Monday, 4 April 2011

Why business leaders should care about intellectual property

Property rights and the concept of intellectual property have been under attack right from their very inception.

You’d expect attacks from the Marxist left and the downloading ignorati, who between them are are always on the lookout for more excuses to loot and plunder.

But today, the attacks come just as often from the know-nothing right—from National’s Nick Smith and his Resource Management Act, from National’s Gerry Brownlee and his Earthquake Requisitioning Authority, and from National-lapdog Rodney Hide and his creation of a super-sized bureaucracy for Auckland’s “city planners.”

But even more virulent than any attack that lot can provide are the attacks on intellectual property  from know-nothings at the Cato Institute and the Mises Institute—from know-nothings in both who have used the reputation gained and once upheld by these institutions to argue against the very ideas their namesakes once upheld.

In this 8-part presentation (originally presented in Chicago back in November) George Mason University professor Adam Mossoff blasts the very flawed philosophical framework from which the tattered arguments of the likes of Cato’s Tom Palmer and Mises Institute’s Steven Kinsella are launched, demonstrating that if either know anything, it is certainly not the ideas that underpin their field: specifically, the ideas of monopoly, coercion, scarcity, value, and even property itself.

The likely result is that to the extent either has any following at all, the result will only be to undermine the notion and knowledge of of property rights itself among those followers.

Yes, the full presentation is a long one. But if you purport to hold a position on the subject, particularly if you rely on the unstated assumptions of the likes of Palmer and Kinsella, I would strongly commend digestion of it to your attention.  Here’s part 1 of 8 …


  1. I'll watch that presentation with interest Pete, for now I note that your attack on Kinsella et al is ad hominem only, not a good start for a rational argument.


  2. I'm glad you keep fighting the good fight on this one Peter.

    Bez, it's not ad hominem when this blog has devoted so many posts (do a search) on logically arguing for IP. And you only need read through Kinsella's posts on Mises, and the preponderance of them, to quickly understand that site has been taken over almost completely by the IP anarchists/collectivists. Mises would be turning in his grave to see the theft they argue in his name.

  3. @Tribeless: The fact that PC has previously provided some argument (and I am very well aware of it, as Pete will attest) does not take away from the ad hominem character of the assertions in this post, and I simply pointed out that that doesn't contribute.
    Similarly, from noticing that there is a strong current against IP within libertarianism one cannot reach the conclusion that Mises "would be turning in his grave". Please provide argument/evidence that Mises wouldn't agree with the developing thought in this area.
    Also note that it's not just developing thought, also IP is continuously expanded and stretched by statists to an extent that many of the classical (libertarian) economists wouldn't even recognize it anymore.
    The same goes for its ongoing internationalization, and the creeping effects of that on national sovereignty around the world. Those are just some points that could be rationally debated, rather than throwing mud around.
    Just because Ayn Rand got it completely wrong on IP doesn't mean we shouldn't debate the merits.


  4. Oh Gawd. I've spent way too many hours of my life arguing with the anarchists on Mises over this Bez: your agenda is now clearly showing, so I'm not wasting any more of my time.

    You won't be convinced downloading songs, books, etc, is theft. The producer/creator will always have his/her efforts plundered by you and your ilk, who are second-handers. No freedom to be found in anarchy-land.

  5. @Tribeless: And that's it? That's what your "argument" boils down to?

    That I am a thief and a plunderer, an anarchist, a member of some "ilk", simply because I disagree with your stance on IP?

    Have you got a clue what your own position actually is? Do you have any argument to offer, other than stating you have already done so?

    It appears you are something of an elitist, convinced of your self-declared intellect, but always playing the man, never the ball.

    Sad, really.


  6. Yeah, we agree on your last two words Bez.

    I found on Mises the argument against IP was always the argument for theft of IP.

  7. @Tribeles: Read this and see if you can sustain your position:


  8. Bez

    Nortel created 6000 things that did not exist.

    They are now selling those things.

    The fact that those things are methods rather than widgets does not invalidate the fact that they did not exist prior to nortel inventing them.

    How does anything in that article argue against IP rights?

  9. @Dolf:
    They didn't create anything, they petitioned government for 6000 small monopolies, each representing the right to stop others to do certain things with their own property.

    They couldn't, and didn't make anything out of these "patents", and they didn't make any money out of them, in fact they went broke.

    These patents (i.e. these entitlements to sue, conjured out of thin air) are now bought for "tactical, defensive" purposes. i.e. to be used to ward of potential claims based on other "patents", by making it to expensive to be sued. Put differently, people trading off government issued entitlements in a bizarre version of "magic" cards.

    Now you may be convinced that this sort of government mandated shenanigans have anything to do with innovation and product development, and you may think that the lawyers making money of it are something else than the operatives in the broken window fallacy, but I think this represents a lot of unnecessary wasted effort that contributes nothing to innovation, and only serves to restrict true creative development.


  10. Well Peter, I've listened to this lecture and found it somewhat tedious and lacking of any new viewpoints.

    It appears that our (that is yours and mine) fundamental difference is that I do not concede that "because Ayn Rand said so" is an argument.

    While the argument that man has to depend on his mind to thrive is logical, it does not necessarily follow that because Mr A is the first to bake an apple pie, that he should have the right to prevent Mr B from turning his apples into one.

    Also, this presenter approaches his argument against libertarian anti-IP views by conflating the perspectives of all such opponents into an utilitarian view, which is of course (a) incorrect, and (b) a straw man argument.

    In anticipation of your response in terms of "thievery", "plunder" and "anarchism", let me assist by conceding that I can see some merit in a part of what is now considered IP law, namely trade secrets and trade marks, albeit on a basis that is probably somewhat removed from your principles.


  11. Why oh why did his opening argument mention Zuckerberg. There's at least some doubt as to whether the idea for facebook was even his?

  12. Because I was in the mood I thought I'd go to YouTube and watch these presentations and consider the argument.

    But the first episode, all fifteen minutes of it made no argument until about the very last sentence (where the speaker began an argument; "Intellectual property is property because all property is intellectual").

    Putting aside the argument (which you have to go to the second installment to begin hearing) I think this illustrates a problem in presentation.

    There is a lot available to people today and if you manage to get their attention you ought not squander it.

    This presentation was given in person at a venue and I accept there are social conventions in thanking people and introductions.

    But fifteen minutes of it? With introductions including a series of assertions before putting the argument?

    This is ineffective persuasion, an argument should be put promptly and concisely first while attention is available and then at least your audience has heard the argument even if on this occassion they don't hang around to be persuaded by your support of it.

    So I watched the second installment hoping that after the introduction and acknowledgements the argument would quickly follow.

    But the speaker ocntinued to talk about their speech and their argument in lieu of making the argument.

    So I was dissuaded from persisting in listening.

    As to the argument itself? Well, the amount I managed to discern seemed to conflate Production with Property (a person can produce something they need not own, as artists, advertisers and the hired do all the time) and through that Ownership with Value (a person can create value without owning it).

    I'd have given him more time to make the argument if only he would have got on with it.


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