1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5887/the-copyrightbaseball-analogy/

The Copyright/Baseball Analogy

November 14, 2006 by

My friend Carl Horowitz writes a good piece urging Hollywood to join the film pirates rather than fight them. He is surely right about this. Film downloads cannot be stopped, but the premise of his article is that if they could be stopped, they should be stopped.

He makes an analogy to baseball. He says that defending piracy as a right is like saying that “so long as there are empty seats at a major league baseball game, there’s nothing wrong with crashing the gates. After all, my freebie neither affects the game’s outcome nor diminishes anyone’s revenues or salaries. Plus, by telling my friends about the game, I am widening the audience for baseball.”

But in the case of baseball, what is being sold is access to the stadium, where there is a scarcity of seats (in the sense that they are limited). If there were a way to watch the game without invading the physical space–some technological trick that permitted cameras to see through walls–it should surely be permitted since there is no scarcity in the moving images of players running around a field hitting a ball. On the other hand, the owners of the technology that made this possible could surely charge their customers since they are owners of the particular machines that made this possible (though anyone should be free to make such machines themselves without having to deal with patents, etc.).

In any case, the baseball analogy is closer to the movie theater, which at the proprietor is ostensibly selling rights to watch a movie but actually selling rights to sit in a seat in a theater during a period of time in exchange for which the theater agrees to show images on a screen. The consumer isn’t actually buying the images themselves. So too for DVDs: the consumer is buying the package, the technology, the availability, etc, but not actually the images on the screen, which are not scarce. The non-scarce good–the moving images–would be available to everyone in a copyright-free world. Only the means of the delivery (theater, DVD, download, or whatever) becomes a commercial product.

So I ask: am I correct that Carl’s analogy in defense of copyright doesn’t hold up?

{ 52 comments }

quasibill November 14, 2006 at 8:34 am

I’m a little leery of the example about technology seeing through walls – I think that might conceivably be a violation of rights. On the other hand, a better analogy would be a high tech satellite that has a great zoom and can record the on-field action. The owner can build a dome to ensure privacy, but if they leave the roof open, they have no reasonable expectation that those above won’t look in.

Andy Stedman November 14, 2006 at 8:46 am

People watch MLB games from their own nearby apartments all the time. I don’t think they have to pay MLB for the privilage.

Andy Stedman November 14, 2006 at 8:50 am

ugh. Privilege.

Person November 14, 2006 at 8:57 am

Jeffrey_Tucker: Stephan has tried this line of argumentation before and failed. You think you can pick up where he left off?

Answer a simple question: what kind of scarcity are you talking about? I mean, if people crashed the gates, they’re not really taking anything away from anyone, are they? Everyone gets to watch the game. So what’s the complaint? Why shouldn’t you be allowed to stop people once the game has started?

Offa Rex November 14, 2006 at 9:25 am

“[I]n the case of baseball, what is being sold is access to the stadium, where there is a scarcity of seats (in the sense that they are limited). If there were a way to watch the game without invading the physical space . . . it should surely be permitted since there is no scarcity in the moving images of players running around a field hitting a ball.”

But, the only reason the right to sit in the seat has value is because it allows access to the “non-scarce” images on the screen or the action on the field. The scarce seating acts as a surrogate mechanism to impose scarcity on the non-scarce images, thereby allowing the creator to charge a non zero price for the non-scarce images. In the same way, copyright protection acts as a surrogate mechanism to price non-scarce creative works.

jeffrey November 14, 2006 at 9:28 am

Ah, at last I’m on the receiving end of “person”‘s legendary belligerence! But let me respond: The problem with crashing through gates is that it is an invasion into someone else’s physical property. And the kind of scarcity I’m speaking of here is the economic sort: its supply is limited so it must be rationed by price. Stadium seats don’t have to be completely full for them to be scarce (that is, you can have surpluses and scarcity at the same time).

jeffrey November 14, 2006 at 9:34 am

Offa Rex, what’s being sold is not “access” in general but a particular experience that comes from occupying a stadium seat during a particular period of time. I’m not disputing that copyright “acts as a surrogate mechanism to price non-scarce creative works”; I’m simply arguing that this is an imposition of artificial scarcity via state-granted privilege, something that would not exist in a free market. In a free market, you have to find other ways to make money besides threatening violence against people who use non-scarce goods.

Person November 14, 2006 at 9:36 am

Jeffrey_Tucker: If I get belligerent, it’s because people who should know better (and I’m not going to name any names*) refuse to admit when they’re quite obviously wrong.

The problem with crashing through gates is that it is an invasion into someone else’s physical property.

That’s begging the question — what makes the “physical” property different from the “intellectual” kind. Ay, there’s the rub.

And the kind of scarcity I’m speaking of here is the economic sort: its supply is limited so it must be rationed by price. Stadium seats don’t have to be completely full for them to be scarce (that is, you can have surpluses and scarcity at the same time).

But you don’t have scarcity — one person’s taking an empty unreserved seat doesn’t deny anyone else an empty unreserved seat, since there are so many. Right? Or do you mean it’s scarce in the sense that the owner “just doesn’t want these morons to use the seats”? If the latter, how is that different from an IP creator “just not wanting morons to use physical goods in reproduction of his intellectual works”?

*A name is the term used to refer to a person or thing. An example of a name is Stephan Kinsella.

Matt November 14, 2006 at 10:06 am

Are you guys missing the obvious point here??? Baseball is freely broadcast on TV. A better example is if I download a World Series game someone recorded and watch it commercial free at home.

Why not just use common sense common law? If someone who can afford to pay for my movie is stealing it, then I’d feel cheated. However, if Chinese peasants are buying DVDs for $0.50, and the discs die after a couple years, and at best I might get $1.00 from them, but then they’d buy half as many movies…I wouldn’t be upset. I’d also not consider it stealing if 20 years from now, people download my movie without paying me.

T.G.G.P November 14, 2006 at 10:18 am

quasibill: “I’m a little leery of the example about technology seeing through walls – I think that might conceivably be a violation of rights.”
Not any right I can think of entailed by libertarianism. The people who own instaces of this technology would be free to do as they choose with it, provided they are not aggressing against others. Viewing is not considered aggressing, so they are in the clear.

People at a stadium are renting seats. The fact that the stadium owner arranges for seat renting to be enjoyable does not give him ownership over an experience like a baseball game.

Dan Coleman November 14, 2006 at 10:46 am

Person,

That’s begging the question — what makes the “physical” property different from the “intellectual” kind. Ay, there’s the rub.

Scarcity makes the difference. There isn’t a single bit of intellectual property that, upon my thinking the same thing, reduces your supply of the good.

There isn’t a single bit of physical property that, upon my taking that same thing from you, does not reduce your supply of the good.

But you don’t have scarcity — one person’s taking an empty unreserved seat doesn’t deny anyone else an empty unreserved seat, since there are so many. Right? Or do you mean it’s scarce in the sense that the owner “just doesn’t want these morons to use the seats”? If the latter, how is that different from an IP creator “just not wanting morons to use physical goods in reproduction of his intellectual works”?

You’re allowing your personal connotations of the word “scarce”–not shared by Austrians–to fuel all of the philosophical work of your argument. Step into the Austrian’s shoes for a moment and see how it plays out. . .

Every physical thing is scarce. Therefore, we live in a world of scarcity, and this scarcity includes standing room. The stadium owner has rights over “scarce” seating whether the stadium is 100% full or completely empty. You cannot take a seat in that stadium without infringing on his property, because that action will always reduce the standing room available in the stadium.

The moment “scarce” is reduced to a personal judgment as you seem to have done–e.g. money is “scarce” for me but not for Bill Gates–it no longer serves as a description of the world around us but only of the relative preferences expressed by people. Oil is “scarce” for the United States in 2006, but in previous centuries (since it had no perceived use) people esteemed it far too abundant, not “scarce”! (And, worse, it ruined many “scarce” farming fields).

To return to baseball. If you are to view a representation of the game without using the scarce standing room available on his grounds, it cannot be shown that you have taken any physical thing from him. Nor can it be shown that his physical property has been reduced.

In short, breaking and entering reduces the owner’s property (by taking away standing / sitting room), whereas watching a tape of the game has reduced no one’s physical property.

Person November 14, 2006 at 11:00 am

Dan_Coleman: I don’t think you addressed my point. I wasn’t using “scarce” in the sense of “gee, there’s just not a lot of it”. However, I was indeed pointing out that there are different economically relevant ways that you can mean “scarce”. Scarcity can arise because of inherent physical limitations, or simply because people’s desires conflict. (I’d give names for these different senses, but people like Fred_Mann would blow a fuse and go off on irrelevant diatribes.)

Let’s take the example of a cornfield. A farmer uses it for growing corn. Let’s say a bum wants to sleep in it. This in no way impedes the ability of the farmer to grow corn. It does not reduce the farmer’s supply of corn-growing land. Everything he could do before, he can still do.

Yet we still speak of scarcity in the sense that the farmer just doesn’t want other people in his cornfield, even if such a presence doesn’t reduce his corn land quantity, while the bum does want to sleep in the cornfield.

In the baseball example, the game has already started. The seats remaining exceed demand for them. In one sense, they are not scarce — to use one does not make demand exceed supply. Yet, in another sense, they are scarce: the stadium owner’s desire for them not to be used without payment cannot be simultaneously satsified with the crashers’ desire to use them. But once you accept the property-rights relevance of scarcity in this second sense, you accept that IP is not scarce, like Stephan Kinsella has conceded.

See the problem?

Scott D November 14, 2006 at 11:25 am

The problem with trying to argue with Person is that he’s only here to try to disrupt your premises, not to refute your conclusions. Confusing, right, based upon what he’s posted so far? Keep that in mind. Otherwise he’s going to accuse you of not reading his posts later on. Also, SK’s “conceding” the point about scarcity was a joke–literally, it was a joke from Kinsella that Person is now using dishonestly.

Person:
“But you don’t have scarcity — one person’s taking an empty unreserved seat doesn’t deny anyone else an empty unreserved seat, since there are so many. Right?”

If there were a finite limit to the number of copies that could be made, your argument would hold some merit. If my making a copy of a recording of the game might prevent someone else from making a copy, then the analogy is valid. Heck, it would even hold water if my making a copy actually degraded another person’s copy by an infinitesimal amount, but it doesn’t.

Person, you’re going to have to admit that your definition of scarcity is wholly your own construct and stop demanding that other people conform to it. Come up with another name for it or something, because at present, it is a purely semantic argument. Scarcity is scarcity, and does not have a darned thing to do with feelings like desire or intent. The amount of matter and energy in the universe, while incredibly abundant, is scarce, because it cannot increase. A piece of moldy bread is scarce, whether you desire to have it or no. A digital photo of a piece of moldy bread is not.

I think that the problem is a technological one and should sit squarely on the shoulders of the recording industry to solve for itself. The cost of making copies used to be prohibitive, so enforcing copyright was unnecessary. When that changed, the business model that the movie, broadcast, and music industries had set up began to crumble, and they started grasping for their government-granted priveleges.

Where the recording industry used to serve a useful purpose in enabling its customers to buy a product for a price far cheaper than they could otherwise, that purpose is gone. What is needed now is for them to innovate, to come up with a new type of product that once more brings value back to their offering. Download services such as iTunes bring some much-needed sanity in offering services to the customer that increase the value of the product (not,admittedly, for everyone), but I think we still have a long ways to go.

Matt:
“Are you guys missing the obvious point here??? Baseball is freely broadcast on TV.”

Depends on your defition of free. The costs are there, but hidden from view. Cable and satellite companies can pay upwards of $2.00 per month per subscriber to carry sports networks, money that is passed on to the consumer. That’s in addition to add revenue that the network generates. People pay a lot more for sports than they realize.

Dan Coleman November 14, 2006 at 11:31 am

Person,

“Let’s take the example of a cornfield. A farmer uses it for growing corn. Let’s say a bum wants to sleep in it. This in no way impedes the ability of the farmer to grow corn. It does not reduce the farmer’s supply of corn-growing land. Everything he could do before, he can still do.”

This is where I see a flaw. The farmer can not do everything he could do before precisely because there is a bum sleeping in his field. Should he run a tractor over that area, try to stand there, etc. the farmer will find that he has less physical space than he would otherwise have–his physical property has been reduced.

“Yet we still speak of scarcity in the sense that the farmer just doesn’t want other people in his cornfield, even if such a presence doesn’t reduce his corn land quantity, while the bum does want to sleep in the cornfield.”

This only works if we prescribe to the corn farmer that his use of the land is restricted to corn-farming. Actually, if the farmer owns the property, it doesn’t matter to what use he puts the field, when he decides to do it, or how he goes about it: it is still aggression for an unwanted stranger to infringe upon it.

“In the baseball example, the game has already started. The seats remaining exceed demand for them. In one sense, they are not scarce — to use one does not make demand exceed supply.”

This is where I think the original fallacy works back into your argument. Demand has nothing to do with scarcity in the absolute sense that every physical thing is scarce. If you sit in a seat–whether there are lines of people waiting to sit or no one is nearby–there is still less usable space because of your presence. In the case of the stadium owner, this means that he has one less seat at his disposal, and it that sense it has reduced his physical property.

To talk about seats that “aren’t being ‘used’ anyway” is an introduction of something else. . .I don’t know quite what (ethics?), but it is foreign to the debate as to whether or not stadium-crashing reduces physical property.

“But once you accept the property-rights relevance of scarcity in this second sense, you accept that IP is not scarce, like Stephan Kinsella has conceded.”

I guess I don’t see the problem of saying that IP is not scarce (isn’t this what I have said all along?). I also wonder whether Kinsella would “concede” that point or argue to uphold it(!), and I suspect the latter is true. That is, if I’m understanding you correctly here.

I suppose that I don’t see the problem that you are trying to show me.

Person November 14, 2006 at 11:43 am

Scott_D:The problem with trying to argue with Person is that he’s only here to try to disrupt your premises, not to refute your conclusions.

So what? A bad argument is a bad argument, and you shouldn’t base any conclusion on it, even a sound one.

Also, SK’s “conceding” the point about scarcity was a joke–literally, it was a joke from Kinsella that Person is now using dishonestly.

Oh, really? I invite everyone to go here, to my post at October 11, 2006 12:56 PM, and the few preceding it, to show that Stephan quite explicitly conceded a point he had been denying for 6 months — that the supposed “non-scarcity” of IP doesn’t help his case. This is because any “IP claim” can be equivalently expressed as a claim on resources that Stephan agrees are scarce, which is exactly what Stephan concedes in the above link. Read it and weep. (Btw, I’ve had independent parties archive that thread to keep Stephan from deleting this concession of his.)

If there were a finite limit to the number of copies that could be made, your argument would hold some merit.

No, it wouldn’t make a difference here. In both cases, there is no physical limit on giving every demander a unit of the demanded good.

Person, you’re going to have to admit that your definition of scarcity is wholly your own construct and stop demanding that other people conform to it. Come up with another name for it or something, because at present, it is a purely semantic argument.

What are you talking about? If you had actually read my posts for once you life, you would have noticed that I’m not offering “my definition of scarcity”. I’m explaining the difference senses in which the term is used, and how they are used inconsistently. At no point did I offer “my definition”.

Scott D November 14, 2006 at 11:44 am

“money that is passed on to the consumer.”

Should have read: “charges that are passed on to the consumer.”

Person November 14, 2006 at 12:00 pm

Dan_Coleman:This is where I see a flaw. The farmer can not do everything he could do before precisely because there is a bum sleeping in his field. Should he run a tractor over that area, try to stand there, etc. the farmer will find that he has less physical space than he would otherwise have–his physical property has been reduced.

Right, but the farmer is not *currently* using those that field in that manner. (i.e., he only farms it during the day, while the bum sleeps at night) So it does not conflict with his *use* of the cornfield. (Just like how my copying your picture doesn’t keep you from using it!) So any alleged “scarcity” arising is purely artificial … right ;-)

This only works if we prescribe to the corn farmer that his use of the land is restricted to corn-farming. Actually, if the farmer owns the property, it doesn’t matter to what use he puts the field, when he decides to do it, or how he goes about it: it is still aggression for an unwanted stranger to infringe upon it.

You’re changing the topic. The question is not whether the bum has a “right” to sleep on the land (we agree he doesn’t), nor whether the bum is aggressing in doing so (we agree he is). The question is whether there is scarcity in this scenario, and whether it’s artificial. If the farmer continues with every use he had intended for the cornfield, he would not come into conflict with the bum. It is only because he doesn’t want bums in his field that there is conflict. Is this scarcity, then, artificial? Think about it.

This is where I think the original fallacy works back into your argument. Demand has nothing to do with scarcity in the absolute sense that every physical thing is scarce. If you sit in a seat–whether there are lines of people waiting to sit or no one is nearby–there is still less usable space because of your presence.

But that’s not what scarcity means. We typically say that “air is not scarce”, even though my inhalation makes it so that you cannot inhale those specific air-gas molecules. All that is needed for air not to be scarce is that you can *also* inhale air. Similarly, it shouldn’t matter for purposes of scarcity as you use it, that I took up “that physical seat”, as long as there’s another one.

I guess I don’t see the problem of saying that IP is not scarce (isn’t this what I have said all along?).

Sorry, that should have read, “you accept that IP is scarce”. I think the reason I erred is that my point is that you must accept “IP and physical property are scarce” or “IP and physical property are not scarce”.

quasibill November 14, 2006 at 1:07 pm

TGGP –

You mean you have no problem with the owner of such technology watching you, your spouse, or your children while they shower? Use the toilet? How about while you, um, … you know … in your bedroom?

I’ll agree that in a strictly Randian Objective legal order (which I don’t believe can actually exist, but that’s another discussion), such conduct would not be criminal or even tortious. However, I assume that most cultures will find this conduct abhorrent and this subjective value (of a certain kind of privacy) will be protected by law in most cultures/mini-states/legal code provision services. The pervert who refuses to subject himself to such a legal code will likely be an outcast in every sense of the word, with most people refusing to do business with them. It will be competition that will keep such subjective legal concerns from growing into the monsters which we currently have under our centralized leviathans.

Axel November 14, 2006 at 1:09 pm

It seems to me this is simply a property rights argument. The farmer or stadium owner definitely owns the field and seats. The gate-crasher, to take the baseball example, most emphatically does not. Whatever happened to basic economics? There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If ever there is something exchanged for nothing, theft has occurred. That’s not to say seats could not be *given* away, in which case the owner of the seats is instead the recipient of some non-monetary benefit, perhaps a favor owed, or a favor given, or simply for the feeling of satisfaction of being able to give a seat to someone who otherwise would never have gotten one.

In this case, however, it is transparent to me that theft has occurred. A seat is taken without giving anything in exchange. Remember, these seats are availible for a price. The simple fact that there are seats availible only means that fewer people are not willing to pay the price for the seats than there are seats at that price. The owner has then miscalculated the market value of his seats, if indeed it is his goal to fill all of the seats (I will stick to the assumption that an owner wishes to fill all the seats, ignoring cases in which he would not). If the owner believes that by lowering the seat prices he can bring in more money by filling more seats to make up for the margin lost, surely he will do so!

Let us examine the farmer and the bum. If the bum offered instead to mow my lawn or rake my leaves or weed my garden in exchange for a place in the field to rest, we may have an exchange – who will argue with this? Simply put, the argument that since I am not currently using the field, the bum may make free with my property holds no water at all. In the first, I am using the field. Am I not growing crops? Why is corn the only crop to think on? Can bums only sleep in between rows of corn, so as to avoid damaging crops, and so, only growers of corn must acquiese to the presence of bums in their field. Obviously if the crop were wheat, the bum’s presence would injure some wheat. This also ignores my rights to use my own property in the present and future. If I am not using the property in the present, I still place some value on it in the future.

We stray into the realm of socialism here, where since I do not *appear* to be using my field or seat in the present, my aggressor -the bum or gate-crasher -determines that the unused property should be better put to his own use.

How false! There is also the matter of contracts. When I buy a ticket for a game or a show, I’m entering a short-term rental of a certain space. I must abide by the terms of that contract or suffer some form of punishment. Are people allowed to bring videocameras into shows? Why not? it violates the contract of the ticket purchased. If you are a gate-crasher, you have entered no such agreement.

In any case, for any property rights argument, I see no basis for determining what the owner or farmer may or may not do with his property, except as determined by themselves. These aggressors against the property can be nothing but theft. Borrowing with intent to return it before the owner requires it? No different than an employee taking money out of the register to for some use, and returning it before the loss is discovered. I am positive Mises states “Theft occurs at the moment the property is taken, not at the moment it is discovered.”

iceberg November 14, 2006 at 1:11 pm

Person,

Let’s just clear up some abstractions that may cloud the issue.

Scarcity is but an inherent property of the universe that describes the uniqueness of every instance of physical existence.

Because of such limitations, it’s conceivable that people would come to set up rules to reduce conflict for use and control of those scarce factors.

“Intellectual Property” however is simply a misnomer for a grand racketeering scheme. Information is never physical, although it is represented, stored, displayed, etc. using physical resources such as air molecules (sound), photons (light), state of magnetic polarity (digital storage), ink, et. al.

“Information” is simply an abstraction, a figment of the observers’ mind which recognizes an isomorphism in some arranged pattern of physical matter. Thus, “information” does not exist, qua existence, apart from the cognition of its pattern, although of course the physical matter representing the pattern exists. In this sense, chimeras and unicorns exist just as much as information does.

Scarcity cannot even come into the picture when talking about such an abstraction; its like saying there could be scarcity of the color blue.

For someone to argue that there is scarcity in information is absurd and wrong. The fact that people employ violence to stop the propagation of information is certainly avoidable conflict, and hence reprehensible behaviour.

Person November 14, 2006 at 1:35 pm

ice_berg:Scarcity cannot even come into the picture when talking about such an abstraction; its like saying there could be scarcity of the color blue.

Very true. But my point is: you done have to claim “the color blue” in order in order to claim so-called “IP rights” in blue. You can simply make a claim on all scarce objects, that the people have e.g. no right to make them blue. (YES, I KNOW SUCH A CLAIM IS ABSURD. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. READ IT AGAIN.)

Similarly, one need not claim to own e.g. “the idea of aspirin”; he can simply claim aspirin-formation rights in all physical objects. AND BEFORE YOU LODGE AN IRRELEVANT OBJECTION AGAIN, yes, I know you can find a million reasons to say this claim is unjustified. My point is just that “non-scarcity of ideas” isn’t one of them. The claim is quite clearly over scarce objects; it’s invalid on other grounds.

Do you agree with that? If so, you agree with my complaint against Stephan Kinsella regarding the irrelevance of idea non-scarcity, and therefore that about ten pages of his seminal work are a complete red herring.

Ax_el:If I am not using the property in the present, I still place some value on it in the future.

Very true. While your usages may not conflict now, you still *desire* that he not use it in a certain way now, thus creating scarcity. Is this scarcity artificial? If not, neither is that in IP.

iceberg November 14, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Similarly, one need not claim to own e.g. “the idea of aspirin”; he can simply claim aspirin-formation rights in all physical objects. AND BEFORE YOU LODGE AN IRRELEVANT OBJECTION AGAIN, yes, I know you can find a million reasons to say this claim is unjustified. My point is just that “non-scarcity of ideas” isn’t one of them. The claim is quite clearly over scarce objects; it’s invalid on other grounds.

It is certainly relevant if we put aside for the moment your befuddled concept of ‘rights’.

IIRC, Stephan Kinsella does not bestow sanctity upon the concept of rights. To him and other Hoppeans, ‘rights’ are simply a common convention if you will, a formula to reduce conflict by assigning control of certain items, since there is no other possible alternative to the problem of scarcity in their minds, and only because of the impossibily, rights are an inevitability.

However when dealing with a non-scarce abstract such as a pattern, how do you come to the deduction that rights are inevitable?

Sione Vatu November 14, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Person

What exactly is your position regarding “intellectual property”. Can ideas be property in the sense that they can be recognised and protected by grant of legal monopoly? Is the patent a valid device? Is copyright valid? Or is there some other mechanism you would recommend instead? If so, what is it, how would it operate and how would it be validated?

Sione

Person November 14, 2006 at 3:11 pm

ice_berg: To him and other Hoppeans, ‘rights’ are simply a common convention if you will, a formula to reduce conflict by assigning control of certain items, since there is no other possible alternative to the problem of scarcity in their minds, and only because of the impossibily, rights are an inevitability.

Well, necessity, not inevitability, but otherwise, that’s correct.

However when dealing with a non-scarce abstract such as a pattern, how do you come to the deduction that rights are inevitable?

I don’t. I come to the deduction that all across all (physically) scarce objects in which the pattern can be instantiated, rights assignments are a necessity. That difference underlies my dispute with Stephan’s invocation of scarcity in the context of IP.

Sione_Vatu: My position on IP isn’t relevant there. The topic at hand is Jeffrey_Tucker’s attempted argument against IP, and whether or not it is valid. It would certainly be a useful tangent to explore here the validity of my position on IP; however, given the shortness of the attention spans here (up to and including Stephan’s), I find it more productive to focus purely on sweeping away the bad arguments before we discuss justifying the conclusions, so that people (and I’m not going to name names*) can’t “forget” another’s argument halfway through a post, necessating the other’s avoidable repetition of an argument that was explained perfectly well the first time. Does that sound fair?

*A name is the term used to refer to a person or thing. An example of a name is Sione Vatu, who by the way in this thread gives a perfect example of a short attention span.

Sione Vatu November 14, 2006 at 4:07 pm

Person

Your position is directly relevant. I would like to know what it actually is. So why refuse to answer the questions put to you? Evasion is suggestive of intellectual cowardice.

You imply that you do indeed have a position regarding IP. Given your passionate efforts to argue various aspects of the topic one would expect that you have established a coherent theory or system. So what exactly is your position? Here is your opportunity to state it exactly and for the record so that everyone can examine it and understand it.

Sione

Person November 14, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Sione_Vatu:Your position is directly relevant.

No. It is indirectly relevant. The topic at hand is Jeffrey_Tucker’s attempt to construct an argument against IP. I am discussing his argument. The extent to which I do or do not support IP is not directly relevant; only discussion of Tucker’s specific justification is.

I would like to know what it actually is.

So what? Why do I care what someone who doesn’t even read my posts, wants?

So why refuse to answer the questions put to you?

I explained this very specifically in the above post, the latest you didn’t read. I explained that I will only handle one issue at a time to avoid selective “forgetfulness”. If you really want to learn what I think, first, we have to finish up with this issue. Help me get Stephan to concede the obvious — that non-scarcity of ideas does not support his case. Once we get him to admit that a good 10 pages of his seminal work — you know, the one that everyone here references as Gospel — are pure red herring, then I won’t have to repeat those arguments anymore and we can advance to more fruitful areas.

Refusing to rescind one’s previous statements when one realizes he is wrong … that counts as intellectual cowardice, doesn’t it?

iceberg November 14, 2006 at 4:43 pm

I don’t. I come to the deduction that all across all (physically) scarce objects in which the pattern can be instantiated, rights assignments are a necessity.

Please explain to me exactly how you come to that deduction, because for the life of me I cannot understand how.

Second, please explain how rights can be assigned for something that does not exist apart from the mind that cognates it, i.e., information.

Person November 14, 2006 at 5:15 pm

iceberg, are you a little slow at this today? All I did was rephrase one of Hoppe/Kinsella’s premises, the premise that property rights should be assigned in all scarce things. A pattern can be instantiated in a (unarguably) scarce object, and rights assignments are necessary in that object. That’s all I said. What part did you object to?

iceberg November 14, 2006 at 6:00 pm

A pattern can be instantiated in a (unarguably) scarce object, and rights assignments are necessary in that object. That’s all I said. What part did you object to?

I object to the part where you refer to a pattern as a scarce object, as it can hardly be scarce when its not an object. Have you accidently switched to decaf?

Scott D November 14, 2006 at 7:30 pm

Person can say the same thing again and again. I can read it again and again. The fact that the point he is trying to make is slippery and vague does not change the fact that I have read his post.

However, I think maybe I finally get it. I’ve looked past all the blustering and the posturing and finally see it. So what is this great truth that you’ve brought us to, that supposedly warrants stepping in and trying to derail nearly every argument that has been put forth here about IP?

At one point in his paper, Kinsella described how conflicts arise because of scarcity, because of limited tangible resources. It was a quick description, intended to be easily understood by neophytes. I think that the key phrase is here:

“A little reflection will show that it is these goods’ scarcity—the fact that there can be conflict over these goods by multiple human actors. The very possibility of conflict over a resource renders it scarce, giving rise to the need for ethical rules to govern its use.”

The fact that Kinsella has neglected to mention in this passage is that all physical bodies are, to some degree, scarce. Some things are more scarce than others. Some have such small scarcity that no one actually bothers claiming property rights in them. The atmosphere is, in fact, scarce, but very, very abundant, and humans have not yet devised a way to get greater utility from it than we currently enjoy. This does not mean that the atmosphere is an unlimited resource.

Now, this omission is where Person steps in and tries to twist Kinsella’s meaning around. If we define scarcity in terms of the presence of conflict and ONLY in terms of the presence of conflict, then it begins to become possible to claim that IP is not scarce. Doing this requires a further stretching of terms, to take “conflict” out of context and understand it to mean any disagreement about anything. In essence, Person’s whole argument boils down to a slightly vague choice of a description on Kinsella’s point, a crime that I contend Person has committed over and over and over again in his posts, if the degree of misunderstanding we’ve seen is any indication.

The fact is that scarcity exists whether or not a resource is rare or even wanted. A high enough degree of scarcity, along with some degree of utility, leads to a good’s inability to satisfy all desires that arise from that utility. The inability to satisfy all desires is what leads to conflict. Conflict leads to the need for property rights. Kinsella was merely pointing out that a conflict over the distribution of a resource indicates that it has a high-enough degree of scarcity to require property rights.

Oh, and Kinsella’s “concession”? Laughable. I only hope that other readers take the time to follow the convolutions in that thread to see that Person’s claim is groundless.

T.G.G.P November 14, 2006 at 8:22 pm

quasibill: What do we care what the common person thinks? The common person is a statist and we are the noble libertarian elite! There would be no reason to ban a magic “mirror, mirror, on the wall” or telepathy in a libertarian system, and if we are not assuming a libertarian society but the current one there is little point in dicussing anything here. It would be nearly impossible to catch someone in the act if they do it in the privacy (or lack thereof I suppose with this technology) of their own homes. It doesn’t actually harm anyone directly, and no one would care if they were unaware it had occurred. Images are basically just bits, and any arrangement of bits could be randomly generated that would give the exact same result. Any series of numbers is contained in pi (an infinite number of times in fact), so any series could actually found given the position of the first and last of those digits in pi even. Sorry if that was too much of a digression.

Person: It is because claiming property rights in all physical instantiations of patterns sounds so ridiculous that IP proponents claim property rights in the patterns themselves or ideas instead. That is why the scarcity argument is relevant. You are saying “We can get around this objection to IP by claiming property rights in these physical things” but it is in upholding the rights of others (who homesteaded or received in voluntary transactions) in those physical objects that Kinsella is decrying IP.

Person November 14, 2006 at 8:24 pm

ice_berg:I object to the part where you refer to a pattern as a scarce object, as it can hardly be scarce when its not an object.

That part does not exist. Here’s what I said again:

“A pattern can be instantiated in a (unarguably) scarce object, and rights assignments are necessary in that object.”

Those with a functioning brain recognized that “that object” at the end refers to the “(unarguably) scarce object” in which the patter is instantiated, not the pattern itself.

Scott_D: Skipping to the relevant part, I find:

The fact is that scarcity exists whether or not a resource is rare or even wanted. A high enough degree of scarcity, along with some degree of utility, leads to a good’s inability to satisfy all desires that arise from that utility. The inability to satisfy all desires is what leads to conflict. Conflict leads to the need for property rights. Kinsella was merely pointing out that a conflict over the distribution of a resource indicates that it has a high-enough degree of scarcity to require property rights.

Sorry I didn’t list the page numbers in this thread, but whatever you were reading was quite clearly not what I was referring to. Next time, ask.

Refer now to pp. 22-31 of Stephan’s work. There’s he’s quite clearly arguing that because the *idea itself* is not scarce, it cannot be property. I’d quote from it, but since the whole thing says it over and over, what’s the point of picking one? This “point” is quite clearly irrelevant. When someone makes an IP claim, he need not phrase it as “a property right in an idea”; he need only phrase it as claiming a property right in any physical object in which the idea would instantiate, at which point one cannot object on non-scarcity grounds. The objects he is claiming usage rights in are quite clearly scarce. In the link I gave you earlier to the previous thread, this is exactly what Stephan concedes. He knows that about ten pages are pure misdirection, and refuses to rectify the error.

If and as long as he refuses, he cannot be taken seriously — what he’s doing is pure intellectual dishonesty.

Person November 14, 2006 at 8:31 pm

T.G.G.P:It is because claiming property rights in all physical instantiations of patterns sounds so ridiculous that IP proponents claim property rights in the patterns themselves or ideas instead. That is why the scarcity argument is relevant. You are saying “We can get around this objection to IP by claiming property rights in these physical things” but it is in upholding the rights of others (who homesteaded or received in voluntary transactions) in those physical objects that Kinsella is decrying IP.

I understand this. I have quite specifically accepted all along that Stephan has established a basis on which he could *reject* this rephrasal (is that a word?) of the IP claim. But the problem is, he’s trying to argue the “ideas aren’t scarce so they can’t be property” bit as an argument above-and-beyond the homesteading response. But that point neither supplements the homesteading response, nor stands alone as an independent, separate reason to reject IP. It’s just a red herring, albeit one that gets a lot of mileage here ;-)

Francisco Torres November 14, 2006 at 10:26 pm

That’s begging the question — what makes the “physical” property different from the “intellectual” kind. Ay, there’s the rub.

There is no intellectual property. Ideas cannot be homesteadable, since they can spawn in individuals’ minds once these are exposed.

Let’s take the example of a cornfield. A farmer uses it for growing corn. Let’s say a bum wants to sleep in it. This in no way impedes the ability of the farmer to grow corn. It does not reduce the farmer’s supply of corn-growing land. Everything he could do before, he can still do.

It is of no matter what the farmer does with the land, Person. Land IS scarce, whether the farmer sees the bum or not – there is only a finite number of acres.


Yet we still speak of scarcity in the sense that the farmer just doesn’t want other people in his cornfield

THAT is not scarcity. “Scarcity” exists whether the farmer WANTS to have the bum sleep there or not. You are just changing the meaning of a word in order to fit your argument.


In the baseball example, the game has already started. The seats remaining exceed demand for them. In one sense, they are not scarce [...]

In WHAT sense? In the sense that your polylogism dictates? They ARE scarce because there will be a finite number of them. The DEMAND for them is another thing altogether.

Yet, in another sense, they are scarce: the stadium owner’s desire for them not to be used without payment cannot be simultaneously satisfied with the crashers’ desire to use them. But once you accept the property-rights relevance of scarcity in this second sense, you accept that IP is not scarce, like Stephan Kinsella has conceded.

This DOES beg the question, Person, because you assume what you want to prove: that property is whatever the owner SAYS it is. This is not so,and yet that is the main premise behind IP – it is property because the “owner” says so.

Sione Vatu November 14, 2006 at 10:44 pm

Person

Oh come on! Don’t be so precious. Quit evading and answer the questions put to you. State your position, derive and validate it.

Sione

Stephan Kinsella November 14, 2006 at 11:02 pm

Wellllll Person the gadfly returns! I’m glad Person himself is scarce! (that is, that there’s only one of him; he’s not around inexhaustible infinitude) :)

And I wonder when our pal Sasha the “we own our energy” will show up.

Person, I concede your point.

Now, having said that, let me say. IP is really just information: knowledge about patterns, or ways of doing things, or of arranging matter to produce machines that do useful things. IP is clearly not scarce (rivalrous). Other things that exist are scarce, however, and it is these things that are property. By virtue of being scarce (rivalrous), conflicts can arise over their use; and that is what property rules are for: to assign a determinate owner who has the right to control that thing. And the libertarian has a unique view of the property-assignment rule that should be applied: they believe the rule is the one that is uniquely suited to this conflict-avoidance role. And that this is, basically, the Lockean homesteading principle.

Thus, this way of looking at property shows that scarcity is crucially important: things that are scarce are property; things that are not scarce are not. In fact, to assign property rights in non-scarce things necessarily infringes on rights in scarce things. That is *why* it is a problem to assign property rights in non-scarce things–that is, in non-property. I have maintained this consistently from the beginning of my foray into IP policy discussions. Recognizing that IP is not scarce of course thus explains why it is not property. Of course its non-scarcity is relevant.

Person wants to say I’m being disingenuous in arguing this, because in reality, I’m opposed to IP b/c it really means assigning property rights in scarce things pursuant to a rule other than first-use. Er, right. This is exactly what it means to point out that something is not scarce. If you point out something is not scarce in a property rights discussion, you are pointing out that it is therefore problematic to assign property rights in it, because this necessarily means infringing rights in scarce things. This is not “the real” point while scarcity is just a red herring; it is an implication of the thing’s not being scarce; it is the converse of it; it is what it means to be scarce. It is why it’s important to assign property rights only in scarce things. Which requires one to identify which things are scarce and which are not.

See, Person? You little gadfly, you.

p.s.: I do not really concede your point. Just funnin’ ya.

Vince Daliessio November 14, 2006 at 11:19 pm

Here’s my scenario;

Stephan and Person are walking along, side-by-side through the (unowned)woods, when they discover two etch-a-sketches. Each picks one up (homesteads it). Person begins to draw little square-wheeled cars, while Stephan writes, in very tiny letters, a draft of “Against Intellectual Property”, then promptly falls asleep. While he is sleeping, Person plagiarizes Stephan’s work. The two men now each have a (non-scarce) pattern of words on their (presumably) scarce etch-a-sketches.

Can someone explain to me where is the “property” in this “intellectual property”?

Can someone tell me exactly how the contents of the book, now on two etch-a-sketches, soon to appear on dozens, can possibly represent a scarce or rivalrous resource that necessitates the declaration of property to avoid conflict?

SHEESH.

quasibill November 15, 2006 at 7:57 am

TGGP -

I’m not sure, but I detect a note of sarcasm in your response. My problem is that I’m not sure where it ends…

Anyway, I’m not talking about Libertopia, I’m talking reality, in that I think that mini-states are inevitable in at least some parts of the world. Furthermore, I’m acknowledging human nature in that I believe (contra Rand and some Austrians who lean towards her world-view) that there is no such thing as a truly objective legal standard from A to Z.

Your arguments against a legally protected right to privacy go more to cost of enforcement, not whether, once caught, a person would be sanctioned under a legal code. I just don’t see too many cultures abiding peeping toms – and they do get caught, even today with our drug war obsessed police force.

Privacy is something people value, and expect – otherwise, why build walls at all? Why not just big glass (or plexiglass, whatever) houses?

Person November 15, 2006 at 8:46 am

Stephan, you’re still making the same erroneous point. I agree with you that your derivation relies on the concept of scarcity. However, you additionally try to draw in the non-scarcity of ideas to support your case, when it doesn’t. For one thing, if you consistently carry through the concept of scarcity, you find the same kind of scarcity that underlies your property theory, in IP claims. When justifying homesteading property assignment, you refer to scarcity in terms of a conflict between two actors whose desires cannot simultaneously be satisfied. This is precisely the scarcity that arises in IP: two actors’ desires cannot simultaneously be satisfied. Sure, you can justify one over the other, but it would have nothing to do with the fact that ideas are non-scarce.

Person wants to say I’m being disingenuous in arguing this, because in reality, I’m opposed to IP b/c it really means assigning property rights in scarce things pursuant to a rule other than first-use. Er, right. This is exactly what it means to point out that something is not scarce.

No. You are pointing out that ideas are non-scarce. That’s different from pointing out that the objects in which the ideas are instantiated are scarce. Your pp.22-31 are very clear about rejecting IP specifically because ideas are non-scarce, rather than because they infringe on separately-justified homesteaded property. This part — about one quarter of the body of your paper less refs and footnotes — is pure red herring, yet people STILL use it to justify their positions.

It is why it’s important to assign property rights only in scarce things. Which requires one to identify which things are scarce and which are not.

Okay, but IP claims are all in scarce things, so it’s rather pointless to claim that ideas aren’t scarce. Get it?

But I want to thank you for giving your first evidence that you have bothered to try to understand my point. That’s more than you usually do.

Non-serious arguments ignored.

Scott S November 15, 2006 at 9:03 am

This is off-topic to the baseball/copyright analogy, but I think this recent internet incident is pretty fascinating – it touches on the boundary between IP and ‘real’ property. Or, what happens when someone creates a program that can make an exact copy of objects in a virtual reality world, where people have spent time and get money selling their own creations to others.

Copybot hits SecondLife:

http://news.com.com/Second+Life+faces+threat+to+its+virtual+economy/2100-1043_3-6135699.html

(if that link is too long to show up, just go to Google news and enter Copybot Secondlife)

I’d really be interested in hearing you guy’s take on this.

Kent Gatewood November 15, 2006 at 9:38 am

Mr. Kinsella would you defend your copyright on your books (since they are not scarce)? How does an author get compensation for an unprotected book? In the absence of IP and the state, would drugs only be produced by patrons? Is there a clear view of what a non IP world will look like?

Person November 15, 2006 at 9:58 am

Kent_Gatewood: I’ve been over that with Stephan before. I asked why he aggresses through his copyright. He went through some spiel about how he doesn’t have an obligation to fix the world (talking phrases straight out of the Objectivist handbook). I then explained that he could just release it into the public domain. His response to that was:

1) But no one would go through the expense of publishing a book if they couldn’t get a copyright on it! (Oops! There goes all his insincere claims about the practicality of publishing in a non-IP world!)

2) That he “thinks” you can’t do that.

Number 2 is not a typo. Stephan Kinsella, an intellectual property attorney, despite all the work that’s been done in the GPL, in Creative Commons, despite all the authors and inventors who have released their work into the public domain, beliefs it suffices to say that he “thinks” you can’t liberate an intellectual property.

I had a hard time believing he tried that, myself.

Stephan Kinsella November 15, 2006 at 10:05 am

Vince:

Stephan and Person are walking along, side-by-side through the (unowned)woods, when they discover two etch-a-sketches. Each picks one up (homesteads it). Person begins to draw little square-wheeled cars, while Stephan writes, in very tiny letters, a draft of “Against Intellectual Property”, then promptly falls asleep. While he is sleeping, Person plagiarizes Stephan’s work. The two men now each have a (non-scarce) pattern of words on their (presumably) scarce etch-a-sketches.

Can someone explain to me where is the “property” in this “intellectual property”?

There is not, other than Person’s unconsented-to use of my etch-a-sketch, arguably an act of trespass.

Person:

Stephan, you’re still making the same erroneous point. I agree with you that your derivation relies on the concept of scarcity. However, you additionally try to draw in the non-scarcity of ideas to support your case, when it doesn’t.

No. It’s very simple. I point out that the libertarian position is that scarcity in scarce resources means there can be conflict; so we libertarians favor property rights, with ownership assigned by the first-use principle since that is the rule that will permit conflict to be avoided. Once this is established, then you can use this conclusion or rule to apply to various proposed rights.

If someone says there should be a property right in IP, then you can say: no, property rights are only scarce things; IP is not scarce; therefore, there is no property right in it. If they remain confused or unpersuaded–some of them (my friend Tibor Machan even hints at this) say, well, there are all kinds of things that we can create: we have property rights in various ontological forms of things that we create: both tangible things, and intangible things like songs or poems or inventions or novels. They are literally saying that there shoudl be property rights assigned in both scarce, and non-scarce, things. If you point out to them that property rights are only in scarce things, they just say, well, let’s have property rights in these other things too. They see them as additional. They don’t see a problem or conflict. They don’t truly understand the need for property rights as arising from the *scarce* nature of certain objects; they don’t understand that the only way to grant an enforceable *right* in a non-scarce thing is to enforce with real (physical) force against real (scarce) things in the real world. So that’s why you have to spell it out for them. It’s not an illegitimate argument; it’s highlighting the problem of advocating rights in non-scarce things from several angles to illuminate the stubborn, slow, dishonest, or stupid. It’s meant to let them *see that* in advocating rights in non-scarce things, they have to necessarily advocate reducing or invading rights in scarce things. This all goes together, Person.

It is similar to when lefties argue for adding rights to our baseline common law rights: just add a right to education or healthcare, why not? The more rights, the better, no? They do not see that rights granted in this way infringe other rights. It has to be explained to them.

For one thing, if you consistently carry through the concept of scarcity, you find the same kind of scarcity that underlies your property theory, in IP claims. When justifying homesteading property assignment, you refer to scarcity in terms of a conflict between two actors whose desires cannot simultaneously be satisfied.

Do I? I refer to it in the sense of rivalrousness: one person’s use excludes another’s. This is just a fact of the way things are in nature. Some things if used by or taken by one person, are therefore unavailable for use by others. For these things, conflict over them is possible. For other “things,” like recipes, say, they can be used simultaneously by an infinite number of people. Knowledge can be spread like this. It is just information. It is not scarce. It is not rivalrous. It is not property. It is knowledge, used to guide action in a world of scarce means.

This is precisely the scarcity that arises in IP: two actors’ desires cannot simultaneously be satisfied.

You keep wanting to look at it this way. Why, I”m not sure, but it’s verging on crankish. What IP is, is an explicit attempt to grant a property right to control a given idea, information, knowlege, recipe, method, pattern, etc. This conflicts with real property rights as noted above.

Sure, you can justify one over the other, but it would have nothing to do with the fact that ideas are non-scarce.

Sure; if ideas were scarce, then there would need to be property rights in them.

You are pointing out that ideas are non-scarce. That’s different from pointing out that the objects in which the ideas are instantiated are scarce.

Sure. THe objects in which ideas are instantiated are not scarce. In fact, they have owners that are determiend already by the first-use principle. That is why granting a right in the IP means granting rights in the already-owned property the IP is instantiated in, which is why it’s theft.

What’s the problem with pointing this out?

Your pp.22-31 are very clear about rejecting IP specifically because ideas are non-scarce, rather than because they infringe on separately-justified homesteaded property.

It’s not “rather than”. It’s the same thing. Because ideas are [not] scarce, recognizing property rights in them necessarily means infringing on separately-justified homesteaded (scarce) property. Therefore, that’s why there can’t be property in ideas or any other scarce resources. This is the reason why scarce things can’t be property.

This part — about one quarter of the body of your paper less refs and footnotes — is pure red herring, yet people STILL use it to justify their positions.

They are more perspicacious than you, I suppose. I think you are caught in a mental fugue.

Okay, but IP claims are all in scarce things, so it’s rather pointless to claim that ideas aren’t scarce. Get it?

Really? ask IP advocates. They say, “no no, I am just claiming a right in the thing I create” etc.

But I want to thank you for giving your first evidence that you have bothered to try to understand my point. That’s more than you usually do.

I’ve always understood your confusion here. I think you are caught in a mental fugue or some kind of feedback loop.

Kent:

Mr. Kinsella would you defend your copyright on your books (since they are not scarce)?

Why in the world is this relevant? Why does it alwyas become “about me”? It’s not about me. Moreoever, my books have copyrights owned by the publisher. Ask them.

How does an author get compensation for an unprotected book? In the absence of IP and the state, would drugs only be produced by patrons? Is there a clear view of what a non IP world will look like?

Are these questions meant to somehow establish that we all are utilitarians? or that property rights can or should be given to non-scarce things? That the first-use principle is not the only just way to assign property rights?

Sione Vatu November 15, 2006 at 11:07 am

Stephan

You wrote:

“Because ideas are scarce, recognizing property rights in them necessarily means infringing on separately-justified homesteaded (scarce) property. Therefore, that’s why there can’t be property in ideas or any other scarce resources. This is the reason why scarce things can’t be property.”

Don’t you mean that ideas are non-scare etc? That is, the paragraph should read:

Because ideas are non-scarce, recognizing property rights in them necessarily means infringing on separately-justified homesteaded (scarce) property. Therefore, that’s why there can’t be property in ideas or any other non-scarce resources. This is the reason why non-scarce things can’t be property.

Typo?

Talofa

Sione

Kent Gatewood November 15, 2006 at 11:36 am

Dr. Kinsella–you sold your publisher something, the copyright, that doesn’t exist. Do they know this? Should we tell them?

Stephan Kinsella November 15, 2006 at 1:43 pm

Sione: quite right, typo; fixed now.

Gatewood: you are being a pettifogging gadfly. Shoo.

vik November 15, 2006 at 2:23 pm

Hey Person,

can I use your house/apartment when you are not there? I’ll leave everything as I found it, and thus will not affect your use of your property in any way.

Oh, and if you reply to this, do not dare quote me. Those are my sentences, and I do not give you permission to reproduce them.

Vik

Sione Vatu November 15, 2006 at 10:41 pm

Stephan

I reckon I understand the “anti IP” position much better now. After chasing it around with some of my colleagues and associates, the discovery is that none of us had a really clear idea of the issues (never thought about them in depth- merely took it for granted that ideas are property and therefore a monopoly priviledge should be recognised). So far no-one I know has come up with a valid, self-consistent defense of the “pro” position. It aint looking good that one is around either.

I’m most surprised by this. Time to read some more Rothbard. He may have been right (or at least closer to the reality of the matter) after all.

Sione

T.G.G.P November 16, 2006 at 10:12 am

quasibill: Yes, there was plenty of sarcasm there. I’m not as optimistic as you. I don’t think we will ever achieve mini-states in the first-world, although little fiefdoms of failed states will pop up now and again in the third world before they are taken over by even worse states.

There is a significant difference between the Peepingtomomatics and drugs. Drugs are consumed when used, so a user’s supply must constantly be replenished. This is what gives the police the opportunity to catch people. If once I have a machine I do not have to attain anything more, I am pretty much undetectable.

There are plenty of reasons we don’t have glass houses. Ever heard the saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? Glass likely has plenty of other reasons for being a lousy building material, like cost and insulation. Glass didn’t begun to be used in dwellings until people achieved significant wealth and resources. Finally, not everyone is going to even want to look inside your house, I pity whoever catches a glimpse of me au naturale for the damage done to their retinas far more than myself for being seen.

quasibill November 16, 2006 at 1:10 pm

TGGP,

My point about the drug war was only that IT is the focus of the vast majority of police expenditures in the US today – not catching peeping toms. However, my little corner of the world had 5 prosecutions under “peeping tom” charges last year. So, yes, they can get caught, and most likely would be caught more often in the absence of a police force obsessed with the drug war (so that they can play Rambo). And again, this is irrelevant to the question of whether it would be illegal in a free market (or nearly so) code.

And, as I noted, the structural integrity of glass isn’t the point – the point is we could live in transparent houses, or nearly so (enormous windows, floor to ceiling). We don’t for a myriad of reasons, but I bet most people’s first response as to why would include a desire for a measure of privacy in their residence.

Finally, I’m not so optimistic as resigned – empires crumble. Always have, always will. Problem is, we’re either living during the decline of empire, or at the precipice of collapse. Neither one tends to be “good times” historically speaking (at least in timespans on the level of a lifespan), so it doesn’t seem to me to be something to happy about for personal reasons.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: