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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/18872/was-galambos-an-ip-thief/

Was Galambos an IP Thief?

October 28, 2011 by

I’ve written before about the quirky scientistic California libertarian guru Andrew J. Galambos, and his extreme, crazy IP ideas. ((See Galambos and Other Nuts; also Galambosian IP Recursion; “Ideas Are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property.”)) Galambos believed that man has property rights in his own life (primordial property) and in all “non-procreative derivatives of his life”—the “first derivatives” of a man’s life are his thoughts and ideas—these are “primary property.” Since action is based on primary property (ideas), actions are owned as well; this is referred to as “liberty.” Secondary derivatives, such as land, televisions, and other tangible goods, are produced by ideas and action. ((See also On Andrew Galambos and His Primary Property Ideas, by Alvin Lowi, Jr.))

In other words, man has “primary” property rights in his thoughts and ideas, and secondary property rights in tangible goods. Thus, as ideas are the primary form of property, Galambos claimed a property right in his own ideas, and required his students to agree not to repeat them. In Against Intellectual Property I note that Galambos

took his own ideas to ridiculous lengths dropping a nickel in a fund box every time he used the word “liberty” as a royalty to the descendants of Thomas Paine, the alleged “inventor” of the word “liberty”; and changing his original name from Joseph Andrew Galambos (Jr., presumably) to Andrew Joseph Galambos, to avoid infringing his identically-named father’s rights to the name.

A version of this “primary property” idea–elevating property rights in ideas to an even higher and more fundamental status that in scarce resources–is espoused by Ayn Rand, who incredibly said, “Patents are the heart and core of property rights.” Likewise, Objectivist IP attorney Murray Franck approvingly repeated the following quote: “intellectual property is after all the only absolute possession in the world,” and Objectivist law professor Adam Mossoff argues that “All Property is Intellectual Property.” ((See Kinsella, Objectivists: “All Property is Intellectual Property”; also my “Ideas Are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property” and IP Needs A World of Scarcity.)) And my friend and neo-Objectivist libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan has said: “it would seem that so called intellectual stuff is an even better candidate for qualifying as private property than is, say, a tree or mountain.” ((See my post Owning Thoughts and Labor; also New Working Paper: Machan on IP.))

So it is interesting that I came across a much earlier use of the phrase “primary property” in a very similar context, in a 1950 article about the patent controversy by Machlup & Penrose. ((See Fritz Machlup & Edith Penrose, “The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Economic History 10 (1950), p. p. 11, and n. 35.)) As they note, in the debate about patent and copyright in the late 1700s:

others went as far as to say that a man’s property in his ideas was more sacred than his property in things material …

This was one of the main arguments Stanislas de Bouffler used in presenting the patent bill to the Constitutional Assembly in December 1790:”If there is for man any genuine property it is thought, … and the tree which grows on a field does not so incontrovertibly belong to the owner of the field as the idea which springs from a man’s mind belongs to author. Invention, the source of the arts, is also the source of property: it is primary property, while all other property is merely conventional ….”–Augustin-Charles Renouard, Traité des brevets d’invention (3d ed.; Paris, 1865), pp. 89-90 (first published, 1825).

It seems to me that not only are Galambosians prevented from spreading their own views because of their bizarre self-imposed IP restrictions–now they cannot even claim credit for these bizarre ideas, leading to an infinite recursive Galambosian loop.


Yetanotherlibertarian October 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm


But wait: How could a true IP follower use ANY word at all without paying the inventor/creator of that word (and the underlying concept)? Galambos payed a nickel for “liberty”… And that’s just one word!

John P. October 29, 2011 at 7:16 am

Who is he paying the money too? Or is there just a box full of nickles somewhere waiting to be claimed?

nate-m October 29, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I could tell you that, but it would be infringing on a person’s intellectual property.

I can’t tell you who’s intellectual property that would be infringing on because their name is their own intellectual property and I cannot use it without paying them money first.

Unfortunately I cannot pay them because I cannot find them. I tried using a phone book, but it is full of people’s names. Those are people’s intellectual property and the phone book is a book of piracy. So I couldn’t actually find the name because doing so meant that I would be reading the name of other people and I can’t live with myself for performing such a terrible act of privacy. I would just be encouraging the phone company to violate more intellectual property by using their services anyways.

But that’s ok.

To prevent stuff like this happening in the future I always make sure to provide licensing terms with any sort of intellectual property.

This post is my intellectual property. You now owe me 15 cents for reading it. You can mail that to me using a personal check or money order. Replying to this post creates a derivative product and costs only 30 cents. The price of reading is included in the price of replying. After 10 pm on next tuesday the price goes up to 33 cents, so hurry now!

Kevin Brown November 16, 2011 at 10:40 am

Why does Galambos assume Thomas Paine is even willing to sell him usage of his “property” (the word “liberty”) at all let alone at the price of 5 cents? I think it’s safe to say Paine never gave Galamobs permission to use the word “liberty” at all.

So apparently Galambos thinks he can use someone else’s “property” without permission and at whatever price he makes up.

This would mean that I can use anyone else’s “primary property” (IP) without permission and at the price I make up: $0.

Galambos didn’t realize it but dissecting his example and consistently applying the principles behind it allows for any copying of any pattern without permission and at a price of $0.

His own example destroys IP.

Brian Gladish November 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Not surprisingly, Stephan confuses independency with theft in his latest swipe at his favorite strawman. It is highly unlikely that Galambos ever read that article as he had little interest in economics that was not specifically Austrian or pre-Austrian (as in Bastiat). It certainly didn’t extend to reading journals on economic history. One would expect better from an IP lawyer, but Stephan is blinded by a red mist whenever he has a chance to attack Galambos, even after stating in Against Intellectual Property that his criticism “only applies to the extent that I am properly describing his views.”

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