Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some propositions on property rights – and IP

There’s been a lot of recent discussions around the traps questioning the legitimacy of intellectual property, much of it based on what I would characterise as based on a complete misunderstanding of the basis of property rights per se.  And not just the basis of property rights—and not just misunderstanding: today’s “libertarian” attackers of intellectual property appear completely ignorant of the arguments and justification for individual rights in general—and unwilling to understand them.  And further, they specifically target Objectivists’ understanding of intellectual property, but evince no sign they’re even aware of Objectivist arguments, and offer no evidence of any familiarity with them.

It’s almost like they figure a full understanding will undercut their arguments—or preclude their wish to steal other’s intellectual property.

Objectivist Greg Perkins has a fantastic article defending intellectual property that I once again thoroughly recommend:

Don't steal this article - Greg Perkins, Noodle Food

That article itself however rests on those very ideas that the “libertarian” opponents of intellectual property fail to understand, or to address-or even to look like they want to.

I don’t propose to give the full Objectivist account of property rights here—not in a simple blog post.  (Well, what began as a simple blog post.)  What I propose instead is to offer some of those basic propositions about property rights you should have under your belt before you wrestle with the “libertarian” arguments against intellectual property—propositions that when integrated will help indicate why property rights are right, and by extension why today’s momentarily fashionable arguments against intellectual property fall so wide of the mark (and in my view take advantage of people’s ignorance of many of these more fundamental points).

These points, in essence, are the lines of argument that today’s “libertarian” opponents of intellectual property wish to ignore.  As Greg Perkins says in his article:

    “What is particularly striking is that none of the contemporary [anti-intellectual] heavyweights like [Tom] Palmer and [Stephen] Kinsella grapple with the meaning of individual rights in general, nor their still-deeper basis in ethics, epistemology, and human nature. [Even] their chief observation begs the question: is the splendid characteristic of conflict-prevention the central purpose of property rights, or merely a benefit -- is it the cause or an effect? To determine this, we need to investigate the source of rights in general. These scholars seem hesitant to do so, but Ayn Rand wasn't, and her perspective illuminates the central difficulty in their case: they have missed the essence of all rights.”

Rights are right.

Individual rights are ultimately based on the needs of man’s life—they frame the “moral space” within which we can take the actions as of right that are necessary to sustain our life.  Unlike other animals we cannot survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production. If our minds are our means of survival – as Julian Simon used to say, our Ultimate Resource – then property is the result of applying the creative potential of our minds to reality in order to enhance our lives.

Other animals survive by acting automatically, instinctively; man survives by using his mind. Animals survive by repeating their actions of the past, by doing what worked yesterday; man survives by by looking towards the future, by using reason.

The protection of individual rights makes the world safe for reason. 

    “The concept of individual rights is so new in human history that most men have not grasped it fully to this day. In accordance with the two theories of ethics, the mystical or the social, some men assert that rights are a gift of God—others, that rights are a gift of society. But, in fact, the source of rights is man’s nature.
    “The Declaration of Independence stated that men ‘are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.’ Whether one believes that man is the product of a Creator or of nature, the issue of man’s origin does not alter the fact that he is an entity of a specific kind—a rational being—that he cannot function successfully under coercion, and that rights are a necessary condition of his particular mode of survival.
    “The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.”
                           - Ayn Rand, ‘Man’s Rights,’ in The Virtue of Selfishness

     “The influence of reason shows up in the development of the individual’s conceptual ability to give a sense of present reality to his life in decades to come, and in his identification of himself as a self-responsible causal agent with the power to improve his life. This combination of ideas is what produced in people such attitudes as the realization that hard work pays and that they must accept responsibility for their future by means of saving. The same combination of ideas helped to provide the intellectual foundation for the establishment and extension of private property rights as incentives to production and saving. Private property rights rest on the recognition of the principle of causality in the form that those who are to implement the causes must be motivated by being able to benefit from the effects they create. They also rest on a foundation of secularism—of the recognition of the rightness of being concerned with material improvement.”
                          - George Reisman,
                            ‘The Philosophical Foundations of Capitalism and Economic Activity,’ in         Capitalism

    “Man is creative only in thinking and in the realm of imagination. In the world of external phenomena he is only a transformer. . . Only the human mind that directs action and production is creative. . . Production is not something physical, material and external; it is a spiritual and intellectual phenomenon. Its essential requisites are not human labor and external natural forces and things, but the decision of the mind to use these factors as means for the attainment of ends.  What produces the product are not toil and trouble in themselves, but the fact that the toiling is guided by reason.”
                           - Ludwig von Mises, ‘Production,’ in Human Action

     “Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.”
                           - Ayn Rand, ‘Patents and Copyrights,’ in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Property rights are the fundamental right.

    “They who have no property can have no freedom.”
                            - Stephen Hopkins

    “The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to life is their only implementation.  Without property rights no other rights are possible.”
                           - Ayn Rand, ‘Man’s Rights

    “Man has to work and produce in order to support his life. He has to support his life by his own effort and by the guidance of his own mind. If he cannot dispose of the product of his effort, he cannot dispose of his effort; if he cannot dispose of his effort, he cannot dispose of his life. Without property rights, no other rights can be practiced.”
                           - Ayn Rand, ‘What is Capitalism

    “Recognizing the right to bodily sanctity while denying the righ tto act to maintain one’s life would be pointless.  This is because life is sustainable only through action.  (Indeed, life is action.) [There is] as an analogous observation: the right to act to maintain one’s life should protect the goods obtained in the course of doing that.  The reasoning is that sustenance of life requires the production and consumption of goods.  If the food that a farmer produced were not morally secure from any raider’s plundering, how could she be expected to live. . .
    “Since material goods keep people alive, individuals must be entitled to control the use of the goods that they produce.  Without this, the right to life and the freedom would be empty; they would no longer serve rights’ telos.  Shylock captures this thought in The Merchant of Venice: ‘You take my house, when you do take the prop That doth sustain my house; you take my life, When you do take the means whereby I live.
    “The right to property is the means whereby we live.”
                            - Tara Smith, Moral Rights & Political Freedom

    “Where there is no private ownership, individuals can be bent to the will of the state, under threat of starvation.” 
                           - attrib. to Leon Trotsky 
                            (quoted in Tom Bethell’s
                                            The Noblest Triumph: Property & Prosperity Through the Ages)

      “All civilizations have up to now been based on private ownership of the means of production. In the past civilization and private property have been linked together. . . If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.”
                           - Ludwig von Mises, ‘Capitalism,’ in Human Action

Property is a relationship

It’s important to remember that property cannot simply be equated with objects. More accurately, property refers to a relationship—something tangible (or intangible) in which we have property.  “As long as this is understood, we may use the term ‘property’ to refer either to the object owned or the relationship of ownership.” [Tara Smith.] It’s more accurate, strictly speaking, to say we have “property in” this or that than it is to say that this or that is property.

    “We frequently speak as if property denotes goods that a person owns. (‘Leave that alone, it’s my property.’)  Yet property does not refer to objects per se.  For an object is just that. . . An object qualifies as property only insofar as it stands in a certain relationship to some person.”
                            - Tara Smith, Moral Rights & Political Freedom

    “A man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”
                            - James Madison

   “Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”
                           - Ayn Rand, ‘Man’s Rights

Property must be created

The stuff that sustains human life has to be created--property has to be created--wealth has to be created.  All the wealth in the world that now exists in the world had to be created.  The very act of creating new wealth brings it into a property relationship with the creator. 

When we create new wealth, we create new values. Those new values have an owner.

    “Individuals do not possess property rights simply because material goods are part of what life requires.  The other essential leg of the case stems from the origin of goods’ value.”
                            - Tara Smith, Moral Rights & Political Freedom

    “The source of the goods-character of things is ultimately within us. Goods derive their character as goods by virtue of their ability to benefit human beings.”
                         - George Reisman, ‘Wealth & Goods,’ in Capitalism

    “The power to rearrange the combinations of natural elements is the only creative power man possesses. It is an enormous and glorious power—and it is the only meaning of the concept ‘creative.’ ‘Creation’ does not (and metaphysically cannot) mean the power to bring something into existence out of nothing. ‘Creation’ means the power to bring into existence an arrangement (or combination or integration) of natural elements that had not existed before.”
                            - Ayn Rand, ‘The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made

    “It was once customary to distinguish between the production of tangible goods and the rendering of personal services. The carpenter who made tables and chairs was called productive; but this epithet was denied to the doctor whose advice helped the ailing carpenter to recover his capacity to make tables and chairs. A differentiation was made between the doctor-carpenter nexus and the carpenter-tailor nexus. The doctor, it was asserted, does not himself produce; he makes a living from what other people produce, he is maintained by carpenters and tailors. At a still earlier date the French Physiocrats contended that all labor was sterile unless it extracted something from the soil. Only cultivation, fishing and hunting, and the working of mines and quarries were in their opinion productive. The processing industries did not add to the value of the material employed anything more than the value of the things consumed by the workers.
    Present-day economists laugh at their predecessors for having made such untenable distinctions. However, they should rather cast the beam out of their own eyes. The way in which many contemporary writers deal with various problems—for instance, advertising and marketing—is manifestly a relapse into the crude errors which should have disappeared long ago.”
                            - Ludwig von Mises, ‘Production,’ in Human Action

    “We inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the process what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single, individual men. That which it creates is the property of the creator. Men learn from one another. But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.” [Emphasis added.]
                              - Ayn Rand, ‘The Soul of an Individualist,’ in For the New Intellectual

    “Wealth is the result of human labor. Labor is the means by which man’s mind transmits his designs and purposes to matter. It is man’s application of his bodily and mental faculties for the purpose of altering matter in form or location and thereby making the matter thus altered serve a further purpose. . .
    “The physical matter of which natural resources a composed is, of course, not made by man—it is nature-given. Nevertheless, the wealth-character of natural resources is man-made: it is the result of human labor.  It is the result of the labor that discovers the uses to which the natural resources can be put, and of the labor that enable them to become accessible in ways that they can be used gainfully. Thus, it is labor [mainly of an intellectual character] that establishes the character of natural resources as goods, and thus as wealth.”
                         - George Reisman, ‘Wealth & Labor,’ Capitalism

    “Things that can be placed in a causal connection with the satisfaction of human needs we term useful things [“Nützlichkeiten”]. If, however, we both recognize this causal connection, and have the power actually to direct the useful things to the satisfaction of our needs, we call them goods.
     “If a thing is to become a good, or in other words, if it is to acquire goods-character, all four of the following prerequisites must be simultaneously present:
     1. A human need.
     2. Such properties as render the thing capable of being brought into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
     3. Human knowledge of this causal connection.
     4. Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction of the need.
     “Only when all four of these prerequisites are present simultaneously can a thing become a good.”
                          - Carl Menger, ‘The General Theory of The Good,’ Principles of Economics

Mixing labour? Or rewarding good judgement.

The most well-known justification hitherto for property rights was put forward by John Locke, whose brilliant analysis of how property rights are applied is somewhat undercut by his flawed argument for their justification.  Tibor Machan explains the flaw, and indicates that the fundamental justification for property rights is an entrepreneurial one--it is not based on a “labour theory of value,” where labour is identified only on its purely physical component, but on the crucially important identification of the role of the mind in production. It’s in this sense that we can understand the saying that “all property is intellectual property.”

    “John Locke advanced the theory that when one mixes one’s labor with nature, one gains ownership of that part of nature with which the labor is mixed. Thus, for example, if I gather wood from the forest for a fire, or for materials to build a shelter, I have a ‘natural right’ to what I have gathered, inasmuch as I have ‘mixed my labor’ with it and to that extent put some of myself into it. Since I have a self-evident right to my own body, including my labor, that part of nature that includes myself (i.e., my labor) is also mine. Though Locke held that nature is initially a gift from God to us all, he argued that once we individually mix our labor with some portion of it, it becomes ours alone.
    “This idea, though perhaps commonsensically compelling when limited to simple examples of physical labor such as gathering wood, has not carried wide conviction, mainly because the idea of ‘mixing labor with nature’ is too vague. Does discovering an island count as an act of labor—never mind ‘mixing’ one’s labor? Does exploring the island? Fencing it in? Does identifying (discovering) a scientific truth count as mixing labor with nature? What about inventing a new device based on scientific information available to all? Or trade—should the act of coming to an agreement count as mixing one’s labor with something of value? Challenging examples to Locke’s principle abound.
    “A revised Lockean notion has been advanced in current libertarian thought by way of a theory of entrepreneurship, an idea advanced at about the same time by philosopher James Sadowsky of Fordham University and by economist Israel Kirzner of New York University. The novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, perhaps the modern era’s most fervent advocate of capitalism based on a theory of the inalienable individual right to life, liberty, and property, also emphasized the moral role of individual judgment and initiative or entrepreneurship.
    “According to the entrepreneurial model, it is the judgment—no small matter in human affairs where instincts play hardly any role—that fixes something as possessing (potential) value (to oneself or others); and therefore the making of this judgment and acting on it—the alertness and attentiveness of it all—is what earns oneself the status of a property holder. The rational process of forming a judgment is neither automatic nor passive; neither does the process involve more than a minimum overt physical effort, but it is an act of labor nonetheless. What gives the judgment its moral significance is that it is a freely made, initiated choice involving the unique human capacity to reason things out, applied to some aspect of reality and its relationship to one’s purposes and life goals. One exerts the effort to choose to identify something as having potential or actual value. This imparts to it a practical dimension, something to guide one’s actions in life. Whether one is correct or not in any given instance remains to be seen, but in either case the judgment brings the item under one’s jurisdiction on something like a “first come, first served” basis.
    “For example, assume that George identifies some portion of unowned land as being of potential value. Having made this judgment, George now has rightful jurisdiction over the property, so that others may not (rightfully) prevent him from exploring it for oil or minerals, or simply using it to build a museum or a private home. His judgment may have been in error: the land may turn out to be infertile or otherwise unsuitable for his purposes. Even so, given that people require for their lives a sphere of jurisdiction, by having first made and acted upon the decision to select the land, he has appropriated it in a way that cannot be objectionable—indeed, is a prudent effort, at least.”
                     - Tibor Machan, ‘The Right to Private Property

Property creates new value

Ultimately, what we’re creating with our good judgement is new values.  By identifying and rearranging what nature has given use, we raise materials from a lower value (in relation to us) to a higher value (in relation to us); they move from being materials to being resources; from being things things to being goods. It is their creation as new goods that is the economic component. It is their creation as new values that is the moral component.

    “Consider those things that people hold as property.  What makes the possession of these things desirable is that they serve human purposes. . .  All the things that individuals own … are valuable insofar as they contribute to the fulfillment of some purpose. . .
    “The point is, the goods that individuals own are valuable because of individuals’ efforts. [Individuals had to figure out, for example, that coal could be burnt to produce energy, how it might do so, what ends this might accomplish, and then proceed to locate, extract, transport, and burn coal under suitable conditions to serve those ends. Individuals had to figure out that rubber could be converted into tires, how to do so, why that might be useful, and proceed to harvest and treat the rubber in order to make it serve that function.] These goods are not intrinsically valuable.  Their value is not buried within them, like gifts in boxes, simply awaiting our discovery.  Things’ desirability does not precede individuals’ molding resources to accomplish various purposes.  It is individuals’ deliberate employment of materials to serve certain needs that supplies things’ value.  Before that human contribution, naturally available resources hold merely the potential to be of value to people, if they are tapped in appropriate ways.
    “The relevance of all this to the defence of property rights is straightforward.  If objects’ value is the result of individual efforts, them objects are valuable only because particular individuals have worked in constructive ways to make things serve some ends.  When this realization is teamed with the egoistic premise that a person is entitled to live for her own benefit, it becomes clear that the value a person creates should be hers to keep and control. 
    “Since human effort creates the value that any object possesses—since individuals are responsible for all of a thing’s value—it is appropriate to recognise property rights belonging to the individuals who generate the relevant value.  If a person is entitled to act to promote her own eudaimonia and through her actions creates something that is valuable to her, we have no grounds for denying her right to that product.”
                            - Tara Smith, Moral Rights & Political Freedom

The general benefit from private ownership of the means of production

So property rights are inherently bound up with production.  Indeed, they are essential to the human method of production: which is his mind.

"Whether it's a symphony or a coal mine, all work is an act of creating and comes from the same source: from an inviolate capacity to see through one's own eyes—which means: the capacity to perform a rational identification—which means: the capacity to see, to connect and to make what had not been seen, connected and made before. That shining vision which they talk about as belonging to the authors of symphonies and novels—-what do they think is the driving faculty of men who discovered how to use oil, how to run a mine, how to build an electric motor? That sacred fire which is said to burn within musicians and poets—-what do they suppose moves an industrialist to defy the whole world for the sake of his new metal, as the inventors of the airplane, the builders of the railroads, the discoverers of new germs or new continents have done through all the ages?"
                        - Ayn Rand, ‘The Nature of an Artist,’ For the New Intellectual

But it is not just the owners of the means of production who enjoy the benefits . . .

    “Private ownership in the means of production serves equally the interests of owners and non-owners.”
                         - Ludwig von Mises, ‘The Forms of Class War,’ in Socialism

   “The advantages of private ownership of the means of production are so overwhelming that it is actually of secondary importance precisely who the initial private owners are and how their ownership is established.  Whatever the specific method or methods of establishing private ownership of the means of production, the institution will function to the benefit of everyone—owners of the means of production and non-owners of the means of production alike.  It will do so, however, only to the degree that the individual private owners possess full and secure rights of ownership.
                         - George Reisman, ‘The Tyranny of Socialism,’ in Capitalism

    “To have production goods in the economic sense, i.e., to make them serve one’s economic purposes, it is not necessary to have them physically in the way that one has consumption goods . . . To drink coffee I do not need to own a coffee plantation in Brazil, an ocean steamer, and a coffee roasting plant, though all these means of production must be used to bring coffee to my table.  Sufficient that others own these means of production and employ them for me.”
                         - Ludwig von Mises, ‘The Nature of Ownership,’ in Socialism

    “The influence of the division of labor on the institution of private property of the means of production is almost universally ignored.  Typically, people think of privately owned means of production in terms that would be appropriate only in a non-division-of-labor society. That is, they think of them in the same way that they think of privately owned consumer goods—namely, as being of benefit only to their owners.  They believe that before the non-owners can benefit from the means of production they must first become owners. . . .
    “The first thing that must be realized is that in a division-of-labor society, all private property that is in the form of means of production—i.e., of capital—serves everyone, non-owners as well as owners. In a division-of-labor society, the means of production are not used in producing for their owners’ p[personal consumption, but for the market. . .  The physical beneficiary of this private property—and it is the far greater part of the capitalists’ wealth—are all those who buy the products it helps to produce.  In other words, it is the general buying public who are the physical beneficiaries of the capitalists’ capital. . .
    “It cannot be stressed too strongly: the simple fact is that in a division-of-labor society, one does not have to own the means of production in order to get their benefit. One only has to buy the products. . .”
    “There is a conclusion that follows from this which will appear highly paradoxical to many people, because it totally contradicts all they have been mistakenly led to believe—by the educational system, by the media, and by out culture in general—but which is nonetheless perfectly logical and correct.  That is, the more the private property rights of capitalists are respected, the greater are the benefits to non-capitalists. Because to the extent that their rights are respected, the capitalists are encouraged to save and accumulate capital. . .  Also, of course, the more the property rights of the capitalists are respected, the more powerfully do eth incentives of profit and loss operate to make the capitalists satisfy the demand of the consumers . . .”
                         - George Reisman, ‘Private Ownership of the Means of Production,’ in Capitalism

If that which one buys with formal purchase is one’s own,
If usage confers title to things, as the lawyers maintain;
The the farm which feeds you is yours; and the farmer,
when he cultivates the field which soon gives you grain, feels you are his master.
You pay your money: you get in return grapes, chickens, eggs, a jar of wine.”
-
Horace, 2. Epistol., 2, 158-163 [quoted in L. von Mises, Socialism]

Does the argument for property rights rest on the “scarcity” of natural resources ands tangible goods?

According to today’s “libertarian” attackers, the argument for property rights rests on scarcity. “Let us take a step back and look afresh at the idea of property rights,” begins Stephen Kinsella in one of his many diatribes against intellectual property. “Libertarians believe in property rights in tangible goods (resources). Why? What is it about tangible goods that makes them subjects for property rights? Why are tangible goods property?  A little reflection,” which is all apparently that Mr Kinsella can manage, “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. Thus, the fundamental social and ethical function of property rights is to prevent interpersonal conflict over scarce resources. ...”

But as we’ve already seen, that is not at all the fundamental social and ethical function of property rights. 

    “Contrary to the view of ‘libertarians’ opposed to intellectual property, the essential basis of property is not scarcity—it is production.  The complaint that intellectual property is an oxymoron because ideas are not scarce in the same way as apples has no merit, for the concepts of property and ownership lie fundamentally in the need for man to produce and enjoy values in support of their lives—not merely in the narrower and subsidiary need to avoid conflict with one another in that enjoyment.”
                           - Greg Perkins, ‘Don't steal this article,’ Noodle Food

And as George Reisman explains, “the problem of natural resources is in no sense one of intrinsic scarcity.”

    “The problem of natural resources is in no sense one of intrinsic scarcity. From a strictly physical-chemical point of view, natural resources are one and the same with the supply of matter and energy that exists in the world and, indeed, in the universe. Technically, this supply may be described as finite, but for all practical purposes it is infinite. It does not constitute the slightest obstacle to economic activity—there is nothing we are prevented from doing because the earth (let alone the universe) is in danger of running out of some chemical element or other, or of energy.
    “The problem of natural resources is strictly one of useability, accessibility, and economy. That is, man needs to know what the different elements and combinations of elements nature provides are good for, and then to be able actually to get at them and direct them to the satisfaction of his needs without having to expend an inordinate amount of labor to do so. Clearly, the only effective limit on the supply of such economically useable natural resources— that is, natural resources in the sense in which they constitute wealth—is the state of scientific and technological knowledge and the quantity and quality of capital equipment available. Because the supply of resources provided by nature is one and the same with the supply of matter and energy, the supply of economically useable natural resources is capable of virtually limitless increase. It increases as man expands his knowledge of and physical power over the world and universe. . .
    “The essential principle pertaining to natural resources can be summarized as follows.  What nature provides is a supply of matter and energy that for all practical purposes is infinite.  Yet at the same time, nature does not provide a single particle of natural resources in the form of wealth.  The bestowal of the character of economic goods and wealth on what nature provides is the work of human intelligence.  An essential economic task of man is progressively to apply his intelligence to achieve a growing understanding of nature and to build progressively more powerful forms of capital equipment that give him growing physical mastery over nature."  [His italics removed, mine added.]
                         - George Reisman, ‘The Limitless Potential of Natural Resources,’ in Capitalism

    “Contrary to the ‘argument from scarcity,’ if you want to make a ‘limited’ resource available to the whole people, make it private property and throw it on a free, open market.
    “The ‘argument from scarcity,’ incidentally, is outdated even in its literal meaning . . .”
                         - Ayn Rand, ‘The Property Status of Airwaves,’ in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Does the protection of property rights grant a so called “monopoly right”?

It’s said that the protection of intellectual property is somehow the protection of a monopoly.  It is not, and more than the protection of any other legitimate property right represents the protection of a so-called monopoly.  Their protection is simply the protection of what is right.

    “Individuals may help themselves to unowned materials. A person need not receive permission from anyone else in order to be entitled to take or use an unowned object.  Recognising something as a person’s property, however, removes it from the field available for anyone’s use. . . Like all rights, property rights entail obligations on others. Once an object becomes one person’s property, others may no longer use it without the owner’s permission.”
                      - Tara Smith, Moral Rights & Political Freedom

    “Patents on new inventions, copyrights on books, drawings, musical compositions, and the like, and trademarks and brandnames, do not constitute monopolies.  True enough, they reserve markets, or parts of markets, to the exclusive possession of the owners of  the patents or copyrights, or trademarks or brandnames, and they do so by means of the use of [the government’s] physical force inasmuch as it is against the law to infringe on these rights.
    “None of these rights represent monopoly, however, because none of them is supported by the initiation of physical force.  In all of these cases, the government stands ready to use physical force in defence of a pre-existing property right established either by an act of personal creation or by the fact of distinct identity.. .
    “The fact that the government is ready to use force to protect patents and copyrights is fully as proper as that it stands ready to use force to protect farmers and businessmen in their ownership of their physical products [or once used to] and to come to their rescue when they are set upon by trespassers or attacked by robbers [or once used to].”
                      - George Reisman, ‘Patents and Copyrights, Trademarks and Brandnames, Not Monopolies,’ in Capitalism

    “Congress, treatise authors, courts and scholars [now] agree that patents are a unique form of property that secures only a negative right to exclude others from an invention. . . The conventional wisdom is that … patents secure only a right to exclude . . . 
    “This claim is profoundly mistaken. For much of its history, a patent was defined by Congress and courts in the same conceptual terms as property in land and chattels, as securing the exclusive rights of possession, use and disposition.”
                     - Adam Mossoff, ‘Patents as Property: Conceptualizing the Exclusive Right(s) in Patent Law

   “The great chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property.” 
                     -John Locke, Two Treatises of Government

    “The existence of patents and copyrights, and trademarks and brandnames, like all other protection of property rights, serves to increase the supply of goods and service—by making it possible for those who are the cause of the increase to benefit from the improvements they make.  It thus serves to reduce prices and to increase everyone's buying power as time goes on. [What patents and copyrights protect comes under the heading of something new that is more efficient: namely new more efficient methods of satisfied in other ways, by different goods. . . Even if the price does not drop at all for the time being, the reinvestment of profits made by virtue of the cost-cutting improvement will operate to increase production and reduce prices somewhere else in the economic system.]
    “Contrary to [the case with] monopoly, patents and copyrights, and trademarks and brandnames operate to increase supplies and reduce prices, while their abolition would result in the opposite.  Indeed their existence must be considered a requirement of the freedom of competition, and their abolition as constituting the establishment of monopoly!  Their existence upholds the fundamental freedom of individuals to be secure in their property and to compete on that basis.  TGheir abolition would reserve markets to the dull and incompetent by means of the the initiation of force against the intellectual property of those who had new ideas and something better to offer.  Their abolition would thus serve to establish the monopoly of the dull and incompetent by forcibly depriving the intelligent and competent of the benefit of their intelligence and competence, and thereby forcibly excluding them from the market.”
                       - George Reisman, ‘Patents and Copyrights, Trademarks and Brandnames, Not Monopolies,’ in Capitalism

Am I the only one who enjoys the picture of Mr Kinsella and his colleagues being the standard-bearer of the dull and incompetent? In this context, no more appropriate image could be imagined.

Would taking intellectual property lead to prosperity?

Ludwig von Mises -- whose name is borne by the Institute at which Mr Kinsella has smeared most of his diatribes in favour of parasitism and free downloads –- was himself a strong exponent of the protection of intellectual property. “With the abolition of patents and copyrights,” he pointed out, “authors of inventors would for the most part be producers of external economies.” (By which he means that the gains, benefits and other advantages of their work would go to others – i.e., to the dull and the incompetent and the lumpenly ignorant.  Or as Mises’s bibliographer Bettina Bien Greaves summarises: “Without copyright protection, musicians, authors, and composers are in the position of having to bear all the costs of production while the benefits go to others.”) 

As George Reisman explains above, following von Mises, the taking or abolition of intellectual property would lead to “a monopoly of the dull and incompetent,” and with it a diminution of supply and and rise in prices.  He goes further.

    “It is true that at any given time, taking for granted the existence of the most recent batch of improvements, introduced in the expectation that hose responsible would benefit from them, it might be possible to achieve a temporary acceleration in the increase in the supply of goods and services by abolishing patents and copyrights. Such a temporary increase would be comparable in its ultimate significance to the abolition of the property rights of any other group of producers, such as storekeepers and manufacturers, and allowing mobs to sack their stores and warehouses.  A very short-lived gain would be followed by a permanent loss of future supplies—in this case, further new inventions and new ideas.”
                      - George Reisman, ‘Patents and Copyrights, Trademarks and Brandnames, Not Monopolies,’ in Capitalism

And now?

And now, once you’ve integrated all you’ve read here (sometime next week or so) you’ll be ready to read Greg Perkins article again and do it proper justice:

Don't steal this article’ - Greg Perkins, Noodle Food.

Enjoy!

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65 Comments:

Blogger Mark Hubbard said...

What a timely article Peter. I've been waging a protracted battle against Kinsella and Tucker through many threads at Mises.org over their stance on IP (being they want to abolish it).

Kinsella especially is vile: he states categorically all 'good objectivists' end up anarchists.

Yes, I know there are good people there, such as George Reisman, but the anarchists seem to hold sway, both in terms of the scholarship content, and in terms of the followers posting to the threads.

I've not time to read through this post properly, and am bookmarking for one evening, or this weekend.

1/27/2010 11:47:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Yep, Kinsella certainly is vile.

It looks like he's grabbed an opportunity to become a big fish in a small pond by arguing (dishonestly) for an absurdity.

It's disappointing that the Mises Institute gives him house room--especially since what he's arguing is not at all Misesian.

1/27/2010 11:55:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I support IP, if the invention is original and not generic, however if it's generic, then IP is being abused and deserved to be tossed out completely. Do we see this happening today? Yep, in the IT domain there are tons of these examples, which makes one think that the so called IP protection is nothing more but a scam or a rort to exhaust money out of others who want to license the IP for commercial use.

PC, you've been arguing in general terms about IP protection, but I think that you need to dig a bit deeper about the issue that I have highlighted here. Try to see when it is applicable (ie, appropriately used) and when it is used by others as a rort (where there was no invention/discovery at all by those claimants).

The law simply allows scammers to simply claim something that they've never invented it themselves. On the other thread, I described a patent on the use of Fuzzy Inference System (FIS) and Artificial Neural Network (ANN) for automated property price evaluation. The claims on the patent application in this case, were too generic, which is amounted to fraud.

The question is, does the law relating to patent & IP claims needs rewriting in order to protect genuine claims (ie, original inventions only) and thus weed out (generic) claims that are intended for scamming?

Simply saying that IP must be protected because it is a property rights issue, is not a good argument at all, because it is too narrow.

1/27/2010 12:36:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Falufulu Fisi: If the law applying to patents and copyrights, trademarks and brandnames, is being abused or poorly applied then that is not at argument for throwing it out, it's an argument for implementing the protection properly and applying it better.

1/27/2010 12:45:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I said...
... nothing more but a scam or a rort to exhaust money out of others ...

I meant to say...

... nothing more but a scam or a rort to extort money out of others ...

Here is something that we all hear about over recent years. There are those so called entity name auction in the US, where a few have made it a full time job of registering domain names or company names for the sole purpose of selling them to corporate for millions of dollars. The majority of those names have been computer generated, just to make sure that no combination of any letters (letter permutation) is uncovered. This means that any company that they haven't heard of, is sure to be covered, thus in case that company from somewhere in the world will decide to register a domain name for them. The sad thing is that this innocent company can't do that without buying the domain name from those scammers first. In recent years some of those names have been bought for over a million dollars.

It is sad that the law allows this sort of scam to take place. The law approves this as an IP of the inventors, which is bullshit, there was no invention involved at all.

1/27/2010 12:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Jay Lakner said...

I see no justification in this article for why intangible entities should be considered a form of property.

Rights sanction man's freedom of action in a social context.

Physical property rights are required in order enable this freedom. This is due to their rivalrous nature.
Property rights in intangible entities are NOT required for freedom of action. This is because of their non-rivalrous nature.

In order to justify the assignment of property rights to intangible entities, one would need to demonstrate that these property rights enable freedom of action - ie, that absent these rights freedom of action is reduced. To this date, this has never been done.

"IP rights" are simply legislation which creates scarcity where no scarcity naturally exists. Until an inductive proof of their necessity is put forth, this is nothing more than whim-worshipping.

1/27/2010 12:51:00 pm  
Blogger bez said...

The sheer amount of verbiage in this post is more than enough proof that either your point is not seriously arguable or that you haven't got your head around it in reality.
The problem of course is that IP rights can be only be said to have been "breached" on the basis of legislative (and therefore arbitrary) directions as to what that "property" is, i.e. there is nothing "natural" in such rights.

1/27/2010 01:07:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Jay Lakner: The argument for property rights is not grounded on their "non-rivalrous nature." You are mistaken.

"I see no justification in this article for why intangible entities should be considered a form of property."

You are invited to read Mr Pekins's article once you have digested this one.

1/27/2010 01:09:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Bez: So according to you there is no moral justification at all for property rights. At least you're more open about favouring theft than Mr Kinsella.

1/27/2010 01:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you followed your argument to its logical conclusion anyone who starts a fire in their fireplace would be paying royalties to the heirs of the first caveman who discovered the method of producing fire. Do you consider that a legitimate property right?

1/27/2010 02:23:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Anonymouse: Do you consider that the best rebuttal you can offer?

No wonder you're too embarrassed to use your name.

1/27/2010 02:33:00 pm  
Blogger bez said...

Your twisting my point Pete. I didn't say there's no moral justification for property rights, I said there's no moral justification for rights that stand and fall by arbitrary -and therefore non-objective- regulation. There's an enormous difference between the two, and your argument does not succeed in bridging that gap. That's what I was saying.

1/27/2010 02:35:00 pm  
Blogger Julian said...

@Anonymous
Clearly you have not taken PC's advice and read the linked article by Greg Perkins. You are well advised to do so. Your question is answered there.

Julian

1/27/2010 02:48:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Bez: There's every moral justification for the protection of rights by the government. Indeed, that's the very reason for government.

Copyrights, patents, trademarks and brandnames are no less legitimate than title deeds, certificates if incorporation and car ownership papers. All are legitimate expressions of property rights.

1/27/2010 02:57:00 pm  
Blogger Mark Hubbard said...

The anti-IP lobby are predominantly anarchists, Peter: they don't believe in government at all. (And thus will end up doing the bidding of the biggest gang/gun).

You might find some interesting related points in my ongoing debate against Kinsella:

http://blog.mises.org/archives/011542.asp#c657244

Also Kinsella gets to some very strange places with his logic, vis a vis the bottom of my below post against his statement "Creation is not an independent source of rights, because it leads to the notion that any THING you can think of can be owned;but it cannot; this inflation of rights destroys real rights (as Rand realized regarding positive welfare rights)."

My reply:

'Wrong.

Welfare is to claim an entitlement to that which is owned by others, and for which they had worked for, and is reprehensible because of that. It is State sanctioned theft, an example of modern Statism out of control.

However, IP is a claim of ownership of the ‘products of mans mind’, an entirely different proposition. Whereas, I would like to point out, the view that the IP creator must sustain the whole cost of production, but then be left to see it being squandered by others taking the benefits, is a concept solely belonging to a welfare ethic.

The anti-IP argument is always thusly socialist ...

http://blog.mises.org/archives/011542.asp#c657248

1/27/2010 03:06:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Too much to read, so I'll just do what any decent commenter would do and throw my opinion out there. After all, it's important to get this idea out first, so no-one else can use it. This opinion is MINE and even if you don't want to use it, some-one else might.

Although we as a species tend to excel because of our ability to use our minds, and also the ability to COPY and then MODIFY.

If some-one wants to place a copyright on their idea, then that better not infringe upon my right to come up with the same idea.

Chances are they were only looking so far ahead because they were sitting on the backs of giants before them.

Anyway, ideas shared can be very beneficial to the man who shares them. There's plenty of room in this discussion to be rewarded for one's Intellectual Effort (IE), even if there is debate over how exclusive is his IP.

1/27/2010 03:15:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Zen Tiger: Opinions are like arseholes, aren't they. Everyone's got one.

Funny how your uninformed and unintegrated opinion looks just like Mr Kinsella's. You don't read, and he can't. ;^)

1/27/2010 03:23:00 pm  
Blogger bez said...

Pete, you're again using a straw man argument. I wasn't saying there is no moral justification for the protection of property rights by government, but I was saying there is no moral justification for property rights that do not exist without arbitrary government intervention. There is no justification at all for your argument that government exists to create rights, that is the opposite of what governments should do, they are instituted amongst men to protect unalienable rights, not to create new ones.

Title deeds and car ownership papers are not property, they are merely the way by which registration/protection of property is organized. Certificates of incorporation are a different animal altogether. Proper trademarks can be defended on the principles of traditional property rights through the concept of fraud or misrepresentation (but only in direct relation to the products involved, as it should be). It's at the level of patents and copyrights where rights are created arbitrarily and without objective basis.

1/27/2010 04:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Thomas Jefferson said...

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it.

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

1/27/2010 04:17:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

PC

Much interesting material, but as you've already admitted, you are not making your case here....

LGM

1/27/2010 04:26:00 pm  
Anonymous Steve D said...

"Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object."

If you understand this statement and can validate it using inductively-derived principles then that will settle the argument. Property rights can be validated inductively although it is not a simple formulation, more difficult in fact than the justification for goverment.

No one has a right to an idea or invention but they do have a right to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that idea (assuming the idea is an invention and not a discovery of natural law.

1/27/2010 04:47:00 pm  
Blogger Julian said...

@LGM
I don't think PC's intent was to make the specific case here (or to provide a rebuttal to the arguments put forward by those who are anti-IP.) For that, he directed readers to Greg Perkin's outstanding post (which he linked to). I commend it to your attention.

Julian

1/27/2010 04:55:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Julian: Basically, I was astonished at the depth of ignorance about the Objectivist arguments on property rights by those who claim to have addressed those.

Frankly, I was appalled to see people offering up a firm view on intellectual property, when they lack even the wherewithal to form an opinion on any form of property rights.

So I figured I'd put some of that context out there. Even without making its specific case, I think it's more than sufficient to show the bad faith of the "hippies of the right" who use shysterism in defence of parasitism and theft.

1/27/2010 05:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the Perkins article and I have a few issues with it. Here they are:

“Regarding the delicate challenge of determining specific limits for the protection of various classes of intellectual property, the scope of "fair use," and so on: as with the above issues surrounding intellectual property, legal philosophers must look to politics, ethics, and the nature of man for the appropriate guiding principles to develop just implementations -- not interfering with the freedom of creators to profit by their creations while at the same time not enabling parasites to burden the productive.”

-The fact that this statement asserts an answer is still pending and offers no “Objective” conclusion raises serious doubts as to how any rule imposed today and in the future should be regarded as just and right. This leaves a gray area, which, is in stark contrast to what is purported here to be “Objective”. If the right can’t be upheld “Objectively” then how is one able to make the claim it is a right in the first place? All property rights violations have solutions when dealing with conflicts. I recommend the Ethics of Liberty by Rothbard (specifically, the law of proportionality).


“It is true that the sudden abandonment of intellectual property rights would be a boon for manufacturers and customers, instigating a burst of wealth-creation as they deployed formerly protected ideas more freely. But this would be short-lived and stagnation would soon follow as those who might have risked, invested, toiled, and dedicated their genius to the next opportunity simply shrug. Creators would stand aside and not bother, or they would spend their minds on developing those (much more limited) things which aren't easily copied and imitated. Having killed the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs, countless life-serving creations would come more slowly or not at all. Why risk a billion dollars and half a lifetime attempting to develop a cure for cancer if others can profit by that achievement any way they see fit? Then decline would follow stagnation as shifting conditions in populations and resource availability bring new challenges that will go unmet.20”

-This quite frankly flies in the face of history. What is the basis for the claim that stagnation is sure to follow after the sudden abandonment of IP? Am I to believe that individuals would rather wither and die then try to remove their uneasiness? This is a prediction not deduced from axiomatic truths and therefore speculative and arbitrary.

“Every type of productive work involves a combination of mental and physical effort: of thought and of physical action to translate that thought into a material form. The proportion of these two elements varies in different types of work. At the lowest end of the scale, the mental effort required to perform unskilled manual labor is minimal. At the other end, what the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind's contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea.21”

-Here’s where we diverge from Objectivity and enter the scope of opinion and philosophy. To defend the patent, copyright, and IP laws today is to sanction the state. Doesn’t that bother the defenders of IP? Do you not see the inherent conflict of interest?

I concede that each individual has a right to his own intellect. However, if one wants to ensure that his/her idea isn’t copied or used without his consent, then they shouldn’t tell it, write it, or speak it. Obligating the rest of us in the world to first seek out and familiarize ourselves with every idea, product, or recipe before we act is burden I don’t accept.

I recognize that the ideas in your head, on your paper, and embodied in your product is yours. Please afford me same courtesy.

1/27/2010 06:57:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

OK, I've gone and read the material and I can now confirm everything I said was very sensible, and would not necessarily contravene IP providing we agreed on a much tighter definition.

There is one advantage of patents - it creates an easy way to trade science in the form of licenses. Where that is structured to protect the commercialisation of ideas without preventing the ideas itself to be used/re-used/modified/adapted, that is good and fair.

In general though, patents are being increasingly misused to stifle the free market. In practical terms, over 90% of patents are pointless and amount to IP grabs over vapour.

The issue here is much more complicated though - I think the intervention of the government in funding science actually acts as a restraint on the free market (also a funder of science), and consequently IP is being developed and used to protect monopolies rather than foster free trade.

How much more powerful an idea when it can be shared and discussed. The Wright Brothers attempted to use patents to control the innovation in the aviation industry, and suffered for it: "by 1911 Wright aircraft were inferior to those made by other firms in Europe. Indeed, aviation development in the US was suppressed to such an extent that when the U.S. entered World War I no acceptable American-designed aircraft were available, and the U.S. forces were compelled to use French machines."

Even then we could have a reasonable argument about just how far patent laws could be extended.

The problem today is that some companies think they can simply patent the "idea of flight" rather than the mechanisms that enable such a thing. It becomes degrees from that point. In this debate we'd need to be clearer about those limits, as we may actually have some common ground.

Ultimately though, to suggest some-one cannot use the product of their mind to reach the same idea because some-one said it first is an abandonment of property rights, and an abandonment of the free market. Two things I thought Libertarians were all for.

1/27/2010 07:38:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

PS: I'm very much for property rights. I'm also very much for freedom. IP needs to be defined so that it doesn't squash either of those.

1/27/2010 08:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Anon said...
I concede that each individual has a right to his own intellect. However, if one wants to ensure that his/her idea isn’t copied or used without his consent, then they shouldn’t tell it, write it, or speak it.

That's an excellent point there anon. My take on IP is this (perhaps it is a little different from the purpose that PC is trying to argue here). I created a piece of software, which I call it Autonomous-Math-Tutor (AMT), for example. I will simply file a claim on what the software does and what its functionality is supposed to do. AMT is like a computer math teacher that the learner (student) is to use it to learn math in an interactive way. The student will ask a question (natural language processing - NLP) by typing or speech-to-text (STT), then the AMT system will respond by making suggestions to the user/learner? The learner then clicks on the appropriate option (via a drop-down-box menu) of the topic that he wants AMT to coach/tutor him/her on. He will write some equations (free-text symbolic math format) and then issue a command to AMT to solve the problem (either by pressing a button or thus speaking the command via STT). The system then solves the equation, on a step by step manner, displaying the middle steps up to the final answer (exactly as a human teacher will do in front of his class) in math latex output (ie, math notation type-setting). This interactive dialog between the user/learner continues on, until the user thinks that he/she understands that specific topic, where he/she can exit the program.

Actually, I had created a proto-type of the math software program that I described above, but it never went to market. Still, I haven't seen the market today where someone has come up with the same product idea. There is no doubt in my mind that there are some teachers or software developers out there who have thought of the same idea, but thinking of an idea doesn't warrant a protection (via IPs and patents), since that person hasn't developed the real product yet. If someone filed a patent on this idea, but lets say that it just happened that he only thought about it last year, then bugger, Falafulu can't market the same sort of product (proto-type has been developed), although he first came across the idea more than 5 years ago, but never filed a patent.

My view here, is that I can file a patent as IP only for the rights to the software codes, because I spent more than 2 years creating it, but it shouldn’t be a claim that stops others from developing the same thing with similar functionality, since for them to create the product, they will spend their own money, and perhaps develop similar but not exactly the same lines of software codes that do pretty much the same. To me, this is Ok.


IP should be solely exist to protect the work on the idea (ie, my software codes) and not to protect the idea itself. If someone stole my codes (let say that a former employer did that) and repackaged it (he made some small modifications to it) for the purpose of selling it for profits, then this is where I think that IP is being violated. However if someone (lets say, Simon) saw my product, but thought to himself, I can create the same product as what Falafulu is selling but better (functionality-wise) than Falafulu's one. In my view, the IP, in this case shouldn't restrict David at all from doing so, because David will still have to spent money on developing the product. However if David hired a former employee of mine, who happened to copy the software codes of the product on his final day at Falafulu's company, and used it as a starting point in David's company's product development (similar one to Falafulu's product), then IP is being violated, because they're using something that I spent money on developing and IP should be enforced here.

1/27/2010 08:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

To sum it up of what I’ve stated in my previous message, is that I believe in IP protection but it should only apply to the tangible work (such as a piece of software, an electronic gadget/device, etc,...) resulted from developing the idea, but it should NOT be applied to the protection of the idea itself.

1/27/2010 08:33:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Falafulu fisi,

I think we are both in agreement morally. I think you'd have a case theft if you could prove the code was stolen. Additionally, I think non-disclosure agreements would provide some contractual protection with an employee. Where I get hung up is the notion that I bring a product to market that may have originated from another person's intellect. After which I'm sued for patent infringement or some other IP violation. I don't understand how that would be a violation of someone's rights. Afterall, I have not prevented the originator from bringing the idea to market.

In conclusion, I think the best inventor may not be the best entreprenuer and vice versa. Those inventors/entreprenuers who do the best at bringing their product to market and maintaining their recipe secret will be rewarded by consumers if the product really does add value.

I think we're both pretty close to the same morals and sense of rights, just need to work out the particulars:)

1/27/2010 08:47:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Here is another important point regarding the pointless of IP protection as you pointed out in your previous message Anonymous (Is it possible to use a tag-name , so it is easier to address which one is which?).

If someone wants to protect is IPs, then he/she should keep it to him/herself. A point to make here is the Google PageRank algorithm which is the heart & soul of its search engine.

The inventors/founders (Page & Brin) published their PageRank algorithm in the proceeding of Seventh International World-Wide Web Conference (WWW 1998), April 14-18, 1998, Brisbane, Australia, with their paper title:

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine (by Brin, S. and Page, L)

But then, Stanford University (where the 2 Google inventors did their PhDs at) filed a patent ((U.S. Patent 6,285,999)) on this invention (which is rightly theirs , since the work of Brin & Page was funded by Stanford).

I think that this patent is meaningless. The reason is that I or anyone else from around the world can implement the PageRank algorithm and use it in a commercial product, since the paper is available in the public domain. Actually other search engine players have done exactly that.

Why publish your work in a peer review computing journal that is going to be in the public domain if you intended to patent in the first place of what you're publishing.

1/27/2010 10:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I said...
to patent in the first place

meant to say:

to patent it the first place


This Google PageRank algorithm patent that I have highlighted above is one of the many examples from the domain of IT that I think that IP is ridiculous. You should just hide your work and not publish it, thus your IPs resides with the inventor him/herself.

1/27/2010 10:12:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Falufulu Fisi: You said, "I believe in IP protection but it should only apply to the tangible work . . . NOT to the idea itself."

Precisely.

1/27/2010 10:20:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

The true IPs are the work of military researchers. The work on stealth jet is not patented to the best of my knowledge. The military kept it (all research & development work) to themselves. The reality is, the Soviets and other EU powers have been thinking about the same idea but the US got to it first and whoever thought of the idea first, is still unknown to us at this stage, because there are lots of claims and counter-claims about it. But if that person who first came up with the stealth idea, patented it (not the tangible technology), then it should have been rejected outright. No one did, so it would have been ridiculous for anyone to patent it, since other military industries will replicate exactly that technology via stolen technology & espionage or via their own effort.

Here is another ridiculous patent on neutrino-based telecommunication system. They patented the idea only and not anything tangible. I don't understand of why this patent was granted and approved in the first place.

Neutrino communication arrangement

This will be a revolution in telecommunication if it ever gets to the production and manufacturing stage, since neutrino beam can travel thru the earth's core (ie, its entire length of the earth's diameter) unhindered from one country on one side of the globe (transmitter) to another country on the opposite side (receiver), because neutrino is unstoppable by any material due to its charge neutrality. The technology to capture them (receiver) doesn't exist today, and again this difficulty is due to its charge neutrality. If you can't electronically capture them, then you can't electronically receive them. It would be interesting to see if this technology will come to reality (perhaps in the next 100 years or so) if it is ever possible, because satellites won't be needed anymore. Telecommunication transmitter can just be pointed directly to the ground in a direction estimated to emerge out on the other side of the world where a receiver is located at that point just to receive the signal.

The neutrino-based telecommunication system patent that I linked to above shows how ridiculous IP is.

1/27/2010 11:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Julian said...

Anonymous.

1.
"The fact that this statement asserts an answer is still pending and offers no “Objective” conclusion raises serious doubts as to how any rule imposed today and in the future should be regarded as just and right."

Not sure why this can be used as a justification for why IP is not property, but anyway....

2.
"This quite frankly flies in the face of history. What is the basis for the claim that stagnation is sure to follow after the sudden abandonment of IP"

This is not an arbitrary claim. We just need to observe contexts where property rights do not exist, they are violated or they have been destroyed. Zimbabwe, Russia, Venezuela offer us a glimpse of such a regime.

3.
"To defend the patent, copyright, and IP laws today is to sanction the state. Doesn’t that bother the defenders of IP? Do you not see the inherent conflict of interest?

Given that the legitimate role of government is to protect individual rights, including property rights which necessarily includes IP, then it is entirely appropriate that the state/government protects those who hold the IP right. There is therefore no inherent conflict of interest. Advocates of IP are not anarchists; advocates of IP (or at least those who are Objectivists) recognise that the state has an important function.

Julian

1/28/2010 12:09:00 am  
Anonymous clay barham said...

Howard Roark, in the Fountainhead, epitomizes what the earliest American settlers discovered that did not exist in the world at the time. It was the ability for each individual to think, imagine, create, build and change the environment with their sweat, even disturbing the established and accepted way things were done, and without fear of punishment. That was America, and what set her apart from all other nations, as cited in Save Pebble Droppers & Prosperity at Amazon and claysamerica.com. Individual freedom caused local government, close to the governed within a day’s horseback ride. The governed ruled, and they could change government in Town Halls, voting or by vigilante movements, much like the Tea Party movement today. It is the tradition rising from a Howard Roark kind of people. Claysamerica.com

1/28/2010 06:19:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Julian

I know.

I've read it. It's a good article as far as it goes.

The case that needs to be made is that in ALL its aspects IP is properly considered property. I don't accept that it has been made. Can it be?

LGM

PS. A post contributor writes, "The fact that this statement asserts an answer is still pending and offers no “Objective” conclusion raises serious doubts as to how any rule imposed today and in the future should be regarded as just and right."

He is quite correct. This is but one of the problem issues that does demand serious consideration. Perkins leaves it "on the table" unresolved. So, are some attributes, concepts and rules relating to IP, how it is treated, what it is, what qualifies, when it is extinguished and the term property rights are affixed to it arbitrary? If so, then the IP case is seriously undermined. If not, then a complete and exhaustive Objective case addressing ALL the issues (filling the gaps) needs to be disclosed.

This is a non-trivial topic which has yet to be completely and satisfactorially resolved.

WIP perhaps?

1/28/2010 10:07:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

@Anonymouse: "To defend the patent, copyright, and IP laws today is to sanction the state. Doesn’t that bother the defenders of IP?"

I am a defender of intellectual property. I am not an anarchist.

Perhaps you're aware of a saying of Frederic Bastiat you might try to get your head around:

"Property does not exist because there are laws, but laws exist because there is property."

[And if you are to keep contributing here, please use a name instead of posting anonymously.]

1/28/2010 10:09:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

@Falufulu Fisi: As I said before, if the law applying to patents and copyrights, trademarks and brandnames, is being abused or poorly applied at present, then that is not at argument for throwing it out, it's an argument for doing it better.

Or would you make the perfect be the enemy of the good?

1/28/2010 10:11:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

@LGM: An answer is "not pending." Our anonymous contributor is like a child, asking for all his questions to be answered before he leaves the table.

But he/she/it is not going to have everything answered in one hit. You aren't going to have all your questions answered in one article.

And Perkins is quite right to answer as he does. The specific rules on fair use and time limits are a subject for a much more detailed discussion than this one, or his one. It's a subject for the philosophy of law, somewhat akin to setting the age of consent--it needs a detailed answer based on application to the principles and detailed knowledge of the field. Frankly, we're not going to do it in a blog post, except to indicate in a general sense (as Perkins did) that both concepts (fair use and time limits) are valid.

And before even having that discussion--if for nothing else than to give us some principles on which to ground it--our contributor would need to have at least grasped some of the grounding for property rights per se.

Because it's quite ridiculous discussing the rights of intellectual property rights with someone who neither grasps nor accepts the validity of property rights at all.

Since that's the basic hierarchy, right.

1/28/2010 10:20:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

PC

So the question remains open.

LGM

1/28/2010 04:01:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Well, no it doesn't.

The principle remains clear. The details can be left open.

1/28/2010 04:05:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

I've heard this sort of thing before somewhere.

Ah, that's it,

"The science is settled."


LGM

1/29/2010 06:19:00 am  
Anonymous M Lee said...

I find it ironic and now humorous that the Randian Cult who so desperately seeks approval for Intellectual Property as a legitimate right are chained by the very laws they endorse (copyright) to disseminate her scholarly works here and make their case to even greater numbers.

Now I admire and even own all of her works but the fact remains that she was a human being susceptible to error as all of us are. Property rights in tangible things brought us from nomads to civilization with the division of labor where property rights exist. Intellectual Property on the other hand is a recent phenomenon, which, in itself supposedly justifies the apparatus of compulsion and coercion. This is naïve and dangerous. Sanctioning the institution of government (an institution with monopoly control of justice, final decision making, and murderers of at least a 100 million people in the 20th century) is simply irresponsible. I am Anonymous and I offered reasoned critiques and was treated rudely and unscholarly here. Try asking yourself, “What would John Galt do?”

M. Lee
Vista, CA

1/29/2010 08:58:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

@ M. Lee: The Industrial Revolution is a relatively recent phenomenon, which more than any other period in history demonstrates the role of the mind in production,and in human flourishing.
At least, it demonstrates it for those with eyes to see.
Patents and copyrights recognise that role, even if you don't.
Patents and copyrights recognise the property rights involved in creation, even if you don't.
Governments exit to protect property rights, even if you don't respect them--and even if you choose to ignore the mentors of Austrian economics who agreed on that role for government.

Frankly, I find the use of von Mises' name by anarchists disgraceful and dishonest, and the whole idea of anarchy laughable. A fantasy. Wishful thinking. An abandonment of the distinction between private action and government action--and an implicit spur to unregulated and uncontrolled use of force. A complete confusion between force and production--a market in force -- a non-sytem of gang warfare on the way to something worse.

Unlike your colleagues at the Mises Institute, those who use Ayn Rand's name on their letterhead treat her ideas with respect. They don't use her name to promote ideas antithetical to her own, as the Mises Institute now does.

You say that it's "ironic and now humorous" that the Ayn Rand Institute is "chained" by the very laws they support, and that Rand and von Mises both promoted. Quite the opposite, I'm happy to say. More than half-a-million copies of Atlas Shrugged were sold last year (a new record), giving the copyright owners (i.e., the Ayn Rand Institute) substantial funds to take the battle to an even higher level--which includes the dissemination of her works for free to academics and student throughout the U.S.

You suggest you were treated harshly, rudely and "unscholarly." I've reviewed the thread and I don't see that, I'm afraid. It's true however that my respect for those from the Rothbard cult who promote the anarchist fantasy is less than zero, and it may rub off in my responses.

Mind you, that would be as nothing compared to the disgraceful way your colleagues at the Mises Institute treat Ayn Rand, and the utterly dishonest promotion of theft and parasitism they practice under von Mises' name.

1/29/2010 10:07:00 am  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

@ M. Lee: The Industrial Revolution is a relatively recent phenomenon, which more than any other period in history demonstrates the role of the mind in production,and in human flourishing.
At least, it demonstrates it for those with eyes to see.
Patents and copyrights recognise that role, even if you don't.


Patents and copyrights recognise the role, but simultaneously they become an instrument of control and denial to others, not just protection of the inventor.

The worker that invents an idea often has it owned by the company who have paid for his labour, and they in turn attempt to prohibit anyone else from coming up with the same idea or using the knowledge.

To grow and harvest one apple tree and own the "fruits"
of the labour is a person's right. To stop others from harvesting other apple trees is not, even if the person who discovered the first apple tree in the woods thinks so - once the seeds of an idea spread, it is there for all to harvest or ignore, as according to their will and their skills.

Contrary to popular belief, the industrial revolution depended on the spreading and dissemination of of many little ideas that built upon each other and companies that fostered such innovation still did well, even as competition grew. Those that did not (like the guy trying to hold on to his secret of improving steel manufacture, did not and in that case, failed miserably even as others developed their own techniques.

I don't disagree with IP and copyright as a concept, but think it is an area that has been left to exceed it's natural usefulness, and is now being shamelessly exploited (for profit has no shame). The cost to a truly free market will be the payment we all pay.

1/29/2010 12:29:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Zen Tiger:
You say: "
Patents and copyrights recognise the role, but simultaneously they become an instrument of control and denial to others, not just protection of the inventor.
"

Well, no they don't. As George Reisman says in that last quote above (which I'm reposting since so few seem to have read the post before pasting in their opinions):

"It is true that at any given time, taking for granted the existence of the most recent batch of improvements, introduced in the expectation that those responsible would benefit from them, it might be possible to achieve a temporary acceleration in the increase in the supply of goods and services by abolishing patents and copyrights. Such a temporary increase would be comparable in its ultimate significance to the abolition of the property rights of any other group of producers, such as storekeepers and manufacturers, and allowing mobs to sack their stores and warehouses. A very short-lived gain would be followed by a permanent loss of future supplies—in this case, further new inventions and new ideas.”

The evidence of history shows that as being absolutely true.

Or are you suggesting that people should be stripped of their property in some Bolshevik-inspired insurrection?

"The worker that invents an idea often has it owned by the company who have paid for his labour . . . "

So what? That's what he's being paid for. Sheesh.

I didn't realise you also subscribe to the Marxist notion that workers' products are stolen from them by the boss class.

Are you sure you've thought this through?

"To stop others from harvesting other apple trees is not . . ."

I think you'll find this is a straw man. Unless the horticultural item in question is a new strain (such as the new Kiwifruit strains produced and patented here in NZ) there's no issue with growing your own apple trees.

I'm sorry, Zen, but everything you've written here sounds like weak justification for theft of someone else's property.

Like I said before, you've got to get your head around property rights and where they come from first. . . the argument isn't primarily utilitarian. It's based on the principle that creators are entitled to the new wealth and new values they bring into the world.

1/29/2010 12:46:00 pm  
Anonymous M Lee said...

The fundamental problem here is the Objectivists don't understand that Intellectual Property protection is fine up to the point where it begins to violate the property rights of others. Namely, extracting the wealth from those who employ an idea (meaningless of who came up with it)with their tangible resources. Their confusion lies in this distinction. Citing Rand and Reisman quotes all day long doesn't somehow miraculously make it true. I think if we asked George Reisman today as to the the current laws on the books for Patents and Copyrights he may very well agree they are egregious and violate the property rights of others.

I say we email him to comment on the statutes in place today and see what he says. Also, if PC wants to bash the Mises Institute for its supposed disrespect of basic property rights why does Reisman still lecture and speak for them? Ayn Rand was a human being and by our very nature imperfect. Libertarianism and pursuit of truth didn't begin with her birth and end with her death.

1/29/2010 02:15:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

The fundamental problem here is a disagreement in toto about the foundations of property rights.

That, at root, is the real problem.

And just to put things on track, on that score, the argument began over the justification of laws protecting patents and copyrights, trademarks and brandnames, not the way that present law protect them--which I'm happy to concede are flawed--so citing problems with present statutes solves nothing.

If they're flawed, in my view, that's simply grounds for them to be made better--"better" meaning that they better protect creators' intellectual property.

(Just to say that again, since you missed me saying it earlier: Whatever the problems with current statute law on patents on copyrights, the argument here is not over their application or misapplication, it's whether or not theft should be legal.)

And even further than that, while the Mises Institute does great work on the things that are actually Misesian, and George Reisman is still happy to lecture there, I for one am dismayed that a dishonest charlatan like Mr Kinsella is given so much house room to push his anti-patent barrow by night (while registering patents for Applied OptoElectricics by day*).

It's got to the stage that Jeffrey Tucker (who I'd thought better of) now argues that bringing concrete expressions of your ideas to the market is like scattering twenty dollar bills across the street, and that once dropped it's every man for himself -- in essence that, if you drop your wallet on the street then it's fair game for any bum, vagrant or parasite who wants to rifle it -- and that if you don't want your money (or your ideas) stolen then you should simply stay home.

Can you think of a better way to arrest technological and intellectual development?

Or a greater invitation to intellectual moochers?

- - - - - - - - - -
* Here's Mr Kinsella's law firm.

Here's where he says he's "a registered patent attorney and author in Houston, and General Counsel for Applied Optoelectronics, Inc."

And here's the patents for Applied Optoelectronics, Inc. filed by their General Counsel.

Looks like someone happy to have his cake and eat it too.

1/29/2010 02:38:00 pm  
Anonymous M Lee said...

Well if one is supposed to practice what they preach in an environment that even you admit is flawed then we should all shrug.

Robert Higgs explained this well. We live in a cesspool of political corruption and asking someone to sink is certainly unreasonable. Otherwise we'd all be in the gulag or a cage by now.

Calling Mr. Kinsella a charlatan for trying to elucidate on a topic that clearly isn't settled is simply whining. I recommend you continue to elaborate on IP and better formulate your arguments where one can say it's settled once and for all.

I for one believe in acting like a man and improving the world around me and that includes the realm of ideas. Remember you're the one who's advocating the initiating of force for what amounts to copying an idea. If you want to bring change to IP so it finds that sweet spot of liberty and justice for all I recommend a better approach. Mr. Kinsella is actively engaging in the pursuit of truth and is bringing new well thought out arguments to the table. The world of ideas didn't end in 1957 with Galt's speech. It shed light on the basic nature of man but it certainly left room for refinement and elucidation. I say let's challenge patents and copyrights because they are clearly not the ideal Rand was searching for.

This doesn’t mean Kinsella is right but what you’ve said here on this thread certainly doesn’t prove him wrong. I recognize Intellectual Property up to the point to where its enforcement violates the Property rights of others.

1/29/2010 03:14:00 pm  
Blogger Luke H said...

"Looks like someone happy to have his cake and eat it too."

Wouldn't a patent attorney be the perfect person to explain exactly what is wrong with IP, in much the same way as you PC, an architect, is well qualified to tell us what happened with Leaky Houses Syndrome?

And as far as his company having patents goes - you pay taxes and rates, right? That's just the world we live in. It doesn't mean we are less entitled to argue for changes in the system.

1/29/2010 03:15:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@M. Lee: "Robert Higgs explained this well. We live in a cesspool of political corruption and asking someone to sink is certainly unreasonable."

So kindly explain how adding to the cesspool by justifying theft of someone else's property does anything other than add to the corruption?

"Remember you're the one who's advocating the initiating of force for what amounts to copying an idea."

Well, no I'm not.

For the umpteenth time, the whole argument here rests in toto on a view of property rights. Until that is established (and I note that your Mr Kinsella refuses to even accept that we have a right to life!) then embarking on discussion of the minutiae of intellectual property is fruitless, and leads to imbecilities such as that one; that to protect one's own property amounts to an initiation of force.

And since this thread is based upon a discussion of the foundations of property rights, may I invite you to address that subject now?

""

Well, no he's not. In reading his "work," I'm constantly astonished by how much he says he's "proved"; or how such and such is a fair summary of someone's work; or how so and so agreed on such and such, and when checking the link we find nothingg of the sort.

The most recent example of the latter I came across found your Mr Kinsella saying that George Reisman had backed himself into a hole in a "debate" with the Great Kinsella. On following the link, however, we find that this is just your another Kinsella fantasy. See here and here, where your hero can't even exercise basic courtesy in his response to Profesor Reisman.

And in every instance of his sumary of someone else's work -- whether it's Mises, Rothbard or Rand, or whoever-- I find it spotted with error at best, and frankly wrong at worst. Wrong in a self-serving way.

No, he is not an advocate of truth.

1/29/2010 03:44:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@ Luke H.: You really don't know what's going on here, do you.

Mr Kinsella is not arguing that there's something technically wrong with how patents are presently filed and protected under law, he's arguing that there shouldn't be such a thing as patents or copyright or trademarks or brandnames at all--no intellectual property at all--that every man has a "right" to evey other man's work--that, in fact, to file a patent at all is to use the "gangster state" to "enforce an unearned monopoly" --at the same time as he banks a cheque to file patents for Applied Optoelectronics, Inc.

So it's not like your analogy at all. It would be as if I spent my day designing houses, and then spent my evenings putting them to the torch.

There's a word for such a person.

1/29/2010 03:53:00 pm  
Anonymous M Lee said...

@PC said:

"The most recent example of the latter I came across found your Mr Kinsella saying that George Reisman had backed himself into a hole in a "debate" with the Great Kinsella. On following the link, however, we find that this is just your another Kinsella fantasy. See here and here, where your hero can't even exercise basic courtesy in his response to Profesor Reisman."

Perhaps you didn't finish the thread? The response of Kinsella was courteous and scholarly. If I'm not mistaken, it's Professor Reisman who did not further engage the discussion.

1/29/2010 04:12:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@ M. Lee: Perhaps you see my point?

"Not further engag[ing] the discussion" closer to the truth that the impression given by your Mr Kinsella (who addresses Professor Reisman simply as "Reisman") who suggests in his description that there was some back and forth ("When I pointed out that creation is neither necessary nor sufficient for ownership, he tried to find a way out)", followed by an "admission" by Prof Reisman that he "could not find an answer" and so your hero carried the day.

But this is just not true. In fact Prof Reisman simply made one post.

It's of a piece with Kinsella's other claims, such as that he has "shown," for example, "that it's a mistake to think of creation as a source of ownership of property" -- yet when you follow that link you find, again, no such thing. he's simply asserted that it's a mistake, and relied on a concatenation of hyperlinks to conceal the legedermain.

It's not how honest men operate.

1/29/2010 04:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Greg said...

Frankly, I find [..] the whole idea of anarchy laughable. A fantasy. Wishful thinking. An abandonment of the distinction between private action and government action

I could say the same about minarchy...

(But I'd be right!)

1/29/2010 05:33:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

PC

It is necessary practice for companies engaging in commercialisation of R&D to file patent applications whether they intend to prosecute them or not, let alone defend them. The larger the company and the larger the revenue stream, the more important it becomes to undertake defensive patenting.

It's not about "IP is our property", it's about trying to avoid or minimise the potential for blackmail by some parasite who files a patent over what a company is about to produce or has already committed to producing (for example, look up what a continuation-in-part is and find out how that can be used). An injunction halting production followed by the potential of litigation is dangerously expensive and seriously risky, especially in the USA where patent infringement matters are decided by juries. There is the ever present risk of being penalised triple damages and costs.

Given the nature of patenting and the extraordinary subjectivity involved with making determination of what the IP actually is in each case, trying to establish its "inventiveness", "non-obviousness, novelty, enforceability, claimability, whether there is fair basis, whether the claims are enabled, whether the application teaches such that one skilled in the art can replicate the disclosed invention etc. etc. etc. etc., it is little wonder that experts in patent law regularly advise their clients to file. For them not to so do would be remiss- the client would be left naked and unprotected.

In Kinsella's case, he has the responsibility of providing prudent legal advice and acting to protect his client against litigious and vexatious threats to their business activity. By filing, he gives them a fighting chance of defense against patent squatters and green-mailers. There is nothing hypocritical in that. He wouldn't need to file if the risk of being the victim of a patent ambush didn't exist.

Final point, better to attempt to make the case for IP as property rather than trying to assassinate the man's professional reputation.

LGM

1/29/2010 05:48:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

Greg

Ow! That hurt!

LGM

1/29/2010 05:53:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

FF

Some aspects of the stealth fighter were patented.

A design patent was issued which disclosed the general shape and layout of the airframe and assigned to Mattel.

Figure that one out!

LGM

1/29/2010 06:03:00 pm  
Blogger Ruth said...

For the umpteenth time, the whole argument here rests in toto on a view of property rights.

Exactly. I remember posting on this issue (albeit in a much less intellectual way) years ago, and it drew an outraged response from both the Right and Left side of the aisle.

The issue is black and white to me - I have trouble understanding why that is not so for everyone else; but maybe that's just me.

1/29/2010 06:27:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@LGM, you said, "better to attempt to make the case for IP as property rather than trying to assassinate the man's professional reputation."

I'm happy to do both.

'Specially since he looks to me like just another shyster lawyer happy to play both ends against the middle.

1/29/2010 06:29:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Greg: "An abandonment of the distinction between private action and government action

I could say the same about minarchy...
"

You can say what you like. It doesn't make it so.

But when you advocate a union of the dollar and the gun--which is precisely what the dreamy Utopia of your anarchist heroes would result in--a "market in force" that is as absurd on its face as it would be violent in reality--then to claim you're against aggression (as your heroes do) is just laughable.

Advocates of individual rights recognise that a separation of the dollar and the gun is a precondition for that protection--which means a precondition of the very markets your heroes claim to support, but whose every anarchist utterance undercuts.

1/29/2010 06:37:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

PC

Well, you've certainly indulged in the easy one, but what about the other?

Conversation over beer and chips?


LGM

1/30/2010 08:19:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

PC

Well, you've certainly indulged in the easy one, but what about the other?

Conversation over beer and chips?


LGM

1/30/2010 08:20:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

@LGM, while you're claim that your hero Mr Kinsella files patents for Applied Optoelectronics, Inc. esssentially in 'self defence -- all praise the heroi Me Kinsella, who banks cheques from practicing patent law by day while tearing it down at night -- Jeffrey Tucker at the Mises Economics Blog is damning Apple for filing patents to protect their own property.

Not for Mr Tucker the argument that you broach, LGM.

Which suggests, perhaps, how inconsistrent the arguments, and arguers, of anti-IP are.

2/01/2010 03:11:00 pm  
Blogger Dale B. Halling said...

PC,

Excellent article.

I particularly liked the Rand quote:

“The power to rearrange the combinations of natural elements is the only creative power man possesses. It is an enormous and glorious power—and it is the only meaning of the concept ‘creative.’ ‘Creation’ does not (and metaphysically cannot) mean the power to bring something into existence out of nothing. ‘Creation’ means the power to bring into existence an arrangement (or combination or integration) of natural elements that had not existed before.”
- Ayn Rand, ‘The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made

This is a restatement or application of Conservation of Matter and Energy and something that many patent attorneys and even more judges do not understand.

I also liked you insight:

Ultimately, what we’re creating with our good judgement is new values. By identifying and rearranging what nature has given use, we raise materials from a lower value (in relation to us) to a higher value (in relation to us); they move from being materials to being resources; from being things to being goods. It is their creation as new goods that is the economic component. It is their creation as new values that is the moral component.

The physics of your comments are “low value” items are those that have high entropy for humans and “high value” are those that have low entropy for humans, which means we can extract useful work from these items. For instance, nitrogen in the air had high entropy for humans until the Haber-Bosch process. Before the Haber-Bosch process, we could not harvest (much) useful work from nitrogen in the air. After the Haber-Bosch process we were able to convert nitrogen in the air into useful work – specifically into food (TNT, dynamite).

Life is a fight against entropy, or as Edwin Schrodinger put it “life thrives on negative entropy”.
Edwin Schrodinger, What is Life?

12/04/2010 01:02:00 pm  

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