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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15305/commons-two-kinds/

Commons, Two Kinds

January 12, 2011 by

Nine Paley makes a point that sticks:

Calling both a grassy field and ideas a “commons” is interesting, because one of them, the grassy field, is tangible and scarce, whereas the other one is not actually limited. A lot of the conversation that happens around imaginary property is that people think that it’s real. The “enclosure of the commons” metaphor definitely works for both, but a grassy field is very different from culture in that there’s only so much grassy field. A grassy field is actually real; if, for example, you take a bulldozer to your grassy field, then the grassy field is ruined. But if you take your bulldozer to a copy of your work, then there are all these other copies. It doesn’t affect the idea. It only affects one copy. So the concept of the “tragedy of the commons” doesn’t really apply to intellectual/cultural works at all.

Real things are limited. If you don’t take care of the field, or if you overgraze it, then there’s not enough grass for the other sheep. With cultural works, it’s the exact opposite. The more they’re shared, the more valuable they become. People apply these ideas about scarcity to culture, and culture is not scarce. People are thinking of the “problem of abundance”: the idea that people don’t know what to do with abundance. But there is no tragedy of the cultural commons. I’ve read justifications of copyright where people say that if culture is shared too much the value of the work is diluted. Who came up with that idea? The opposite is true: works do not become less valuable the more they’re shared; they become more valuable the more they’re shared. What on earth are they talking about when they say that sharing dilutes the value of the work?

{ 205 comments }

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

The disanalogy breaks down if you assume that an idea only came into existence on the expectation that its creator would have exclusivity in it. In that case, never honoring exclusivity would mean 0 usage of the idea, not infinite usage.

Peter Surda January 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Just like with EM. Oh, wait ….

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Is your point that infinite people can broadcast at any given frequency, so EM spectrum rights are necessarily a statist monopoloy? Because I don’t see any other way the analogy helps you.

Peter Surda January 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

No, my point is that EM spectrum rights are regional. They are not exclusive. And there are frequency ranges which are not exclusive (e.g. wifi), but people are still using it, a lot.

I see that yet again, instead of addressing the errors in your claims, you cowardly run away from a debate and go elsewhere.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Believe it or not, the EM spectrum does not have infinite information-carrying capacity, so at some point you have to say which signals should take precedence and which owners have rights to stop others from “interfering”.

Yes, even on your precious wi-fi. The fact that in some particular locations the threshold of scarcity hasn’t been reached doesn’t mean it never will, or that the issue is moot.

Jim Dahlberg January 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Why would it not have infinite information carrying capacity?

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

@Jim_Dahlberg: Because of the Shannon Noisy Channel Coding Theorem (see also the Shannon-Hartley limit linked from that page)– no channel can have infinite carrying capacity per unit time, especially not the radio spectrum.

Peter Surda January 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Believe it or not, the EM spectrum does not have infinite information-carrying capacity,

First of all, you’re deflecting. Second of all, you’re wrong. EM transmissions have a finite data transmission capacity, but an infinite information-transmission capacity. I already told you that in the past. Because information is an interpretation rather than a physical phenomenon.

… so at some point you have to say which signals should take precedence and which owners have rights to stop others from “interfering”.

And this bears exactly what relation to my arguments? None. You slimy coward.

David Bratton January 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm

@Silas Barta

Shannon’s theorem says no such thing. It only says that if a channel is limited by a quantifiable amount of noise then it is possible to calculate the amount of discrete data that can be transmitted. This in no way puts a limit on the number of frequencies and in no way precludes the possibility of noise reduction.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Sorry, if you guys are claiming that you can transmit all the information you want through the ether with no conflict, you’re just out in woo-woo land and not worth further engaging. The finite capacity of transmission of data through channels is well-established, and I have given sufficient citation for you to verify it for yourself. If you can’t accept that, it’s not worth having this discussion.

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 1:21 am

Amazing….

If we COULD transmit infinite amounts of data over EM with no problems then this discussion wouldn’t even be necessary…! XD

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 1:41 am

All of that coding channel stuff applies to the digital domain, only. It does not apply to sending analog signals, where the question of whether one is sending information at a finite rate is ambiguous at best.

Analog signals, on the other hand, cannot be multiplexed or encoded in such a way that multiple signals carried on the same frequency do not appear as noise to one another, which means that, for example, if you have two analog signals carried on the same frequency, one’s signal-to-noise ratio will be nearly the reciprocal of the other signal, i.e. one of them (or both of them) will be washed out by the noise. So conflicts over use can still come up in the analog domain.

I’m still not sure what the statistical mechanics of electromagnetic fields has to do with whether one can own an idea or not.

Peter January 13, 2011 at 5:14 am

Silas: who cares about “infinite information-carrying capacity”? Nobody wants to transmit infinite information! It’s impossible! Of course “the EM spectrum does not have infinite information-carrying capacity”…but it has unboundedly finite information-carrying capacity (subject to technological limitations), which is all you’re ever going to need.

The finite capacity of transmission of data through channels is well-established

…and utterly irrelevant. If you define a “channel” in some way (e.g., let’s say a band 1kHz wide), it has some limited capacity for carrying information (but note that each 1kHz band has a different capacity, since it goes up with frequency), but the entire EM spectrum from DC (0Hz) to “infinity” consists of an infinite number of “channels” with ever-increasing capacity—i.e., there’s no limit on the amount of data you can transmit, except for technological difficulties transmitting (and receiving) at very high (and very low, but we don’t care about that) frequencies, and power supply. (And the current technological limitation on capacity in a 1kHz band is nowhere near the theoretical capacity; there’s plenty of room for improvement in, say, current WiFi frequencies, without adding more)

Seattle January 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Yeah. I don’t think without a monetary incentive either!

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm

You might give out cookies without a monetary incentive.

I still support property rights in cookies, though. Do you?

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Is your basis for supporting property rights in cookies related at all to whether or not you would want to give them away?

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Or does it maybe have something to do with the fact that it is impossible for one person to enjoy a cookie while another person enjoys that same cookie?

Simon Grey January 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Why in the world would you assume that? The bulk of my writing (idea conveyance) is done for the explicit purpose of influencing others, and as such, I have no expectation to exclusivity. In fact, I don’t want it.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Good for you, Simon_Grey! And where there’s IP, and you just want to spread propaganda, you can waive the rights you would otherwise hold. You’re not forced to stop others from copying your work, so the point is moot.

I can likewise waive might to cookies I have produced, such as when I give them away. Pretty shoddy argument against the existence of cookie rights though …

Simon Grey January 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm

My point is that your assumption is incorrectly stated. “Only” is wrong, because here is an obvious exception.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm

It _would_ be wrong if I were claiming this is true of all ideas. Good thing I’m not! (And that I’ve never argued otherwise, but still have to refute this same old argument every time the topic comes up.)

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

“if you assume that an idea only came into existence on the expectation that its creator would have exclusivity in it”

You could never demonstrate this to be true for any idea, especially ahead of time in such a way as to establish legal certainty. What constitutes a copyrightable idea would at best be a hypothetical definition that would need to be constantly modified to fit with incoming statistics. But then how can one even determine that when an idea comes into existence, that relied critically on exclusivity granted to the creator, and how can one determine that there exist ideas not yet created that would have been created if potential creators were granted exclusivity?

You’ve presented an impossible test that, if it is attempted to be upheld, will only cause conflicts as people begin bickering pointlessly over what caused certain people to have their moments of genius.

This approach of defining the border between ownable and non-ownable ideas totally unsatisfactory. It only illustrates the impossibility to find such a well-defined border.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm

You could never demonstrate this to be true for any idea…

Sure, and you could never prove that physical property rights were necessary for the production of potatoes, the automobile, etc. After all, I’m sure someone could just find a workaround and use some other production. Ready to give up physical property rights, then?

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm

“Sure, and you could never prove that physical property rights were necessary for the production of potatoes, the automobile, etc. After all, I’m sure someone could just find a workaround and use some other production. Ready to give up physical property rights, then?”

Again, you demonstrate your lack of understanding of private property rights.

Nobody ever suggested that private property is necessary for production or a certain amount of production. The private property ethic is the only argumentatively justifiable system of ethics because denying the justifiability of private ownership through homesteading or trade (and no other option) is a performative contradiction. One must accept this very premise to be able to argue anything.

The purpose of private property is to mediate conflicts, not encourage or increase production or a certain good. Only physical property with objectively defined boundaries can mediate conflicts, while any other ownership claims cause conflicts. Case in point, IP has caused all sorts of international legal conflicts, which cannot be avoided by reforming IP law, it is a necessary consequence of the nature of IP.

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm

“Pretty shoddy argument against the existence of cookie rights though …”

Silas, read me loud and clear: NON-RIVALROUS USE!!

That is our argument. Man up and take it on.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Please re-read the discussion’s context. It goes like this:

them: I produce some ideas without requiring IP.
me: Sure — for whatever reason, you’re waiving the rights the law gives you. People do that with cookies too, but it’s not an argument that cookie rights are irrelevant or should be abolished.
you: But cookies are rival!

You see? While it might be a worthwhile point elsewhere, it’s non-responsive in this context — in the context of whether the waiver of a right by some people means the right should not exist. Please make a relevant reply rather than shifting the debate to a topic you’d prefer to discuss.

Peter Surda January 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Sure, pick on the easy targets and run away from real fights. How Silasy of you.

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 10:00 pm

“You see? ”

No…

“While it might be a worthwhile point elsewhere, it’s non-responsive in this context”

Wow. You only need to address the sound arguments against IP when you feel like it is necessary, which is apparently never.

“in the context of whether the waiver of a right by some people means the right should not exist”

Which is being discussed only to ascertain the validity of intellectual property. The greater context is IP. What do you think we’re doing here, trying to work out cookie rights? Is that the reason this blog entry was posted?

“Please make a relevant reply rather than shifting the debate to a topic you’d prefer to discuss.”

Please follow your own advice. You pulled cookies right out of your ass.

I will repeat this just for the hell of it: ideas are not property because a necessary condition of property is rivalrous use. This is precisely what separates a free good from an economic good. While something like breathable air, which is now non-rivalrous and thus a free good, may feasibly become an economic good in the future, ideas can never conceivably be an economic good because there will never be a rivalrous use of an idea.

Silas you seem to be intent on not understanding private property rights so you can try and show that it is as ill-formed as intellectual property. Why, then, are you still a libertarian, and not a Marxist that rejects private property altogether? If you cannot even conceive of sound physical property theory, then your adherence to property at all is mere dogmatism.

Your literal argumentative tactic is, “Physical property is an unsound and ill-formed theory too, but you would never give that up.” Strange…

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 10:15 pm

This is also highly ironic coming from the person that makes a habit of driving intellectual property discussions to the unrelated topic of property rights in the EM spectrum.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm

@Peter_Surda: Alright, if you think he’s an easy target with shoddy arguments, glad to hear you talking sense. I guess you’ll understand if I ignore sweatervest now. I only really bothered because of his persistence.

FWIW, your bizarre belief about infinite channel capacity is just as easy a target, but whatever.

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm

“if you think he’s an easy target with shoddy arguments, glad to hear you talking sense. I guess you’ll understand if I ignore sweatervest now. I only really bothered because of his persistence.”

If I’m such an easy target then why don’t you take advantage of that?

Usually people shoot at easy targets rather than ignore them!

Silas Barta January 13, 2011 at 12:14 am

If I’m such an easy target then why don’t you take advantage of that?

Usually people shoot at easy targets rather than ignore them!

Um, that’s what I *was* doing, prompting Peter_Surda’s complaint in the first place!

*reloads*

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 12:19 am

“Um, that’s what I *was* doing, prompting Peter_Surda’s complaint in the first place!

*reloads*”

Well, I cannot speak for Peter but your interpretation doesn’t make sense because I am the one whose argument you ran away from.

Peter Surda January 13, 2011 at 6:06 am

Silas,

Alright, if you think he’s an easy target with shoddy arguments, glad to hear you talking sense.

I did not say all what he says is wrong. I merely agreed with you that the sequence is not an argument. Perhaps he got excited and did not express himself correctly. So what? That can happen to anyone, including me. Why not give him a chance to fix it? I gave you many, many chances to fix your errors, but you don’t.

FWIW, your bizarre belief about infinite channel capacity is just as easy a target, but whatever.

Than you for demonstrating your hypocrisy and cowardice once again. All you do is complain about others. But argue you do not. I can easily demonstrate that the informational “capacity” of anything is infinite. Information is subjective and contextual. The same data, in a different context, represents different information. There is an infinite number of codecs you can use, an infinite number of expectations the recipient has, and an infinite possibilities of pre-existing knowledge the sender and recipient have to interpret the data. If, for example, they know that someone might be intercepting the transmission, they would interpret the data differently.

As usually, you’re just full of hot air. Grandiose claims, no arguments.

Peter Surda January 13, 2011 at 6:24 am

Silas,

I just noticed this now:

Please make a relevant reply rather than shifting the debate to a topic you’d prefer to discuss.

Lol. Did I mention you’re a hypocrite?

AskanIPquestion January 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm

“you’re waiving the rights the law gives you. ”

What law?

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm

“I merely agreed with you that the sequence is not an argument.”

No, Silas is misrepresenting at least my approach to this by suggesting I have attempted to “prove” anything by presenting examples (I can’t speak for you, only myself). He is trying to say that the analogy presented here is supposed to “prove” our case but doesn’t. That is what is not an argument.

In a discussion about the validity of IP, the only relevant argument is what one’s justification of one’s position is. Silas is making use of a common distracting technique to gradually pull the discussion into something off-topic, intentionally vague and difficult to analyze, and irrelevant to the actual discussion.

He comes up with a way, every single time, to dodge the “rivalrous” vs. “non-rivalrous” analysis at least I have provided over and over.

What’s not an argument is to mention that you can give cookies away in a discussion about intellectual property. My attempt to refocus the discussion on what is relevant is not a non-sequitur, it is a response to a non-sequitur.

This is not a blog entry about people’s ability to transfer their property titles. In the context of a discussion of IP, *that* is not an argument.

I didn’t bother to actually run my argument, only reference it, because I have run it dozens of times all over these threads. As far as I understand it is the basis of the anti-IP position. Until Silas or anyone else addresses this and only this argument, all I can do is repeat it.

Artisan January 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Silas Barta, If this was the reason for IP laws, wouldn’t lawmakers take into account every car renting company’s expectation for its client to drive a hired car “personally”…? and there would be a law forcing individuals not to pass the driving wheel?

But books aren’t even hired, they’re bought! (except in a public library – which curiously derogates to IP licensing restrictions by the way).

And even the real common “driver restriction clause” of my rental example is more a question of insurance and responsibility, tied to the wearing down of the object through use, not a question of licensing.

Phinn January 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

an idea only came into existence on the expectation that its creator would have exclusivity in it

Expectation? As a basis for defining rights, “expectation” is as circular as it gets. It’s used a lot in Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure jurisprudence, for example, and is just as nonsensical in that context as it is here.

The only reasonable expectation one can have, by definition, is something that one is entitled to receive. I could post a comment here with the expectation that my doing so means that everyone who reads it must instantly cash out all of their bank accounts and mail me their money, but clearly I have no right to such a windfall. Therefore such expectation is unreasonable and unfounded. The fact that I expect it has no bearing on whether I am entitled to it. That justification must come from a source other than my mere expectation or belief that it should happen.

Therefore, what people may or may not expect with regard to Imaginary Property rights has no bearing on defining the parameters of such rights.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Expectation? As a basis for defining rights, “expectation” is as circular as it gets.

Ditto for contract law. Want to get rid of that too?

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Contract law is circular!? Please elaborate!

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm

What rights will be enforced due to a contract depends on what people *expect* the contract to mean and … yes, how they *expect* it will be enforced.

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Once again, a total misunderstanding of what contracts are. You are also confusing the pragmatic problem of respecting and enforcing physical property rights with the theoretical working out of what physical property rights are at all.

Read my post below for a description of what contracts are. No circularity.

Phinn January 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Contracts are a simple illustration of how an expectation is only reasonable when it arises from a source other than one party’s unilateral expectation of how others will behave.

The source of a contractual expectation (i.e., that someone will do something he is not otherwise required to do, or refrain from doing something he is otherwise required to do) arises from the other party’s assent and promise to do so.

So, to justify a contractual right, you can skip the expectation, and go straight to the promise. One party’s expectation rests upon another party’s promise , but it’s the promise that establishes the right, not the expectation.

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I find this all to be too vague.

Contract rights are just a subset of natural property rights. If A and B have ownership over some goods, then one “use” A can employ is to allow the conditional use of property by B. Additionally, this can be bi-directional, with A granting conditional use of his property to B, with some of the conditions being that B grants conditional use of his property to A. The situation is the same from B’s point of view as well.

This bi-directional conditional exchange is called a contract. It is enforceable because breaching is a violation of the terms of conditional use which is an act of confiscation of the other party’s property.

I don’t see any circularity there.

Beefcake the Mighty January 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Nice post. There is no circularity here, you are right. Of course, if (like Silas) you conceive of contracts as somehow “enforcing” rights rather than being based on (property) rights, then indeed you can portray contract law as circular. But this is just more of Silas’ word-games, nothing more. Silas is a waste of his father’s sperm.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Stephan,

I think all this contract theory from Rothbard, et al adds is inalinability of will. It is a weak concept of contracts because performance cannot be enforced without very high transactional costs (like performance bonds and private enforcement firms).

If you eliminate the concept of enforceable performance, legal enforcement in courts and government in general, you end up with a very weak concept of contract law.

But it is the only “consistent” position you can take and still be a Rothbardian Ancap adherent.

Phinn January 13, 2011 at 10:04 am

Sweatervest,

Contracts are not based on circular reasoning. That was my point. Here’s how the conversation went:

1. Silas said that his (as yet un-revealed) theory of Imaginary Property was somehow valid because the creator’s “idea only came into existence on the expectation that its creator would have exclusivity in it.” Let’s call this Silas’s Expectation Theory.

2. Then I said that an expectation of exclusivity is not a justification for exclusivity, because that’s circular. The issue is not what people expect, but what they have a right to expect, which must be established by some reasoning other than the fact that one unilaterally expects it.

3. Then Silas said that if my point about the circularity of expectation as a basis for one’s rights were true, then contracts would not be valid either.

4. Then I said Silas’s counterpoint was wrong because the justification for contracts is not circular, because they are justified by the other party’s promise, not by the promissee’s expectation that is based on that promise.

5. Then Silas said this was all somehow not relevant, even though he was the one who brought up “expectation” in the first place.

See, now that he’s losing, and his pitiful Expectation Theory for Imaginary Property has been shown to be transparently ridiculous, Silas wants to pretend that the issue of expectations doesn’t matter.

It’s part of his decision to relate to others solely by sniping at others, rather than affirmatively offering any theory of his own. Putting any of his original thoughts out there would subject him to the kind of criticism he chooses to fling at others, which we can assume he would find to be intolerable, so he is afraid to do it. In the amount of time he spends stalking and criticizing Stephan Kinsella, Silas could have written two or three treatises explicating his own theory of Imaginary Property, but he is demonstrably not brave enough to do that.

Living in Silas’s head must be a nightmare — nothing but constant negativity, annoyance, condemnation, strife, self-pity, and anger over not being fully appreciated. It’s annoying that he acts this way, because after all, he wants us all to be annoyed, but when one looks past the annoyance, what you see is really quite sad.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Phinn,

“1. Silas said that his (as yet un-revealed) theory of Imaginary Property was somehow valid because the creator’s “idea only came into existence on the expectation that its creator would have exclusivity in it.” Let’s call this Silas’s Expectation Theory.”

Property rights are a human device. Your insistence that they a can only arise through homesteading of scarce resources is to assume your conclusion. Once established, by homesteading or any other legal convention, they are respected, observed and enforced, or they are not. If they are, then a free market will eventually allocate them accordingly.

A contract, in essence, creates property rights relative to the principals and third party beneficiaries. These rights need not be homesteaded, but can be created by agreement. This illustrates why property rights are a human device. The legal term of art is “intent”, but “expectation” of performance of mutual obligations is a fair substitute.

“2. Then I said that an expectation of exclusivity is not a justification for exclusivity, because that’s circular. The issue is not what people expect, but what they have a right to expect, which must be established by some reasoning other than the fact that one unilaterally expects it.”

An expectation of exclusivity, if creating such a thing is the expectation of the parties, is in fact a justification for enforcing exclusivity. Nothing further is required. If they enter a valid contract (offer, acceptance, consideration) they create rights to performance; that is they create the right to enforce a failure to meet contractual “expectations”.

“3. Then Silas said that if my point about the circularity of expectation as a basis for one’s rights were true, then contracts would not be valid either.”

Silas is correct. Perhaps it would be more specific to say that expectations are “reciprocal”. Reciprocal expectations, under contract law, are enforceable by either party. In this sense it is “circular” in that each party has an expectation of performance from the other party.

“4. Then I said Silas’s counterpoint was wrong because the justification for contracts is not circular, because they are justified by the other party’s promise, not by the promissee’s expectation that is based on that promise.”

It is hard to understand what you mean here, Phinn. The expectations are mutual and reciprocal.

“5. Then Silas said this was all somehow not relevant, even though he was the one who brought up “expectation” in the first place.”
“See, now that he’s losing, and his pitiful Expectation Theory for Imaginary Property has been shown to be transparently ridiculous, Silas wants to pretend that the issue of expectations doesn’t matter.”

You are the one who set up the straw man. The principles of contract law are well understood by anyone who has studied them. You are simply obfuscating the simple truth of the law, which, one could certainly argue, is not transparently ridiculous.

As your state above: “Contracts are a simple illustration of how an expectation is only reasonable when it arises from a source other than one party’s unilateral expectation of how others will behave.”

I assume you mean by this that expectations ARE reasonable when they are mutual and reciprocal. Is that what you mean? Then what is your disagreement with the position that if it is good for contracts, why the difference for IP?

“It’s part of his decision to relate to others solely by sniping at others, rather than affirmatively offering any theory of his own. Putting any of his original thoughts out there would subject him to the kind of criticism he chooses to fling at others, which we can assume he would find to be intolerable, so he is afraid to do it. In the amount of time he spends stalking and criticizing Stephan Kinsella, Silas could have written two or three treatises explicating his own theory of Imaginary Property, but he is demonstrably not brave enough to do that.”

It is not necessary to invent a new system of property rights. There is a well-established body of laws dealing with contracts, property, IP, Torts, etc. It is transparently ridiculous to misstate what the law says and does, and then expect someone to reference a completely unique theory of law to address your arguments. You well know that I have called you, Peter and Stephan out on misstating what the law actually does, what it actually says, and the principles upon which it is based.

Unfortunately, anything other than the Rothbardian concept of property rights, of contracts, and government are incompatible with your internally consistent logic of exclusion. Therefore it is unreasonable to expect anyone to break through this on your terms. The fact that you cannot see anything reasonable or positive outside of this limited world view is your shortcoming, not that of others.

“Living in Silas’s head must be a nightmare — nothing but constant negativity, annoyance, condemnation, strife, self-pity, and anger over not being fully appreciated. It’s annoying that he acts this way, because after all, he wants us all to be annoyed, but when one looks past the annoyance, what you see is really quite sad.”

I don’t know Silas from bubkis, and have never even corresponded with him directly. But I have now spent months trying to give you and others here a fair hearing. You acknowledge NOTHING valid about Silas’s position. Yet he doesn’t seem to be a stupid man. Yet you respond to him as if he must be insane. If your intent is to stifle dissenting discourse, you are doing a good job. Who would want to bother?

It appears to me that the discourse here is based on a form of fanaticism. Any challenge to the prevailing Ancap tide of this site brings out increasing stridency in support of Ancap rejectionism, and any challenge to the prevailing Ancap view brings forth mostly rudeness and ad hominem attacks.

I used to refer friends to this site for the economic discourse. I no longer do that because this site has become a mouthpiece for anarchists. As others have suggested, it should be renamed “Rothbard.com”

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm

“a mouthpiece for anarchists”

I’m sorry the anarchist position is the only argumentatively defensible one. Feel free to fill up these blogs with minarchism and convince us we are mistaken.

Phinn January 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Then what is your disagreement with the position that if it is good for contracts, why the difference for IP?

Neither physical property nor Imaginary Property are premised on agreement, assent, promises, etc.

You seem like a nice guy, but you have a knack for turning things that are simple into a convoluted jumble.

This all started with Silas’s first comment in this thread where he asserted that it mattered somehow that some creator makes something with the “expectation” that he get the exclusive use of not only that thing, but all copies of that thing. That’s your typical Imaginary Property position. I get it. I just disagree with it.

I especially disagree with the assertion that rights are defined according to what some inventor “expects” to enjoy. His unilateral expectations have nothing to do with what property rights he has or doesn’t have. Maybe because Silas is an engineer that he takes all of this stuff personally, or maybe he thinks that what he wants and expects matters to the world more than it really does. I don’t know. The point is that, in matters of defining the scope of property rights (but not contracts), expectations in themselves mean nothing.

That’s it. That’s all that was said. Silas then tried to weasel out of the mess he made for himself. He can’t. As I said, I can “expect” you to sell all your worldly goods and give the proceeds to me, but my mere expectation that you do so doesn’t give me a legitimate claim on you.

Simple, simple, simple.

Now, as for your gripe that Mises.org isn’t talking about the things you want it to talk about, or reaching your conclusions, or that commenters are getting annoyed at Silas’s incessant attempts to make every conversation about himself and how his criticisms aren’t getting the attention he expects they deserve, I am sorry I can’t help you on that one. Either start your own institute and post whatever you want on its website, or get used to disappointment.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Phinn,
All fair comments, especially the “nice guy” part.

“Neither physical property nor Imaginary Property are premised on agreement, assent, promises, etc.”

Yes, what are they premised on? I know your argument, but you can’t seem to grant anyone an alternative view that is not nonsense. The irony is that your position regarding property rights existing only in the homesteading of scarce resource, is the outlying view, just not on this site.

You see, I read the entire exchange before I chimed in. I didn’t understand Silas to be saying that property rights arose by “expectation”. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, Mises deals with this in much the same way. Human action must be preceded by rational thought, culminating in an economic calculation. If that calculation is based on an absence of property rights in IP, then the actor will quickly realize that he is producing for an external market. That will be his expectation. It is asserted by IP law and proponents, that such a “law” (or absence, in this case) would have an economic effect on the economic calculation of human actors, especially those engaged in innovation. Since it is unlikely that an actor will choose to produce for an external market, (i.e. economic slavery) he will make another choice. Once possible result would be non-disclosure, which I believe you would advocate. Of course, this is directly opposed to one of the public policies embodied in IP law, which is to encourage disclosure and dissemination, which you also advocate.

Currently we live in a world which recognizes IP. Therefore an inventor or composer would have an “expectation” of how the market would treat his IP. If we changed the IP context (by eliminating all property rights, for example), one’s expectations would change, the economic calculation would be based on different factors, and the outcome would likely be different. That appears to be all that Silas was saying. That is a reasonable position, and one which is supported by Mises’s analysis of the issues.

Instead, you launched, with ample support, into an attack of his person, intelligence and psyche. How is that helpful?

“You seem like a nice guy, but you have a knack for turning things that are simple into a convoluted jumble.”

Thanks for the first part. Isn’t it odd that a nice guy like me would say that you are doing exactly that? Why would I say such a thing?

You assumed, IMHO, that you understood what Silas meant, perhaps based on prior exchanges or whatever, and launched into an attack instead of trying to grasp a thread of truth in what he was saying and proceeding from there. This is what I object to.

“Simple, simple, simple.”

As for the rest of your post, it is based on an interpretation of what was being said that I didn’t read.

Unless you are willing to acknowledge, even if just for argument’s sake, that property rights of all kinds are a human device, subject to some degree of ambiguity and interpretation, there is no way to have a discussion with you about IP. This is especially true when people who should know better continue to attribute results to IP law that don’t exist. This is misleading at best, and dishonest at worst. Many people who express the strongest opinions here know little of actual IP law, or any other law for that matter. But they have Rothbard memorized. Holding steadfastly to Rothbard’s limited concept or treatment of property rights leaves out most of the picture. Sorry, I know that’s blasphemy, but there it is.

“Now, as for your gripe that Mises.org isn’t talking about the things you want it to talk about, or reaching your conclusions, or that commenters are getting annoyed at Silas’s incessant attempts to make every conversation about himself and how his criticisms aren’t getting the attention he expects they deserve, I am sorry I can’t help you on that one. Either start your own institute and post whatever you want on its website, or get used to disappointment.”

I’m not going to start my own site, and I’m not going to get used to disappointment. When I have the time and the energy, I try to point out where you and others assume their conclusions and misstate the reality of the law. I do it only to provide some balance to the discussions here and to improve my argumentation. Specifically, what I object to is the hijacking of every discussion and every topic to promote the anti-government, anti-American, anti-society rhetoric of a particular point of view that is NOT central to the main draw to this site. It is not Rothbard, Hoppe, Kinsella, Tucker, or Rockwell. It is Mises. It is economics. Somehow in all of the enthusiasm for Ancap, real balanced education gets tossed by the wayside. I find that shameful and a waste.

You criticize Silas for his self-absorption, but I could say the same about many who post here. The arrogance is disgusting. Here is one from just a little while ago: “I’m sorry the anarchist position is the only argumentatively defensible one.” That is the voice of a fanatic.

This isn’t about Silas. Silas can be snippy, but he is not the worst by far. I started going down that road at one time and realized how distasteful it was. I hope I am a better example of rational discourse. I strive to be.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Relevance?

sweatervest January 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Your definition of relevance is what you feel like responding to.

Stephan Kinsella January 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm

As Rothbard has shown (and Evers; and my elaboration of this), the expectation theory of contract is indeed flawed but you don’t need it to justify contract. Fail again, Silas.

Silas Barta January 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm

That’s addressing the detrimental reliance issue, a similar-sounding but quite different concept (which can trip up people who don’t take care with how they think about the issue). The point about “expectations and contracts” is that the obligations (or, if you stick with Rothbard’s weaker contract theory, “physical goods you trade”) you take/impose through e.g. signing a piece of paper depend on what people *expect* such a signature to mean. In that sense, there are multiple consistent solutions, which can be differentiated only on what people expect their rights are. This is simply the problem of legal norms in a particular society.

So if someone signs away $X conditional on event Y, that imposes a different obligation depending on what the society reads such actions to mean with respect to rights transfers — e.g., does it entitle someone to use physical assault to collect the $X, etc. (Surely you can _now_ see how this is different from the detrimental reliance issue? I jest.)

Fail again, Stephan_Kinsella. Having written a long article does not automatically make its contents relevant.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 12:15 am

“So if someone signs away $X conditional on event Y, that imposes a different obligation depending on what the society reads such actions to mean with respect to rights transfers — e.g., does it entitle someone to use physical assault to collect the $X, etc.”

If justifiability relied on what “society reads such actions to mean”, then people could not justify their actions without asking everyone what they thought first, and ignoring how infeasible that is, the act of asking permission itself could not be justifiable. This fails as a system of ethics.

“This is simply the problem of legal norms in a particular society.”

Which is a patently different problem than what is theoretically justifiable. The pragmatic problem of enforcing the law produced from a theory of ethics is manifestly different than determining what that law is.

The problem of what restitution for a violation of property rights is justifiable is a problem I do not understand well. But it cannot rely on a decision by “society” because there is no guarantee that this decision will be unanimous and thus executable and no non-arbitrary way to derive a singular decision out of an aggregate of decisions. It must be deducible a priori and be universally valid. Rothbard suggested that justifiable restitution is what is equal in market price to the damage done to property or what is stolen, plus whatever is necessary to restore whatever damage possible or return of the stolen goods. In other words pay for the damages plus a sum equal in value to that. He justified this by claiming when one steals or damages another’s property he not only never transfers ownership claims and is thus bound to return the property to it’s previous state (to the extent possible), he also invalidates his claim to his own property equal in market price to the damage done or what was stolen. It is an entirely different problem, then, on how to enforce such a law, which would at least require an exchange economy.

Beefcake the Mighty January 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Silas babbles:

“So if someone signs away $X conditional on event Y, that imposes a different obligation depending on what the society reads such actions to mean with respect to rights transfers — e.g., does it entitle someone to use physical assault to collect the $X, etc”

You obviously don’t understand the difference between proportionality of response to a rights violation, and the rights violation itself.

Artisan January 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Mr Tucker, your rhetorical question asks for a reaction:

people make that comment about culture because indeed, the artist has the possibility to restrict his AUTHENTIC performance. If say, the Rolling Stones give one rare concert in Berlin over a period of time, you can expect them to sell the show at a higher price than they would if they could give ten concerts while touring the whole country (not necessarily, but probably). But a concert and a recording are two different things of course. So it’s a good occasion perhaps to redefine the word “culture”.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 12:21 am

That you have to actually tell people this is intriguing. It’s like you don’t expect reasonable people to see it your way without telling them they have shoddy intellectual standards if they don’t.

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 1:26 am

Ideas are common.

Original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are rare.

Silly me, I’d like to protect those who come up those ideas so as to encourage them to do it more frequently.

Whoops! For a minute there (outside these pages), I thought I was in the MINORITY. Silly me, indeed.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 1:31 am

You cannot rationalize, so you emotionalize.

Yes, we get it, you think we’re nuts. Doesn’t prove anything, dude.

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 2:15 am

Interesting counter-argument to the proposal that original, good ideas are scarce. Bravo.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 2:21 am

I was responding to the vitriol you spewed after you made your empty claim.

“original, good ideas are scarce”

Economic scarcity means rivalrousness, i.e. my use implies your non-use. No idea, however good you may think it is (really, making scientific proposals based on what you think is “good”!?) is ever scarce. Scarcity has nothing to do with the size of the supply, it has to do with the nature of use. There is a finite supply of breathable air, yet it is a free good. Yes a smaller supply of a good will make rivalrous consumption more likely for many goods (including air), but this will *never* happen with ideas. That a so-called “good” idea starts in only one person’s head does not establish its scarcity. Even in this case the good is *not* scarce because his use of an idea does not stop anyone else from using that idea (it will, on the contrary, facilitate such use).

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 3:05 am

Vitriol?

I’m confused. Do you think that original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are commonplace?

DixieFlatline January 13, 2011 at 3:32 am

Dave, the only test of the value of an idea is in the market. Are you claiming that ideas have to create benefit and enjoyment to have IP protection? How do you determine property rights after the idea has already been disseminated?

Also, [sic] society can benefit and enjoy knowledge shared second hand. There is no necessity that knowledge be shared by the originator or his agent exclusively.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 3:53 am

“Do you think that original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are commonplace?”

Something does not need to be commonplace to be economically un-scarce (non-rivalrous). An idea will never be scarce because it can never be used at “full capacity”. You are noticing the issue that a valuable idea at least starts off only in one person’s head, and is not at all commonplace. How, then, will *restricting* how it can be shared help make it commonplace!?

A creative moment is not a conscious decision. A moment of artistic or engineering brilliance is not something someone “works towards”, it just happens and then all of a sudden it’s there. Furthermore, that coming up with a good idea can be approached the same way physical labor is, i.e. the more time you spend doing it the more you accomplish, has always been a manifest failure for me. The more time I sit around “trying” to be creative, the less creative I actually am.

So I don’t think any laws could change how creative people happen to be. That they are “trying” harder would not reliably lead to a systematic increase in creative moments. This may not apply to patentable things, i.e. it may be that spending more time working out a processor die will get more accomplished, but I have already addressed how research and development, which are not quite in the same category as creative authorship, would be a more lucrative market and thus attract more people and more use of their time *without* intellectual property.

I just see a direct paradox in presenting the problem of good ideas not being known by enough people as being solved by *restricting* how people can share ideas. It relies on arguing that people would only have those ideas at all if they could restrict how they share them, but again at least with creative authorship being creative is not a decision for which an actor measures profits and losses. It is much more spiritual and spontaneous than that. As far as being a researcher and developer, apart from what I already said, again patents are *restrictions* on what can be produced from research/development. For example, a patent can stop a person from further innovating someone else’s innovation. There will be less things to do with research and development (because some of it will only be useful for illegal production) and thus there will be less demand for those people and correspondingly less R&D.

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

I’m STILL confused. Do you think that original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are commonplace?

A simple yes or no will suffice (it’s a yes or no question!).

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Dave,
You are wasting your time.

This discussion is not really about IP. It is about the “criminal” State.
I have pointed out over the months how Peter/Steven/Beefcake, etc. have consistently misstated what IP law actually does, yet they continue to attribute outcomes which the existing law specifically seeks to avoid.

This site has been swamped by Rothbardian adherents. Ironically, it is not his work on economic thought that is most revered here, but his dabbling in Ancap ethics and contract law.

It is a shame, but defenders of this very limited and restrictive world view have dominated the discourse here, and exhibit some of the rudest behaviors I have experienced on an “academic” blog.

You will not get a reasonable response. Sorry.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

“I’m STILL confused. Do you think that original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are commonplace?

A simple yes or no will suffice (it’s a yes or no question!).”

Your confusion is due to the fact you are not here to establish anything, only to waste posting space with your smart-assery. What will it prove to you if I say good ideas are or are not commonplace?

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

@ Danny Coleman (“Sweatervest”)

Why do I want an answer? Because it’s how you establish a line of reasoning.

I would then naturally to lead you down a logical path that you won’t like, because it will force you to examine the potential consequences of what you espouse. So you won’t answer the question.

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

@ Wildberry

Indeed.

Shoot me an email at dnarby at statenislandlp dot org. Let’s chat.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

“I have pointed out over the months how Peter/Steven/Beefcake, etc. have consistently misstated what IP law actually does, yet they continue to attribute outcomes which the existing law specifically seeks to avoid.”

Apparently you consistently don’t read posts.

I have dealt hardly at all with the current form of IP laws. My arguments are based on my understanding of property rights theory, and the nature of use of free and economic goods.

Furthermore, why does it matter what laws “try” to do? Am I about to get a liberal “intentions = consequences” argument?

“This site has been swamped by Rothbardian adherents. Ironically, it is not his work on economic thought that is most revered here, but his dabbling in Ancap ethics and contract law.”

You don’t need to tell us what we like and don’t like about Murray Rothbard.

“It is a shame, but defenders of this very limited and restrictive world view have dominated the discourse here”

You have a post button too buddy. What does it mean to “dominate” a discourse in which everyone is free to post as much as they want?

Maybe we have arguments and you don’t. Hard to fill up posts without having arguments…

“and exhibit some of the rudest behaviors I have experienced on an “academic” blog.”

Oh you mean like littering multiple threads with demands that I reveal my true identity after accusing me of being Kinsella, or accusing Sione of lying about being part of a business, or filling up posts with, “Silly me, I feel the way I do.”

Care to point to any of our “rudeness”?

“You will not get a reasonable response. Sorry.”

Oh so reasonable means conceding our point. Well if you continue to add nothing except “Geez these guys won’t back down from their position” then don’t hold your breath.

Peter Surda January 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Wildberry,

I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you yet, and I’m sorry that you still don’t comprehend my arguments. My sole argument from the beginning was that your support for state and for IP is based on a self-contradiction. It is completely unrelated to to the fact what current IP laws and current states do. That is merely an example, it’s not a proof (or disproof). It is a fall-back explanation that we (the anarchists and IP opponents) invoke in order to fill the gaps in your theories. You have, to date, failed to resolve the contradictions and failed to present a theory that explains your position. If you leave gaps open in your arguments and refuse to fill them, your opponents need to make guesses as to what you actually mean, so they use the current system as a replacement.

Even if there are aspects of the current system that you don’t agree with, stating that is insufficient to resolve the problems. It’s a false dilemma fallacy: merely because A is false it does not follow that B, which is different from A, is correct. Even more so if you do not explain what B actually is. But it is up to you, not us, to explain what B is. We can’t fix that for you.

The self-contradictions that I was referring to earlier in our discussion are, for example:
- individual rights versus society rights
- physical world versus imagination
- monopoly versus competition
- redistribution versus a net gain
- positive versus normative approach
- what should be versus what is

These pairs are contradictory with respect to each other. If you pick both, you need to end up contradicting yourself. Now, I’m not telling you which one to pick. That’s up to you. I’m just telling you not to contradict yourself.

I think I had others but I forgot them. Apologies again.

Peter Surda January 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm

As a proof that I’m the one arguing correctly, let me remind you this: it is not necessary to support either anarchism or abolition of IP in order to agree with me. All you need to do is resolve the contradictions in your claims or show the contradiction in mine. I’ve been pleading to my opponent do do this. Often for months, some since I started posting here about two years ago. This hasn’t happened though.

As a counter-example, there was a guy named “frank” some time ago, whom I debated on the monetary theory. I was claiming that monetary expansion does not necessarily result in an increase in price level compared to if the money hadn’t been printed. But he explained to me exactly where I was wrong (where I was contradicting myself), and I subsequently admitted that.

See? I’m not interested in “anarchism” or “IP opposition” per se. I’m interested in the truth. If those positions of mine are the fallacious ones, all you need to do is prove me wrong, or show that your theory is not self-contradictory. But instead, my opponents cowardly run from debates.

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm

“Why do I want an answer? Because it’s how you establish a line of reasoning.”

No it is a strategy to ignore *my* line or reasoning, in which I explain fully that regardless of how “commonplace” any idea is, it will stand to become much more commonplace much more quickly in the *absence* of IP. You have conveniently offered no response to my line or reasoning to that effect.

What’s really silly here is you think “commonplace” is well-defined, and that you are asking a question that even has an answer.

“I would then naturally to lead you down a logical path that you won’t like, because it will force you to examine the potential consequences of what you espouse.”

I have been considering the potential consequences this entire time, and have written extensively about it (innovators concentrating to big firms, etc.). Also, you are the one that has posted numerous times around this blog, “That’s a good place to leave this discussion”. You seem to be afraid of where the logic train will take you.

“So you won’t answer the question.”

The question doesn’t have an answer. What does “commonplace” mean? In two peoples’ head? 3? 4? 100? If you could answer that, you’d then have to tell me how I could feasibly measure such a state of affairs and give you an answer that isn’t just my whimsical day-dreaming about how I think the outside world works.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Peter,

No problem. I have other things to do. How have you been?

Here is the rub. I think I am actually beginning to get a glimpse of how you think and what you are arguing. You create contradictions by the constructs you espouse. These are not contradictions in my world.

“The self-contradictions that I was referring to earlier in our discussion are, for example:
- individual rights versus society rights”

These are not mutually exclusive. They are reciprocal. All rights are limited. If one chooses to live as a social animal, one encounters ambiguities regarding where the “individual” ends and “society” begins. Case history is filled with the evolution of thought concerning how these ambiguities are balanced.

“- physical world versus imagination”

As you have pointed out in other posts, imagination is part of the physical world. One could approximate the meaning of this by saying something like “imagination is at the root of creativity”. That is not really speaking about the physics of physiology as much as it is describing a cognitive process of humans thought. This is true in the same way that when I describe the process of building a table, I don’t discuss the organic chemistry of wood fibers. It is not necessary to the meaning I’m trying to convey.

“- monopoly versus competition”

As Mises pointed out, which I have previously referenced for you, monopoly is an inseparable part of a competitive market with property rights. There is not contradiction.

“- redistribution versus a net gain”

This implies the treatment of the economics of law. It is a reciprocal relationship that requires a trade-off. It is a form of cost/benefit analysis, and is subject to the considerations of economic theory and public policy. You do not believe in the concept of “public policy”, but only individual rights. I have previously referred you to Touchstone for a discussion of the what she calls the Primary Social Unit, and how her analysis deals with the Rothbardian concepts of property and natural rights. I have also referenced Coase in this regard.

“- positive versus normative approach”

This is gobbledygook. I have never resorted to formalism. However, I can say that some rights are positive, and certain things “should” be this way or that, without creating a contradiction in my world.

“- what should be versus what is”

This is where we conflict more than any other area. I have maintained that you and others here misstate what “is” in order to argue what “should” be. I have insisted that we fairly establish what “is” as a point of departure for discussing what “should” be. You are not troubled by what “is”, since it has no purpose as a point of reference for your world view. You create your world view out of whole cloth.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Wow.

That’s a lot of non-answers.

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 6:31 am

Hi Wildberry,

one of the main problems of your statements is vagueness (= gaps in reasoning). I will only repeat that you have to date not defined what government is, or what IP is, and duck my clarification request. Without that, it is impossible to determine the validity of your statements. So, I could just end here and say that you’re not making an effort. Nevertheless, I will attempt to fill in the gaps based on your former claims and show how you contradict yourself, based on my interpretation of what you’re hiding.

Let’s get the government out of the hand first. You appear to be claiming that government will decrease the violations of private property and therefore we should support it. Now, notwithstanding the absence of the definition of government from you, let’s merely assume that government takes money (tax) and provides only one service (private property protection). A principled supporter of private property would already object that this is like claiming that in order to reduce the level of rape, we introduce the office of the chief rapist. Essentially you subvert the theory of private property by claiming that private property is not always morally right. But let’s skip over that and analyse your claim from a logical perspective. Let’s say that we have a system of no government and also no DROs. You are losing, say, 100$ a month due to property violations. We’ll introduce the government. Two things can happen. First of all, the government might take more in taxes than are saved by the property violations it prevents. In that case, it would be counterproductive to the purpose stated. But there could also be the more beneficial case of the government taking, say, 20$, and save you 25$. So, compared to the previous system, you’d be better off by 5$. This however means that there is a profit opportunity. Another guy could come to you and say “I can save you 25$ for only 19$”, and yet another one “I can save you 50$ for 30$”. If the government did not prohibit these competitors, it would run out of business and cease to exist. But if it would, then you have the problem yet again that it would be counterproductive. Add to it the problem of economic calculation, in that in the absence of market and a pricing system, it is impossible to determine what action would cause how much savings, and therefore the government would not be able to rationally decide how to act.

Therefore, if your goal is to reduce private property violations, you cannot support government. I’m not claiming that your goal should be to reduce private property violations. That is a normative assumption, however it seems to be the one that you are making. So, you contradict yourself. Kindly note that is completely unrelated to the question what anybody thinks is right. So you are yet again wrong in claiming that is is us who confuse “should” with “is”. No, dear Wildberry, it is you who does that. You have an unnatural obsession with “government”, “society” and “inventors”, but cannot provide any coherent explanation of what it is or what relation it has with economy.

You also said that government works on a cost+ basis. But that’s not an argument. It’s like saying that if you cut off someone’s leg, they will walk on a crutch. It explains how to compensate for a deficiency, but not why the deficiency should be preferred in the first place.

Then there is the problem of IP. Let’s say there is a system where all physical goods are covered by property rights, and someone wants to introduce IP. Now, again, I have to make guesses as what IP actually is. Let’s just make the very generic assumption that IP is a claim on the attributes of physical goods. But physical goods are already covered by physical property rights. IP would therefore need to redistribute existing rights. Also, because it is impossible to act without causing a change of a physical good, there also isn’t anything else beside the redistribution that IP does. For example, you complain that without IP, books and mousetraps are not protected. That’s wrong! They are protected by physical rights. All books and all mousetraps are. What you mean is that you don’t consider such a distribution of rights just, and want to rearrange it based on other criteria. On its own, that’s not a problem, but the theory accompanying that claim is flawed.

You furthermore claim that if IP was abolished, people who spent time doing business assuming there will be IP would go broke. So what? If IP is immoral, then that would be like claiming that abolition of the slavery makes slave merchants broke, or the abolishment of government makes government contractors broke. If IP on the other hand does not achieve the goals stated (e.g. promote innovation), then why should we worry about the future of people who are obviously not promoting innovation efficiently?

Then we have the individual and society. The only distinction between the approaches is in interpretation (just like with all the other contradictions you are making). They are different method of interpreting the same phenomenon. There are no two separate phenomena (individuals and society) that are the subject of the debate. There is only one. There is no separate individual and society. Society is what we call individuals interacting with each other. If you say that individual have rights and you have a system that covers every individual’s action with that rights, you cannot introduce “society rights” without sacrificing the individual’s rights. Just like, for example, as a minarchist, you probably object to the concept of “right to a job”. Why? Because when someone has a right to job, it means someone is compelled to provide it to him, and this persons’ property rights are therefore invalidated.

Furthermore, you complain that no rights are absolute and therefore you can have “conflicting” rights. That is a non-sequitur. Within any system of rights, some actions will be morally right and other morally wrong (or, some will be desired and some not). That’s what the system is supposed to do in the first place! It follows from the scarcity of the physical world: some states of physical goods are mutually exclusive with each other. If people use a system of morality to guide their decisions, the mutually exclusive states cannot be simultaneously right. From the perspective of utilitarianism, too, you need to know which one is preferable. If I accepted your premise, then I could go around shooting people and taking their stuff and claim that it’s ok since some actions are in conflict with each other anyway. But that neglects the point that one of those is assumed right and the other one is assumed wrong. They cannot be both simultaneously right. If the shooter is right, the dead people are not. If the dead people are right, the shooter isn’t. You however want them to be both right and therefore contradict yourself. From the perspective of utilitarianism, you face the same problem. Either the shooting increases or decreases total utility. Or it has no effect on utility, which means that it should be safe for you to ignore. But then you can’t argue that one of them is preferable to the other.

I could continue with the other stuff, but it would be just restating the above with different words. You are oblivious to elementary logic, essentially, and prefer “feeling”. However, in your case I think your error is genuine and you are willing to search for the truth, unlike some other people posting here, who seem to be on a crusade.

I challenge you to show me an example where I said that your position is wrong because it is immoral or that what you propose “shouldn’t be”. I do that on rare occasions in order to demonstrate that based on their own theory (not mine), they are immoral or that they would not reach their goal.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Peter,
It’s been awhile.

“I will only repeat that you have to date not defined what government is, or what IP is, and duck my clarification request.”

I think I have addressed this with you before, but with all due respect, I don’t really think you expect me to come up with a definition that clarifies anything. You have a dictionary and you live in America, right? You speak English? Also, if you are arguing on the subject of IP, is it reasonable to presume that you know what you are arguing about? I hope you don’t expect me to put you through law school here.

Not that you’ll be satisfied, but here goes:

Government: The act or process of governing, especially the control and administration of public policy in a political unit.

Governing: the exercise of sovereign authority.

IP: the subject of IP laws, covering patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks. Most IP doctrines are crafted to balance two potentially conflicting goals: 1) to provide an incentive to create by giving creators property rights in the products of their creativity and 2) to provide the greatest possible competitor and public access to products of creativity, in order to promote the competitive marketplace.

“You appear to be claiming that government will decrease the violations of private property and therefore we should support it.”

I have never, and would never make such a blanket, unsupportable statement as this. I would offer that property rights may be enforced by the intervention of government agencies. In a free society, like America, the governed have a say in how this operates.

“Essentially you subvert the theory of private property by claiming that private property is not always morally right.”

It’s beginning to look like this is going to just be me telling you what I haven’t said. If property is in fact private, it is an enforceable right that is generally well-defined in the law. The objective of property law is to define and enforce public policy relating to that property. Property is merely a human device establishing rights in the owner of it.

“no DROs.” ???

“Therefore, if your goal is to reduce private property violations, you cannot support government. “

You are raising the problem of social cost. See Ronald H. Coase-The Problem of Social Cost. http://www.sfu.ca/~allen/CoaseJLE1960.pdf

“You have an unnatural obsession with “government”, “society” and “inventors”, but cannot provide any coherent explanation of what it is or what relation it has with economy.”

I have reference many authors who have written on this topic, including Mises. Coase’s paper is from the Journal of Law and Economics. IP law addresses the economic impacts of limited property rights in IP. If you don’t get the economic connection between government, society and inventors, I don’t know what else I can do to help you.

“You also said that government works on a cost+ basis. But that’s not an argument.”

I do recall discussing this with you, although I forget the context. Nonetheless, the point I would make here is that government does not work on a profit incentive. It is a coercive social authority which collects taxes to support authorized services. Using Mises’s analysis, it is bureaucratic in nature. In business terms, it is a cost center, not a profit center.

“Now, again, I have to make guesses as what IP actually is.”

I don’t know why this is true. It is well defined by statute and case law; perhaps because you don’t know anything about that?

“Let’s just make the very generic assumption that IP is a claim on the attributes of physical goods. But physical goods are already covered by physical property rights. IP would therefore need to redistribute existing rights.”

Let’s not. This is a bad assumption. IP grants rights in intangible works which are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. That makes them tangible, or in your terms “physical”. Let’s say there are pages of a book which are blank. That physical property is already covered by property rights. Now let’s say that you fill up those pages with a software code that runs the Matrix. Has anything been added beyond the letters and words used to express that code? Before you wrote it, did that exist? Who has better title to it than you, the author?

“Also, because it is impossible to act without causing a change of a physical good, there also isn’t anything else beside the redistribution that IP does.”

I really have no idea what this means.

“For example, you complain that without IP, books and mousetraps are not protected.”

Without IP, property whose economic value can be copied at a low cost, will be. This creates an economic effect. Mises described this as production for an external market. I rhetorically defined this as a form of slavery (absent choice, which presumably would exist). It would change the economic calculation of both sellers/producers and buyers. The actual effects are a matter of some speculation, since we do have IP and have for some time. However, logically, one can surmise that the public policies above would be affected.

“You furthermore claim that if IP was abolished, people who spent time doing business assuming there will be IP would go broke.”

Again, I never said that. With IP people go broke. Having property rights in a bad book is not a guarantee of financial success. A monopoly of this type, derived from exclusive use of private property, is not in itself anti-competitive, as Mises clearly points out. In this sense, IP is merely an extension of existing property rights, and once established, are handled by the markets and by the law in a normal fashion; i.e. property, contracts, tort, and yes IP laws.

“So what?”

So nothing. A free market takes care of itself. People who make money do, and those that don’t go broke.

“If IP on the other hand does not achieve the goals stated (e.g. promote innovation), then why should we worry about the future of people who are obviously not promoting innovation efficiently?”

Who is worried? IP is primarily a public policy. It grants property rights in certain works for a purpose. That purpose can be summarized like this: Mr. inventor, there is no guarantee that what you invent will be valued in the market. Nobody knows until you put it out there. But, if it is of value and society would benefit from its use, then we want to encourage you to put it out there as soon as possible. In exchange, we will enforce your rights to the rents derived from the market as the result of your work. We will do this by creating property rights in your work for a limited time. Either way, if your invention sucks, too bad. As an owner of property, you have all the rights other property owners have, you can promote it efficiently or inefficiently yourself, you can sell the rights to someone who will, you can contract for limited assignment of rights, etc. Simple.

“There are no two separate phenomena (individuals and society) that are the subject of the debate.”

Again, I have no idea why you are twisting the simple meaning of language. Individuals and society may both be spoken of and described and discussed. They are concepts in the English language that have a common meaning. It is a matter of focus and intended meaning. For example, I can speak of “oxygen molecules” and “the atmosphere”. Speaking about the weather patterns in the atmosphere does not negate the existence of oxygen.

“There is no separate individual and society.”

Yes, like the atmosphere analogy above, they are integral parts of the whole. The English language has a marvelous ability to assign concepts to the scale of observation. Observing that the atmosphere is part of a planetary structure, and planets are part of a universe, etc, does not negate the existence of other scales of observation.

“…you cannot introduce “society rights” without sacrificing the individual’s rights.

Yes, that is the way it works. If you don’t like that, you can live on a desert island and only have to answer to natural laws. If you want to live in a society (i.e. two or more cooperating humans), you have to trade off certain types of liberty. If you live alone, you can use your bat however you wish. If you live in society, there are limitations you must accept on your actions. That is called “social policy”.

“Furthermore, you complain that no rights are absolute and therefore you can have “conflicting” rights.”

Rights conflict all the time. I think I have used the property line example in the past. If there were not conflicts between property owners, there would be no need for laws, government, or private enforcement agencies. The rights to property are approximately absolute, but the boundaries of those rights are subject to legal interpretation. That is why we have trials. That is why we have case law. At one time, we had duels. I prefer court.

“If I accepted your premise, then I could go around shooting people and taking their stuff and claim that it’s ok since some actions are in conflict with each other anyway.”

I have written on this extensively. Your right to shoot is limited, just like all other rights. The facts will determine the moral justification. Homicide is a definition of the offense. Murder is always wrong. Self-defense is an exception to the rule. Suicide prohibitions are a choice between the individual’s right to die versus the administrative cost of preventing murders under the guise of suicide. It is a social policy choice that is embodied in the law.

“You however want them to be both right and therefore contradict yourself. “

Read the above and see if this statement seems accurate to you. Be honest.

“You are oblivious to elementary logic, essentially, and prefer “feeling”.”

Strange. My responses seem pretty logical.

“However, in your case I think your error is genuine and you are willing to search for the truth, …”

Thanks, I like to think so.

“unlike some other people posting here, who seem to be on a crusade.”

I presume you include both sides of the debate in this criticism? Many anarchists who post here seem a little fanatical to me.

“I challenge you to show me an example where I said that your position is wrong because it is immoral or that what you propose “shouldn’t be”.”

I don’t have a need to rise to this challenge. I will merely point out that in this post, as well as your initial response to me, (- positive versus normative approach- what should be versus what is) you raise the issue of moral justification for property rights and freedom. Perhaps you were attempting to say that I was guilty of this, I don’t really know.

To be clear, I have never claimed that IP is a moral issue. However of course it, like all human action, has a moral component. Ethics and morality are part of the human condition and therefore integral to human action. There is nothing immoral about IP law in its essence. Whether it actually accomplishes the stated goals in every case is open to debate, and I have strong beliefs about where it has /does not.

But in essence, it is moral and just. Like limited government, as a social policy I think it produces approximately the best outcome compared to alternatives. Like all forms of liberty, both require eternal vigilance. This is a responsibility, in my view we have mostly failed to meet.

Nice talking with you Peter.

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Wildberry,

I’m afraid I need to start to be harsher on you. You deflected. You did not attempt to engage in an exchange of arguments, instead you started talking about something else. I’ll just address a few things, because otherwise I would have to repeat myself.

you live in America, right?

No, I don’t live in America. What relevance to the debate has it though? None. Just like most of the other stuff you say is completely irrelevant from the point of view of arguments.

I don’t have a need to rise to this challenge.

Then I’ll starting to call you liar and coward. Simple as that. Based on my experience, a reaction like this is an indication that I can’t expect a coherent argument.

you raise the issue of moral justification for property rights and freedom

I only explained that one of the methods to define property rights is based on morality. The other one is based on utility. By mentioning both, I covered all the logical options. The dichotomy between what is and what should be is that they are different methods of analysing the same phenomena. If I’m analysing what is, it is completely irrelevant whether I agree with anyone’s idea about what should be.

Looks like I was wrong with you. While you’re not a crusader, you have obviously no desire for knowledge either. You are uninterested in the principles of logic and the analysis of contradictions. You are merely interested in a pretence of argumentation.

I’ll only admit one thing: you might not have said that abolition of IP should be opposed because people who now made investments will go broke. Someone said it in the last day or so, I might have mixed it up with other posts but I deleted them from my folder already so I couldn’t find it. I made the assumption it was you. If I was wrong, I apologise for that.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Peter,

“You deflected. You did not attempt to engage in an exchange of arguments, instead you started talking about something else.”

Sorry you feel that way. In reading our exchange over, I think I responded point for point. The fact that you think I am talking about something else is an interesting data point. Not sure what to make of that.

What relevance to the debate has it though?

The relevance is that if you were American, I could assume that we have certain experiences and understandings in common, such as the use of the English language culture and politics. That is all. My assumption is wrong. Where are you from?

“Then I’ll starting to call you liar and coward.”

That’s a rather grand leap from not wanting to try to prove a position that you deny you have taken. Granted. Stipulated. Why peg the meter?

“I only explained that one of the methods to define property rights is based on morality.”

OK, you make my point. Neither of us have gone there.

“If I’m analysing what is, it is completely irrelevant whether I agree with anyone’s idea about what should be.”

Although some would say that one’s ability to perceive what “is” is somewhat influenced by what they think “should be”. I tend to agree with that.

“While you’re not a crusader, you have obviously no desire for knowledge either.”

You have no cause to insult me in this way. If I had no desire for knowledge, I wouldn’t be wasting my time with you here, although I am getting the feeling that our discussions have reached their useful limit. We’ll see.

“You are uninterested in the principles of logic and the analysis of contradictions. You are merely interested in a pretence of argumentation.”

You don’t seem to like or appreciate the thought and effort I am putting into this discussion. You seem to be questioning my motives. Why is that?

“If I was wrong, I apologise for that.”

No problem. I’m willing to assume it was an honest mistake.

Take care.

Peter Surda January 15, 2011 at 5:12 am

Wildberry,

In reading our exchange over, I think I responded point for point.

No, you deflected point for point. You are using vague, meaningless expressions to slime out of the debate.

Such as with the society and individual complementing each other. That’s just a metaphor. That’s not a scientific argument. If they complement each other, can you show me an example of an act of society that does not require any act by any individual? Can you show me an example of a right that society could have that would not require any single individual to benefit and any single individual to be compelled to act? I could continue with all the other stuff, but the questions would boil down to the same: how can you simultaneously do two things which are mutually exclusive? How can you hold contradictory assumptions?

You accused me of arguing that my opponents are wrong because I don’t agree with what they think should be. I considered that important, because that is the most single thing I’m trying to avoid and the very thing my opponents are doing. I’m attempting a scientific approach. You accused me of not doing that, but do not want to present any example. That’s just another way of sliming out.

The “definitions” you provide are first of all unscientific, vague and could mean anything. Second of all, you provide no explanation what they have to do with the arguments I am making. The dictionary defines government as governing? What if someone comes up to your door and says: “Listen, now I’m governing you”. Does that mean he’s the government now?

You say that I subvert the definitions of “is” in order to “prove” my point what should be. But it’s the opposite. You are using vague words in order not to have to argue. I suspect to a large extent, you are not to blame directly, you just got scammed by others (e.g. those who wrote the dictionary). I have tried to provide careful reasoning why my definitions are correct. Your counter-argument is that “that’s not what the dictionary says”. Well, screw the dictionary! Who cares what other write? If I write “1+1=3″, does that mean it’s correct? Different countries have different definitions of copyright and patents in their laws, and different definitions of what the government is. Which one is relevant for our arguments? None.

And why does it matter where I’m from? That bears no relevance on the validity of my arguments.

I’m disappointed. But on the other hand, it looks like we’ve reached an impasse. You don’t think that contradicting yourself is a problem. Unfortunately, that makes you impervious to arguments so I can’t do anything anyway.

Wildberry January 15, 2011 at 11:11 am

Peter,
“You are using vague, meaningless expressions to slime out of the debate.”
This is the first truly dishonest thing you have said to me, I think.

One of the problems in all human communication is the vagueness and ambiguity of words, especially when discussing difficult and complex subjects. Reductions of such are one of the objectives of discourse.

For example, I don’t know what you really mean by “scientific argument”. Perhaps you mean that anything I might say is not valid unless it can be reduced to an algebraic expression. Perhaps you mean it has to be empirically verified. But thanks for telling me the rules of our discussion.

I on the other hand, think that one way to reduce vagueness and ambiguity is to refer to sources that have already worked certain things out. Often times, for example, the dictionary is a good place to start when defining words.

Likewise, the actual statute language is a good place to start when debating the meaning and behavior of IP law.

People from the same country may have more things in common that those from different countries, with their own styles of language, culture, history, and politics. It’s not a critical factor, just part of the picture.

It is ridiculous of you to expect that every word I use be generated from whole cloth by me. I am a product of my education and experience. When I want to discuss something, I feel free to draw on that experience. So do you, occasionally. Didn’t you refer to Mises just recently? So did I.

“Such as with the society and individual complementing each other. That’s just a metaphor. That’s not a scientific argument.”

What does this mean? I described my understanding of the relationship between individuals and society. I used an analogy concerning oxygen and the atmosphere. What is it you don’t understand?

“If they complement each other, can you show me an example of an act of society that does not require any act by any individual?”

You are being obtuse. Society, by the definition I ascribe to is “Two or more cooperating humans”. So no, society without individual humans cannot exist. It is a word and a concept to describe an aspect of reality.

“How can you hold contradictory assumptions?”

You keep saying this and I explain how it is not a contradiction. “Individual” and “society” are not a contradiction. I can be a baseball player and a banker. I can be a human and an American. Oxygen can be an individual molecule or a component of the atmosphere or interstellar gas which glows red. These are not contradictions.

“You accused me of arguing that my opponents are wrong because I don’t agree with what they think should be.”

As I said, I don’t recall accusing you of this. If I did, I’m willing to admit I was mistaken. Even if I wasn’t, if you want to abandon it now, that’s ok too. Let it go.

“I’m attempting a scientific approach. You accused me of not doing that, but do not want to present any example.”

Good. I am not accusing you of anything except being obtuse.

“That’s just another way of sliming out.”

And getting personal.

“The “definitions” you provide are first of all unscientific, vague and could mean anything.”

I disagree. But I cannot personally send you to law school so you can understand otherwise. However, I will grant you that they are not universal. What I mean is that laws are designed to operate by providing rules that produce a “just” outcome in the face of a particular set of facts. This kind of thing probably drives you nuts, because you can never say for sure, especially in a difficult case, what the “exact” answer will be. You make an argument drawing on the rules of law and applying the facts of the case. It is not like 1+1=2 except in the simplest, most direct case.

There is nothing wrong, in a discussion of the law itself, to refer to the statutes in question. To hold otherwise is…I don’t know what it is.

“The dictionary defines government as governing?”

Do you think that I will consider this an honest and sincere response? Although if you can’t understand the relationship between individuals and society, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the concept of governing and government cause you a problem.

“What if someone comes up to your door and says: “Listen, now I’m governing you”. Does that mean he’s the government now?”

Where did this come from? Did I say that government is whoever knocks on my door? What’s going on here?

“You are using vague words in order not to have to argue.”

I am using words to argue. If you think they are vague, ask for clarification.

“Who cares what other write?”

Then why are we corresponding? You expect me to argue with you without using any of the written information available to me?

“Different countries have different definitions of copyright and patents in their laws, and different definitions of what the government is.”

First, this is another example of why it occurred to me to ask if you were American. As you know, the statute I was quoting was from American law. That’s the only one I know.

“Which one is relevant for our arguments? None.”

Second, if no law is relevant to this discussion, then why are we discussing IP? IP is a law.

“I’m disappointed. But on the other hand, it looks like we’ve reached an impasse.”

Some conversations work and others don’t. It is puzzling to me why you run off the rails. But I am getting the feeling that you expect me to behave in some particular way that pleases you, and that you are free to make personal references to my motives (“slime out of the argument”) if I don’t.

I don’t really know, but I suspect others reading this (if there actually are any others) can form their own opinions. I’m just giving you what I have. You can take it, leave it, or interact with it. Free will and all.

“You don’t think that contradicting yourself is a problem.”

I do think that is a problem, if it occurs. We seem to disagree on the facts.

“Unfortunately, that makes you impervious to arguments so I can’t do anything anyway.”

I have a lifetime of experience that demonstrates to me that I’m not impervious to arguments. You, however, are frustrated because this discussion did not go as you thought it should, it appears.
I can’t do anything about that. It appears you and I have accomplished almost nothing. Why is that?

Peter Surda January 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Wildberry,

This is the first truly dishonest thing you have said to me, I think.

Ok, then why don’t you answer my questions correctly, but instead rephrase them and answer something else?

So no, society without individual humans cannot exist.

Maybe we can restart from here then. I’ll neglect that you did not actually answer my question, you answered something similar to my question (again). I’ll assume that you just have problems with expressing yourself precisely and you didn’t mean it that way. You agree that these two concepts (society and individuals) cover the same area, or at least that the concept of society is a subset of the individuals. Now, can you explain me the other part of my question, which you didn’t answer: if a society has rights, how can that be accomplished without any individual benefiting from those rights, and without any individual being compelled to provide this benefit? In other words, how can that be accomplished without making a proportion of individual rights invalid? How can that be anything else than a redistributive policy, taking from some individuals and giving to others? If your answer is again that it can’t be done, then I’ll point out that you cannot simultaneously claim this, and that these concepts complement each other.

As I said, I don’t recall accusing you of this.

Admittedly, your writing is so vague that often I have trouble recognising what you actually mean. But you said here:

This narrowly focused system of ethics underpins all of your analysis of property issues and beyond.

People from the same country may have more things in common that those from different countries, with their own styles of language, culture, history, and politics.

Yes, but also it can create irrational biases and superstitions. I suspect that is what happened to you. You seem to mistake the specific for the generic. As for me, so far I have lived in three countries for a prolonged period of time and speak five languages. Not that it justifies or proves anything. Culture and history do not affect the validity of science.

But I cannot personally send you to law school so you can understand otherwise.

While I do not have a degree in law, I had about 6 or 7 law courses during my university study. Again, that does not prove or disprove anything. Even if the current IP law was relevant for a scientific discourse about IP (which it isn’t), it still does not mean it’s correct. Law is made in order to regulate behaviour and redistribute property. That’s not a scientific criterion.

Then why are we corresponding?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but I correspond in order to persuade others or let them persuade me (which of those two will happen I cannot apriori know). The law and dictionaries are not written with that purpose in mind.

Maybe I was a bit too harsh on you, for that I have to apologise. However I maintain that you do not answer my questions, rather you reformulate or reinterpret them and answer something else.

Have a nice day,
Peter

Wildberry January 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Peter,
I want to respond to you, but I am out of time for now. Perhaps later today.

Let’s try to clear up the ethics thing, though.

Am I wrong in my understanding that you believe that the “homesteading” principle of non-rival use is an ethical principle that withstands your “scientific” rigor? And am I wrong to understand that you believe that the concept of “tangible” and “intangible” property are contradictory, since all tangible property is already covered by property rights, and that these rights can only arise through “homesteading” of scarce resources? (I use quotes because I realize I am not typing out to the whole principle.)

This is my understanding of your position.

When I say that property rights are a human device, you think I am sliming out of some direct confrontation with your beliefs?

It seems to annoy you that I come at the question from a different point of view. Relevance is in the eye of the beholder. You are not the sole judge and jury concerning what answers are “correct”.

I realize you must experience me as someone who is putting diesel in a gas engine.

There is more truth in things than you acknowledge. There is greater relevance than you allow. I think you are struggling to make the world fit into your “scientific” construct. But be warned, it is a construct. It is your invention. It does not describes “reality”.

Such a concept in absolute terms is well above our pay grade, don’t you think?

Now, if you want to limit “reality” to the subject of IP and property rights, I’m game. But you are going to have to deal with my view of things if you want to find common ground.

I can be partially right, and you can be partially wrong. That is the world I live in.

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 5:12 am

Wildberry,

Am I wrong in my understanding that you believe that the “homesteading” principle of non-rival use is an ethical principle that withstands your “scientific” rigor? And am I wrong to understand that you believe that the concept of “tangible” and “intangible” property are contradictory, since all tangible property is already covered by property rights, and that these rights can only arise through “homesteading” of scarce resources? (I use quotes because I realize I am not typing out to the whole principle.)

Now it finally looks like we’re making a progress. Your description is not entirely accurate but a step in the right direction. I’m not going to answer this question (yet) though, because I think we need to clarify other things first.

I realize you must experience me as someone who is putting diesel in a gas engine.

Thank you for making this analogy. Again, it’s imprecise, but you seem to be getting closer to understanding me. So, I’ll build upon this to demonstrate the issue from my perspective.

Let’s say we didn’t know how cars work. The laws would prescribe a mixture that one needs to put into the fuel tank. There would be a loose group, let’s call them “diesel proponents” who would argue that you need to put diesel into the fuel tank, because it either makes the engine run better, or it’s the “ethical” way to do.

Me: Well, it’s all good and stuff, but although you call yourself “diesel proponents”, you actually support using gasoline too. However, diesel and gasoline go into the same tank. If you fill it with diesel, there’s no place left for gas. So, you contradict yourselves. Furthermore, you say that you don’t agree with the governments’ laws, but don’t explain why or how they should be changed. Also, you do not provide a definition of diesel. Due to the last two gaps in reasoning, it’s impossible to determine whether your claims are correct or not.

Wildberry (interjecting into the debate): Well, the government defines what diesel is.
Me: I’m not interested in what government says. I want to know how the engine works. What relevance does your answer to my question? Furthermore, government defines the mixture as not only containing gasoline and diesel, but also all kinds of other stuff, e.g biodiesel, for which again there is no explanation.

Wildberry: You cannot put all the gasoline into the tank either. The tank has a finite capacity. The gasoline that does not fit into the tank needs to be left at the fuel pump. This means the concept of fuel is reciprocal. Coase said so.
Me: This makes no sense. I said that the finite capacity of the tank is the cause of the problem in the first place! Coase only said how to value the fuel based on what the fuel pump owner and the car owner want do do with it. That does not explain how the engine works. It is a proposed solution to an entirely different problem.

Wildberry: Due to the problems I described earlier, even if we fill the tank with gasoline, you need to determine what gasoline to put there and what not. Some gasoline will not make it, i.e. gasoline is not absolute.
Me: I am aware of that. I never said gasoline is absolute. I propose a normative method utilising FIFO (First In First Out) to determine what gas to put there. I am aware it is not the only possible solution, but it is the simplest one I can think of. Furthermore, if you try to put the gasoline into the middle of the tank, you’ll end up with a mess. The alternative theories that have been proposed to me do not address fixing he mess.

Hopefully it’s clearer now. Of course, it’s an imprecise analogy, but it demonstrates the core issues: me pointing out contradictions and you talking about stuff I’m not asking.

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 7:37 am

Looks like my comment is “awaiting moderation”, which according my previous experience means that it didn’t like some words or I posted too quickly or something and it’s going to silently disappear after a while. So, I’ll rephrase and repost, maybe it will work.

Wildberry,

Am I wrong in my understanding that you believe that the “homesteading” principle of non-rival use is an ethical principle that withstands your “scientific” rigor? And am I wrong to understand that you believe that the concept of “tangible” and “intangible” property are contradictory, since all tangible property is already covered by property rights, and that these rights can only arise through “homesteading” of scarce resources? (I use quotes because I realize I am not typing out to the whole principle.)

Now it finally looks like we’re making a progress. Your description is not entirely accurate but a step in the right direction. I’m not going to answer this question (yet) though, because I think we need to clarify other things first.

I realize you must experience me as someone who is putting diesel in a gas engine.

Thank you for making this analogy. Again, it’s imprecise, but you seem to be getting closer to understanding me. So, I’ll build upon this to demonstrate the issue from my perspective.

Let’s say we didn’t know how cars work. The laws would prescribe a mixture that one needs to put into the fuel tank. There would also be a loose group, let’s call them “diesel proponents” who would argue that you need to put diesel into the fuel tank, because it either makes the engine run better, or it’s the “ethical” way to do.

Me: Well, it’s all good and stuff, but although you call yourself “diesel proponents”, you actually support using gasoline too. However, diesel and gasoline go into the same tank. If you fill it with diesel, there’s no place left for gas. So, you contradict yourselves. Furthermore, you say that you don’t agree with the government’s laws, but don’t explain why or how they should be changed (i.e. what’s the correct mixture). Also, you do not provide a definition of diesel. Due to the last two gaps in reasoning, it’s impossible to determine whether your claims (after eliminating the contradiction) are correct or not.

Wildberry (interjecting into the debate): Well, the government defines what diesel is.
Me: I’m not interested in what government says. I want to know how the engine works. What relevance does your answer to my question? Furthermore, government defines the mixture as not only containing gasoline and diesel, but also all kinds of other ingredients, e.g biodiesel, for which again there is no explanation.

Wildberry: You cannot put all the gasoline into the tank either. The tank has a finite capacity. The gasoline that does not fit into the tank needs to be left at the fuel station. This means the concept of fuel is reciprocal. Coase said so.
Me: This makes no sense. I said that the finite capacity of the tank is the cause of the problem in the first place! That’s the reason why even we have a debate. If it was possible to put all the gas into the tank, there would be nothing to debate about. Coase only said how to value the fuel based on what the fuel station owner and the car owner want do do with it. That does not explain how the engine works. It is a proposed solution to an entirely different problem.

Wildberry: Due to the problems I described earlier, even if we fill the tank with gasoline, you need to determine what gasoline to put there and what not. Some gasoline will not make it, i.e. gasoline is not absolute.
Me: I am aware of that. I never said gasoline is absolute. I propose a normative method utilising FIFO (First In First Out) to determine what gas to put there. The gas would be filled from the top, you’d stop filling the tank once it’s full. I am aware it is not the only possible solution, but it is the simplest one I can think of. Furthermore, if you try to put the gasoline into the middle (with respect to gravity, i.e. vertically) of the tank, the gasoline will spray out of the tank and spill all over you. That sucks. The alternative theories that have been proposed to me do not address how to fix this.

Also, I would be the only one who can actually define in a scientific manner what diesel is. Others would say stuff like, “it’s this and that and sometimes not and my 4 year old gets it”.

Hopefully it’s clearer now. Of course, it’s an imprecise analogy, but it demonstrates the core issues: me pointing out contradictions and you talking about stuff I’m not asking.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

Peter,

To be honest, this post makes you seem a little nutty.

You attribute my side of the conversation to an idiot. That is not a fair reading of anything I’ve said.

Wheras you say my description of your position is “close” you skip right over that and write a weird play about a throw away line about how incompatible our world-views are.

If you don’t care what the law says, then don’t bring it up. Make your arguments without reference to the law, what it does or what it says.

However, we seem to have a problem with the english lanaguage. I use words and concepts that have perfectly clear meaning to most people, but you don’t seem to understand a word I’m saying.

I don’t know how to dialogue with someone who gets stuck at this level of discourse. Sorry.

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 11:37 am

Well well Wildberry,

aren’t we showing the true colours now? Why are you so angry? Afraid of your vagueness being exposed as such?

If you don’t care what the law says, then don’t bring it up.

Might I remind you that it was you who brought it up, not me? I specifically said that it has nothing to do with my question. And now you complain again, because?

I use words and concepts that have perfectly clear meaning to most people, but you don’t seem to understand a word I’m saying.

I don’t care if other people think it’s clear. It’s not clear to me. It’s vague. I specifically said why. You reaction? You don’t like it. Pfff.

I don’t know how to dialogue with someone who gets stuck at this level of discourse. Sorry.

Ditto. I knew a guy that was arguing exactly like you. I spent about three or four years exchanging posts with him, but was unable to find any coherent claim in anything what he said. He made a few minor contributions and corrections, but in general, I have to day no idea what he was talking about. I won’t be repeating the same mistake. I’ll just assume that instead of being unable to express yourself clearly, you don’t actually have an argument.

Bye bye Wildberry.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Peter,

I’m not the slightest bit angry. Your post was incoherent. It happens.

Out of the many hours of posts we have invested, I really can’t remember many questions, and when I do recall one, I think I gave you an answer. You don’t get that my answers were relevant.

You are like an interactive enigma who requires others to discover your rules of engagement by trial and error. You have spent most of your time lecturing me on my infantile use of language. You have put words in my mouth that in no way resemble what I’m trying to say to you.

I have an argument. I can’t figure out where you are coming from. You seem to revel in that. If that is the case, you are correct to observe that this is a wasted of our time.

While I’m at it, let me make this editorial comment. I think I commented on the dialogue you are referencing. I think you referred me to the string, if I recall correctly.

It was interesting reading, and I understood his comments better than I understood yours, and as I recall, it ended like this. Do I detect a pattern?

In one of my more recent posts to you, I restated my understanding of your position. While you say it was not completely accurate, I think you would agree that it was a fair treatment of what you have said. You have not reciprocated in that regard. And you have not clarified where I am mistaken. You wanted to postpone that so you could create your drama play about fuel tanks, etc.

I believe this is where you and Kinsella left our last discussion. I pointed out to Stephan how he was misrepresenting what the law says and does, and he ran out of time. Now it seems it never happened. Again, do I detect a pattern?

Regards,

Artisan January 13, 2011 at 3:06 am

I don’t see what’s wrong with that, but encouraging original artistic production in this case does only really imply to eventually buy it directly from the author …

One has to face the rational fact (and I thank Mr Kinsella for making this more obvious to me) that, psychologically – and objectively – valuing artistic ideas is just like any other spiritual or religious cult (like in “culture”) . Isn’t it more a question of personal support than coercion then?

Should one be forced by law to pay a membership fee to the catholic Church when he worships a Saint ? To me, I feel that this refutation might even be the most archetypal sense of the story of “Christ chasing the merchants from the temple”.

Dave Narby January 13, 2011 at 2:45 am

Vitriol?

I’m confused. Do you think that original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are commonplace?

james b. longacre January 13, 2011 at 2:46 am

“Scarcity has nothing to do with the size of the supply, it has to do with the nature of use. ”

nothing to do with or sometimes to do with?? arent supplies used?? if nature of use is the same over time can a thing become more scarce??

used ideas are scarce then?? used meaning economically applied?

sweatervest January 13, 2011 at 4:10 am

“nothing to do with or sometimes to do with??”

There may be a relationship between the size of the supply of a good and whether or not it can be consumed in a rivalrous or non-rivalrous way, but this does not change the fact that economic scarcity does not reference at all the size of a supply (it certainly couldn’t, since the “size” would have to be measured in some arbitrary unity). For example, with air the size of the supply of breathable air definitely affects whether or not its use is rivalrous or non-rivalrous. But this does not change the fact that rivalry (which is what economic scarcity is)
is defined independent of the supply size. There are other goods where the size of the supply has no effect on whether consumption is rivalrous or non-rivalrous. For example, food is rivalrous no matter how much there is. There is no conceivable supply of food that would get around the fact that if I am eating something you are not. On the other hand, ideas are non-rivalrous no matter what the size of supply is. There is no conceivable supply of ideas that would get around the fact that if I am using an idea, you can use it too.

“arent supplies used??”

Again, that this is true and that supplies are not simultaneously being created (which will assure us that the supply actually diminishes with time) is only relevant to economic scarcity for goods that exhibit a relation between supply size and rivalrous-ness of consumption (like breathable air). At least in the context of IP, “supplies” of ideas are not used!

“if nature of use is the same over time can a thing become more scarce??”

Well, economic scarcity is binary, yes or no, one or zero. So a good wouldn’t become “more” or “less” economically scarce over time, but there is certainly nothing stopping a good from switching from one to the other at certain points in time. For example, if the supply of breathable air were to all of a sudden contract, or the population of oxygen-breathing animals all of a sudden exploded, then breathable air could definitely switch from non-scarce to scarce.

“used ideas are scarce then?? used meaning economically applied?”

Certainly not. Two points I think are important. First, for ideas, scarcity and supply size have no relation. Ideas are always non-scarce regardless of supply size. Second, even if there was a relation between the two, it wouldn’t change the fact that using an idea does not diminish its supply, and if anything might increase it (more people will learn about it from seeing it being used). If anything one would expect using an idea to make it flip from rivalrous to non-rivalrous (this is for the sake of argument only… I have not conceded my point that ideas are *always* non-rivalrous).

Phinn January 13, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I’m STILL confused. Do you think that original, novel ideas that add to society’s benefit and enjoyment are commonplace?

Short answer: yes. Beneficial ideas are everywhere. To the extent they are less common or lower quality or coming at higher costs than they otherwise would be is directly attributable to the aggression of statists.

Longer answer: you are asking a dumb question. “Scarce” does not mean “there’s less than I want there to be.”. It means one person’s use interferes with another’s use. But patterns and ideas encoded into objects can be infinitely replicated into different objects without interfering with anyone’s use of any other object, including the original.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Phinn,

“It means one person’s use interferes with another’s use.”

Why is it that you can apply this to tangible property without any intangible content, but cannot apply it to tangible property with intangible content?

The fact that property does or does not incorporate “ideas” is irrelevant. The issue is whether you are going to recognize property rights in things like books or mousetraps. You do not.

Yet you argue that to deny property rights in such patterns is not an interference with the “owners” use. It can only be non-interference if you deny property rights at the outset.

Therfore, you assume your conclusion.

Phinn January 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

There’s no such thing as “intangible content” that could possibly be the subject of a property right. That’s a completely imaginary concept, created for the express purpose of justifying IP rights. Basing a property right on it is like claiming that no one has the right to set foot on any land that’s West of the Mississippi River because to do so would trod upon the ghosts, faeries, sprites and elves that live in the dirt there, and they have a right not to be walked on. It’s a completely imaginary proposition and therefore nonsense.

Not coincidentally, your reliance on this “imaginary content” concept as a basis for IP assumes your conclusion. You dream up this mythical thing called the “intangible content,” then create a property right to protect it.

Property is a normative assertion arising from priority of use of something. It can therefore only exist where there is an interference between two or more people’s use of it. No such thing happens when one person copies another person’s book, song, play, mousetrap, manufacturing technique, etc. You use your copy, I use mine, and we go our merry ways.

I can understand why the originator WANTS to be able to forcibly prevent anyone from copying him — it always gives him an advantage in the market to erect a barrier to entry to exclude competition.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Phinn,

“That’s a completely imaginary concept, created for the express purpose of justifying IP rights. ”

Is there some thing wrong with that? Your reference to ghosts and faeries is insulting and dismissive.

If property rights are a human device, and imagination is a human cognative function, then what’s the problem with two people making a contractural covenant to treat something as such? If it can be done by contract, why not by law?

“You dream up this mythical thing called the “intangible content,” then create a property right to protect it.”

Yes, and I’m in good company. Mises acknowledged that every human act, every act of production incorporates rational, “intangible” thought. You have no problem recognizing property rights in a loaf of bread, so what’s so difficult or nonsensical in applying this equally to a book?

When you refer to “imaginary content” do you mean the content is a prodcut of imagination, or that the content doesn’t exist?

You didn’t anwer my question, which was why the distinction for property that has intangible content. Intangible is not the same as non-existent.

“Property is a normative assertion arising from priority of use of something. ”

Correct. IP is a normatvie assertion that acknowledges property rights in products of intellectual production. In order to establish and enforce these property rights, legal conventions must be “invented”. So what? That is the same for land. Can you prove that the land you occupy was homesteaded and legally transferred? Unlikely. Does it really matter?

Once property is owned, the market takes care of it, right?

“…it always gives him an advantage in the market to erect a barrier to entry to exclude competition.”

Of course this is nonsense. There is no gurantee that something that is owned will have economic value. I recall someone here on this thread admitting he is giving his music away. not every musician does that. Only those how command value get paid for what they do.
You are free to write a book, invent a mousetrap, or protect a tradesecret from improper disclosure. You have a right to enforce performance of a contractual obligation, even though Rothbard thinks you shouldn’t.

This is the way it is with all property. That is why I am asking you what your justification is for making a distinction between books and land. They have more in common than you seem to acknowledge.

Peter January 14, 2011 at 12:23 am

If it can be done by contract, why not by law?

Seriously? If actors can contract to work in a movies, why not a law requiring actors to work in movies?

Phinn January 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm

If property rights are a human device, and imagination is a human cognative function, then what’s the problem with two people making a contractural covenant to treat something as such?

It can be done by contract. You go right ahead and make a contract with whomever you want. You make a contract with someone dividing the world’s unicorns between you. You take the blue ones, and the other guy gets the red ones.

If it can be done by contract, why not by law?

When you claim that an ethical, normative assertion is valid (i.e., has the force of law), it must be premised on logic, reason, evidence and be universally-applicable, otherwise it’s just one person (or group) overpowering another person (or group), and claiming that the victor’s preference is somehow superior to the loser’s preference.

In other words, that’s not ethics. That’s the opposite of ethics. That’s just power.

Which is fine. Power is the law of the jungle. It will be around a long time.

But IF you make an ethical assertion, THEN it must be rigorous and universal, or otherwise it’s not an ethical principle at all.

In the case of IP, acting on the assertions of IP necessarily violates my right of self-ownership. If I hear a song, and it becomes part of my brain, then I can ethically use my body to sing and perform it. To claim otherwise is to deny my my right of self-ownership of my neurons and surprisingly appealing singing voice, and the right of my audience to listen. No one in this scenario is interfering with anyone else’s bodies, or their self-ownership, so the assertion that such a performance is ethical stands up to the test of rigor and universality.

Or if I make up a song, and it coincidentally sounds similar to one that someone else made up before me, without any copying, IP claims that you have the right to physically force me not to sing it to willing listeners. Again, that violates the principle of self-ownership.

If you want to merely overpower me and use brute force to stop me, you probably can, if you get enough people organized to that end. But you will never be able to legitimately assert that doing so is based on anything other than force and the preferences of the strong dominating the weak. It will never qualify as an ethical principle, no matter what percentage of the population agrees with you.

Wildberry January 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Phinn,

“When you claim that an ethical, normative assertion is valid (i.e., has the force of law), it must be premised on logic, reason, evidence and be universally-applicable, otherwise it’s just one person (or group) overpowering another person (or group), and claiming that the victor’s preference is somehow superior to the loser’s preference.”

What qualifies as an ethical principle, and when is it established? The simple fact is that even if you prove beyond any doubt that property rights only arise by homesteading or transfer, you will never be able to claim universal acceptance. To ever arrive at universal acceptance of an ethical principal, coercion is required. Even of you did miraculously get 100% consensus on an ethical principle within a certain population of humans, since will in unalienable, according to Rothbardian ethics, you will always have the prospect of non-compliance. In that case, some group of people will apply coercion to obtain compliance. In your world, as long as that group is private, that is ethical. Of course this leaves you with a bunch of other problems, (which have already been solved, BTW) like transaction costs (enforcement) and the advocacy legal system (innocent until proven guilty, rules of evidence, procedures, equal access to courts, jury trials, etc), but hey, I know you believe the market will re-invent all of that stuff.

The transition from contract to law is a social phenomena based on efficiency; i.e. transaction costs. If such transition was not ethical, it would not survive, because laws depend on social support or oppression. Even oppression cannot maintain itself forever in the face of social opposition. All told, laws are founded upon the ethics of the subject society, not the other way around. That doesn’t mean you are not free to make up your own rules of ethics out of whole cloth. However, social ethics develop over time and get integrated throughout social interactions, and are reflected in law. I disagree with your assertion that laws can exist over time outside of ethics, and that laws can long exist, especially in a “free” society like America, for long without social support.

The ethics of property that I subscribe to is the concept of “better title”. It is not inconsistent with homesteading in that homesteading, if in fact it could actually occur, would establish better title than anyone else. Unlike like Rothbardian property ethics, however, better title does not depend exclusively on homesteading, nor does it exclude intangible property rights. It is precisely because an author, for example, has better title to his work than anyone else that recognizing property rights in such work is justifiable and ethical.

“In the case of IP, acting on the assertions of IP necessarily violates my right of self-ownership.”

This is wrong. It does not. I imposes yet another restriction on your use of property. It affects your acts, not your property.

“If I hear a song, and it becomes part of my brain, then I can ethically use my body to sing and perform it. To claim otherwise is to deny my my right of self-ownership of my neurons and surprisingly appealing singing voice, and the right of my audience to listen. No one in this scenario is interfering with anyone else’s bodies, or their self-ownership, so the assertion that such a performance is ethical stands up to the test of rigor and universality.”

This is a typical misstatement of IP laws. Copyright law does not prohibit you from singing along. It does not even prevent you from performing it to certain audiences. It prohibits commercial use. It prohibits your appropriation of some else’s property rights, which I know in principle you support. You just refuse to recognize these particular property rights. Your only justification for this exclusion is to claim that intangible property does not exist, and that property rights can only be recognized for tangible property. You deny that intangible property exists, yet at the same time you justify copying it out of a tangible fixation precisely because it can be easily copied. Low cost of copying is not an ethical basis for violating property rights of the rightful owner.

“Or if I make up a song, and it coincidentally sounds similar to one that someone else made up before me, without any copying, IP claims that you have the right to physically force me not to sing it to willing listeners. Again, that violates the principle of self-ownership.”

Kinsella once said to me that if I was going to advocate IP, then I’d better know what I was talking about. However, no special knowledge of IP is required to recognize it as nonsense. Does that make sense to you?

Your statement above about what copyright law does is just wrong. You completely assume the key issue: Did you make it up? How similar? Is that believable? How do we know? You just assume that these issues are crystal clear. Let’s assume they are. Copyright law does not prohibit you from singing this song to your friends or family. Knock yourself out. It prevents you from collecting rent. It prohibits appropriation of another’s property. I think in principle, you support this concept.

“If you want to merely overpower me and use brute force to stop me, you probably can, if you get enough people organized to that end. But you will never be able to legitimately assert that doing so is based on anything other than force and the preferences of the strong dominating the weak. It will never qualify as an ethical principle, no matter what percentage of the population agrees with you.”

Of course I disagree, as you might know. What you describe is certainly one historical method of acquiring property, and defending it. Most likely, this is the actual origin of most property in land title. As Mises points out, this is really not such a big deal because the market allocates resources, and eventually property gets sorted out according to market forces. The upshot of this is that while the ethics are important, the economic factors tend to overpower initial ethical breaches. In the case of IP, the objectives are to direct rents to the owner with “better title”, and to encourage dissemination to the public.

If you supported the concept of a “public policy”, I think you would be in support of this. There is nothing wrong, in my view, with establishing rights in property consistent with economic policy. As I said earlier today, the field of Economics and Law specializes in this consideration, based on the foundation laid by Coase concerning the tradeoff between transaction costs and property rights. It is not a matter of might over right, as you assert.

Always a pleasure.

Phinn January 14, 2011 at 10:49 am

>>> What qualifies as an ethical principle, and when is it established?

This is the core of your difficulty with what I have been saying all along, isn’t it?

Ethical principles don’t emanate from people who consider themselves to be our Betters. They don’t come from people wearing black robes. They don’t come from taking a vote. They don’t come from “social convention,” which is really just a way of describing some indistinct number of people who happen to tacitly agree with each other. They don’t come from some person or group being stronger than others. They don’t come from people who claim to have a special relationship with (and knowledge of) divine will.

Ethics comes from reason based on empirical reality. In that sense, an ethical proposition is like a scientific proposition or a mathematical proposition — we say, “IF we presume X is true, then Y must also be true.”

Making an ethical assertion is based on the proposition that we are dividing the universe of all possible actions into two categories — ethical and unethical. Right and Wrong. Moral and Immoral. Just and Unjust. Whatever. It’s all the same basic idea.

This division is an abstraction. It is based on reality, but it is an abstraction of reality. It is like algebra — algebra does not exist in the physical world, but only in the minds of men. It is an abstraction. We can say 1+1=2, and then make all kinds of deductions that flow from that. We can then say that x+y=z, and in doing so leave the world of particular numbers and objects, and enter the world of abstraction. But in doing so, we have defined certain premises that cannot change, if we want to claim to still be rational and empirical. We cannot say that x+y=z, and then say that x+y=n, and also say that z does not equal n, and still say anything that is possibly true. We have contradicted ourselves. There is no law of god or man that says we cannot say that x+y=n, except for the fact that we have already defined x+y as equal to z. If we say that z and n are not the same, then both propositions cannot be true. If we say that “1+2=3″ is true, it cannot also be true that 1+2=4.

You said earlier that, “Unless you are willing to acknowledge, even if just for argument’s sake, that property rights of all kinds are a human device, subject to some degree of ambiguity and interpretation, there is no way to have a discussion with you about IP.”

This is absolutely a non-starter, and is emblematic of your problem reasoning through these issues. Defining an ethical principle means that we are drawing an abstract, normative conclusion about an action, and deciding that it is either ethical or unethical. That’s our premise, remember? We have divided the universe of all possible action into two categories — ethical and unethical. IF we say that we are dividing action into two categories, THEN it follows that an action cannot be both ethical and unethical at the same time. Therefore, there can be no such thing as an ethical ambiguity or interpretation.

We, as humans, can be fallible in our conclusions and faulty reasoning. Of course we can. Happens all the time. But mathematics is not fallible. Reality is not fallible. And so ethics is not fallible. We cannot have a mathematical proof that declares that x=25 (and only 25), and also declare that x=42 (and only 42), and say that both are true. Either they are both false, or one is false, but they are not both true. It’s nonsense to say otherwise.

If you are going to declare that the universe of action is divided into two categories, then there needs to be some objective, universally-true, consistent basis for doing so, otherwise all you have done is delineate the actions that you personally want to occur. Either such a division is being made on the basis of consistent, rational, universal principle, or you are merely making a division based on PREFERENCE.

Dividing the world of actions into those you prefer and those you do not prefer is fine, but it is inescapable that doing so is totally arbitrary, and is neither capable nor in need of a rational basis — you want what you want, and that’s all there is to it. Preferences are non-ethical. You cannot claim that preferences are ethical principles. Basing one’s ethics on mere preference is no different from saying “I want you to be dead” and claiming that “it is therefore justified, right and proper that I murder you.” You may feel that way, but it is simply false to say that such an assertion is anything other than a preference.

Without universality as a source of ethical principles, an assertion (or instruction or commandment) doesn’t qualify as a standard or a principle. It’s just an expression of preference. Saying, “You ought to do X” is a very different kind of proposition than saying, “I would prefer if you did X” or “It’s in my interest that you do X.” You can claim that it is a universal principle that “You should do X,” but that is only true if you can show that it is also true that ALL people in that situation, in ALL places at ALL times, should do X, and show a rational premise on which such as assertion is founded.

So, by asserting that there is such a thing as ethics, we bind ourselves to the inevitable conclusion that there is only one set of ethical principles that is possibly true. We, as humans, can either discover them and then agree with them, or we can choose to be wrong, just as we humans can devise mathematical proofs that are either proven to be correct, or we can be satisfied with producing explanations that are gibberish, nonsense, or even just plain incorrect.

Reason itself is unforgiving, and reality is not ambiguous.

I submit that the only ethical principles that are capable of surviving the unforgiving test of reason, and that proceed from the premise of dividing action into two categories (ethical and unethical), is the principle of non-aggression. Everything else is merely an expression of one person’s preference, and as should be obvious to a person of your intelligence, an expression of preference has no claim of being superior to any other person’s expression of preference. When two preferences conflict, one person can overpower the other person, but that’s not an ethical conclusion. That’s just might.

From the non-aggression principle, we derive self-ownership, and the principle of freedom of action. From that, we derive rights in property, which is merely a specific application of the principle of self-ownership.

The only way to originate property is through priority of use (which is sometimes rather clumsily called “homesteading”). But priority of use is the only rational, consistent, universal basis for defining property. An object starts with User Zero (unowned), then the first user is User 1, etc. A person cannot be both User 1 and User 4 at the same time.

>>>Copyright law does not prohibit you from singing along. It does not even prevent you from performing it to certain audiences. It prohibits commercial use.

Yes, exactly. Which should be a tip-off that IP is illegitimate. Property principles assert that a person is entitled to freedom of ALL uses of certain objects that do not interfere with other people’s uses of their objects. In the case of me singing a song, that object is my singing apparatus (which is really like the voice of an angel, you should hear it some time). I own my body, including the brain that learns patterns. My listeners own the coins in their pockets. I sing for them in some place where we are allowed to be. But IP declares that I can do this performance, but my audience can’t pay me.

This is what I mean when I say that IP was designed as a form of protectionism, not as an actual form of property. Protectionism (and monopoly privileges) only care about who gets exclusive access to a market. Property rights only care about exclusive use of particular objects, and gives everyone complete freedom to engage in all uses that don’t interfere with others’ uses of their objects. IP declares that I sort-of own my voice, I sort-of own my neurons and the patterns of notes I can learn, and I sort-of own the space I am standing on when I sing, and that my audience sort-of owns the coin in their pockets, but they just can’t give me the coin when I sing the song.

That’s tantamount to declaring that I don’t fully own my voice, or my neurons, and that my audience does not fully own their coins. Even though nothing that my audience and I do with these objects could POSSIBLY interfere with anyone else’s use of their voices, neurons or coins. But you say we can’t ethically exchange these objects amongst ourselves, because someone else has a superior right to collect all coins from all possible audiences in exchange for hearing that pattern of notes.

That’s a claim of market-monopoly, not property.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Phinn,
One more before I begin my real job…

“Ethics comes from reason based on empirical reality.”

This statement seems to imply that ethics are absolute, if we can agree on what “empirical reality” is.

In that sense, I suppose it is like a scientific theory, but like those, support for a view of “reality” gather support over time but can never be “proved”. They are adopted because people experience that following them (i.e. morality based on ethical principles) “works”. Relativity “works”.

The best example I can think of at the moment is the treatment by Touchstone of Rothbard’s ethical assertion that “all rights are negative”. She argues that when you change the starting point of the discussion from the Crusoe device of man alone, to a Primary Social Unit of mother and child, you come to a different conclusion. I think her arguments have merit, but I cannot prove that to you.

“We can say 1+1=2”

I get the elementary logic of what you are saying. That’s all fine. But if I also assume that both Rothbard and Touchstone are rational, thoughtful people, how do you explain the fact that they reach contradictory conclusions? They cannot both be “right”. Ethics are not algebra.

“Therefore, there can be no such thing as an ethical ambiguity or interpretation.”

I beg to differ. You believe that property rights can only arise by homesteading or transfer of scarce resources. I do not. I believe that property rights are a human device and are granted for social and economic purposes. Those humans need not be unethical in how those rights are granted. It is only necessary that those living under those rules view them as ethical. A society may have a system of ethics which I disagree with. People can disagree about ethics, or ignore the issue entirely.

“Reality is not fallible. And so ethics is not fallible.”

This assumes your perceptions of “reality” are universal. When, in human history, has that been the case? I repeat, ethics are not algebra.

“Either such a division is being made on the basis of consistent, rational, universal principle, or you are merely making a division based on PREFERENCE.”

Not to get all metaphysical, but our perceptions often are based on preference. People tend to act in their own self-interests. People in a society learn that it is better to have a strong sense of what is ethical, and to insist to the extent possible, that others (i.e. society) act morally. This reduced risk by making the conduct of other predictable. I suspect that in most cases, this ethics can be explained in terms of “right and wrong” by those who ascribe to particular ethics.

Without a need to verbalize or otherwise define our ethics, we generally act in conformance, and strenuously object to breaches by others. This is one way to conceptualize how society works and evolves. Conflicts eventually get resolved, and often they take the form of ethical principles, which serve the same function as laws; to set a standard of conduct that everyone is expected to acknowledge.

“doing so is totally arbitrary, and is neither capable nor in need of a rational basis”

This is an overstatement that borders on fanaticism, no offense intended. While an ethical principle may be arbitrary in some sense, it is almost never “totally” arbitrary. Rothbard has his logical framework for claiming that all rights are negative. Touchstone has her rationale for why some rights are positive. Neither position is “totally arbitrary”.

“You may feel that way, but it is simply false to say that such an assertion is anything other than a preference.”

With all due respect, you are asserting that what you hold as universally “true” means that what I believe must be universally “false”. I disagree with Rothbard and agree with Touchstone. That means that my view is not ethical in any sense, and is merely a preference? You are traveling down a strange road here.

“Without universality as a source of ethical principles, an assertion (or instruction or commandment) doesn’t qualify as a standard or a principle.”

Who is the judge of what is a standard or a principle? Do you really believe that if my ethics conflicts with yours on some level, that you must be universally right and I must be universally wrong? Are you saying that if there is not perfect alignment between every single human being on every principle of ethics, that there is no basis for that difference that arbitrary preference?

Let’s run with that. People can choose how they want to live. They can have differing opinions about whether a particular act or rule of conduct is ethical. Are you proposing that you can demonstrate that one is right and the other wrong with algebra?

There are people who believe that dropping the bomb on Japan was ethical. They have a logical basis for that belief. You may disagree, and I’m sure you could produce a logical argument for why that is so. Yet we can both believe that murder is wrong, and therefore unethical. Was the bomb simple murder? Are you sure? That is an ethical issue, and it happened over 60 years ago, and people still differ on the ethics. Is your explanation for this “empirical reality” that one side or the other is universally wrong?

“So, by asserting that there is such a thing as ethics, we bind ourselves to the inevitable conclusion that there is only one set of ethical principles that is possibly true.”

The arrogance in this statement is astounding. Truth is a goal, not a destination. There is no place in the human experience where we can go to find that everything is forever resolved, once and for all.

“Reason itself is unforgiving, and reality is not ambiguous.”

Reasoning is often flawed and reality is in the eyes of the beholder, and therefore mostly ambiguous. This is a fair description of the human condition.

“I submit that the only ethical principles that are capable of surviving the unforgiving test of reason, and that proceed from the premise of dividing action into two categories (ethical and unethical), is the principle of non-aggression.”

This is a fine principle. I like it. I prefer it. I want everyone to follow it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if things were that simple in practice? Wouldn’t it be grand if things were always just crystal clear and unambiguous? This is the problem with believing that pure logic delivers the Truth. It is a tool, like mathematics. Human conduct cannot be reduced to an algebraic expression. Reality is messy. You have to make choices, sometimes the better of bad ones, you have to form preferences and act on them.

“From the non-aggression principle, we derive self-ownership, and the principle of freedom of action. From that, we derive rights in property, which is merely a specific application of the principle of self-ownership.”

Contrary to your apparent presumption, I do understand how Rothbardian ethics are derived from the non-aggression principle. You fail to acknowledge that all rights, even the principle of non-aggression and the negative right to be left alone, have limitations and are ambiguous at the margins when put into practice. It is not always clear in real life, which is the aggressor. If that was always clear in reality, we would not need courts.

“The only way to originate property is through priority of use (which is sometimes rather clumsily called “homesteading”). If I had the time to repeat myself, I think I could show you that “priority use” is not inconsistent with, say, copyright laws.

“But priority of use is the only rational, consistent, universal basis for defining property. “

So you say. Therefore, anyone who has a different theory of property ethics are irrational, inconsistent, and non-universal? Like aggression, it is theoretically possible to construct scenarios where priority of use is unambiguous, but in reality, it often is not so clear.

In my view, you begin from a flawed premise which simply assumes out any ambiguity, and then build a system of ethics based on that initial premise. I understand the logic. Howeve, the further you go to the margins, the more problems that arise. This was Rothbard’s problem, and why he came up with convoluted new theories of contracts that do not require performance, and why Kinsella comes up with strained justifications for his anti-IP position, and why Ancaps have to bend over backward to exclude anything that does not conform to the “pure logic” of your ethical system. This is why there is so little popular support for your position. In the end, it doesn’t wash, because it attempts to make the human experience conform to a mathematical formulation. But that’s just my opinion.

“Property principles assert that a person is entitled to freedom of ALL uses of certain objects that do not interfere with other people’s uses of their objects.”

Why do you insist that selling a copy of my book does not interfere with my use of my property? You can only reach that conclusion if you deny property rights in the first place; i.e. you assume your conclusion.

“you should hear it some time).”

Love to. I imagine it to be high, strained and broken. -

“But IP declares that I can do this performance, but my audience can’t pay me.”

If you pick fruit from my tree, why shouldn’t you be able to sell them at the farmer’s market?

If you assume the conclusion that property rights in the fruit don’t exist, then there is no reason, right?

“This is what I mean when I say that IP was designed as a form of protectionism, not as an actual form of property.”

“Actual” is what? I guess if I can enforce my rights, they are actual? If I cannot, they are not? I think property rights are a human device. I do not limit their “actuality” based on a theoretical prior event of “first use”, although if I did, I could demonstrate that IP rights are consistent with such a principle.

“Protectionism (and monopoly privileges) only care about who gets exclusive access to a market.”

I am growing weary of repeating myself. Your statement above applies to all property. Monopoly is not necessarily anti-competitive. See Mises. All property rights are a monopoly of use. You have a monopoly on your body and your property. No one can rent rooms in your hotel. Why the exception for IP? Because you deny the validity of property rights in the intangible. You assume your conclusion.

“Property rights only care about exclusive use of particular objects, and gives everyone complete freedom to engage in all uses that don’t interfere with others’ uses of their objects.”

Now you are repeating yourself. You only deny interference because you deny property rights in IP. If you grant rights, you must grant interference. You assume your conclusion.

“That’s tantamount to declaring that I don’t fully own my voice, or my neurons, and that my audience does not fully own their coins.”

Just as you cannot sell my car, even to people who use their own coins to buy it, you cannot sell my IP. That would be ethical only if you deny property rights. You assume your conclusion.

“Even though nothing that my audience and I do with these objects could POSSIBLY interfere with anyone else’s use of their voices, neurons or coins.”

It is not these things that are at issue. It is the transaction of selling someone else’s property. You sell my book, you are not interfering with my ideas, my alphabet, my paper or my ink. You are interfering with my property rights. If you simply deny their existence, then there is no problem. You assume your conclusion.

“But you say we can’t ethically exchange these objects amongst ourselves, because someone else has a superior right to collect all coins from all possible audiences in exchange for hearing that pattern of notes.”

I’m beginning to feel like Silas now. You cannot sell the Brooklyn Bridge. Sorry. You don’t own it.

“That’s a claim of market-monopoly, not property.”

This is a good final statement, because it clearly shows your error. Property rights ARE a market-monopoly in a limited but literal sense. It is the right of exclusive use in the market. Otherwise it would not be property. We, society, grant property rights in order to facilitate cooperation and lower transaction costs of trade. That applies to all property. Once established, all property operates in the market and within the law according to well established principles and codes.

As a final note, property rights ARE NOT established or denied on the basis of the cost of copying. For example, property rights in land don’t deal with copying, because it’s impossible. Copying software code is easy and cheap. Today, copying books is cheap, but 100 years ago, it wasn’t much of a problem.

In the end, you want to seek rent from someone else’s labor. That is a grand inconsistency relative to the ethics of property. You think other people should work for you?

Phinn January 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm

We, society, grant property rights …

Nothing else you’ve said matters more than this.

It’s flat-out wrong.

First, there’s no “we.” There are only individuals. Only individuals act. Mises said that.

Second, no one “grants” rights. Not any individual. No collection of individuals. There are individuals who act in concert with one another, who call themselves the “state,” who (by virtue of their organizational and propaganda skills) have the power to enforce their PREFERENCES on anyone who defies their commands, but that exercise of power is not, and will never be, ethics.

There is violence, and there is reason. In the context of human social interaction, there is nothing else. Either your ethics are based on reason, or they are false. If they are false, then the action in question may be ethical or unethical, but you’d have no way of knowing, because your ethical reasoning can’t distinguish between the two.

And, yes, either you are right, in which case you agree with reason, or you are wrong. There’s no such thing as having an opinion about truth, not one that matters, anyway. To the extent people disagree about reality and truth, it means one or both are wrong. People are capable of being fallible and misguided and illogical and unreasonable. But neither ethics, mathematics, logic or science are themselves ambiguous or capable of error. These are various terms we use to describe human comprehension of empirical reality (i.e., truth). The only part that is capable of opinion and error is human appreciation of reality, not reality itself.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Phinn,
I have to say, you are one heavy thinker.

“First, there’s no “we.” There are only individuals. Only individuals act. Mises said that.”

Yes, he said this in relation to the study of economics. He did not imply, and I’m sure he acknowledged that humans may also act in cooperation, including self-governance. There is nothing in Mises’s work that I’m aware of that denies the existence of society or government.

He also said that property rights are a human device. That is what I am referring to. That is what I mean.

“Second, no one “grants” rights.”

Monarchs have granted rights in the past. I don’t know about where you live, but in California, much original title in land is traceable to grants of the King of Spain. In modern times, title to land is recognized and is enforceable through the sovereignty of government authority. So, without splitting hairs, your statement is wrong. Rights are granted and recognized by law, and are transferred according to those laws and the forces of the free market. In the face of self-government checks and balances, this must be and is done with regard to some widely accepted principles of justice. These are facts.

“…but that exercise of power is not, and will never be, ethics.”

Who said it was? However, it is also true that breaches of ethics can also be breaches of law, and such breaches can be enforced with power. How that power is gained and exercised is another subject, but the exercise of power may be also ethical.

“There is violence, and there is reason. In the context of human social interaction, there is nothing else.”

Isn’t that a rather gross generalization? There is also neutral third-party adjudication of conflict. The fact that reason is applied is indicative of what? It is better to reason than to fight? Who would disagree?

“Either your ethics are based on reason, or they are false.”

Every system of ethics can be reasoned out. It is part of one’s world-view. You seem to be asserting that every human’s reasoning will eventually be identical. That seems unlikely. Even something basic, like “thou shall not kill” seems universal to me, but it is not universally held to be true in every case and every culture. You think everyone that has not reached your specific conclusions must be by definition wrong?

“If they are false, then the action in question may be ethical or unethical, but you’d have no way of knowing, because your ethical reasoning can’t distinguish between the two.”

I can make ethical distinctions that would agree with many or even most of yours. However, we do not agree on every point. We look at property rights differently. We may agree about non-aggression. I tend to disagree with Rothbard’s ethics of natural rights because he concludes all rights are negative. Because I believe a child has a positive right to care does not make me “wrong”, just because I don’t buy Rothbard’s entire construct. Don’t turn that into a conclusion that there is nothing that I think Rotbard was right about. Viva la deference!

“And, yes, either you are right, in which case you agree with reason, or you are wrong.”

You are reasoning that all reasoning arrives at your conclusions, or reasoning has been abandoned. Doesn’t that seem arrogant when put that way?

“There’s no such thing as having an opinion about truth, not one that matters, anyway.”

This reveals everything. All perceptions are opinions in the final analysis. Some are well founded in science and experience. Others are based on faith. If we are free, we are free to form our own opinions. The fact that you and I may share opinions about what is ethical and what is not is an indication of self-evidence and can form a basis for cooperation. But to believe that you can’t be wrong about something goes beyond a strongly held belief. The fact that we disagree on some aspect of an ethical premise regarding property does not negate other areas where we agree. I think all human relationships are like that. There is a fluid blend of things held in common, and other things that are not. Tolerance for that human condition is what makes cooperation possible. Lack of tolerance leads to tribal warfare.

“To the extent people disagree about reality and truth, it means one or both are wrong.”

Depending upon what you are talking about, yes; in another context, maybe not. We have a disagreement about what property is and how it arises. Which one of us has a lock on “reality”?

“People are capable of being fallible and misguided and illogical and unreasonable. But neither ethics, mathematics, logic or science are themselves ambiguous or capable of error.”

You speak of these things as if they have an existence onto themselves. You might as well say “hammers don’t lie”. These are all tools, employed by humans to interact with their environments. You and others here demonstrate to me the danger of starting with a limited premise and trying to reconstruct the whole world around you based on logic derived from that one that premise. If the premise excludes reality in whole or part, the logic may be sound but the conclusion is flawed. How will you know if your premise is “perfect”?

“These are various terms we use to describe human comprehension of empirical reality (i.e., truth).”

Why would you believe that all of reality is empirically testable? Haven’t you heard of dark matter? You spelled truth with a little “t”, which is correct.

“The only part that is capable of opinion and error is human appreciation of reality, not reality itself.”

This is the “sound of one hand clapping” kind of a statement. Yes, the only part of reality that is relevant is the part that can be perceived/conceived of my humans. I don’t know how to experience or know something outside of my own human experience. Do you?

Regards,

Anthony January 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Wildberry,

On what grounds would you object to “public policy” that allows slavery? After all, if just laws are based on convention and “social support” then how could you object to laws that treated humans as property (as long as the laws are supported by the morals of the community)?

If (as I suspect) you do, in fact, object to slavery, I would invite you to take a closer look at the consequences of treating ideas a property.

When talking to Phinn earlier you said “I(t) imposes yet another restriction on your use of property. It affects your acts, not your property.” I am not sure which of the meanings you actually intended there, but I will assume that it is the latter part (IP restricts actions) and respond to that. IP does indeed restrict my actions, in a way that is a very real threat to my self-ownership. You dismissed that argument far too lightly.

Copyright law can and does prevent me from using both my body and my property in ways I would choose… a particularly egregious example is the copyright on dance moves (http://blog.mises.org/6283/copyrights-and-dancing/) which denies my right to move my own body while standing on my own property. Saying “well, you can still use your own body SOMETIMES, so you shouldn’t complain about the times when you can’t use your body” does not make IP ok.

Out of curiosity, Kinsella has talked about removing derivative works restrictions from copyright and allowing an independent invention defense for patents. Where do you stand on those issues?

AskanIPquestion January 14, 2011 at 5:40 am

To the IP-Defenders:

Imagine someone owns an object (a piece of paper).

Other persons go on and over time invent zillions of combinations with that object and zillion stories.

What rights for the owner of that object (the piece of paper) remain? What if all possible combinations/uses are patented? What if every short story etc. is copyrighted?

The Kid Salami January 14, 2011 at 5:54 am

Say I write a piece of piano music. I sell a copy and the contract of sale stipulates that the buyer is not to make copies of this for anything other than his own personal use – that is, that the original and any copies are to remain in his possession, and that if he lets copies out into the world without having taken reasonable precautions, he owes me damages of X dollars. The buyer agrees to this. There’s no copyright or IP here, just a contract between two people and the use of a physical sheet of paper.

We can theoretically split the set of pianists in two – set A, those who need the music for this piece to be able to replicate it exactly; and set B, those who can hear it once or twice and can play it exactly.

The buyers friend is found with some sheet music with the exact notes I wrote. I sue the buyer for damages of X.

His defence is: he never used it, he didn’t even look at it, he threw it away. But later, he heard someone else play the piece and he could in fact memorise it from this. Later, he writes it down for his friend not as the guy who signed the contract who is misusing the original (which he never even saw), but as the guy who can remember the piece from a single hearing. That is, he claims to be in set B.

I think he is in set A and so is lying – I still sue the buyer for breach of contract. How do we determine the truth?

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 6:40 am

Hi Kid,

nice hearing from you again. I think however that I need to repeat myself: it’s an empirical question. We (well, the investigators hired by the prosecution) would need to investigate and try to determine the facts, the defendant would try to point out that the facts can be interpreted differently. That’s no different from prosecuting any other breach of contract, say if a truck driver you employ fell asleep and caused a late delivery. He could claim that he was awake but there was a traffic jam (or something). How do we determine what actually happened? We gather data and try to determine how we can interpret them.

The Kid Salami January 14, 2011 at 6:57 am

Hi Peter – you say

“That’s no different from prosecuting any other breach of contract, say if a truck driver you employ fell asleep and caused a late delivery. He could claim that he was awake but there was a traffic jam (or something). How do we determine what actually happened? We gather data and try to determine how we can interpret them.”

You say “No different”. I suggest there is a difference to the truck case, that to investigate whether this particular event was or wasn’t a breach, that you need to do at least one thing that the commenters on this thread say is impossible. But to confirm this, I’d like someone else’s words to say how this investigation of “the facts” might go so I can test those words against what was said earlier.

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 7:49 am

Kid Salami,

First of all, I don’t necessarily agree with all that all IP opponents say. Some of the arguments they make are logically flawed. Some of them also use metaphors. Metaphors can help where people lack imagination, but they don’t fix logical errors or supplement logical arguments.

Second, I don’t understand. What is it that should be impossible? Either the driver is lying or he is telling the truth (just like in your example the person A). Whether there was a breach of contract follows from that. Lying -> breach, truth -> no breach (assuming, of course, there are no logical errors). How do you determine if someone is telling the truth? You gather the data and try to see how they fit into either claims. It might turn out that the data gathered is insufficient to conclude either. In that case, they might settle. The employer will then probably attempt to modify the contract in a way that makes such situations turn out for his benefit in the future.

Maybe you are suggesting that either copying occurred or not? And that the lawmaker would react to existing cases by making it less ambiguous for the future? But that does not answer the question what copying actually is, or why is it “right” or “beneficial” to suppress it.

The Kid Salami January 14, 2011 at 7:44 am

I might add that it is not disputed by my side that the buyer did in fact hear the music like he says (the place he says he heard it did contain a pianist who had bought a copy of the piece and played it regularly) and that there is no trace of the original piece of music, consistent with the buyer’s claim that he destroyed it without opening it. What other facts are relevant to the case?

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 7:57 am

Kid Salami,

what would you do if someone came to you and said “I bought a piano from some guy, but I don’t think it’s working as I thought it would. What facts are relevant to the case?”. I don’t know how about you, but I would say to him: “Look into the contract dude!”

Phinn January 14, 2011 at 9:47 am

>>>I think he is in set A and so is lying – I still sue the buyer for breach of contract. How do we determine the truth?

I think the more interesting question is: If we presume he is telling the truth, and the pianist merely learned the pattern by hearing it, what is the principle (the rule of law) on which we decide if a violation of rights has occurred?

If the contract provided that the Buyer would not play the music, and he did, and that’s how the Set B pianist learned it, then the provisions of the contract are clear — he violated the contract by playing the music.

But if the contract only provided that the Buyer would not copy the music onto another piece of paper, but he was allowed to play it, then there could be no contractual violation here. The Buyer was contractually entitled to play the music for the Set B Pianist to hear, and that guy has full property rights in his brain, and couldn’t un-learn the musical pattern even if he wanted to (not without performing electro-shock procedures on him, or neuro-surgery, or administering psycho-active pharmaceuticals). The Pianist is not bound by the contract between you and the Buyer. He can therefore re-create the patterns encoded in his brain to his heart’s content.

The Kid Salami January 14, 2011 at 8:38 am

“What is it that should be impossible? Either the driver is lying or he is telling the truth”

Ok, I’ll just say it then. The specifics of this contrivance are not that important – the point is, one of the facts of the case is whether or not he is in fact able to do what he says, to “copy” the piece from memory. The investigators might not want to take his word for it and test him in some way to see if he can in fact do what he said he did. For example, if he can’t play the piano at all and has no musical training, he is clearly lying. And if he is Mozart, the movie “Amadeus” could be submitted as evidence that he clearly can in fact do what he says. But what if he can only play a bit?

But the general consensus here seems to be that “copying” is impossible to define. I suggest that the question of whether something is “copied” or not arises in situations outside IP/copyright related scenarios. How am I wrong?

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 9:48 am

Kid Salami,

But the general consensus here seems to be that “copying” is impossible to define.

Well, that’s a bit imprecise. It would be much more accurate to state that the IP proponents cannot unambiguously define copying. On the other hand, I can define copying unambiguously. It’s a mix of causality and similarity/utility:.

If an object, B, is causally related to another object, A, and B can be used for the same purpose that A can be used, then for that purpose, B is a copy of A.

Now, if we rephrase that from the perspective of economics, copy is basically an externality and a substitute at the same time. Austrian economics already deals with those, so I don’t see how I can add anything substantially new. Suppression of substitutes is a monopoly (which Austrians reject) and the existence of an externality is not a valid praxeological reason to rearrange property rights (as Mises eloquently explains). Roy Cordato wrote a whole book on externalities from the perspective of Austrian economics (a most excellent one I might add).

But instead of reacting to this, IP proponents (I know you’re not one, but just trying, like me, to look for proper arguments) make up fairy tales and revel in vagueness. Instead of explaining what copying is, they spend all their energy on attempting to “prove” that it’s wrong or leads to a disaster. That’s not an argument, that’s just flawed logic. I can’t fix that for them.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Peter,

“the IP proponents cannot unambiguously define copying.”

Sorry to call you out on this, but to put it politely, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

§101 of the Copyright code defines “copies” as follows: “material objects, other than phonorecords, in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

Of course “work” and “fixed” are defined elsewhere, and makes a distinction between “original” and any subsequent copy. In this way the law established a causal link between the original and any copies as fixations of a “work” that is not the “original”.

No need to reinvent the definition.

Beefcake the Mighty January 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm

OK, so your definition of “copy” (and various attendant concepts such as “work” and “fixed”) is the State’s definition? Or more, accurately, the US Government’s definition? Is this correct? If so, why don’t you simply come out and say so, unambiguously? If not, then what the hell are you talking about, really?

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Beefcake,

This is from my post: “§101 of the Copyright code defines “copies” as follows:”

I sorry if you didn’t realize that the copyright code is in the US code, under the authority of the Constitution of the US Federal Government.

If you didn’t read it carefully, a simple appology would be appropriate.

Beefcake the Mighty January 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Wildberry, I have attempted in the past to have polite dialogue with you, but at this stage your rambling misdirections have become intolerable. You clearly offered up the copyright code as a response to Peter Surda’s (correct) statement that IP proponents do not provide a coherent definition of “copy.” Now you are saying that you were simply stating the current law, as you’ve done throughout this discussion, and then deny that you assert any relevance to this law in regards to the current debate. So the conclusion is clear: you are full of shit, and I recommend that you piss off.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Beefcake,

“then deny that you assert any relevance to this law in regards to the current debate”

Misrepresentations as to what the law says and does is relevant to this debate. Peter was asking for a definition and I gave him one. It is a coherent definition of “copy”.

So much for civil discourse.

Peter Surda January 15, 2011 at 5:36 am

The definition bears no relevance to our debate and is not a scientific one.

Peter Surda January 15, 2011 at 5:38 am

Oh and of course, copyright includes derivative rights (which are not a copy) and patents do not require copying at all.

Wildberry January 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

“Oh and of course, copyright includes derivative rights (which are not a copy) and patents do not require copying at all.”

Derivative rights are based on the legal meaning of “similarity”. It need not an exact copy, but “substantially similar” to the original within the meaning of the statute.

Case law has refined the meaning of “substantially similar” over time. You can look it up if you are interested.

Patent law refers to infringement. There are more ways to infringe than simple copying, due to the subject matter for patents.

The way the law defines offense has direct relevance to how it operates. A “good” law is one which can be unambiguously enforced. Ambiguity is rarely completely absent, however.

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 5:29 am

Wildberry,

using the analogies from the post I made a while ago: your answer has no relevance to my question. My question wasn’t if it is possible to understand the law. My question is how do humans act. You are answering something completely else.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 10:59 am

Peter,

Humans acting to adjudicate a copyright infringement rely on existing statutes and legal reasoning to arrive at a conclusion. Humans advocating one side or the other do the same.

If you can follow that reasoning, you can understand why I am using the statute as reference. You cannot say that copyright law, or any IP law for that matter, does something if it clearly does not. If you want to argue, you must start from a fair reading of what the law is, not what you think or say it is.

Phinn January 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm

No need to reinvent the definition.

There is a need, if the State’s definition is crap.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Are you suggesting it is? Why?

Phinn January 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm

As sweatervest said in his 2:56 pm comment below, the term “work” as used in current copyright legislation is wholly incapable of definition.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Phinn,

Defing “work” in statute and case law is the essence of copyright protections.

In short, it is defined as an “original work or authorship”. It is partially defined by what is excluded. “Writings” are not sufficient for protection.

Words, short phrases adn slogans are specifically excluded.

“Original” has two compoents: 1) the author must have engaged in some intellectual endevor of her own, and 2) it must exhibit a minimal amount of creativity.

The statute gives a number of examples of the types of works which are included within the meaning of “works of authorship”.

That is the best I can do here.

Suffice to say that the statement that it is “wholly incapable of definition” is incorrect.

One more piece of information on copying. Courts have to deal with the problem of whether a copy was made. There are three methods: 1) direct evidence 2) circumstantial evidence that the defendant had access to the work and is similar to plaintiff’s work and 3) circumstantial evidence of “strikig similarity” even if unintential of subconscious.

Finally, not all copying is unlawful appropriation.

sweatervest January 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm

“Suffice to say that the statement that it is “wholly incapable of definition” is incorrect.”

To quote myself:

“Yes you can provide an answer to those questions but they will never be based on universally valid principles. They will always be a “what do you think?” or “let’s vote on it” situation.”

Can you explain *why* words, short phrases or slogans are “specifically excluded”? Can the answer be anything other than, “cause I think that’s a good way to do it”?

Peter Surda January 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Wildberry,

you don’t know what you’re talking about.

No, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I said that IP proponents cannot define copying unambiguously. Your quote does not disprove that. It just shows that people can make stuff illegal. From a logical point of view, it has nothing to do with the advocacy of something which they refer to by the same words, but might or might not refer to the same phenomenon. Furthermore, most of the IP proponents I know disagree with the current laws (but don’t say why), so they wouldn’t agree with that definition either.

The subversion of the language that you perform is regrettable. You should learn to argue. I’m reminded of the Star Trek Next Generation episode Chain of Command (I think) where Picard is imprisoned and his captor is forcing him to say there are five lights whereas there are only four.

Beefcake the Mighty January 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Wildberry = Silas? Or perhaps, Silas’ less-deranged twin?

Phinn January 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

No way. People reveal their intent to you, in everything they do, if you just look. You can see that Wildberry is sincere, and interested in talking about the topic. Silas is … not.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Beefcake,

If you do decide to go down the road with me the way you do with Silas, I will disengage.

Please maintain a civil demeanor and I will do the same.

Respectfully,

Thank you Phinn.

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Peter,

If the US code is not considered an advocate for IP, what is?

Whether you agree of not, that is the law. That is how copying is handled; by defining work and fixation, and distinguishing an original from a copy.

All conduct that is the subject to laws does this. It defines the offense, and proscribes exceptions to the general rule. IP law is no different. I am sensitive to statements made here in opposition to IP law that misstates what the law says and/or does. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

If you want to argue against it, at least start with what it is, not what you think it is. That is all I’m saying.

Peter Surda January 15, 2011 at 5:29 am

Wildberry,

If the US code is not considered an advocate for IP, what is?

US code is a piece of text. It’s not a human, it does not act. It cannot advocate anything. Advocates are people who say that IP is good.

Whether you agree of not, that is the law.

But that’s completely irrelevant for our debate. I agree that it is irrelevant whether I agree with the current law. But that’s not what we’re arguing about. We’re arguing whether the theory explaining why IP (whatever that means) is beneficial or moral is correct. That has nothing to do with what some guy writes on a piece of paper.

If you want to argue against it, at least start with what it is,

I’m not arguing against a piece of paper. I’m arguing that the explanations why it should be beneficial or moral are vague or self-contradictory (or both).

State laws are a reflection of the humans that wrote them think should be. For example, if you retype a text authored by someone else without his permission, you should be fined. They say nothing about what is. If you manage to subvert the process (e.g. hiding, writing it anonymously, hiring a lawyer who can trick the judge, extorting the author and so on), then the should does not occur. The difference between should and is is that acting against is is impossible, while acting against should is considered immoral or decreasing utility. You need to realise that and stop confusing.

Wildberry January 15, 2011 at 11:45 am

Peter,
Why stop now, I’m on a roll…

“US code is a piece of text. It’s not a human, it does not act. It cannot advocate anything. Advocates are people who say that IP is good.”

OK, as I explained to Kinsella, I am advocating IP in the sense that IP is my “client”. I am making an argument in favor of the fundamental concepts of IP law. I am taking a particular side of the argument, primarily because the other side is very well represented.

As such, I have answered your challenge about lack of definition with how the law defines it. The act of copying an original work of authorship is central to copyright law. If you want to argue about that, what’s wrong with starting with what the law says about it?

To imply that I was asserting that the law was a person is just…I don’t know. What is that?

“We’re arguing whether the theory explaining why IP (whatever that means) is beneficial or moral is correct. That has nothing to do with what some guy writes on a piece of paper.”

With all due respect, that statement is born of ignorance. Settling what IP means is one of the great challenges here. I have criticized Kinsella, who knows better, of misstating what the law is and actually does. I pointed it out to him before Christmas, and he ran out of time and referred me to his writings. This, in my view is a problem. We cannot honestly debate the ethics of a law, or anything else, if we do not giving it a fair reading.

This is why I refer back to the law. Agree or disagree, it seems that rational debate should begin with what it is.

“I’m not arguing against a piece of paper. I’m arguing that the explanations why it should be beneficial or moral are vague or self-contradictory (or both).”

Yes, you are arguing with me, not a piece of paper. I have made a number or arguments, especially Mises’s argument for producing for external markets, to show why some form of IP economic rights are beneficial. But this line of discourse gets derailed by opponents like you that insist that nothing is relevant except what you say is relevant. Sorry, I have a different opinion.

I think ethics, morality, individual rights, social conventions, and law are interrelated, like individuals/society and oxygen/atmosphere. For me, there is no discontinuity. For you there is. You are advocating an anti-IP position (I think), so you have a burden to make your case, and I have a burden to make mine. I am trying to make a contribution. That’s all.

“State laws are a reflection of the humans that wrote them think should be.”

That’s it? Some guys sit in a room and invent something that benefits them alone, and whoosh…it’s a law and we all have to obey? That is not my understanding.

“For example, if you retype a text authored by someone else without his permission, you should be fined. They say nothing about what is. If you manage to subvert the process (e.g. hiding, writing it anonymously, hiring a lawyer who can trick the judge, extorting the author and so on), then the should does not occur. The difference between should and is is that acting against is is impossible, while acting against should is considered immoral or decreasing utility. You need to realise that and stop confusing.”

This may be the most confusing paragraph I’ve ever read. What I get out of this is that you think everything in the human experience is absolute. There is a reality that exists without reference to any human perceiving it. You seem to believe that you have some unique power to say what that is, universally, for everyone. I think of this as a world view that holds we are all ones and zeros trying to write our own code. We attempt to do this with reference to an absolute, unchangeable reality that one either perceives accurately, or is mistaken.

That is not my world view. The very concept of society, of two or more humans forming cooperative groups, is vague and ambiguous. That is not to say that there is nothing can be known, or that anything goes. That is clearly not the case. The fact that a group of people can share a common ethics is the fundamental basis upon which society progresses. But as with all human endeavors, at the margins, vagueness and ambiguity increases.

I have used property lines as a simple illustration of what I mean. We can clearly and unambiguously own adjoin property. But the more precisely we try to establish the exact boundary between them, the more vagueness and ambiguity that gets introduced. Are we going to assign ownership down to the individual molecules of soil and air? You see, we have to accept a certain amount of approximation. That is what makes cooperation possible. But that’s just me.

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 5:39 am

What I get out of this is that you think everything in the human experience is absolute.

No no no Wildberry. Human experience is subjective. However, there is only one reality.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 11:01 am

Peter,

If human experience is subjective, how can you be so sure there is only one reality?

I’d be interested in a scientific proof that alternative realties don’t exist.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 11:03 am

Peter,

My prior post is awaiting moderation. Nothing offensive here:

If human experience is subjective, how can you be so sure there is only one reality?

I’d be interested in a scientific proof that alternative realties don’t exist.

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

Wildberry,

if there is more than one reality, then we could not analyse it and we could not have a debate about it. The existence of one reality is an assumption.

Phinn January 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

I’d be interested in a scientific proof that alternative realties don’t exist.

Reality means “all that exists.”

If “alternative realities” existed, then they would simply be part of reality.

Therefore, the idea of “alternative realities” is nonsense. The question negates the meaning of the terms used to ask the question.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Ok guys,

If we are allowed to make assumptions about the meaning of words in this case, I presume it is allowed in other contexts.

The issue at hand is the meaning of “all”. Since this depends on human perception, including reasoning, whatever we come up with is an approximation of what we “know” plus what we “don’t know”.

Since all human perception (including reasoning) is subjective, we have to live with the fact that we don’t know what we are leaving out. This problem may be “solved” in the local reality by certain mathematical and logical constructs. All of which start with a premise that makes a fundamental assumption, like “let X = 1″.

Reducing the vagueness and ambiguity in our perceptions of our reality is one way to state the purpose of intellectual inquiry.

And Peter, would you please point out to Phinn that he contradicts himself in his post? You have more practice at it than I do.

So again, where does this get us?

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Wildberry,

Phinn does contradict himself. He’s merely making an implicit assumption and using words in a different meaning. If anything, his and my reply together show that even if we interpret your claim in two possible ways, you’re still wrong.

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

“As such, I have answered your challenge about lack of definition with how the law defines it. The act of copying an original work of authorship is central to copyright law. If you want to argue about that, what’s wrong with starting with what the law says about it?”

That’s your job. The burden of supporting your position is on you, not us. You have to explain to us why any of the definitions the law gives are justifiable. For example, the law says 8 notes is a copyrightable melody but 7 notes is not? Why not? Why should someone get to copyright 8 notes but not 7?

“To imply that I was asserting that the law was a person is just…I don’t know. What is that?”

A reference to the fact that, well now, you have used two different personifications of the law: first you said it advocates, then you said it is your client. You seem to think the law is a person because you have repeatedly attributed human traits to it.

“This is why I refer back to the law. Agree or disagree, it seems that rational debate should begin with what it is.”

I don’t know why you think we have to address the arbitrariness of actual IP law (which other IP proponents hound us for whenever we actually do), because intellectual property as a general, abstract concept can by analyzed and invalidated without even specifying any of the specifics that actual IP law does. The very general concept of “owning an idea”, regardless of what test you use to qualify what it is an ownable idea, is untenable.

We don’t need to analyze every despotic law code that has even been enforced to know that murder and theft are unjustifiable. We don’t need to pick apart the existing “IP laws” to know that a claim to property other than homesteading or voluntary trading is unjustifiable.

“to show why some form of IP economic rights are beneficial.”

Utilitarian and therefore bankrupt. Beneficial to you maybe, but there is no such thing as “beneficial to society”.

“But this line of discourse gets derailed by opponents like you that insist that nothing is relevant except what you say is relevant. Sorry, I have a different opinion.”

No it gets derailed because it is utilitarian.

“I think ethics, morality, individual rights, social conventions, and law are interrelated, like individuals/society and oxygen/atmosphere. For me, there is no discontinuity. For you there is.”

I cannot speak for Peter, but it seems to me like you don’t just think they are interrelated but identical, i.e. a deductive analysis can start with law and arrive at ethics. I would never deny that existing legislature is related to ethics, but I do deny that anything about ethics can be deduced by examining legislature.

“That’s it? Some guys sit in a room and invent something that benefits them alone, and whoosh…it’s a law and we all have to obey? That is not my understanding.”

That’s government for ya!

“There is a reality that exists without reference to any human perceiving it.”

If there isn’t then what could we be perceiving? “Ourselves” is not an answer but rather begs the question.

“You seem to believe that you have some unique power to say what that is, universally, for everyone.”

This is an ad hominem attack as silly as “You seem to think you have some unique power to say 2 + 2 = 4, universally, for everyone”. Yes there such things as universals. Try to deny that without employing a universal.

“I think of this as a world view that holds we are all ones and zeros trying to write our own code. We attempt to do this with reference to an absolute, unchangeable reality that one either perceives accurately, or is mistaken.”

I don’t know how you go from the existence of an ontological reality to this. The existence of one reality is certainly not the same as, nor does it lead to, methodological monism. Without this “unchangeable reality” (which is usually called regularity) there could be no purposeful action because an actor could never know what the consequences of his actions will be.

“That is not my world view. The very concept of society, of two or more humans forming cooperative groups, is vague and ambiguous.”

It may be difficult to determine that cooperation is happening in a certain situation, but the concept that cooperation itself is vague or ambiguous is untenable, because whether or not it takes place has real, undeniable effects on reality (civilization). It cannot be a matter of opinion whether or not cooperation takes place, regardless of how hard it may be to actually answer that question for specific circumstances.

“But the more precisely we try to establish the exact boundary between them, the more vagueness and ambiguity that gets introduced. Are we going to assign ownership down to the individual molecules of soil and air? You see, we have to accept a certain amount of approximation. That is what makes cooperation possible. But that’s just me.”

This is like saying because you cannot measure the position of a particle perfectly, there is no such thing as precise position (please do not drag quantum mechanics into this; a ruler cannot precisely measure the position of a point particle, which definitely has a precise position, our inability to determine it not-with-standing).

You are confusing theory with practice. In practice getting more and more precise results involves relatively larger ambiguities and uncertainties. But in theory the opposite is true: the most exact, universal results come first.

“If human experience is subjective, how can you be so sure there is only one reality?”

You are taking for granted what a “subjective experience” is. Any experience of *what*? Sure, it is subjective, which means the subject influences, but that just raises the same question. In what does this subject exist? What could an experience, subjective as it may be, be of if it is not of an objective, independently existent reality?

In order to perceive there must already exist something to be perceived.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm

“Reality means “all that exists.”

Fine.

“If “alternative realities” existed, then they would simply be part of reality.”

“All that exists” = Reality we perceive + alternative realities

“Therefore, the idea of “alternative realities” is nonsense.”

How can the idea be nonsense if it is acknowledged by you that they may be part of all that exists yet not what we perceive?

Looks like a contradiction to me.

Peter, selective application of your “rules”?

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Did I do something to offend this website? My post is awaiting moderation again. Let me try again:

“Reality means “all that exists.”

Fine.

“If “alternative realities” existed, then they would simply be part of reality.”

“All that exists” = Reality we perceive + alternative realities

“Therefore, the idea of “alternative realities” is nonsense.”

How can the idea be nonsense if it is acknowledged by you that they may be part of all that exists yet not what we perceive?

Looks like a contradiction to me.

Peter, selective application of your “rules”?

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Sweater,

“That’s your job. The burden of supporting your position is on you, not us.”

Why do you get to tell me what my job is, and who is “us”? Is this a tag team?

“You have to explain to us why any of the definitions the law gives are justifiable.”

I have summarized the explanation and pointed you to references. I am not going to send you to law school any more that I am going to try to teach you economics on this blog. I may discuss it with you, but you will be expected to bring something to the table. I’m not here just to jump through the hoops you design.

“Why should someone get to copyright 8 notes but not 7?”

It is not like there is not an answer to this. You just don’t like the answer because it is not a bright line distinction. If you are interested in the answer, make an effort to learn something about the subject.

“You seem to think the law is a person because you have repeatedly attributed human traits to it.”

That is ridiculous, of course. However, I will say that law, like property, is a human device. It didn’t arise from natural forces of nature.

“The very general concept of “owning an idea”, regardless of what test you use to qualify what it is an ownable idea, is untenable.”

In addition to being ignorant of what the law is, you don’t apparently read my posts. To repeat, it is not reasonable to argue against a law for doing something that it specifically seeks to avoid. Ideas cannot be owned. Stop saying they can. If you don’t know if that is true, look it up. If you do know it isn’t true, that makes you dishonest. Which is it?

“We don’t need to analyze every despotic law code that has even been enforced to know that murder and theft are unjustifiable.”

Your are making an ignorant and emotional statement. Who is arguing otherwise? Now try applying those rules to all the potential fact patterns that have occurred in human history, and see how difficult it is to hold to an absolute principle at the margins. In the face of complexity, ambiguity grows. It takes knowledge and reasoning to arrive at the correct (i.e. just) outcome. Welcome to the real world.

“ We don’t need to pick apart the existing “IP laws” to know that a claim to property other than homesteading or voluntary trading is unjustifiable.”

Who is “we” again? That is one theory of how property rights arise. It is a limited and naive theory, in my view. But if you hold to it come hell or high water, you can argue ‘till you blue in the face that the rest of the world is wrong. It is simplification by exclusion. It is not Truth.

“Utilitarian and therefore bankrupt. Beneficial to you maybe, but there is no such thing as “beneficial to society”.”

See what I mean? Do you deny the meaning of “beneficial” or “society” or both?

“No it gets derailed because it is utilitarian.”

Utility is a perfectly good word. Using it is not an excuse for your to deny its simple meaning.

“deductive analysis can start with law and arrive at ethics.”

Since they are interrelated, you can start at either point and arrive at the other. That is the meaning of interrelated.

“I would never deny that existing legislature is related to ethics, but I do deny that anything about ethics can be deduced by examining legislature.”

I am beginning to form the opinion that you are ignorant of a great many things. What is “examining legislature”?

“That’s government for ya!”

Case in point.

“I think of this as a world view that holds we are all ones and zeros trying to write our own code. We attempt to do this with reference to an absolute, unchangeable reality that one either perceives accurately, or is mistaken.”

This comment was meant personally for Peter. I don’t understand your comment anyway.

“It may be difficult to determine that cooperation is happening in a certain situation, but the concept that cooperation itself is vague or ambiguous is untenable, because whether or not it takes place has real, undeniable effects on reality (civilization).”

Would you mind telling me exactly, universally, unambiguously what those effects are?

“This is like saying because you cannot measure the position of a particle perfectly, there is no such thing as precise position”

I’m aware of the Heisenberg principle. It’s a good analogy. Fixing one aspect of reality necessarily excludes others. Your point?

“You are confusing theory with practice. In practice getting more and more precise results involves relatively larger ambiguities and uncertainties. But in theory the opposite is true: the most exact, universal results come first.”

I am discussing putting theory into practice. If you didn’t get that, maybe that explains why you are having such trouble following me.

“In order to perceive there must already exist something to be perceived.”

Heavy. Oooohhhhhhmmmmm!

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm

“I am not going to send you to law school”

Ohhh okay so to really understand IP law, I need to attend a state-funded university to learn how state laws work and why they exist. This is another ad hominem attack. What comes out of a law school is not automatically correct, and for that matter did you go to law school? How are you so sure what they teach is sound?

“but you will be expected to bring something to the table. I’m not here just to jump through the hoops you design.”

You mean like a property rights theory that you think is too narrow-minded?

“Why should someone get to copyright 8 notes but not 7?”

“It is not like there is not an answer to this.”

Hahaha then where is it, what is it!? You actually think you (or whoever you want to reference) can tell me, without referencing any sort of personal opinion, why you just can’t copyright 7 notes!?

“You just don’t like the answer because it is not a bright line distinction. If you are interested in the answer, make an effort to learn something about the subject.”

In other words you don’t need to make any argument or support what-so-ever to the existence of an answer to this question, you just need to stamp your feet and say it’s out there.

If I actually spend time looking for an answer to this question it would be as silly as googling around looking for a scientific answer to the question, “Why is Led Zeppelin better than Deep Purple?”

“That is ridiculous, of course. However, I will say that law, like property, is a human device. It didn’t arise from natural forces of nature.”

That doesn’t mean it acquires the traits of actors.

“The very general concept of “owning an idea”, regardless of what test you use to qualify what it is an ownable idea, is untenable.”

“To repeat, it is not reasonable to argue against a law for doing something that it specifically seeks to avoid. Ideas cannot be owned. Stop saying they can. If you don’t know if that is true, look it up. If you do know it isn’t true, that makes you dishonest. Which is it?”

That was just me re-interpreting IP law the way I see it. I am quite familiar that ideas cannot be owned. Your insistence that IP law seeks to avoid this makes no sense. They tend to dodge this interpretation by saying it protects “expression of ideas”, and I dare-say what is the difference? What is an idea beyond all of its possible expressions?

“We don’t need to analyze every despotic law code that has even been enforced to know that murder and theft are unjustifiable.”

“Your are making an ignorant and emotional statement. Who is arguing otherwise?”

You.

“Now try applying those rules to all the potential fact patterns that have occurred in human history, and see how difficult it is to hold to an absolute principle at the margins.”

Law of Marginal Utility? Riccardian Law of Association? The superior wealth-building power of capitalism over socialism (or, rather, socialism’s inability to build wealth)? There are all sorts of absolute principles in the realm of human civilization. They and their deductions are called “economics”.

“In the face of complexity, ambiguity grows. It takes knowledge and reasoning to arrive at the correct (i.e. just) outcome. Welcome to the real world.”

No you completely misunderstand what you are talking about here. The only way one can talk of an ambiguity is in the context of precisely defined concepts. Your attempt to discard those precise definitions while holding onto the existence of “ambiguity” is self-contradictory. There is no ambiguity to speak of without those precise definitions.

Welcome to rational thinking.

“That is one theory of how property rights arise. It is a limited and naive theory, in my view.”

It is not a “theory of how property rights arise”. That is called history and it is off-topic here. In order to do that, you have to already have worked out what property rights even are!

Can you justify this any further than, “I don’t like it”?

“But if you hold to it come hell or high water, you can argue ‘till you blue in the face that the rest of the world is wrong. It is simplification by exclusion. It is not Truth.”

I am familiar with the arguments that establish that property rights theory as universally valid. It is not simplification by exclusion, it is exclusion by falsification. If you want to argue anything, you have to accept homesteading and trading as justifiable and deny anything else, for otherwise you compromise your very ability to argue.

“Utilitarian and therefore bankrupt. Beneficial to you maybe, but there is no such thing as “beneficial to society”.”

“See what I mean? Do you deny the meaning of “beneficial” or “society” or both?”

No, “beneficial” is a praxeological concept, tied to specific actors. Only individuals value one thing higher than another, and there is no non-arbitrary way to aggregate their evaluations. How in the world could anyone think that utilitarian arguments are sound? Do you not realize that what you think is “good for society” is only “good for you”? How do you think you can tell everyone else what is good for them?

“No it gets derailed because it is utilitarian.”

“Utility is a perfectly good word. Using it is not an excuse for your to deny its simple meaning.”

Utilitarian arguments are unscientific, misleading and disastrous to pay attention to. Utility is a perfectly good argument when applied to *individuals*. You can go on and on about what kind of world would make *you* happier, but you just don’t have access to other people’s judgments. It is so despotic to think you do. That is the mind of a dictator.

“Since they are interrelated, you can start at either point and arrive at the other. That is the meaning of interrelated.”

No, that’s what logical equivalence is, which is what I suspected you were trying to say. That law can derive ethics is absurd. Again, I only wish you had lived in the Third Reich.

“I am beginning to form the opinion that you are ignorant of a great many things.”

Good for you.

“What is “examining legislature”?”

What you are doing and thinks establishes anything relevant (citing sources about what the current laws are). It doesn’t.

“Case in point.”

It always warms my heart to see that starry-eyed faith in government. You’re right, they put you before themselves. That’s why they make wayyyyy more money than you do.

“Would you mind telling me exactly, universally, unambiguously what those effects are?”

I already did, it’s called civilization. There would never exist a skyscraper without cooperative behavior (even if it were built with slave labor, cooperation had to exist in order to produce the goods needed to enforce slavery). That skyscraper is a real, objective, and unambiguous mark of cooperative action.

“This is like saying because you cannot measure the position of a particle perfectly, there is no such thing as precise position”

“I’m aware of the Heisenberg principle. It’s a good analogy. Fixing one aspect of reality necessarily excludes others. Your point?”

Wow dude. You literally cut out the part of my statement where I said “Don’t drag quantum mechanics into this”. And you have the nerve to call me dishonest.

A *point particle* (i.e. no uncertainty principle!) has a precise position, even though in practice you can never measure it. Does this mean a point particle has no position? I’ll answer for you: no! It does have a precise position!! That’s what makes the concept of measuring position definable at all!

“I am discussing putting theory into practice. If you didn’t get that, maybe that explains why you are having such trouble following me.”

Okay well then you are content to emptily assume the theory and attempt to explain it to us by showing something in practice. You are discussing a theory put into practice when you apparently cannot discuss the theory itself. So what, then, are you practicing!?

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Sweatervest:

“Ohhh okay so to really understand IP law, I need to attend a state-funded university to learn how state laws work and why they exist.”

Your are just defending your right to remain ignorant. It doesn’t matter how you learn what you do. Just bring something to the party. But yes, learning how the law works and why they exist would be a great start to an intelligent discussion about something like IP law.

“You mean like a property rights theory that you think is too narrow-minded?”

What is your question? I subscribe to a “better title” theory of property rights.

“In other words you don’t need to make any argument or support what-so-ever to the existence of an answer to this question, you just need to stamp your feet and say it’s out there.”

Here is the answer: ready??? It depends. You have some facts? Want to see how it works? Google “fact pattern”.

“That doesn’t mean it acquires the traits of actors.”

Who knows what this is supposed to mean?

“That was just me re-interpreting IP law the way I see it.”

Just because you make stuff up doesn’t mean I have to run with it.

“Your insistence that IP law seeks to avoid this makes no sense.”

You are getting boring. If I insist on it, and refer you to the statute itself, and then indicate that case law has repeatedly demonstrated how this is put into practice in real cases, then the fact that it makes no sense says more about you than me.

“What is an idea beyond all of its possible expressions?”

From where I sit, this is ignorance bordering on stupidity. Here is an idea: “the sun rises in the east”. Here is an expression: read “The Sun Also Rises”, or “At Dawn We Slept”. They are books. See the difference?

“You.”

Sorry, you’re full of it.

“Now try applying those rules to all the potential fact patterns that have occurred in human history, and see how difficult it is to hold to an absolute principle at the margins.”

“No you completely misunderstand what you are talking about here. The only way one can talk of an ambiguity is in the context of precisely defined concepts. Your attempt to discard those precise definitions while holding onto the existence of “ambiguity” is self-contradictory. There is no ambiguity to speak of without those precise definitions.
Welcome to rational thinking.”

How can these two paragraphs be written by the same person? Do you have a question?

“Can you justify this any further than, “I don’t like it”?

Yes, and I have. You’ll have to search for it because I’m not going to repeat it all for you here. It is a theory of “better title” and encompasses homesteading as one possible method of establishing ownership.

“If you want to argue anything, you have to accept homesteading and trading as justifiable and deny anything else, for otherwise you compromise your very ability to argue.”

Thank you for making my point so unambiguous and clear. You do not even recognize my ability to argue unless I accept your premise at the outset. Gee, I wonder why you are puzzled?

No, “beneficial” is a praxeological concept, tied to specific actors. Only individuals value one thing higher than another, and there is no non-arbitrary way to aggregate their evaluations.”

You have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. Individual humans act. They are rational. They desire more comfort. They cooperate. Is it impossible in your world to imagine that two humans could both value the same thing and cooperate to acquire it? If they did acquire it, and experienced some satisfaction, would it be fair that they benefited from their cooperation? If two cooperating humans are a society, would it be fair to say that society benefited? Say they wanted to kill and eat an elephant. Could I “aggregate their evaluations” in this case?

“ How in the world could anyone think that utilitarian arguments are sound?”

I want to survive. I need to eat. I’m hungry. I am eating. I feel better. Eating is good. Eating is preferable to starving. People should eat if they want to survive.

Is that utilitarian argument sound?

“ Do you not realize that what you think is “good for society” is only “good for you”? How do you think you can tell everyone else what is good for them?”

Look, I can decide what is good for me, and I can cooperate with people that hold common values. You, on the other hand, can go your own way. Such is liberty.

“That is the mind of a dictator.”

Perhaps, if I insisted that I wanted to impose my will on others. Who is saying I do?

“No, that’s what logical equivalence is, which is what I suspected you were trying to say. That law can derive ethics is absurd. “

First, I didn’t say that law could derive ethics. I said they are interrelated. In a free society, unethical laws don’t last long. Free societies require the support of the governed, and the governed are not likely to accept injustice if they have a choice. That is the history of society, and the history of law.

“Again, I only wish you had lived in the Third Reich.”

As I said, screw you, Nazi baiter. Oooops! There it goes again.

“What is “examining legislature”?”

“What you are doing and thinks establishes anything relevant (citing sources about what the current laws are). It doesn’t.”

It’s was meant to be a starting point, but obviously it is a non-starter.

“It always warms my heart to see that starry-eyed faith in government. You’re right, they put you before themselves. That’s why they make wayyyyy more money than you do.”

What makes you think I am starry-eyed? I am just pointing out that your description of what government might be seem ignorant of any facts about what it actually is. I think you make my point yet again. As with IP law, just because you view something a certain way does not make it so. Sorry to have to point that out to you.

“I already did, it’s called civilization.”

Now, there’s a word without any ambiguity or vagueness.

“That skyscraper is a real, objective, and unambiguous mark of cooperative action.”

So? It’s an artifact of cooperation. Some forms of cooperation don’t leave artifacts. They are intangible, like “original works of authorship” or “love”. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they don’t exist.

“Wow dude. You literally cut out the part of my statement where I said “Don’t drag quantum mechanics into this”. And you have the nerve to call me dishonest.”

Wow, dude, I didn’t. I just acknowledged my receipt of your message. Your point?
“A *point particle* (i.e. no uncertainty principle!) has a precise position, even though in practice you can never measure it. Does this mean a point particle has no position? I’ll answer for you: no! It does have a precise position!! That’s what makes the concept of measuring position definable at all!”

Why are you going there, wherever that is? A point particle is a construct, since its existence cannot be verified. You may treat it as real for some purposes. It has the position you assign to it. In this regard, it is a human device, like property.
“Okay well then you are content to emptily assume the theory and attempt to explain it to us by showing something in practice.”

Who is “us” again?

“You are discussing a theory put into practice when you apparently cannot discuss the theory itself. So what, then, are you practicing!?”

IP law is a theory of limited property rights and their commensurate economic rights. Like all property rights, they are exclusive to the owner, and they are a human device. They serve a purpose that is generally held by society to be useful and beneficial.

The arguments in support of the theory are ethical, social, economic and legal in nature.

The ethics involve the relationship between the natural rights of self-ownership and the theory of property and its legitimate ownership.

The social involves the morals and institutions of human cooperation, including business and government.

The economic involve the exchange of economic goods by human actors. See Mises.

The legal involve the body of laws that have developed in society. See the laws of property, contracts, torts, criminal, procedures, evidence, Constitution, and remedies.

These subjects are interrelated, like as in ecology.

If you want to have an interesting conversation with me, it is helpful to know something about these subjects. If you know nothing about them, don’t pretend it is not necessary.

To do so is either an act of ignorance or dishonesty. Which is it?

sweatervest January 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

“§101 of the Copyright code defines “copies” as follows: “material objects, other than phonorecords, in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

This fails as a definition because it glosses over the very problem with the word “work”.

What is a “work”? A whole novel? Paragraph? Word? Letter? A whole song? A chord sequence? Melody? Note? A whole movie? The dialog? The cinematography? The plot?

“Of course “work” and “fixed” are defined elsewhere”

Yes you can provide an answer to those questions but they will never be based on universally valid principles. They will always be a “what do you think?” or “let’s vote on it” situation. Hence the whole concept of “copying” reduces to a subjective judgment. This is of course true because distinguishing useless from useful information is an evaluation. There is no scientific way to divide between a “work” and any other bundle of expressions.

There is some modern composer (can’t remember his name) who stood on stage for a few minutes in total silence, then bowed and exited. That was his “piece” of music. I think he is wrong in that, but how is that any more than just my opinion?

Wildberry January 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Sweatervest,

I don’t know how to respond to you. If you are interested enough, you can google the code and read it. Laws are constructed such as to make enforcement possible. They seek to remove as much ambiguity as possible. They respond to subtle differences in the fact patterns and the pattern of prior rulings.

If you are going to argue against something, I think it is reasonble to start with a fair understanding of what it is. That’s all I’m saying.

Opinions are like ideas, everyone has them.

sweatervest January 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm

“I don’t know how to respond to you.”

A counterargument would be the most appropriate.

“If you are interested enough, you can google the code and read it.”

If you are interested enough you can re-read my post and try to comprehend what I was saying. I *literally* said yes people can pull whatever definitions they want out of their asses, but it doesn’t establish anything beyond their own judgments.

People can state who their favorite band is, too, but that doesn’t establish that any one band is actually “better” than the rest of them.

“Laws are constructed such as to make enforcement possible.”

No, laws are not constructed at all. Rules are constructed. Laws are discovered. Nobody constructed the Law of Gravity nor the Law of Marginal Utility. Laws exist independent of our desires and cannot be undone by our desires. You are talking about rules that people create and agree to follow (I’ll admit many of what are rules are called laws, but it is impermissible to ignore the difference and suggest that people came together and decided that private property is what makes civilizations functional). As has been discussed over and over, ethics is *not* established through agreement (of course not, where there is agreement there is no conflict!) and so establishing the justifiability of IP is irrelevant to how many people think it would be a good idea.

“They seek to remove as much ambiguity as possible.”

This is true for rules, but in the case of what we are talking about, which is defining what is a “work”, removing ambiguity is literally telling people their opinions don’t matter. All you are suggesting is that if you alone have the capacity to impose your own definition of a “work” on everyone else, that will become the unambiguous definition. This is like saying if you could pass a law establishing the Beatles as the “best rock band ever” and outlawed the purchasing of any other band’s music, that would remove the ambiguities over which band is really the “best”. Of course it doesn’t, it just silents all the dissenters!

“They respond to subtle differences in the fact patterns and the pattern of prior rulings.”

You mean legal uncertainty? What was illegal today can be legal tomorrow, and vice versa? Yes, this is true for democratic nations, and what a disaster it has been. It destroys the very concept of justifiable behavior and leads to a breakdown of ethics and then society itself.

“If you are going to argue against something, I think it is reasonble to start with a fair understanding of what it is. That’s all I’m saying.”

I clearly understand this much better than you do. That is why I am able to critically analyze definitions you throw out, when all you have done is thrown out definitions (with little or no analysis on them).

“Opinions are like ideas, everyone has them.”

You mean like your opinion of what a “work” is, or your opinion of who correctly describes what a “work” is?

AskanIPquestion January 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

To the IP-Defenders:

What is a copy? Please define this exactly (eg in case of a written text).

sweatervest January 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

They can do that just like I can detail to you what my opinion on the entertainment content of a movie is. What they cannot do is *justify* the definition they present. They cannot derive it from universally valid principles. They can only just throw it out and expect the listener to agree that it sounds good.

Anthony January 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Wildberry,

You seemed to miss my comment above… I will repost it here.

On what grounds would you object to “public policy” that allows slavery? After all, if just laws are based on convention and “social support” then how could you object to laws that treated humans as property (as long as the laws are supported by the morals of the community)?

If (as I suspect) you do, in fact, object to slavery, I would invite you to take a closer look at the consequences of treating ideas a property.

When talking to Phinn earlier you said “I(t) imposes yet another restriction on your use of property. It affects your acts, not your property.” I am not sure which of the meanings you actually intended there, but I will assume that it is the latter part (IP restricts actions) and respond to that. IP does indeed restrict my actions, in a way that is a very real threat to my self-ownership. You dismissed that argument far too lightly.

Copyright law can and does prevent me from using both my body and my property in ways I would choose… a particularly egregious example is the copyright on dance moves (http://blog.mises.org/6283/copyrights-and-dancing/) which denies my right to move my own body while standing on my own property. Saying “well, you can still use your own body SOMETIMES, so you shouldn’t complain about the times when you can’t use your body” does not make IP ok.

Out of curiosity, Kinsella has talked about removing derivative works restrictions from copyright and allowing an independent invention defense for patents. Where do you stand on those issues?

Wildberry January 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Anthony,
I have been devoting way too much time to this blog, so sorry I hadn’t got to you. I will try to be brief.

I do not personally support the concept of slavery. However, it would be theoretically possible to legally repeal the 13th amendment, but even if you could get it passed and past the SCOTUS (conflicts with “all men are created equal), the entire social and legal structure is aligned against this. Fundamentally, it is a matter of the ethics of freedom and liberty of the individual, right?

“treating ideas a property.”

Not to continually repeat myself, but IP law does not treat ideas as property. I think what I said before was that it is not reasonable to ascribe outcomes to a law which it specifically seeks to avoid. Ideas are specifically and explicitly excluded from protection.

“IP does indeed restrict my actions, in a way that is a very real threat to my self-ownership.”

Use of property is an act. How does preventing you form using the product of my property threaten your self-ownership. If we went back and forth on this, we would simply arrive at the issue of whether property rights in IP are legitimate. I argue they are little different than any other property.

“Copyright law can and does prevent me from using both my body and my property in ways I would choose… a particularly egregious example is the copyright on dance moves (http://blog.mises.org/6283/copyrights-and-dancing/) which denies my right to move my own body while standing on my own property. Saying “well, you can still use your own body SOMETIMES, so you shouldn’t complain about the times when you can’t use your body” does not make IP ok.”

Sorry, but this paragraph only demonstrates that you don’t understand how the laws work. Most people don’t, but just be aware it doesn’t work like you describe.

“Out of curiosity, Kinsella has talked about removing derivative works restrictions from copyright and allowing an independent invention defense for patents. Where do you stand on those issues?”

I think there are many examples of where IP laws, including SCOTUS decisions have gotten it wrong. We spend very little time here talking about the types of issue your raise. I think there are opportunities to modify things to produce better outcomes.

In general, Kinsella is not built to talk much about change that is not radical and absolute. I think that is because the ultimate vision is complete abolition of government. If that is your goal, why discuss revision? I prefer evolutionary change to catastrophic change, but that’s just me.

The Kid Salami January 16, 2011 at 7:17 am

Sweatervest you say (and I think many here would agree with him, yes?):

“What is a “work”? A whole novel? Paragraph? Word? Letter? A whole song? A chord sequence? Melody? Note? A whole movie? The dialog? The cinematography? The plot?….you can provide an answer to those questions but they will never be based on universally valid principles. They will always be a “what do you think?” or “let’s vote on it” situation. Hence the whole concept of “copying” reduces to a subjective judgment. This is of course true because distinguishing useless from useful information is an evaluation. There is no scientific way to divide between a “work” and any other bundle of expressions.”

“Can you explain *why* words, short phrases or slogans are “specifically excluded”? Can the answer be anything other than, “cause I think that’s a good way to do it”?…Yes you can provide an answer to those questions but they will never be based on universally valid principles. They will always be a “what do you think?” or “let’s vote on it” situation. Hence the whole concept of “copying” reduces to a subjective judgment. This is of course true because distinguishing useless from useful information is an evaluation. There is no scientific way to divide between a “work” and any other bundle of expressions.”

So if there is no way to define a concept from “universally valid principles” then we can’t use this concept? Can we see how this mode of analysis works in another less controversional scenario first. For example, in “Reply to Van Dun: Non-aggression and title transfer” Kinsella says:

“If I lend my car to my brother to go to lunch and he drives off to Canada in it for a month-long vacation, he is now using my car without my consent, and he knows this. At this point, he is identical to the thief or other trespasser.”

Going to lunch is ok, going to Canada for a month is not. Where is the line in between? What actions can the brother perform while on the trip that will be ok. How does he evaluate each situation as he encounters it? Is stopping to pick up a newspaper on the way home ok? What is the mechanism the brother uses to establish the line in between what is ok and what consitutes “theft”, one that is based on “universal principles”?

Peter Surda January 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

Oki doki Kid Salami,

I understand what you’re trying to say. On its own, it’s correct. However, you neglect to mention one difference. If two people enter into a contract, even if we can’t be absolutely sure what they meant, we see that they both assume there was an agreement about something. Based on their relationship and actions they perform, we can make educated guesses about what the agreement meant.

In the case of absence of agreement, we cannot make this assumption. Therefore, it makes sense to select such criteria that are least prone to misinterpretation (Roy Cordato makes this argument). Because the scarcity of the world is the cause of the necessity of making a decision, it also makes sense to select that scarcity (= mutually exclusive states of matter) as the criterion. Because the time flows only in one direction, it is the second person that wants to change the state of matter that is the starting point of the problem. So we stop it right there and we’re done. It is this problem, the theoretical one, that the IP proponents show no intention of fixing.

Now, we have the empirical problem of trying to determine how to accurately match the theoretical constructs into human action and measurement. But this is an unavoidable problem. No matter what theory we construct, we would have the problem anyway.

The Kid Salami January 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

“If two people enter into a contract, even if we can’t be absolutely sure what they meant, we see that they both assume there was an agreement about something. Based on their relationship and actions they perform, we can make educated guesses about what the agreement meant.”

I would agree with these words, although I would phrase it differently – I would make it about the implicit contractual terms as per the customs and context contained in the history of that particular economy/society (like we discussed on the FRB thread a week or two ago).

“In the case of absence of agreement, we cannot make this assumption. Therefore, it makes sense to select such criteria that are least prone to misinterpretation (Roy Cordato makes this argument). Because the scarcity of the world is the cause of the necessity of making a decision, it also makes sense to select that scarcity (= mutually exclusive states of matter) as the criterion.”

Well again, you won’t get any disagreement from me on this. In fact on that same FRB thread – to use these words to rephrase what I was trying to say clearer – I was trying to say that once we move from physical commodities to contracts using terms like “on demand” then we’ve made a decision to move from “criteria that are least prone to misinterpretation” to “criteria that are prone to misinterpretation”. I’ve dipped into Cordato’s book but if he goes into this like you say then I think I’ll put this on the top of my reading list.

“Because the time flows only in one direction, it is the second person that wants to change the state of matter that is the starting point of the problem. So we stop it right there and we’re done. It is this problem, the theoretical one, that the IP proponents show no intention of fixing. Now, we have the empirical problem of trying to determine how to accurately match the theoretical constructs into human action and measurement. But this is an unavoidable problem. No matter what theory we construct, we would have the problem anyway.”

Can you expand on this, I don’t understand. Who is the “second person”?

Peter Surda January 17, 2011 at 5:55 am

Kid Salami,

(like we discussed on the FRB thread a week or two ago)

I don’t remember this.

I was trying to say that once we move from physical commodities to contracts using terms like “on demand” then we’ve made a decision to move…

Again, I don’t remember this, but I do have problems with some critiques of FRB. There is a chance that it is for similar reasons than you.

I’ve dipped into Cordato’s book but if he goes into this like you say then I think I’ll put this on the top of my reading list.

I hope I didn’t mispresent it. Cordato only said that from the point of view of catallactic efficiency, the property rights should be defined as clearly as possible. He says that the actual definition lies outside of the scope of economics. I tend to agree with that. The additional normative aspect in the paragraph was added by me.

Can you expand on this, I don’t understand. Who is the “second person”?

For simplicity, let’s call the first person homesteader and the second (and subsequent) person tresspasser. They are chronologically ordered and the social conflict starts at the time of trespass, rather than at the time of homesteading.

In a post I wrote to Wildberry a while ago, I made an analogy that I propose fuel tanks should be filled from the top (due to gravity) and you should stop when it’s full. I also said that I am aware it’s not the only possible solution, but it’s the simplest one and one that avoids the fuel splattering all over you.

The Kid Salami January 18, 2011 at 6:28 am

For simplicity, let’s call the first person homesteader and the second (and subsequent) person tresspasser. They are chronologically ordered and the social conflict starts at the time of trespass, rather than at the time of homesteading. In a post I wrote to Wildberry a while ago, I made an analogy that I propose fuel tanks should be filled from the top (due to gravity) and you should stop when it’s full. I also said that I am aware it’s not the only possible solution, but it’s the simplest one and one that avoids the fuel splattering all over you.

Ok, I think I get it. I don’t agree though – I’d say we discussed this kind of situation a while back – here. I still don’t think it is as simple as you suggest. My scenario then was:

A owns some land and uses it only for, say, parking his car. B homesteads the lot next door and wants to use it to grow food. This would reduce the, say, magnesium content of A’s soil because it is drawn to B’s plot from the surrounding land when used in the farming process.

According to you, because A “owns” his land, he can prevent B from growing food on land (that they don’t dispute B legitimately homesteaded in the same way A did with his land) because he wants – for reasons he need not even articulate – to retain this magnesium in the soil he “owns”. B might want to make some arrangement with A but A could turn him away. He “owns” the …something… the “right to a certain magnesium content in his soil”? IF you don’t like that terminology, what terminology can we use? You think that A can turn down Bs request?

Or can B claim to be performing a legitimate act of homesteading on this previously unutilised and unhomesteaded magnesium?

Your response said:

…it is unclear how you can homestead something dynamic. The situation is somewhat similar in your other example with magnesium “sucking”. I think agriculture specialists and geologists might be able to answer better how the underlying objects behave when undisturbed by humans and that should be the starting point for the decision.

You expanded on this but the admission that dynamic processes do not necessarily fit well into the homesteading theory is enough. I don’t think they fit in with it at all – and I suggest a division of labour society relies absolutely and fundamentally on dynamic processes. I specifically asked “IF you don’t like that terminology, what terminology can we use?”. What is it that A “owns” that means B can’t grow food. Or can B grow food? What is the answer to this – how do we even talk about this problem in the homesteading framework?

Peter Surda January 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

Ok Kid Salami,

I get it and technically agree with you. It’s just that I don’t think the problem you describe is solvable.

Let’s assume that we are looking for such rules that are understandable. Now we have multiple choices what criteria to use for those rules. I’ll point out several which I think are the most common ones: physical integrity, value, causality, force, beliefs, meaning. I described already why I consider the integrity to be the number one choice. Now, if we say that applying this to a certain type of situations is problematic, we can choose to replace a part of the rule, and substitute another condition. There are three main questions arising:
- you’d need to describe what rule takes precedence when
- you’d need to describe how to fix the “self-overlap” of the new rule (because the other mentioned criteria are not “single-layered” like physical integrity but “multi-layered”)
- why this makes the interpretation of the rules simpler

We can probably debate the first two ones and may come to an arrangement of some sort, albeit not necessarily a scientific one. But the third one is the real kicker. If you say that you can, for example, homestead “dynamic part of a river” (as opposed to, say, specific molecules of water), does that increase or decrease the precision of our claim? What if once you make a decision, something unforeseen occurs that screws up the whole concept? We see this a lot in the positive lawmaking. Does not even need to be an external force. People can react to it differently than anticipated, and screw up the assumptions the decision maker was making in the first place.

Based on this, I still think that the physical integrity is the best choice. I can comprehend that one could make the argument that making an exception might in some specific cases make a pareto-improvement, but that’s an empirical question. There is no way to foresee this in advance, nor can we derive general economic rules from this.

It might have made sense, for example, that for a certain period of time, EM spectrum rights were more clear (according to my interpretation, EM spectrum rights are a violation of the principle of physical integrity of the receiver). But since we have digital encoding, multiplexing, timeslots, collission detection, shift to P2P-types of use and so on, that changed back. This is all of course hypothetical, I’m just attempting to make an example.

Also consider the fact that changes in rules themselves (the attempt to fix a previous wrong decision) have also a detrimental effect on the understanding. So a pareto-optimising change of rules might have a feedback loop that counteracts the pareto-improvement.

To summarise, I understand your objection. I just don’t think that alternative approaches fix anything.

Wildberry January 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Kid

Is this quote below from Peter?

“Because the time flows only in one direction, it is the second person that wants to change the state of matter that is the starting point of the problem. So we stop it right there and we’re done. It is this problem, the theoretical one, that the IP proponents show no intention of fixing. Now, we have the empirical problem of trying to determine how to accurately match the theoretical constructs into human action and measurement. But this is an unavoidable problem. No matter what theory we construct, we would have the problem anyway.”

In his response, I think he describes the second person as a trespasser subsequent to an act of homesteading.

I find this confusing. It appears that he is saying an act of homesteading will eliminate all future conflicts over land and other tangible goods. Of course this is not true, because two homesteaders can later have a dispute or conflict over boundaries, or rights of use.

While it is true that if you construct a scenario where boundaries are not at issue, i.e. one person has clear title and another clearly invades that property after the fact, this pure set of facts rarely a problem in every-day life. Also, it is true that an act of homesteading, however unlikely, would establish “better title” than anyone else.

Consider this: Two adjacent homesteaders want to build a fence on the property line. They each pull out the maps of their properties and they disagree slightly as the exact location of the boundary line. You cannot use the homesteading principle to resolve this conflict. In fact, the historical origin of trespass tort law was based on dealing with this very problem.

It was not about establishing whether one party invaded another property, retaliation (damages) for that act, but to fix the exact location of the boundary. One guy would politely step well into another’s property and then they would file an action for trespass. The purpose was to allow the court to determine, based on whatever evidence was available, exactly where the boundary was. The looser would pay “nominal damages” of one pence. As you can see, this is not a problem that can be solved with a homesteading principle.

If you wanted to stay only in the theoretical realm, you could build a whole theory of property and contracts on the homesteading principle (which Rothbard did). However, when you turn to the real world to compare this theory to reality, you find that there are very few examples of where property rights were actually established by an “ethical” process of first-use homesteading. This means either the theory has no practical application in reality, or you have to claim that all current owners of property hold in unethically. This doesn’t seem to bother some people, but I find it troublesome.

I subscribe to a theory of “better title” property capture and free market allocation of property. This is more aligned with the Mises approach.

The fundamental problem that Peter raises, and claims that IP proponents refuse to fix, is already fixed. He and others simply refuse to recognize any other theory of property outside of homesteading. Because homesteading ethics does not recognize rights in intangible goods, and only recognizes property as “tangible and therefore scarce”, they have a problem with the whole concept of economic rights (property) in intangible goods.

What he claims can’t be “fixed” is not broken. People today exercise property rights in tangible fixations of intangible works all the time. Contracts deal with intangibles all the time. There is an entire body of human knowledge that has been devoted to both IP and contracts that has already worked out many of the “problems” Peter complains about. However, if IP opponents are not willing to give a fair reading of what currently exists, then it is difficult to offer an argument that conflicts with their basic theories of property and contracts. To many here, the rest of the world is “dishonest” and they are “right”.

I hope you do not fall into that trap. Like religious fanaticism, once you are a believer, it is hard to see any other reality. The only person I know of who blogs here that has returned from such a beief is a guy who writes under the name Russ the Apostate. I don’t know of any other examples.

Regards,

Peter Surda January 18, 2011 at 5:16 am

Wildberry,

It appears that he is saying an act of homesteading will eliminate all future conflicts over land and other tangible goods.

No. What it provides is a rule that is simple, not self-contradictory and covers 100% of conflicts. It explains how to determine which course of action can be taken in order to avoid a conflict. It does not mean that conflicts won’t happen, merely that for every action it is theoretically possible to determine whether it is in accordance or in a violation of the rule.

Of course this is not true, because two homesteaders can later have a dispute or conflict over boundaries, or rights of use.

That is an empirical, not a theoretical, problem.

This means either the theory has no practical application in reality, or you have to claim that all current owners of property hold in unethically.

What you describe, the question of matching theoretical rules with empirical data, is an unavoidable problem. It’s kind of like complaining about a physics theory because we cannot measure 100% accurately.

The actual question is whether a different theory is less prone to misinterpretation than the theory I presented (which is more-or-less based on what Mises, Hoppe and Kinsella said, probably others too, I’m just not familiar with all of them).

The fundamental problem that Peter raises, and claims that IP proponents refuse to fix, is already fixed.

It’s not. The theories of IP that were presented to me were self-contradictory or contained gaps in arguments. Only after this is fixed is it even possible to argue about the empirical issues.

He and others simply refuse to recognize any other theory of property outside of homesteading.

On the contrary. I reckon I understand the theory of IP more than the typical IP proponent. I have tried many times to reformulate the vague claims of IP proponents into generalised definitions (such as the definition of copy in this thread). My attempts were not met with enthusiasm (well, at least from IP proponents), I suspect because they unmasked the self-contradictions or vagueness. I have in the past claimed that IP proponents are unaware of all the logical consequence of their claims. They don’t think it through.

As a falsificationist, I don’t have a problem per se with a different method of explaining property rights than physical homesteading. The problem is that apparently, there is no such theory. What IP proponents present does not meet the required level of scientific rigour. I asked the IP proponents many times to fix that problem, but they either ignore it, or make up even more vague claims.

People today exercise property rights in tangible fixations of intangible works all the time.

Now you’re back to saying that if you cut off someone’s leg, he can get a crutch and that “fixes” it. That is an answer to an entirely different question. If I went down the empirical road too, I could counterargue that people also waste a lot of time and money on trying to determine whether actions are legal or not, and my “rule” gets rid of large parts of it.

There is an entire body of human knowledge that has been devoted to both IP and contracts that has already worked out many of the “problems” Peter complains about.

There are also Harry Potter books, but I don’t use them as a reference here, because they are not relevant.

Wildberry January 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Peter,
“That is an empirical, not a theoretical, problem.”

What do you call it when a theory is contradicted by empirical data?

“It’s kind of like complaining about a physics theory because we cannot measure 100% accurately.”

Yes, when a physics theory does not explain 100% of the empirical data, it is either incorrect or incomplete. This is my point.

“The actual question is whether a different theory is less prone to misinterpretation than the theory I presented…”

And your evidence for this assertion is what? I have given one common example of where it does not resolve ambiguity or “misinterpretation”.

“It’s not. The theories of IP that were presented to me were self-contradictory or contained gaps in arguments.”

You keep saying that. Take them one at a time and let’s see if we can deal with them.

“Only after this is fixed is it even possible to argue about the empirical issues.”

The ball is in your court on this. What contradiction do you want to explore?

“On the contrary. I reckon I understand the theory of IP more than the typical IP proponent. I have tried many times to reformulate the vague claims of IP proponents into generalised definitions (such as the definition of copy in this thread).”

I can reproduce the entirety of the methodology for how claims or copying are resolved, or I can refer you to where it is already written in infinite detail, if you care to look. I have tried to point you in that direction, but you rejected the latter and I refuse to do the former. As I said, to do so would be the equivalent of sending you to law school. I don’t think I can take that on. So I am trying to summarize. If you have a specific problem, ask me about it.

“I have in the past claimed that IP proponents are unaware of all the logical consequence of their claims. They don’t think it through.”

I think I am aware of your argument, to the extent I can understand them. I certainly understand Kinsella, if there is any resemblance. Try simple language and I think I will get it.

“As a falsificationist, I don’t have a problem per se with a different method of explaining property rights than physical homesteading. The problem is that apparently, there is no such theory.”

I thought you said you took some law courses and know something about IP law. Obviously, there is a theory.

“What IP proponents present does not meet the required level of scientific rigour.”

Who can be expected to discover what your standards of “scientific rigour” are? If you have a specific issue, describe it and don’t filibuster about a million other things. It is very difficult to follow.

“I asked the IP proponents many times to fix that problem, but they either ignore it, or make up even more vague claims.”

You have to admit, despite anything else you can say about me, I haven’t quit on you.

“Now you’re back to saying that if you cut off someone’s leg, he can get a crutch and that “fixes” it.”

This merely shows that you have no idea what I’m saying. I do not see how this analogy works at all. Perhaps you can explain it?

“If I went down the empirical road too, I could counterargue that people also waste a lot of time and money on trying to determine whether actions are legal or not, and my “rule” gets rid of large parts of it.”

Be clear and concise. What, exactly are you talking about?

“There are also Harry Potter books, but I don’t use them as a reference here, because they are not relevant.”

I disagree. If we are debating the merits of a law, certainly that text of the law itself is relevant. If we were debating wizards, perhaps then Harry Potter would be relevant.

Peter Surda January 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Wildberry,

I already explained myself as clear as I could. Instead of confronting the arguments, you misrepresent them yet again talk about whatever you want. Such as here:

What do you call it when a theory is contradicted by empirical data?

What does this have to do with my arguments? Nothing.

Wildberry January 18, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Peter,

You said, “No. What it provides is a rule that is simple, not self-contradictory and covers 100% of conflicts.”

And I said, “I find this confusing. It appears that he is saying an act of homesteading will eliminate all future conflicts over land and other tangible goods. Of course this is not true, because two homesteaders can later have a dispute or conflict over boundaries, or rights of use.”

Then you said, “It’s kind of like complaining about a physics theory because we cannot measure 100% accurately.”

And I said, “Yes, when a physics theory does not explain 100% of the empirical data, it is either incorrect or incomplete. This is my point.”

I am saying that your initial statement is false, and therefore it must be incorrect or incomplete. Homesteading does not cover 100% of conflicts over property use. This would be true only when the issue was who got to the unclaimed property (meaning tangible, scarce resources) first. This assumes that everything else is resolved by that initial act. It is not. It simplifies the problem by excluding data that doesn’t fit the theory.

Do you still think this has nothing to do with your arguments?

You seem to think, as I recall, that there is no such thing as intangible property, since 100% of all tangible property is already covered by existing property rights.

I am saying that “all tangible property” + “all intangible property” = “all possible property.”

You are saying that “all tangible property” = “all possible property.”

Do I misunderstand you?

The only possible way I can understand how you might think I’m missing your point is if you are saying that “measure 100% accurately” means something other than “empirical data”.

Is that what you’re getting at? If so, explain your meaning.

Respectfully,

Peter Surda January 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Wildberry,

again you are misinterpreting words and attempting to find things that do not exist.

Then you said, “It’s kind of like complaining about a physics theory because we cannot measure 100% accurately.”
And I said, “Yes, when a physics theory does not explain 100% of the empirical data, it is either incorrect or incomplete.”

Being unable to measure accurately is not the same as empirical data not being consistent with a theory. You are conflating something with something else (I’m not even sure at this point what). If there is fog, for example, and the visibility is impaired, it does not mean that the mountains around me cease to exist or change shape. It just means that I can’t take pictures of them.

I am saying that “all tangible property” + “all intangible property” = “all possible property.”

If situation that involves immaterial property but does not involve physical property cannot exist (which is the point of the argument of scarcity), then it logically follows that if “all tangible property” is at 100%, “all intangible property” needs to be at 0%. It’s a simple logical problem. Maybe expressed as a set theory it makes more sense: if you have two disjunct sets and one of them is equal to their union, the other one needs to be an empty set.

Wildberry January 18, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Peter,

“If situation that involves immaterial property but does not involve physical property cannot exist (which is the point of the argument of scarcity), then it logically follows that if “all tangible property” is at 100%, “all intangible property” needs to be at 0%. ”

I presume by “immaterial” you mean intangible, and by “physical” you mean tangible, right? Let’s not introduce more terms.

Let me ask you some questions:

I own some paper, a pen and some ink. They are my property. Therefore property rights are 100% covered for these tangible goods, right?

Now I take my pen and my ink, and I write words on my paper. What did I add to the paper, meaningless random splotches of ink, or an expression of my personal thoughts?

Let’s test that: I show you two pieces of paper that I put ink on. One is a highly original and creative arrangement of complex, compound meanings that had a certain, consistent rhythm and rhyme in 14 balanced stanzas, dealing with the metaphysical nature of man’s existence.

The other is a random collection of letters and punctuation from which you can perceive no meaning. Is there a difference between them? What is it?

Before I put this poem on the paper, did it exist? Did it exist only as something you would call “bio-chemical states of tangible matter in my neurons”?

Are these states of chemicals and neurons tangible or intangible? Recall that “tangible” means capable of perception by the human senses.

Is it possible for something to exist in an intangible form right before it is fixed in a tangible form in such a way that you are able to perceive its meaning?

Could it be said that by fixing these particular words on paper in this particular arrangement, I have communicated something to you that was intangible, but now is tangible?

Can you give that thing I communicated a name? I mean we agree it is a poem. But what is it in general? What is your concept of what that is?

It can exist in my mind and on the paper at the same time, right? At this point in time, before I have shared it with anyone else, can anyone else make a better claim to it than I?

Once you read it, it exists in your mind too, right? Can any rights whatsoever, under any circumstances be associated with its existence? Why?

If I loan you the paper that has my poem on it, do you believe you are equally responsible for its existence? I mean if you had to decide, who do you think has better title to the poem, me or you? Let’s say there is a conflict between us over that issue. How will you resolve it?

I think if you will simply answer these questions, any differences between your position and mine will be clear. Would you be willing to indulge me?

Regards,

Wildberry January 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Again with the Moderation!!!

Peter,

“If situation that involves immaterial property but does not involve physical property cannot exist (which is the point of the argument of scarcity), then it logically follows that if “all tangible property” is at 100%, “all intangible property” needs to be at 0%. ”

I presume by “immaterial” you mean intangible, and by “physical” you mean tangible, right? Let’s not introduce more terms.

Let me ask you some questions:

I own some paper, a pen and some ink. They are my property. Therefore property rights are 100% covered for these tangible goods, right?

Now I take my pen and my ink, and I write words on my paper. What did I add to the paper, meaningless random splotches of ink, or an expression of my personal thoughts?

Let’s test that: I show you two pieces of paper that I put ink on. One is a highly original and creative arrangement of complex, compound meanings that had a certain, consistent rhythm and rhyme in 14 balanced stanzas, dealing with the metaphysical nature of man’s existence.

The other is a random collection of letters and punctuation from which you can perceive no meaning. Is there a difference between them? What is it?

Before I put this poem on the paper, did it exist? Did it exist only as something you would call “bio-chemical states of tangible matter in my neurons”?

Are these states of chemicals and neurons tangible or intangible? Recall that “tangible” means capable of perception by the human senses.

Is it possible for something to exist in an intangible form right before it is fixed in a tangible form in such a way that you are able to perceive its meaning?

Could it be said that by fixing these particular words on paper in this particular arrangement, I have communicated something to you that was intangible, but now is tangible?

Can you give that thing I communicated a name? I mean we agree it is a poem. But what is it in general? What is your concept of what that is?

It can exist in my mind and on the paper at the same time, right? At this point in time, before I have shared it with anyone else, can anyone else make a better claim to it than I?

Once you read it, it exists in your mind too, right? Can any rights whatsoever, under any circumstances be associated with its existence? Why?

If I loan you the paper that has my poem on it, do you believe you are equally responsible for its existence? I mean if you had to decide, who do you think has better title to the poem, me or you? Let’s say there is a conflict between us over that issue. How will you resolve it?

I think if you will simply answer these questions, any differences between your position and mine will be clear. Would you be willing to indulge me?

Regards,

Peter Surda January 19, 2011 at 5:40 am

Wildberry,

if you use ink to write something on the paper, you change the state (or if you prefer different words, integrity, or momentum) of the paper and ink. You can interpret it as adding value or changing the meaning or expressing yourself or using intangible works. But that does not invalidate the physical effect of the act. Your objection would only be valid if it was possible to use intangible works without using tangible things. The point of the scarcity argument is that it’s impossible. Interpreting a phenomenon in a different way does not increase the scope of the phenomenon we’re investigating. That’s the core error of the typical IP proponents. The other stuff is just metaphysical blah blah blah and does not fix the error.

Wildberry January 19, 2011 at 8:37 am

Peter,

That was a dissapointment.It is not necessary to physically separate them, the tangible and intangible, from each other. They were separated, and then they were joined. They could be erased or copied. You nearly admit that what I put on the paper transforms it. I am asking how and by what, and whether once transformed, is paper still only paper, or a medium for something else?

And, of course it is possible to use intangible works without paper. I can conceive of a sequal using the same characters. Before I write his story down, there is no tangible thing. I can use the first story as a basis for the second.

When you are faced with he light, you shrink away.

Peter Surda January 19, 2011 at 8:54 am

Wildberry,

you are playing with words. Answer this: is it possible to conclude that intangible goods were produced or used in any way without referring to change occurring in the physical world? In fact, is it possible to conclude that anything whatsoever happened without referring to change occurring in the physical world?

Wildberry January 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

Peter,

Why do you feel entitled to control this conversation? If you ask me questions, I try to answer them. I expect you to return the favor. That seems fair. Give it a shot.

“Answer this: is it possible to conclude that intangible goods were produced or used in any way without referring to change occurring in the physical world? In fact, is it possible to conclude that anything whatsoever happened without referring to change occurring in the physical world?”

OK. Yes. We can know such things through our own experience. We can communicate that experience by initiating changes in the “tangible” world.

But it is not necessary that we explore the metaphysical. We can simply agree that intangible concepts and thoughts and understanding exists, and recognize that intangible expressions become tangible when fixed in a tangible medium. That is how we know that they exist and EXACTLY what they are.

That is because when they are fixed, in a particular way by the conventions of language, they become perceptible, i.e tangible. If you want to know what is in my mind in an intangible form, I must make it tangible for you by fixing it in tangible form or medium.

By the way, I can communicate my thoughts without fixing them in a tangible medium that leaves a permanent copy. I can speak. This is a distinction that copyright law, for example makes. Can you see the difference?

But whether I speak or write, what am I making tangible? Can you distinguish that for me?

And stop accusing me of playing with words. It implies dishonesty or stupidity. I am neither.

Peter Surda January 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

Wildberry,

Why do you feel entitled to control this conversation?

Kindly stop attempting to convolute the debate.

Yes.

Please explain how you can conclude that something happened without observing a change in the physical world. Or present any example.

We can know such things through our own experience.

You are answering a different question and attempting to drag the discussion away. First of all, you shift the meaning of the question. Instead of answering how to conclude anything without referring to a change in the physical world, you pick new words (e.g. “know”, “experience”) and answer something that you just made up on the fly. So, you attempt to drag the debate out of the focus. Furthermore, even if that was what the debate is about, you fail to explain how gathering experience can occur without observing a change in the physical world.

Or, let me rephrase it. Maybe you’ll get it then. If you compare two hypothetical situations, and they do not contain physical differences, how can you conclude that other (non-physical differences) are present?

Peter Surda January 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

Wildberry,

also, speaking affects the world physically. Among other things, the change is observable on the mouth, the air, and the eardrum. So the example of speaking you brought up indicates that you still don’t understand my argument.

Wildberry January 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Peter,

“Kindly stop attempting to convolute the debate.”

You ask me questions, I answer them. I ask you questions, you ignore them.

If you want the discussion to proceed down a path that can be followed, there needs to be an exchange. I am not your grasshopper. Do not lecture me. Interact.

“Please explain how you can conclude that something happened without observing a change in the physical world. Or present any example”

Before I press these keys, I experience an internal vocalization in my mind of what I’m about to type. You cannot perceive this experience until I press “send”. That is an example.

“you fail to explain how gathering experience can occur without observing a change in the physical world.”

I can observe what is happening in my own mind. You can experience what is happening in your own mind. We can speak to each other about our experience, and likely discover that our experiences align is some describable ways. Generally common experiences like those can be given names that are widely understood. An example is the concept of “understanding”. It only happens if I experience it. You cannot perceive my understanding directly, I must describe it to you. Once I attempt to describe it to you, I must expend some energy and cause physical matter to be transformed from its prior state. In this way, I can make my thoughts perceptible by you, that is, I can make my thoughts tangible.

There is a distinction between the concept of “physical” and “tangible”. Physical things can and do exist without any need to be perceived by humans. Tangible means specifically “perceptible by human senses”. There is a difference. Be precise.

“If you compare two hypothetical situations, and they do not contain physical differences, how can you conclude that other (non-physical differences) are present?”

I will have to infer your meaning. If there are no perceptible differences between two states of some physical thing, I cannot perceive of a change or difference.

However, I am aware of things going on in my own mind that you cannot perceive. If you used instrumentation to measure my brain waves, you can formulate some correlations about some specific mental activity and what I report I am thinking, or you can distinguish activity from inactivity in terms of indirect measurement, like blood flow or electrical patterns. But you cannot tell what I’m thinking, and you certainly could not follow any complex formulations of thought by measurements of this kind. Nonetheless, changes and activity are perceptible by using instrumentation. They are not generally perceptible by normal use of human sensory organs.

Is that clear enough for you?

“also, speaking affects the world physically. Among other things, the change is observable on the mouth, the air, and the eardrum. So the example of speaking you brought up indicates that you still don’t understand my argument.”

Are you ever wrong about anything?

I fully understand the physics of sound waves and the organs that produce them in speech and how they are perceived by the human ear. You might be surprised to know by background in these subjects.

However, you missed my purpose is telling you this. I was distinguishing the attribute of tangibility with that of that of fixing something in a permanent medium, both being derived from an intangible product of thought.

This is important because copyright law, for example, would not afford any protection for speech. Even though it is a tangible artifact of my thoughts (i.e. a tangible manifestation of something intangible in origin), it is only protectable if, among other things, it is fixed in a medium that can exist for some time. Sound waves, unless recorded, die out over time and distance, and are lost to you forever once the waves pass your ear.

Still think I don’t understand?

Peter Surda January 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Wildberry,

Before I press these keys, I experience an internal vocalization in my mind of what I’m about to type. You cannot perceive this experience until I press “send”. That is an example.

So, your “internal vocalization” does not involve physical changes in your brain?

I can observe what is happening in my own mind.

Again, can this happen without a physical change occurring in your brain?

If there are no perceptible differences between two states of some physical thing, I cannot perceive of a change or difference.

You phrased it like a tautology, and avoided answering the question. Kindly remember, that your original claim is that there is “stuff” beyond the physical. My claim is that what you refer to is merely a reinterpretation of the physical. If you were correct, it would be possible for some sort of changes to exist without a physical change. You have not expressed sufficiently clearly whether you agree with this or not.

If you used instrumentation to measure my brain waves…

Just a couple of paragraphs above, you said that thinking does not involve physical change. Now you say that your brain waves are measurable by instruments. So which is it? Make up your mind.

Are you ever wrong about anything?

Of course I am. But I expect other people to prove it rather than assert it.

This is important because copyright law, for example, would not afford any protection for speech.

Notwithstanding that I already said I don’t care about current laws, you are wrong yet again. Current copyright also covers performances. Again, a completely pointless diversion that I cannot connect to what we were talking about earlier.

Still think I don’t understand?

I suspect that either you are much cleverer or much stupider than me. Either way, I cannot make any sense of your claims.

Wildberry January 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Peter,
I have said I haven’t given up on you yet. It is a trial.

You said: “…without observing a change in the physical world”

Observing is perception. Intangible things cannot be perceived by definition.

I have advised you of the problem is trying to use “physical” as a equivalent to “tangible”. You seem to want to skip over that issue.

“So, your “internal vocalization” does not involve physical changes in your brain?”

I’m sure it does.

“Again, can this happen without a physical change occurring in your brain?”

No changes that you can observe. And even I can’t see, smell taste, touch or hear them with my ears. I can only be self aware of them, or read some instrumentation that measures these changes.

Your point?

“Kindly remember, that your original claim is that there is “stuff” beyond the physical.”

I am not claiming that there is physical “stuff” beyond the physical realm. I am saying that something can exist without being tangible.

Here is what Doug French had in his article today:

“”Thoughts and ideas are not phantoms,” Ludwig von Mises wrote in Theory and History. “They are real things. Although intangible and immaterial, they are factors in bringing about changes in the realm of tangible and material things.”

“My claim is that what you refer to is merely a reinterpretation of the physical. If you were correct, it would be possible for some sort of changes to exist without a physical change. You have not expressed sufficiently clearly whether you agree with this or not.”

OK, let me be as clear as I know how. Humans have a physical existence. Brains are part of that physical existence. Brains have a function and are a biological organ of cognition. Certain changes can be detected in the functioning of a brain. One could rationally argue that changes in the physical states of a human brain can be detected with certain instrumentation. Without such instrumentation, the cognition taking place is not perceptible by other humans; i.e. they are intangible. It is impossible with current technology to do much more than to measure electrical changes or patterns of blood flow. For example, you could not perceive a story in my mind by subjecting me to a CT scan. But you could detect certain changes in the physical matter of my brain.

“Just a couple of paragraphs above, you said that thinking does not involve physical change”

If you don’t stop equivocating “physical” with “tangible” we will never resolve this. I’m getting weary of saying this.

“Now you say that your brain waves are measurable by instruments. So which is it? Make up your mind.”

Do you see how your equivocation of terms allows you to claim that I’m inconsistent? Stop it.

“Of course I am. But I expect other people to prove it rather than assert it.”

The search for truth has a personal component to it. It doesn’t always come from the outside.

“Current copyright also covers performances.”

Do you actually know what you are saying here? I suspect not.

“Again, a completely pointless diversion that I cannot connect to what we were talking about earlier.”

At some point, I can do nothing about that.

“I suspect that either you are much cleverer or much stupider than me.”

It is not what is being said that matters, but what is being received.

“Either way, I cannot make any sense of your claims.”

Do you have a question? If not, answer mine from a couple of posts ago. It will be illuminating.

Peter Surda January 20, 2011 at 2:07 am

Wildberry,

yet another pointless voluminous post that I cannot make head or tails of.

Peter Surda January 20, 2011 at 5:30 am

One last attempt Wildberry,

there is a proverb: He can’t see the forest for the trees. This is a nice example of what I’m talking about. To formalise the proverb, forest and trees refer to the same phenomenon, and interpreting it in one way prevents you from interpreting it in another way. They do not refer to different phenomena. If they did, it would be possible to “see” both forest and the trees simultaneously. The proverb is based on the same claims that I make, that these two are mutually exclusive, and the only difference is in the head of the person interpreting the phenomenon.

That does not mean, how you attempt to portray my position, that “forest” is less “real” than “trees”. These are concepts that humans create to understand what is going on. Interpreting the same phenomenon differently can be useful: it alters the value and affects choices. That’s also what the proverb explains: interpreting the same phenomenon as “forest” is sometimes more useful than interpreting it as “trees”. But the only change that happens is in people’s heads. If you want a reinterpretation of a phenomenon to cause a change of rights, you are essentially saying that you have a claim on what is happening in other people’s heads.

This does not mean that you always must see only the trees. That’s a misrepresentation of what I’m saying. What you see is up to you, whatever you consider more useful. The point is to recognise the concept of opportunity costs. People have understood this for a long time and express it in all kind of ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. To be or not to be, asks Hamlet. TANSTAAFL, says Heinlein (he apparently did not invent it but that’s not important now). The Elric brothers know that in order to gain something, you need to give up something else. IP proponents that I know of, for whatever reason, deny this. That’s a fatal error. The funny thing is, it does not have to be that way. But that’s not something I can fix, they need to fix it. You need to fix it too (although I would not call you a typical IP proponent).

Wildberry January 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Peter,

“One last attempt Wildberry,”

Wearing you down? If you don’t like my long posts, you are going to hate this one…(shrug)

“He can’t see the forest for the trees.”

This is excellent. I wish I would have thought of this when we were talking about the relationship between individuals and society.

“If they did, it would be possible to “see” both forest and the trees simultaneously.”

Yes, I agree. The only way to “see” them both simultaneously would be to discuss the relationship between them.

“The proverb is based on the same claims that I make, that these two are mutually exclusive, and the only difference is in the head of the person interpreting the phenomenon.”

You are right, I don’t get this. A tree is not a forest. A forest is not a tree. Tree is to forest as individual is to society.
However, if I am “seeing” a forest, does it mean that trees no longer exist? It seems to me that I am merely shifting the focus of my attention to discuss a concept that includes trees.

“That does not mean, how you attempt to portray my position, that “forest” is less “real” than “trees”.

OK, this is good. However I asked if you thought intangible things are real. Neither trees nor forests are intangible.

“These are concepts that humans create to understand what is going on. Interpreting the same phenomenon differently can be useful: it alters the value and affects choices.”

Well, there are some big assumptions here about how it “alters the value and affects choices”, but let’s run with this. I am with you right up to here:

“If you want a reinterpretation of a phenomenon to cause a change of rights, you are essentially saying that you have a claim on what is happening in other people’s heads.”

I honestly have no idea how you get to this conclusion from either your example or anything I have ever said. Let me see if you explain what you mean below:

“This does not mean that you always must see only the trees. That’s a misrepresentation of what I’m saying. What you see is up to you, whatever you consider more useful. The point is to recognise the concept of opportunity costs.”

OK, you have introduced the concept of “opportunity costs”. My understanding of this is the cost of foregoing an opportunity to do something. Choosing to do something forgoes other opportunities to spend your time on those. That is part of the total cost of doing whatever you choose, is that what you mean?

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

Let’s stick with this one. You can’t pursue one opportunity without foregoing others. I’m dying to see what this has to do with trees and forests.

“IP proponents that I know of, for whatever reason, deny this. That’s a fatal error.”

OK Sensei, how is the concept of economic rights in intangibles fixed in tangible medium having your cake and eating it too?

Grasshopper is thinking, thinking, thinking…

Could it be that I can’t have any rights in the intangible, because I would have to reduce rights in the tangible? Did I make a good guess?

If that is your point, I got that position months ago. You think tangible property, what you insist on calling “physical”, is already covered 100% by property rights. Therefore, according to you, any concept of rights in the intangible would amount to something like having 110% property rights, which is a “contradiction”.

Well, (now trust me here), that is one strange way of thinking about things. Let me illustrate:

I own a lump of clay. I say some chants and burn some incense and get a vision in my mind about how the lump could be shaped into a vase. While this idea is still in my head, I check the lump of clay to see if it has changed. Guess what? It’s still exactly the same, (save some loss of moisture though evaporation and a slight rise in temperature in the direction of the warmer room temp, offset by the cooling effects of evaporation at the surface). I check with my roommate to see if she can see any changes in me or the clay. She says no, except for the strange twinkle in my eyes.

Just to be sure, I weigh the clay with my bathroom scale. 5 lbs. OK, now I start to work it, and I pull and I push and pretty soon the shape of the clay and what was in my mind align perfectly. I am satisfied with my work. Just to make sure of what I’ve done, I weigh the clay; still 5 lbs.

I sit back, pop a bottle of sake, admire my work and re-read your post. I want to understand what you think just happened.

I remember I looked at the lump, and checked my “shape” vision, and they were not the same. If I change the shape of the clay, I thought, I can no longer have the lump, because I cannot have my cake and eat it too.

I changed the shape of the clay to match my vision, and now I see that I have infused the clay with the shape I conceived and manifested. One could say that I copied the “idea” in my head into the clay on my table. I still have the idea in my head. Some would say that this idea is therefore “non-scarce”. OK with me. But I would point out that before I envisioned it, it was infinitely scarce, since there is nothing more scarce than something that doesn’t exist.

I remember the clay as a lump, and now I see it as a vase. I still own 100% of both of them, since I own my own thoughts and I own the clay. But wait! If I put my idea into the clay, do I now own 110% of the clay. That’s strange, because to me it just seems like I still own 100% of the clay that has been transformed into my shape. After careful analysis and measurement, I determine that the lump and the vase have PRECISELY THE SAME NUMBER OF CLAY MOLECULES! This is weird. Does this mean that changing the shape did not actually increase the amount of clay I owned? Not according to Peter. According to his world-view, since the shape didn’t add any additional molecules, and since those molecules are already 100% owned, nothing can be added to it that can be thought of as “property”, because property is reserved for the “physical”, meaning scarce things. Once I create an idea, it is no longer scarce, so it can never be owned.

Yet I can clearly understand that I thought up the shape, using human faculties which I already own, put my “vision” into the clay, which I already owned, and after I was done, I still owned the clay in the new shape, 100%. Could anyone have better title to it than me? The amount of physical property has not changed. However, the nature of the property has changed, i.e. lump + shape concept + purposeful labor = vase. Lump is not equal to vase. I cannot have lump and vase simultaneously with the same clay molecules because of the having and eating cake thing. That would be a contradiction.

The question I am left with is this: If I own the lump of clay 100% and I own the vase 100%, why would Peter claim that I say I must own >100% of the clay molecules? Or, does he mean that lump = vase and nothing but the clay molecules can really be “owned”? I think this is it. Peter believes that there is no such thing as property rights arising from something intangible like a “shape vision”.

If my conception of the shape I wanted was intangible, and that shape becomes tangible in the clay, is it correct to say that I have not really transformed the clay using means that are 100% owned by me? That doesn’t seem right.

Can I separate the shape from the clay? Well, I can turn it into another shape or back into a lump, and I can still have the “vision”. The intangible shape can exist as “vision” but no one can perceive that it exists unless I change something physical. Or using my terms, intangible shapes cannot be perceived by any other human unless it is rendered tangible by fixing it in something that is already tangible so it can be perceived by the human senses. If I remove all tangible things, am I left with something that is intangible or am I left with nothing? The intangible vision still exists. My desire to have a vase still exists.

Can the shape exist without the clay? Without being manifest in a physical form (meaning tangible and scarce), it can only exist in my own mind. The intangible shape in my mind must be fixed in the clay before anyone else can perceive what my shape-vision is. Once it is fixed, it is easy to see and understand just what it is. Once it is fixed, it is possible to assign economic and moral rights to it. But should we? Would that be ethical?

Would IP law protect my shape against anyone else using it for their own vase? No. Since the design elements cannot be separated from the useful object, it is not protectable. Also, it is not a sufficiently original expression to warrant protection. It would be dishonest for someone who knows better to claim otherwise.

Fortunately for me, the vase-maker, it isn’t that easy or convenient to make a copy of the vase. You have to get your hands dirty. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem reasonable to say that rights arise on the basis of how easy it is to make a copy, although writers here have made that very claim. See Jeffery Tucker and Stephan Kinsella here: http://mises.org/daily/4630 .

“The funny thing is, it does not have to be that way. But that’s not something I can fix, they need to fix it. You need to fix it too (although I would not call you a typical IP proponent).”

No it doesn’t have to be this way or that. Since property is a human device, we can agree or disagree about how we want things to work. Isn’t it strange for you to realize that if “we” (meaning citizens of the United States, sorry) chose to do so, we could legally and legitimately abolish all IP laws? We actually and literally have that choice. Unfortunately for advocates of your anti-IP position, you would have to obtain sufficient popular support to make that happen.

After more than 200 years of experience with IP law, those who wish to abolish it completely remain in the miniscule minority. That is not because all of these generations have believed in nonsense all these years.

The last time I looked, plenty of innovation has taken place over that period. At least at some levels, the market seems to be working. People are free to assert their IP rights or to waive them. The decision is in the hands of the rightful owner of property based on his/her better title to it than anyone else.

What needs to be fixed, exactly?

Peter Surda January 21, 2011 at 4:53 am

Wildberry,

I can’t have you confusing others, although I suspect people would prefer to read shorter posts. That’s why I continue to debate. I don’t think you can ever come up with a coherent argument, but at least I attempt to prevent this from affecting others.

Previously, you were very adamant that rights are reciprocal and objected when I had a problem with that, but now for some reason the roles are reversed. You did not realise that I agree with that, on the condition that you reached 100%. I claim that the interpretation of reality as physical covers 100% (and the theory of homesteading fills these 100% in a single layer, but that was important in that part of the debate, not this). My proof is that you cannot change the non-physical without changing the physical. You cannot think without altering the integrity/momentum of your brain. You cannot make mud into a vase without altering the integrity/momentum of the clay. I never said that my point of view was regarding “number of molecules”.

When you cut all the trees, there is no forest. Once the brain dies, there are no thoughts. If you throw away the mud, you can’t keep the vase. The pairs are different interpretations referring to the same phenomenon.

I already asked you to disprove this, but you didn’t. You make up metaphors instead.

It’s this self-contradiction that the IP proponents need to fix. Only after that it is theoretically possible to formulate a coherent theory of IP. Only after the logical contradictions are resolved we can investigate the utilitarian and ethical concepts regarding IP. Without this, the debate is wasted on pointless crap.

Wildberry January 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

Peter,

“I don’t think you can ever come up with a coherent argument, but at least I attempt to prevent this from affecting others.”

That is very noble of you. Good on you. I seem to be stuck in the same rut.

“Previously, you were very adamant that rights are reciprocal and objected when I had a problem with that, but now for some reason the roles are reversed.”

Now you say rights are reciprocal and I don’t? No, now we both do.

“My proof is that you cannot change the non-physical without changing the physical.”

How could you know that unless the physical change was tangible? A physical change in my mind-state is not visible to you without tangible fixation. Measurement by instrumentation is a tangible fixation.

“You cannot think without altering the integrity/momentum of your brain. You cannot make mud into a vase without altering the integrity/momentum of the clay. I never said that my point of view was regarding “number of molecules”.”

Speaking in physical terms, the transformation from a lump to a vase was actually, in physical reality, merely a change in the relative positions of clay molecules. It was a transformation of the physical pattern of distribution. The question I am asking you is what made that change possible? Hint: it was intangible.

“When you cut all the trees, there is no forest. Once the brain dies, there are no thoughts. If you throw away the mud, you can’t keep the vase. The pairs are different interpretations referring to the same phenomenon.”

Yes, I agree. When you destroy all of the individuals, there is no society. You are describing the conceptual relationship between different but related aspects of physical phenomena. “Brain” and “thought” are not the same phenomenon. Thought is a product of the brain. They are interrelated because one cannot exist without the other.

“I already asked you to disprove this, but you didn’t. You make up metaphors instead.”

What am I supposed to disprove? That your false statements are in fact false? I think I have been consistently doing that. However, I will not attempt to prove your false statements are true. They are your invention, not mine.

“It’s this self-contradiction that the IP proponents need to fix.”

First you create a contradiction in the simple meaning of words, and then you demand that I show you how they are not. You create contradictions in your use of language. That’s all there is here.

“Without this, the debate is wasted on pointless crap.”

Which is why, taken on the whole, it is mostly wasted, pointless crap. But, I have made a decision not to allow your misrepresentations to stand unchallenged. I had no idea it would turn into a career.

The Kid Salami January 18, 2011 at 6:30 am

Wildberry

If you wanted to stay only in the theoretical realm, you could build a whole theory of property and contracts on the homesteading principle (which Rothbard did). However, when you turn to the real world to compare this theory to reality, you find that there are very few examples of where property rights were actually established by an “ethical” process of first-use homesteading. This means either the theory has no practical application in reality, or you have to claim that all current owners of property hold in unethically. This doesn’t seem to bother some people, but I find it troublesome.

I don’t know enough about the history of property rights to have anything sensible to say about this, but it does broadly make sense to me. In general, I share similar reservations you have about the idea of homesteading, as I tried to illustrate in my post to Peter above. For example, Kinsella’s Against IP paper puts forward an argument that really is little if anything more this.

1) property comes from scarcity
2) the only rights are property rights

and so we can say:

ideas/patterns/copies of instantiations thereof/whatever are not scarce => they are not property => there can be no rights in them

And this makes perfect sense, given 1) and 2). But I yet to be convinced that you can be for an advanced division of labour society and hold that 2) is true, without contradicting yourself. For example, to take Peter’s words above “agriculture specialists and geologists might be able to answer better how the underlying objects behave when undisturbed by humans” – well, saying we can resolve property rights issues by asking geologists and agriculture specialists is circular, because the very existence of these specialised fields pre-supposes some kind of property rights. I’m not saying this definitely can’t be resolved, as I haven’t quite clarified in my own head what I think is a deceptively complex problem. But ignoring it by decreeing assumption 2) to be true is no solution. Therefore, until I can be satisfied that assuming 2) will allow an advanced division of labour society to function, I regard this “argument” as simply defining away the problem.

Wildberry January 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

Kid,
I personally think you are correct. If you dug down furthert, you would just find more reasons to support the conclusion you are reaching with common sense.

It is really not that difficult in theory and the abstract. That theory holds together as you apply them to real problems of conflict between humans. Peaceful and ethical resolution of conflict facilitates human cooperation. Division of labor is one type of human cooperation.

Anyway, you have put your finger on why so many here defend the premises with such emotional enthusiasm. If those premises folded, the whole house comes down.

Keep your mind clear, it is serving you well.

Peter Surda January 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

Hey Kid Salami,

But I yet to be convinced that you can be for an advanced division of labour society and hold that 2) is true, without contradicting yourself.

Let’s say that as division of labour increases, it also increases the probability that goods will be created that have more and more claimants and it might be more and more difficult to determine what is allowed and what not. But how do you suggest this is fixed? You can only improve the situation if the change in rules more closely matches the current business models. But you cannot know this in advance. Business models change all the time. So you did not avoid the apparent circularity of the argument.

Notwithstanding, of course, that many people want to have both “absolute” property rights as well as other rights (which, of course, is self-contradictory). In which case the argument would of course not be circular.

I haven’t quite clarified in my own head what I think is a deceptively complex problem.

I am also not totally clear on the issue. I suspect there is no positive proof here, only the elimination process, i.e. “I can’t prove my position, but the alternatives I know of suck”.

Wildberry January 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Peter,

“Let’s say that as division of labour increases, it also increases the probability that goods will be created that have more and more claimants and it might be more and more difficult to determine what is allowed and what not. But how do you suggest this is fixed? ”

Why would you want to say this? What purpose does it serve?

What does division of labor have to with with claimants to it (property?)?

What are you saying needs to be fixed (corrected?)?

How did business models get into this?

Your response is not circular, it is meandering. How do you expect anyone to follow your thinking?

Positive proof of what? Are you asking for a proof of property rights inthe intangible?
Property rights outside of homesteading?

The Kid Salami January 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Peter

Let’s say that as division of labour increases, it also increases the probability that goods will be created that have more and more claimants and it might be more and more difficult to determine what is allowed and what not. But how do you suggest this is fixed? You can only improve the situation if the change in rules more closely matches the current business models. But you cannot know this in advance. Business models change all the time. So you did not avoid the apparent circularity of the argument.

The way you phrase the problem, solution you suggest is indeed problematic to say the least. However, I don’t see it like this at all. Wildberry said earlier in this thread:

Consider this: Two adjacent homesteaders want to build a fence on the property line. They each pull out the maps of their properties and they disagree slightly as the exact location of the boundary line. You cannot use the homesteading principle to resolve this conflict. In fact, the historical origin of trespass tort law was based on dealing with this very problem.

It was not about establishing whether one party invaded another property, retaliation (damages) for that act, but to fix the exact location of the boundary. One guy would politely step well into another’s property and then they would file an action for trespass. The purpose was to allow the court to determine, based on whatever evidence was available, exactly where the boundary was. The looser would pay “nominal damages” of one pence. As you can see, this is not a problem that can be solved with a homesteading principle.

I’ve never heard this before – but I’d like to read more, because it is consistent with my “theory” about this, from another angle entirely. I know, for example, of specific examples of property delineations in the animal kingdom that have proceeded along such lines – intricate rules and patterns of behaviour can and do emerge in a similar fashion via a series of coordinated challenges and a path of least resistance, if you like, is discovered (I appreciate that is pretty sketchy by the way – it isn’t going or aiming to convince anyone of anything). They didn’t thrash out the complex rules by which they interact (and exchange mates and the individual units of property) by using deductive logic and quotes from Locke and Kant – but they are there nonetheless.

I am also not totally clear on the issue. I suspect there is no positive proof here, only the elimination process, i.e. “I can’t prove my position, but the alternatives I know of suck”.

Ok, fair enough – I probably agree with this. But that is not the thoughts of some on this site – for example, to pick on poor old sweatervest again (who I almost feel sorry for after his utterly ludicrous suggestion that all contracts should completely describe, in unambiguous terms, the contractually permitted actions at each and every possible scenario that might be encountered), he said:

“I’m sorry the anarchist position is the only argumentatively defensible one. Feel free to fill up these blogs with minarchism and convince us we are mistaken.”

I agree with Wildberry on this also – this statement frankly makes me shudder.

Peter Surda January 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Kid Salami,

the examples brought up could also be interpreted as the homesteader trading the territory he homesteaded for an improvement of social status, or that he delegated the decision because he was unsure whether he would be able to defend himself directly. This kind of looks more like the Coasean approach. It could also be interpreted as a the transaction costs for the “softer” solution being lower than those for the “hard” solution. But I still consider this an empirical rather than a theoretical problem. It is impossible to generalise such occurrences.

Wildberry January 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Mr. Salami,

After the maturity displayed in your posts, it seem disrespectful to call you Kid.

“I’ve never heard this before – but I’d like to read more, because it is consistent with my “theory” about this, from another angle entirely.”

FYI, this comes right from the study of Americanproperty law, which was largely adopted from British common law. Many of the rules concerning the ownership and transfer of title in land dates back several hundred years, and has evolved over time. Eventually, certain principles became codified in laws that were adopted by acts of legislatures.

It is not difficult to catch what you mean by your example from the animal world. Throughout the animal kingdom conflict arise and they have a way of getting resolved. They don’t talk it over.

Humans, on the other hand, could formulate various arguments for supporting one method over another. For example, I’m glad I didn’t have to win a physical contest of combat to get married. In the non-human animal world, there is only the process of behavior modification driven by challenge and combat to resolve conflict. For much of human history, mankind has not been above this method.

However, “civilized” humankind can develop peaceful methods of resolving conflict that remove the necessity for combat. This is the essence and function of laws in general, and the specific purpose of having clearly defined rules and procedures that treats both parties equally fairly.

In the example regarding the dispute over the property line, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario, say in a frontier setting, where there were no third-parties available to appeal to for a final resolution. How would the dispute be resolved?

It might look much like the rest of the animal world, either one person would have to back down, or they would have a contest of combat. Someone is likely to lose more than an argument. I

n addition, once you resolve a dispute by force, it is only resolved until the next challenge. With a legal finding, however, that issue is resolved forever, and it is not necessary to resolve the same conflict over and over. This has big advantages for society, division of labor, and cooperation in general, and allows the market to operate freely on allocating those resources over time.

Therefore, it is reasonable to consider transaction costs in resolving conflicts. At the risk of being called a utilitarian, I would suggest lower is better.

The Kid Salami January 20, 2011 at 5:19 am

Peter

the examples brought up could also be interpreted as the homesteader trading the territory he homesteaded for an improvement of social status, or that he delegated the decision because he was unsure whether he would be able to defend himself directly. This kind of looks more like the Coasean approach. It could also be interpreted as a the transaction costs for the “softer” solution being lower than those for the “hard” solution. But I still consider this an empirical rather than a theoretical problem. It is impossible to generalise such occurrences.

Yes, there are other interpretations which may or may not help – “homestead” certainly need not be entirely jettisoned, I just don’t at all follow the assumption that there must be one “right” that everything else flows from because if we have two rights and they conflict we’re just screwed and must run for the hills screaming. This is certainly a helpful assumption when all you want to do is argue on blogs and in journals or scream “aggressor” at people, but in real life people could (and I think it have) settle on 2 or more “rights” plus a suitable dispute resolution procedure when there is a conflict of rights.

And yes, such a decision is very much about transaction costs to me. Division of labour societies fundamentally require interaction and knowledge transfer/distribution (implicit and explicit) to be able to operate at all. I’m not arguing that we “own” ideas or patterns or any of that – I’m talking about the foundations, the very basis on which contracts and exchanges take place. There are things people in a DOL society must take for granted (implicit contractual terms, the mechanisms by which you declare your intention to be contractually bound, what terms are considered default when there is no contract at all, what words themselves mean etc.) otherwise the transaction costs will be way to high.

And it is not at all clear to me, to say the least, that in an advanced division of labour society we can ignore all this and assume that the non-aggression principle will take care of it all. It is certainly a good approximation that works 99% of the time, but not always.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

Kid,

You have put your finger on an important observation.

The dishonesty in the post you reference is like insisting that someone explain Austrian economics to you without any knowledge or reference to Mises, Hayek, etc.

These questions are from an ignorant person who does not have the motivation or interest to actually have an answer. He is asking you to explain copyright law to him. If you refer him to what the law says and does, he is not interested. It is an argumentative trap.

Furthermore, you are right to connect this to Kinsella’s example. It is not the fundamental principle that is in question, but how the facts line up at the margin. In essence, this is the funciton that laws and legal reasoning perform. They take a set of facts and resolve disputes at the margins of the general rule.

To continue the car analogy, stealing Kinsella’s car is theft. Using it with consent is not. That is the general rule. Once you add additional facts, the reasoning gets more complex and the boundaries between one result and the other become more difficult to distinguish. It is much like splitting hairs.

This is true in all areas of the law, and IP is no different. I have used the example of homicide previously, showing how this complexity and ambiguity builds as you modify the facts to encompass murder, manslaughter, self defense, insanity, incapacity, etc. These are not always bright lines, and you have to have an understanding of legal reasoning to reach consistent results that approximate “justice”.

Same with IP law. A “work” is not precise, but it is not meaningless either. If you want to understand what it actually means in copyright law, you have to study it, just like anything else.

As in illustration, can you please explain calculus to me? I am terrible at math.

Good job.

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

“The dishonesty in the post you reference is like insisting that someone explain Austrian economics to you without any knowledge or reference to Mises, Hayek, etc.”

The dishonesty is this little quip is like saying in order to establish that murder is unjustifiable, I have to intimately familiarize myself with every single law code that has ever been conceived and point out the failure of every single one of them.

I am baffled as to how completely you misunderstand the point I am making, and have from that derived an attempt at “dishonesty” from me.

“These questions are from an ignorant person who does not have the motivation or interest to actually have an answer. He is asking you to explain copyright law to him. If you refer him to what the law says and does, he is not interested. It is an argumentative trap.”

Once again, it is mindblowing to me that you cannot grasp this. I have said this over and over. Your definitions are not justifiable, and you have done nothing to justify them.

My definition of justifiable murder: when I feel like it.

There, murder is now justifiable because I defined justifiable murder.

What the law says and does is unjustifiable and economically destructive. I have already written pages here on how it holds back innovation and creation and you responded to none of it. All you seem capable of doing is throwing law books at people. What do you think this is, a court case?

“Furthermore, you are right to connect this to Kinsella’s example. It is not the fundamental principle that is in question, but how the facts line up at the margin. In essence, this is the funciton that laws and legal reasoning perform. They take a set of facts and resolve disputes at the margins of the general rule.”

All I can do is ask you again: do you think you are a lawyer in a courtroom right now?

Also, this is statist “It’s happening so there” reasoning at its best. Yes, IP laws exist and do things. So that validates your position. If only you had lived under the Third Reich…

“To continue the car analogy, stealing Kinsella’s car is theft. Using it with consent is not. That is the general rule. Once you add additional facts, the reasoning gets more complex and the boundaries between one result and the other become more difficult to distinguish. It is much like splitting hairs.”

Oh, so in order to analyze the complexities brought in by those additional facts, you have to rely on the basis of “general rules”? In other words, universally valid principles!? Yeah, exactly!! Another general rule, that comes before any specific additional facts raised by actual IP laws, is that intellectual property is untenable and unjustifiable.

“This is true in all areas of the law, and IP is no different. I have used the example of homicide previously, showing how this complexity and ambiguity builds as you modify the facts to encompass murder, manslaughter, self defense, insanity, incapacity, etc. These are not always bright lines, and you have to have an understanding of legal reasoning to reach consistent results that approximate “justice”.”

I don’t know how you don’t get this. However hard the problem may be, how could there be a problem at all without a precise definition of what justice is anyways? How could you be working towards a solution to any of these problems if a solution didn’t even exist?

You are confusing theory with practice. You would not know what to practice if you didn’t have the theory. Your homicide examples or whatever only illustrate this confusion, as you are trying to muddle theory by considering examples.

“Same with IP law. A “work” is not precise, but it is not meaningless either. If you want to understand what it actually means in copyright law, you have to study it, just like anything else.”

Whether or not a book is a masterpiece is not meaningless, either. Shall we start legislating based on things like that?

“As in illustration, can you please explain calculus to me? I am terrible at math.”

All this is illustrating is how you cannot get your head around this simple concept. If I presented you with a proof that calculus is based on false premises and is thus untenable your links to pages on what calculus is would be a waste of time and off topic.

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

And it certainly wouldn’t be a request for you to explain to me what I just proved is based on false premises and thus untenable.

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Sweatervest,
You certainly seem to be revved up.

“The dishonesty is this little quip is like saying in order to establish that murder is unjustifiable, I have to intimately familiarize myself with every single law code that has ever been conceived and point out the failure of every single one of them.”

If you want to discuss the application of the principles of criminal law as they related to homicide, it is not too much for you either to 1) bring some fundamental knowledge of the subject to the table, or 2) ask questions with the appropriate humility of ignorance.

“I am baffled as to how completely you misunderstand the point I am making, and have from that derived an attempt at “dishonesty” from me.”

Well, think about it. Either you know better and are dishonest, or you don’t know better and are ignorant of the subject matter. I agree, it is probably the later, but after a few attempts, I begin to see the possibility of the former.

“Once again, it is mindblowing to me that you cannot grasp this. I have said this over and over. Your definitions are not justifiable, and you have done nothing to justify them.”

Do you have a question?

“My definition of justifiable murder: when I feel like it.”

Good luck putting that into practice.

“There, murder is now justifiable because I defined justifiable murder.”

And some say my argumentation is weak.

“What the law says and does is unjustifiable and economically destructive. I have already written pages here on how it holds back innovation and creation and you responded to none of it. All you seem capable of doing is throwing law books at people. What do you think this is, a court case?”

You have expressed your opinions. Do you have some evidence for “unjustifiable and economically destructive”? Do you counter that with any acknowledgement whatsoever that in some cases, any cases, it reaches a just and economically beneficial outcome? I though not.

“All I can do is ask you again: do you think you are a lawyer in a courtroom right now?”

No. If I were, the level of legal competence would hopefully be somewhat higher. I am making an argument. I am proceeding with a fair reading of what the law says. For example, you cannot seem to acknowledge that you have been ascribing to IP that which it does not say or do. I cannot argue with the straw men you construct. Simple.

“Also, this is statist “It’s happening so there” reasoning at its best. Yes, IP laws exist and do things. So that validates your position. If only you had lived under the Third Reich…”

Screw you, Nazi baiter. Ooops! Sorry.

“intellectual property is untenable and unjustifiable.”

Objection! Argumentative and assuming the conclusion.

“However hard the problem may be, how could there be a problem at all without a precise definition of what justice is anyways?”

From what realm of human knowledge would you accept an answer? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Without some type of context, this is a meaningless question. Are you asking philosophically? IP? Crime?

“How could you be working towards a solution to any of these problems if a solution didn’t even exist?”

What in the heck does this mean?

“Your homicide examples or whatever only illustrate this confusion, as you are trying to muddle theory by considering examples.”

No, we can’t have that. Giving examples from the real world will only muddy up your clear waters of logic and reason. Sorry.

“Whether or not a book is a masterpiece is not meaningless, either. Shall we start legislating based on things like that?”

Cure your ignorance. That would be a good start. FYI, it is meaningless to copyright law in defining economic rights, since the rights arise upon fixation, not after it has been in the market and become a masterpiece. It is relevant when analyzing defenses and remedies when there is infringement.

“If I presented you with a proof that calculus is based on false premises and is thus untenable your links to pages on what calculus is would be a waste of time and off topic.”

You missed my brilliant point. Hint: it is an analogy.
.

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“If you want to discuss the application of the principles of criminal law as they related to homicide, it is not too much for you either to 1) bring some fundamental knowledge of the subject to the table, or 2) ask questions with the appropriate humility of ignorance.”

I have brought plenty of knowledge of the subject to the table. You are just confused about what the discussion is. You think we are arguing over what is on law books. That has never been what these threads are about.

You have asked no questions, humility of ignorance or not.

“Well, think about it. Either you know better and are dishonest, or you don’t know better and are ignorant of the subject matter. I agree, it is probably the later, but after a few attempts, I begin to see the possibility of the former.”

Or you don’t understand me.

“Good luck putting that into practice.”

Oh, so this law has never been put in place before? There has never been a ruler in the history of mankind that could kill for fun? I’m sure you know that has happened over and over and over, and I suppose you take that to imply that it is justified?

“And some say my argumentation is weak.”

Well I was, after all, mocking your argumentation with that little exercise. You do realize that, right?

“You have expressed your opinions. Do you have some evidence for “unjustifiable and economically destructive”? Do you counter that with any acknowledgement whatsoever that in some cases, any cases, it reaches a just and economically beneficial outcome? I though not.”

You did not read or comprehend those posts. Nothing I said was an opinion, it was an ethical and economic analysis. You are free to read them again if you like.

“For example, you cannot seem to acknowledge that you have been ascribing to IP that which it does not say or do. I cannot argue with the straw men you construct. Simple.”

I have no reason to believe you have such a sublime understanding of IP law that transcends mine. Why should I believe this, especially since all you can do to support is give me reading material that you didn’t write? All you know is what the U.S. code is. That does not imply you have any understanding what-so-ever about the theoretically understanding of intellectual property.

“Screw you, Nazi baiter. Ooops! Sorry.”

Kick and scream all you want, but apparently if you lived in the appropriate place and time you’d be citing law codes to explain why Jews have no rights. Does this not illustrate how absurd the very way you approach this is? Throw out a piece of legislature and expect its justifiability to be a “given”?

“Objection! Argumentative and assuming the conclusion.”

Haha I think you mean it was *not* argumentative, which is true because I have argued that all over the place here. You are free to read it.

“From what realm of human knowledge would you accept an answer?”

Ethics, but that is not even relevant. If there was no real of human knowledge to give an answer, then all questions concerning justice disappear. You cannot seriously think that you can analyze the “justice” of real-world situations when you have no abstract concept of justice at all!

“No, we can’t have that. Giving examples from the real world will only muddy up your clear waters of logic and reason. Sorry.”

What a bunch of positivist nonsense. Real-world examples are necessarily complex and impossible to analyze fully. The only relations that can be verified or falsified by examining them are hypothetical, empirical relations. There is no way to perform an analysis outright of a real-world example without working out, a priori, a theory that explains what the variables are and how to measure them. Correspondingly, one’s analysis of a real-world example depends critically on what a priori theory one uses to perform the analysis. You are being utterly confused and circular by suggesting that the analysis of real-world examples can invalidate or guide the theory that forms the basis of that very analysis.

Also, it is ironic that you again try to ad hominem attack me by suggesting I am some sort of ego-maniac that cannot get over my own faculties of reason, because I am not doing that at all (never suggested anywhere that I am infallible) and rather you are. You are doing that because, by taking this positivist argue-by-example strategy seriously, you are implying that however you deduce meaningful regressions between variables out of examining complex uncontrolled real-world data is trivial and needs not be analyzed at all. You are the one taking your faculties of reason for granted by apparently not having to wonder how you get from observations to conclusions.

“Cure your ignorance.”

Cure your lack of comprehension skills. You totally missed my point. I am trying to point out how absurd it would be for any law to exist based on whether a book is a masterpiece, because that is pure opinion. Same goes for what is a “work” or not.

“You missed my brilliant point. Hint: it is an analogy.”

You missed my point, and I hope you don’t seriously think I missed the analogy (contrary to what you may think, that would not paint *me* as an idiot!).

If you really think I am asking you to familiarize me with the U.S. law code then your comprehension skills are worse than I thought.

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

“Going to lunch is ok, going to Canada for a month is not. Where is the line in between? What actions can the brother perform while on the trip that will be ok. How does he evaluate each situation as he encounters it? Is stopping to pick up a newspaper on the way home ok? What is the mechanism the brother uses to establish the line in between what is ok and what consitutes “theft”, one that is based on “universal principles”?”

You are doing what Wildberry is doing, which is confusing theory with practice. What you have done is purposefully constructed a situation in which terms of use in a contract were never well-defined, which makes it unable to completely fulfill its role as a contract. However, in jumping from this (failing to construct a good contract) to a critique of using universal principles is a non-sequitur. It does not follow at all from the fact that the parties here failed to actually work out a full contract (i.e. you can drive this many miles, stay within this range, for this period of time) that there is some vagueness or arbitrariness in what is theoretically a justifiably enforceable contract.

I actually see this as none other than a rejection of logic in the analysis of ethics. If you are not going to root your analysis of that problem in universally valid statements, then where do you start? By blinding assuming things that sound good without any substantial justification what-so-ever.

This tactic has been tried over and over: pointing out that the question, “Do the non-trivial zeros of the Riemann Zeta Function all have a real-part 1/2?” has not been answered and may not be for a long time (or ever) does not imply that there is some ambiguity as to whether or not a number has a real part 1/2.

You can go constructing impossible to solve math problems all day. That does not imply that math is not built from universally valid principles or that there is some vagueness or ambiguity.

As for your specific example, that line is supposed to be drawn in the contract, and the universally valid principles of praxeology establish that once that line is agreed upon by the contractors, it can be justifiably enforced. Presenting a contract that fails to draw this line does not say anything about the fact that the very concept of a contract is built from universally valid principles.

The Kid Salami January 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm

“I actually see this as none other than a rejection of logic in the analysis of ethics.”

“rejection of logic”? I’ll ignore this and your other comments that are general and not directly to the point at hand.

What you have done is purposefully constructed a situation in which terms of use in a contract were never well-defined, which makes it unable to completely fulfill its role as a contract.

Firstly, I constructed nothing. What I purposefully did was use one of the examples Kinsella himself used in print which was at least arguably in context and which i figured it would be harder for you to dismiss. And i still think this is a valid example and that you are missing the point – but rather than explain why, ok let’s just assume it’s not.

You tell me “that line is supposed to be drawn in the contract”. I don’t really know what you mean by “supposed”. Here are some terms and conditions from Hertz car hire in South Africa (nothing special about this, they were just the first set I found on google):

http://www.kapstadt.de/hertz-south-africa/hertztermsconditions/index.html

and one of the clauses is

1.7 During the Rental Period, the vehicle may not be used, inter alia:- for the conveyance of passengers and/or goods for reward; to propel or tow any other vehicle, (including any caravan or trailer) unless authorised by Hertz in writing; to transport goods in violation of any customs laws or in any other illegal manner; in any motor sport or similar high risk activity; beyond the borders of the Republic of South Africa, unless authorised by Hertz in writing; or in any area where there is or may be a risk of incidents of civil unrest, political disturbance or riot or any activity associated with any of the aforegoing;

Looking at that last condition starting “or in any area where there is or may be a risk of incidents ….”, is there any “vagueness or arbitrariness”? I would say there is most certainly. So would you say “the parties here failed to actually work out a full contract”?

As i see your view, your response must be one of these three options:
- who cares what this actual contract says, it is “supposed” to be written in the fashion that I decree.
- that this last sentence “or in any area where there is or may be a risk of incidents of civil unrest, political disturbance or riot or any activity associated with any of the aforegoing” is not vague or arbitrary but is in fact sufficient to cover every possible scenario that the driver could find himself in. That is, he could evaluate the facts of the situation and apply these words and know, so long as these facts are undisputed, with 100% certainty that he is acting within the contract and that, again so long as the facts are agreed, that there will be no chance of dispute later. So, i could invent any scenario i choose and you could apply these words to it and get a definitive answer?
- or that everyone who hires and has ever hired a car from Hertz has signed a contract which hertz presented them which is “unable to completely fulfill its role as a contract” and “the parties here failed to actually work out a full contract” but you don’t seem concerned that it continues, it would appear, to serve the purpose for which it was designed.

Or is there another way of interpreting this that I missed? Which is it?

As for your specific example, that line is supposed to be drawn in the contract, and the universally valid principles of praxeology establish that once that line is agreed upon by the contractors, it can be justifiably enforced. Presenting a contract that fails to draw this line does not say anything about the fact that the very concept of a contract is built from universally valid principles.

Can we be precise here please. If I add a word to this and say “the very concept of a contract is built only from universally valid principles”, do you still agree with this statement?

sweatervest January 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm

“Firstly, I constructed nothing. What I purposefully did was use one of the examples Kinsella himself used in print which was at least arguably in context and which i figured it would be harder for you to dismiss. And i still think this is a valid example and that you are missing the point – but rather than explain why, ok let’s just assume it’s not.”

Well obviously whether you or Kinsella constructed it is irrelevant. And I still do not think it is a valid example of anything. Yeah, what if Kinsella gets pissed that this guy took his car to the grocery store first? What if that goes to court? What is the solution? There is no way for that contract to fulfill its purpose as a contract. This has nothing to do with what I “decree” (ad hominem attack by the way). Why sign a contract, which is supposed to define terms of use, when it does not define terms of use?

“You tell me “that line is supposed to be drawn in the contract”. I don’t really know what you mean by “supposed”.”

By supposed to I mean in order for it to function as a contract. It’s in the same sense that a car is “supposed” to have an engine in it.

“Looking at that last condition starting “or in any area where there is or may be a risk of incidents ….”, is there any “vagueness or arbitrariness”? I would say there is most certainly. So would you say “the parties here failed to actually work out a full contract”?”

Yes I would because if the situation happens that you think you did not break this term but the rental company does, how is a court supposed to decide who is right? I understand that this company does not have all the time in the world and cannot afford to worry about problems like that which probably do not come up often, but it is a problem none-the-less. They have no way of proving to a court that you actually broke that term, they can only try and convince them, and you can do the same: long, expensive legal battle. The contract does not fully fulfill its function and stands to be improved if this condition is better defined. It also makes the client more sure of what he is agreeing to do.

“Or is there another way of interpreting this that I missed? Which is it?”

Your first response is a childish way of stating my response. Yes this contract does has a weakness, but that has nothing to do with what I “decree”. It has to do with the fact that if this goes to court it will be a long, expensive and possibly never definitely settled case.

“Can we be precise here please. If I add a word to this and say “the very concept of a contract is built only from universally valid principles”, do you still agree with this statement?”

It was imprecise for me to leave “only” out and I am glad you caught that, because I *should* have put only in. Yes I do still agree with you. What a contract is has no opinions entering it anywhere, anymore than 2 + 2 = 4 is an opinion. For the same reason that numbers became a tool to be used amongst many actors, contracts became such a tool as well precisely because they is a real, objective concept. A contract is not a good idea one person had and everyone else started using, any more than numbers are. Those are both things that naturally arise through purposeful action. It is one of those things that existed long before anyone really knew what it is and how it functions.

The Kid Salami January 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Sweatervest – I can’t reply now as I have to eat before the football highlights come on TV. Someone else with more legal expertise than I would have something to say about this I’m sure – I mean, I reckon you’ve essentially just said that pretty much every contract in history does “not fulfill its function”. Shouldn’t this give you a reason to pause and think about what you’re saying…..

Wildberry January 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Kid,
Brilliant. Good on you.

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