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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8378/st-thomas-channels-kinsella/

St. Thomas Channels Kinsella

August 6, 2008 by

A monk at Stift Heiligenkreuz offers this conjectural answer from the Summa by Thomas Aquinas concerning the question of copyright:

It is necessary for the peace of society that men possess exterior things, since such things being composites of form and matter are diminished by being shared. Thus a man may possess a particular codex. Forms, however, are per se communicable, and are not diminished by being shared; they have thus the nature of a common good, and ought to be shared in by all. Those men therefore who claim to possess the very thoughts signified by the written signs of a book are in error, and if they use their error as a pretext to extort monies they commit injustice…


Person August 6, 2008 at 9:54 am

1) All of Kinsella’s works were written after St. Thomas died. (will verify — stay tuned)

2) Don’t organize your life around the deductions of St. Thomas.

Inquisitor August 6, 2008 at 10:16 am

3) Don’t listen to the moron above.

Daniel Coleman August 6, 2008 at 10:18 am

Incredible! I can’t believe I’ve never seen this cited before.

jeffrey August 6, 2008 at 10:51 am

So I guess I should be clear that this is not actually St. Thomas–there was no copyright back then–but is only written in the style of the Summa.

phil August 6, 2008 at 3:10 pm

yeah, i’ve never seen this before either (though i AM working through the summa). his argument makes sense, and is essentially a only very slightly different argument than that of our dear friend mr. kinsella.

ktibuk August 7, 2008 at 7:20 am


The antidote for the IP Socialists are actually themselves.

Keep posting these little gems Kinsella, and Tucker.

Dane Weber August 7, 2008 at 3:14 pm

That’s a great way to put the point. Just a bit of shameless self-promotion: I wrote my senior thesis in 2002 citing Kinsella and Aquinas and making much the same argument in many more words:



Casey Khan August 7, 2008 at 8:12 pm

“there was no copyright back then…”

Forgive the triumphalism, but copyright originated in Brittain in 1710 under the Statute of Queen Anne, a queen of the the Reformation.

Bruce Koerber August 7, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Intellectual property is subject to the ameliorating power of the entrepreneurial spirit that is inherent in all humans.

Intellectual property is the discovery of what was invisible and bringing it into the visible world in some form. If someone wants it solely for himself or herself they run the risk that someone else in the world will tap into that same universal invisible world as an exercise of their entrepreneurial spirit. Those who want to keep a discovery secret will eventually be trumped by someone else who will give it to the world.

There is no way of predicting whether it will be rewarded hansomely or not but it is certain that it will inevitably become known.

Of course people have the right to keep hidden their discovery and regard it as their property but they do not have the right to deprive the rest of humanity of that discovery when it is revealed by someone else’s entrepreneurial discovery.

Artisan August 10, 2008 at 12:02 pm

It is said that Aquin views common good as being superior to individual good and the government of a city should be organized in this perspective. I’m not a philosophy student though… so this can mean a lot of things.

I would be careful though to quote Thomas Aquin in a libertarian blog. Apart from the fact that it seems dubious Thomas Aquin actually wrote relevant things about copyright at the time (before the existence of the printing press even), it certainly could be interesting to see what part of his thoughts is so much a breakthrough for libertarians, or what part of his XIV century thinking is still relevant today, anyways?

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