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Where Do Property Rights Come From? · Wednesday April 10, 2013 by Crosbie Fitch

As I replied to Stephen in the comments to Stephan Kinsella’s Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property:

That which exists is rivalrous. That which does not exist is non-rivalrous. So what?

As with seawater, air is also something you can put in a bottle and exclude others from (ask a scuba diver). Just because there’s a lot of it, it doesn’t mean it’s non-scarce (in the economic meaning, if not the layman’s meaning) or non-rivalrous.

The point is not whether the rivalrous nature of things that exist is interesting or useful to observe, but that it doesn’t actually justify or explain anything concerning property.

No other animal has ever been interested in excluding others from things that don’t exist. It takes extreme intelligence and stupidity/superstition to start believing that one can – a peculiarly human talent. It is also rather crazy to develop esoteric terms/jargon to discriminate between things that exist and things that don’t, and to claim, tautologously, that because things that exist don’t have the nature of those that don’t, ipso facto we have property rights.

One could also use other terms such as ‘physically manifest’ or ‘enclosable’ instead of ‘exist’, but the good thing about ‘exist’ is that it helps people recognise the absurdity of claiming property in things that don’t exist. And yes, people then have to be reminded that although we may recognise that things that exist may be in the shape of a triangle, this does not mean that the triangle exists. Moreover, just because we can conceive of abstract objects such as triangles, this also doesn’t mean those abstract objects exist – nor does it mean that the abstract thing we call a concept (of a triangle) exists either, though again, we may recognise this concept in arrangements of ink on paper (the arrangement exists – the concept doesn’t).

So, yes, because human beings (as most animals) have a physical and vital ability to exclude others from things that exist, a power to exclude, they have a have a natural and equal right to do so. ‘Rights’ granted by gods, kings, or states, are obviously not natural. Hence the power to prohibit copies granted by Queen Anne in 1709, was only obtained by annulling the people’s natural liberty and right to make copies, such that this right, by exclusion, could be left in the hands of a few – so called ‘copyright’ holders.

A paper manuscript containing ink arranged into a description of a formula or novel can be kept in a box, and others can be excluded from both the material and the intellectual work therein. Others cannot be excluded from that which does not exist, e.g. the abstract pattern of that work that permeates the abstract plane – which is a rather perverse thought to have in the first place.

In other words, drawing a triangle does not give one any natural power over the abstraction or others’ use of it. Conversely, simply because one has no power over the abstraction or its use doesn’t mean one has no natural power to exclude others from one’s drawing. The drawing of the triangle exists. The geometric concept of a triangle does not.

That which exists may be property, but it isn’t property because it exists, but because we have the natural power and right to exclude others from those alienable objects that exist in our possession.

Marko said 2491 days ago :

This is a bit philosophical, but it could be argued that things may exist in realms other than physical. Mathematical truths (such as ideal triangles and concepts) may belong in ‘platonic’ world (also more recently suggested by Roger Penrose). Existence thus meaning that something is objectively “out there” for everyone to find out independently. For example, the same prime numbers can be be found by any man regardless of his predoctrination, even more, the aliens from another galaxy should have found the same prime numbers (as in Contact from Carl Sagan :) ). I think this is as objective as it gets, so one could say that such things in a sense do exist regardless of us drawing them on a piece of paper.

Of course, even if we agree on an existence of such a world, it is fundamentally different from physical and, it seems to me, property rights are completely irrelevant and of no value here.

Crosbie Fitch said 2491 days ago :

Well, quite. No physically living creature can have physical power, a natural right, in a non-physical plane – or ‘realm’ if you prefer.

However, concerning discussions of property, I think ‘exist’ can be used in its primary physical meaning, as opposed to a metaphorical/mathematical/abstract meaning, e.g. “No solutions for equation X exist”.

One cannot have property in things that don’t exist.

If someone claims that a certain abstraction is often said to ‘exist’, one can exclude that as a figure of speech used by mathematicians.

Property Comes From Nature Not Praxeology · Sunday April 14, 2013 by Crosbie Fitch

Marc Clair has had Thoughts on the Great IP Debate and re-iterates Stephan Kinsella’s claim that “there is a general consensus among libertarians that intellectual property is an illegitimate concept”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an illegitimate concept. What matters is whether property in intellectual works naturally exists – as property in material works naturally exists.

Cavemen didn’t argue with each other as to whether flint stones were scarce or not. Property in their physical possessions was a natural epiphenomenon, not something that, through praxeological debate, cavemen concluded to be a legitimate concept.

If an author has written a manuscript and keeps it in their desk drawer, it’s as much their physical property as a caveman’s flint axe. In 1787 every author instinctively knew that they had an exclusive right to their writings – a natural right to exclude any other, not only from making off with the ink & paper, but also from manufacturing a copy.

What authors may not have realised was that James Madison wasn’t interested in the author’s exclusive right to their writings, but in the lucrative monopolies enjoyed by the British Press at Queen Anne’s pleasure. That is why he suggested copyright was a common law right, and why the first US copyright act was almost identical to the Statute of Anne. But, as we know, the author’s natural right to exclude others from their writings is not at all the same as the grant of a monopoly that annuls the people’s liberty and right to copy (to leave it, by exclusion, in the hands of a few – copyright holders).

The information age doesn’t demonstrate that intellectual property doesn’t exist. It demonstrates that reproduction monopolies in the ‘hands’ of a few corporations cannot co-exist with reproduction technologies in the hands of the people (having a natural liberty and imperative to share and build upon each other’s works).

Authors can, and will always be able to, lock up their manuscripts as their intellectual property, but they cannot, and never could, give their manuscripts to another and alienate from the recipient their liberty to copy them.

Also see my comments on Kinsella’s Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property.

Monopoly is Property; The Motion is Perpetual · Thursday April 18, 2013 by Crosbie Fitch

In Discussion with a Pro-Intellectual Property Libertarian Stephan Kinsella fails to convince Alexander Baker that he is not on the verge of discovering a brilliant, incontrovertible argument that state granted monopolies constitute natural property.

This is what happens when people are brought up in a world permeated by quasi-religious copyright/patent dogma that transforms ‘state granted monopoly’ into ‘god-given right’. People will dutifully waste their time trying to find ways of arguing the ‘truth’ they have received.

But, if each of us spends a tiny amount of time pointing out to such folk that the law arises from the nature of the people, not vice versa, perhaps such time is well spent?

So this is my tiny amount of time…

…and when the tide of liberty arose about King ©anute’s throne, his courtiers desperately finessed their arguments, that what they were observing was merely a predictable surge, that it would obviously have to occur in the process of obeisance to the king’s command.

When you’ve completed the finessing of your argument, Alexander, we can try it out on the people. I daresay it’ll have a lot of support from those espousing greater respect for copyright, but it’s those pesky delinquent masses you have to convince.

Property is that which one can put in a box, or erect a fence around, that which an individual has a natural and vital power (right) to exclude others from. This is where the law comes from.

Rights and property do not come from the law – however much those desperate to perpetuate state granted monopolies by other means finesse the law’s definitions of property.

That said, if you say that state granted monopolies are recognitions of property in ideas/designs/patterns long enough, you will fool many people into believing that because the protection of property is recognised as a human right so the protection of ‘property’ in ideas must be recognised as a human right.

If you corrupt the language you can corrupt anything, but it still doesn’t change human nature.

You can annul the right to copy from the law, but this does not remove the right to copy from the people.

King ©anute cannot hold back the tide of his subjects’ liberty – however brilliant the legal minds of his courtiers may be.

Do You Believe In Faeries? · Monday April 22, 2013 by Crosbie Fitch

Alexander Baker asks me if ‘intellectual objects’ are real (whatever he means by that).

Alexander, if by putting your faeries in a box you can exclude me from them, then go for it. I’m not really sure you possess any faeries though.

If you can sell me a box of faeries such we can both identify and count how many faeries are within, and we can both exclude others from the faeries in our respective boxes, then that sounds promising.

If we can add and remove faeries to and from boxes, such that several people (in a double blind test) count the same numbers of faeries in a set of boxes (containing differing numbers of faeries), then we’re pretty close to establishing the physical reality of faeries.

The trouble is, we need to distinguish between a ‘faerie’ (a piece of paper shaped like a faerie) and a faerie (a tiny winged humanoid creature, ethereal or otherwise).

You can substitute faerie with triangle, and similarly distinguish between the ‘triangle’ (drawing of) and the triangle (abstract concept). You can put drawings of abstractions in boxes, but you can’t put abstractions in boxes.

You can even substitute ‘intellectual object’, but again, you need to distinguish between its physical description and the imaginary abstraction.

If you reverse this process, you should see that you are effectively trying to argue that faeries are real, and that you believe in their existence.

That the concept of faeries has played a significant part in mankind’s culture is true, but this doesn’t make faeries real, nor property (copyright notwithstanding).

You can physically possess a physical description of an abstraction. You can imagine, but cannot physically possess an abstraction – though thanks to indoctrination by sacred state granted monopolies, many people like to imagine that they can and should be able to possess abstractions (they make do with ‘all physical manifestations thereof’, given the abstract plane is still inaccessible to them).

So, Alexander, do you believe in faeries?




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