concept depends on subjective interpretation of individuals.

Property is the extension of individual sovereignty and meaningful in an isolated state.

Meaningless metaphor. How, pray tell, do you distinguish between something that is the extension of an individual sovereignty and that which is not? How do you distinguish between things that are “meaningful in an isolated state” and those which are not? Especially since “meaningful” requires a person’s understanding.

When you are in isolation there is no challanges to the soveirgnty of your property.

When you are in isolation, the concept of property has no meaning.

Unlike property, externality can not exist for an individual in isolation.

Property cannot exist for an individual in isolation either. What is the property for an individual in isolation? That concept has no meaning and no use.

Property is not social creation it is the result of individual action and is the basis, corner stone of the society.

Well then, what is the meaning of property absent society? There is none. Whether it is a product of society or the other way around is irrelevant. Without society, it cannot exist.

If you believe in individuality and self ownership you must accept that property must precede the society.

Property cannot precede society any more than poker can precede society. The concept requires other people to have meaning. Even if property wasn’t the consequence of the need to divide scarce goods among more the one person, the whole concept has no meaning with just one person.

JdL July 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Kinsella, you and your rip-off-is-good nonsense bring discredit to the libertarian movement, attracting the freeloading element and sending away people who are willing to pay for what they enjoy (http://www.strike-the-root.com/node/26134). In the end, I have no doubt that your rationalizations for taking another’s work without compensation will end up where they belong, on the scrap-heap of history.

Stephan Kinsella July 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm

“JdL,” you do realize the anti-IP movement is growing, right?

Kerem Tibuk July 21, 2010 at 3:49 am

It is nothing new, for socialists movements to be growing for certain periods.

Stephan Kinsella July 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

Kerem, you and Sasha are jokes. The fact that all your arguments are so pathetic and weak is an illustration that your IP statism is at a dead end; this is teh best you got? JEsus how pathetic.

As for JdL who I assume is some character named “John deLaubenfels,” we dissected his IP confusion previously here:

mpolzkill July 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

Exactly, do you guys have big brothers or something you could call in? It’s really getting boring watching this. Could you at least tell us again about how it’s possible, without touching her, to p…..ah, I guess that bothered a lot of people around here, nevermind.

(I think that was Tibuk with that classic. Why do so many of these “IP” schemers have such exotic names? Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Seth Cohn July 21, 2010 at 10:50 am


What I do find ironic, is that you’ve posted that on Strike the Root, which is now running Drupal, a copylefted (and quite popular as a result), _free_ CMS. STR is running it in large part because of folks like me, within the Liberty community, who have shown that open source runs rings around proprietary (and thus non-free) solutions. (DailyPaul, FreeStateProject, and many others run it too)

While arguments can be made that the GPL license is current backed by copyright (I just made such an argument on the freekeene thread), in a world without copyright, open source would function nearly identically as it does now, for our purposes.

The Anti-IP crowd is winning… even with IP still around. CC, GPL and other IP using licenses essentially use it to subvert some or all of the copyright IP laws, leveraging the current laws to do it.

Dennis Lee Wilson July 21, 2010 at 2:03 am

Libertarians, anarchists and Signatories to the Covenant of Unanimous Consent still “use” government. That should be no surprise. There have been many excellent articles justifying the continued receiving of government benefits by libertarians and anarchists. Most of us still pay taxes rather than risk imprisonment. Some of us still work in tax funded universities, receive tax funded Social Security payment, work for companies with tax funded government contracts, drive on tax funded public streets and highways—and some of us receive the benefits of tax funded government IP regulations.

Except for the last item, receiving government benefits has never stopped libertarians etc from condemning the immorality of government and even the very government programs from which they benefit.

Advocating the complete removal of government is moral. Government *IS* an UNnecessary evil. Actually accomplishing it takes time—time in which one can PREPARE for the changes that will happen.

I, for one, do not and would not expect an author to immediately abandon copyright protection. However, I DO expect a libertarian/anarchist/capitalist author to understand the issues involved and to seriously investigate alternative ways to profit from his writing and/or alternative career paths. Any reading of anti-IP literature will turn up numerous successful examples that may serve as models.

I have changed careers four times in my lifetime. I refuse to blind myself to trends that might impact the work I do. I made it a personal policy to anticipate a change before the change was forced upon me. I expect no guarantees, especially from government. I used my knowledge and my imagination to set myself into another career, or to create a variation in the way I practiced my career. I would expect any rational person to do likewise. I NEVER sat around bewailing my plight like an automotive worker in Detroit, or a banker on Wall Street.

Dennis Lee Wilson
Objectivist & Jeffersonian
Signatory: Covenant of Unanimous Consent

Mr. Quincy July 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

IP is a serious threat to liberty. By using treaties, Obama administration is seeking to bypass the constitution and usurp liberties like never before. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is poised to seriously undermine individual privacy and constitutional rights. All of this is being done in the name of Intellectual Property. Smith needs to wake up and smell the bull$#!%.

Dale B. Halling July 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

FThe libertarian nonsense on IP continues. You state:

First, it requires legislation and the state, and he’s an anarchist so can’t support that. Second, granting rights in nonscarce things always invades rights in already-owned scarce resources. Back in 1991 when I signed Smith’s Covenant, I was not yet anti-IP.

Real property rights require legislation and the state. I agree that an anarchist cannot support it, but anarchist are just dupes for totalitarian dictators. Second, IP is not property rights for nonscarce things. It takes real resources to create inventions and it takes real resources to diffuse technology. IP rights encourage the diffusion of knowledge, they only limit the physical embodiment, which by definition is a scarce resource. For more information see http://hallingblog.com/2009/06/25/scarcity-and-intellectual-property-empirical-evidence-of-adoptiondistribution-of-technology/

Stephan Kinsella July 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

Halling, you don’t know what you are talking about. You are not worth replying to. Why you feel compelled to spout off, given your complete ignorance, is a mystery. My grandma knows nothing about this stuff either but she doesn’t post nonsense like this on blogs either.

Mr. Quincy July 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

If this is the same Dale B. Halling I exchanged posts with the other day, as he is a patent attorney and entrepreneur, whether or not I agree with him, I’m quite sure he knows something about it. Why don’t you refute his arguments with some of your own instead of lame insults. Or at least think up insults more entertaining than your grandmother if you have nothing else to offer.

Stephan Kinsella July 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I’ve dealt with Halling many times–he is rude, insufferable, a know-nothing, and not serious.

Kevin Carson October 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

BTW: Smith’s “Little Criminals” essay attempts to psychologize away anti-IP arguments as “rationalization,” but doesn’t seem to realize one could just turn the argument around and dismiss his pro-IP arguments as rationalization for his own theft via so-called “intellectual property.” I did just such a turnaround in response to Scott Adams’ attempt to dismiss anti-IP arguments as “cognitive dissonance”: http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2007/04/scott-adams-cognitive-dissonance.html

Both Neil and Cathy Smith seem to be reacting to this on such a visceral level that their bile is rendering them incapable of making rational arguments.

nate-m October 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm

But what Smith doesn’t realize is that the author has always had full control over his creation. Just like if I had a pair of underwear. If I don’t want people to see them then I just don’t expose myself in public. :) (for others: you have to read the blogspot link to understand)

But I don’t think that it’s right that if I do expose my underwear that then I can control what people do with the images they see.

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