Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stefan Molyneux: Practical = Right?

In March 2013 I had a podcast dialog with libertarian philosopher Stefan Molyneux. I offered a brief version of the bicycle / song comparison, noting that, when analyzed consistently, intellectual property behaves the same as physical. A bicycle can be copied, as can a song. The bike copy does not deprive the original owner of use, ditto for a song. If this fact about a bicycle does not invalidate physical property, why does this fact about a song invalidate intellectual property?

Molyneux’s response in opposing IP was to point out that the average person is not willing or even able to copy a bicycle, while copying a digital song file is easy. I countered, saying that some people do build bicycle factories, to which Molyneux replied that a person would never do that, wanting only a single bicycle for himself.

Is this an argument? Evidently Molyneux was suggesting that if an act is convenient enough, it cannot be a property violation.  This is nothing resembling an argument from first principles. If something is practical, does this make it right?

Once upon a time, before the invention of weapons, it was extremely difficult for a smaller, weaker man to kill a larger, stronger man. The advent of firearms changed that. With a gun and a tiny amount of physical effort, it is possible to kill another person in a fraction of a second. Guns made self-defense more practical, and made murder more practical also. Did this make murder right?

Murder is wrong, and the practicality of accomplishing the act has nothing to do with it. Murder is wrong because it is the initiation of force, which can be understood as violating the property rights that the victim has in his own body.

A better, more praxeological handling of Molyneux’s example would be like this:

A person who wants to ride a bike will not bother to build a bicycle factory, just as a person who wants to listen to a song will not bother to compose and record one. Instead, the honest person will buy a bike or song copy on the market. A dishonest person may attempt to obtain their goods by violating the property rights of another, stealing a bike, or breaking into the bike factory, or copying the song.

Yes, technology has made the duplication of intellectual creations easy. That does not impact the issue of property rights one way or the other. What does impact the issue is whether or not intellectual objects are scarce and rivalrous. 


  1. Imagine that we have 2 gods, God1 and God2, and each of them creates Universe1 and Universe2 respectively.

    In Universe1, God1 creates a bike factory.

    God1 then creates a duplicate of the bike factory in Universe2.

    Does God1 own the instance of the bike factory in Universe2? No, because 100% of the matter in Universe2 was already owned by God2. It wasn't unhomesteaded and became God1's because he mixed his labor with it.

    In other words the raw materials that God1's bike factory uses in Universe2 are built using materials that God2 already owns.

    Lets say you author a song and play it for me.

    I remember how the song goes and it's stored in my mind with full fidelity.

    Do you own the instance of the song in my mind universe? No because 100% of the ideamatter in my mind was already owned by me. It wasn't unhomesteaded and became yours because you mixed your labor with it.

    In other words the raw materials that your song-factory uses in my mind are built using materials I already own.

    So the problems with your bike factory analogy are:

    1. In your analogy, the land and raw materials your bike factory uses are either unhomesteaded or legitmately owned by you. A more accurate analogy would be to build a bike factory on land and using materials already owned by somebody else.

    2. You're equivocating between instance ideas and class ideas. My mind has an ideaspace and your mind has an ideaspace and these 2 ideaspaces are seperate from eachother. A more accurate analogy would talk about a person1's ideaspace1 and person2's ideaspace2 (i.e. ideaspaces) rather than a Platonic Ideaspace.

  2. Thanks for posting.

    1. I think the accurate comparison is how I have it. One could not legitimately build a bike factory using someone else's materials. Check out the full comparison in this table, see if it makes sense:

    2. In my model of Intellectual Space, there is only one "universe". One intellectual object (like a song) occupies one unique location in Intellectual Space, regardless of how many instances of it exist in physical space.

    I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at with "instance ideas" vs. "class ideas", but I'll happily listen to whatever you want to tell me.

    1. In causality/probability/modal logic there are 2 kinds of causal claims - token causal and class causal.

      Tokens look at individual instances. e.g. there was some old lady on a bus that got bullied by school kids and some people filmed it and put it on youtube. Lots of people got sad about it and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for her. So in this particular instance, we can see that bullying caused her to get rich (i.e. if she didn't get bullied, she wouldn't have gotten lots of money).

      Classes look at the totality of instances. In terms of class causality, we can say that bullying doesn't cause you to get rich (i.e. every instances of bullying would have to result in the bullied person becoming rich).

      I accept your intellectual space analogy but deny that there is a single one. I claim that each individual's mind contains an intellectual space and 100% of the "idea matter" in it is owned by the person (this is akin to the universes in the God1 and God2 analogy).

      In other words an intellectual space is a property of somebody's mind and there are as many intellectual spaces as there are minds. If you disagree with this, then demonstrate that an intellectual space can exist independently of a mind and that there is only 1.

      So we have 2 people Alice and Bob. Alice writes a song (in other words she painstakingly tinkers and transforms the idea matter in her intellectual space to produce a song). Alice plays the song for Bob. This easily causes the idea matter in Bob's intellectual space to be transformed to the final idea object.

      The instance of the song which exists in Alice's intellectual space is owned by Alice. The instance of the song which exists in Bob's intellectual space is owned by Bob (in other words, it was transforming idea matter which already belonged to Bob. It was not unhomesteaded idea matter in Bob’s intellectual space which became Alice’s because she mixed her labor with it).

      You want to claim that Alice owns the class of song (the totality of instances of the songs in people’s intellectual spaces) and I claim that she only owns the instance of it in her intellectual space.

    2. Parallel universe theories are interesting perhaps, but I don't see the need. In both the physical and intellectual realm, there are observations that require an explanation.

      For example, in 1963, Paul McCartney wrote the song "Yesterday". There have been numerous different instances of that one song, by many different musicians, in many different media, etc.

      Yet humans are able to recognize these different instances as all being the same one thing - the song "Yesterday". The explanation for this observation is that THE song is a unique object residing at a unique location in Intellectual Space.

    3. > Yet humans are able to recognize these different instances as all being the same one thing - the song "Yesterday". The explanation for this observation is that THE song is a unique object residing at a unique location in Intellectual Space.

      This is a great example as to why an intellectual space exists only within a person's mind.

      A person cannot classify a song as similar until they hear it. In other words, somebody who hasn't heard the song "Yesterday" has a personal intellectual space which does not contain the "Yesterday" object in it yet. In order for this person to classify songs as similar, they must hear it first, which automatically creates a unique object into their personal intellectual space through the mind's abstraction mechanism which removes the particulars (except if they have brain damage with short term memory loss which wont store the song into their long term memory).

      The explanation for this observation is that THE song is a unique object residing at a unique location in an individual's personal Intellectual Space.

      Your universal Intellectual Space idea is just a rehash of Hegel's Zeitgeist, Plato's Platonic realm, or Jung's Collective unconscious but for intellectual property instead. All 4 of you are committing the mind projection fallacy where you externalized and singleized features of your mind.

    4. Hearing a song is like having an invited visit. A person who has not heard "Yesterday" has not yet visited that location in Intellectual Space.

      There is but one Intellectual Space. You are free to conceptualize multiple intellectual universes, but that is your theory, not mine.

    5. > Hearing a song is like having an invited visit.

      No, hearing a song is like God1 transforming the matter in God2's Universe2 to be class-identical to the bike factory he created in Universe1.

      > There is but one Intellectual Space.

      Per mind.

      > You are free to conceptualize multiple intellectual universes, but that is your theory, not mine.

      Not really. My theory is that property ownership is a social construct and that the conceptualizations of intellectual property I've heard so far are so bad that they haven't even achieved the level of being a social construct.

      I'm just showing why your Platonist intellectual space external to a mind analogy has hidden unrealistic assumptions built in and what the more accurate analogy would look like.

      You're free to write a blog post demonstrating how an intellectual space exists external to a mind and how there is one and only one. So far, your arguments haven't convinced me of non-per mind intellectual spaces.

    6. Actually, demonstrating there is one and only one is too strong of a claim for homesteading IP. You only need to demonstrate the weaker claim that when Alice accesses the song "Yesterday" in her intellectual space it is instance-identical to the song "Yesterday" in Bob's intellectual space rather than merely class-identical.

      In other words, the weaker claim is agnostic towards multiple intellectual spaces - but when each human being access it, it's the same instance-identical one rather than class-identical ones, which is all you would need for homesteading IP.

    7. We can determine the instance-identity of "Yesterday" using the same approach as we would determine the instance-identity of a bicycle. Is the bike Alice now has the same one that was stolen from Bob, or merely one of the same class?

      We would look for identifying details of the bicycle, like a serial number, or a unique scratch in the paint, etc. So we look for identifying details of the song - what is the melodic shape? What are the lyrics? Is it the song "Yesterday", or merely another song in the class of pop-rock ballads?

  3. This comment isn't in response to your particular blog post, but to the YouTube video I just watched of your call to Molyneux's show.

    Molyneux is starting to really disappoint me with his sloppy thinking recently (not just this issue). I don't think he handled your call very well. His "convenient", "realistic" and "useful" arguments are just plain poor and not at all connected to Kinsella's work, which I've yet to see refuted in any honest, coherent way (including by you).

    You crow your achievement of developing "intellectual space" which can be homesteaded. By doing so, you essentially confirm a basic anti-IP conclusion: IP is imaginary property. Your justification for IP is that you imagine a fantasy realm of Intellectual Space and since you homesteaded a certain parcel of it, "trespass" on it is no different than trespass in the real world?! Why can't I just imagine that my "trespass" happened on yet another imaginary plane (parallel Intellectual space universes, since we're just making shit up) where you hadn't actually homesteaded yet, and thus I did not actually trespass your imaginary homesteaded space? It's all imaginary, so who's to say I didn't just phase-shift instead of trespass? The absurdity and arbitrariness of your "contribution" is really perplexing.

    Though Molyneux dropped the ball by letting you get away with it, your sophistry about redefining property as a restriction on the property of others, so that you can use that definition to negate property is a common tactic of anti-propertarians (there are no anti-propertarians of course, there are only sophists trying to lie their way to stealing the property of others since they lack the balls to try by direct means that leave them personally liable): build-in to the definition of property the idea that it restricts the property of others (and thus the idea of unrestricted property invalid), and then you've got a loophole big enough to drive any idea (that grants you the property of others) through. But this issue is such a simple concept I can only conclude willfulness in ignoring it. Property does NOT place limits on the property of others. Property simply is a description of the limit of what you can control. Let's take your example of my owning my body putting a limit on your gun and bullet. Nonsense. You can do WHATEVER you want with your property, which includes your gun and your bullet. Repeat, you can do WHATEVER you want with YOUR property. The simple fact is that MY body is not YOUR property. To shoot me is to interfere with my property, which isn't yours. This isn't a limit on what you may do with your property, this is simply the nature of defining the boundaries of finite things. Your property is the gun and the bullet, NOT my body. You can do whatever you want with your gun and your bullet, that doesn't imply you can do whatever you want with my body/property. You can shoot your body, since the gun, bullet and your body are all yours. That in no way implies you can use your gun, your bullet and someone else's body. This isn't describing a limit of what you may do with your property, it's describing the limits OF your property. There are no limits on what you may do with your property (may, not can). But of course there are limits as to what IS your property.


  4. ...continued

    Same with land property. You have the right to do whatever you want with your body. The slimy way of phrasing this is to say "I have the right to move my body freely". But no, you only own your body. There is other physical reality at play when you move your body. You do not own my land. It's not a limit on your body to say you cannot trespass. You can still do whatever you want with your body. My land is not your body. You can phrase it "well then your claim of property in land restricts my body", but that's wrong. Your body is your body, it isn't the entire universe. Defining boundaries of finite objects isn't a restriction of ownership, it's simply understanding reality.

    As Kinsella points out, the idea of IP really always is about physical property eventually. You may be asserting that you own the "idea" of a song, or a poem, but at the end of the day, your enforcement is about getting people to pay you physical property (usually money). So instead of homesteading and voluntary title transfer being the just methods of property acquisition, you're asserting that simply thinking, a unilateral activity, gives you the ability to acquire physical property over others. That's been the goal of thieves since the beginning of time. Disutility of labor and all that. Just thinking certainly is easier than obtaining consent. Doesn't change that it's still theft.

    As Kinsella has pointed out, you cannot bind 3rd parties with a contract, so your contract based IP-regime will not fly in a truly libertarian society. Of course you could envision a stateless society that binds 3rd parties to contracts, but it wouldn't be libertarian since you would be asserting ownership over the property of others (justifying it with your made up intellectual space property) without their consent. That makes you an aggressor and any society that institutionalizes aggression is not libertarian.

    You can't sell something via contract if it's not property? Wrong. You're again phrasing things in a way to support your point, but in a way that is not accurate to reality. When you "sell an idea" to someone via contract, you are selling them the service of moving your mouth to tell them your idea. Your mouth (keyboard, pen, whatever method of communication) is the property being utilized, not the idea. This is the case with all communication. I'm the one agreeing to communicate with you, so this is no different than a service/labor contract. I don't sell my labor. I accept money in exchange for promising to use my body (my property) to perform an action. Labor isn't property, it's an action performed with property. "Swinging" isn't property, it's an action performed with a swingset (the actual property). Using your brain, your mouth, your hand to write, are all just actions performed with your body (property).

  5. ...continued (3 of 3)

    Information is just a pattern. When I hear your idea, what I'm really doing is reconfiguring the physical property of my brain, which I own, to match that pattern. When I copy a digital file, I'm really just reconfiguring my harddrive, which I own, to match that pattern. When I play a song on my guitar, which I own, I'm really just using my body, which I own, to interact with my guitar, which I own, according to the pattern. In none of these cases have I decreased the integrity of your property which is your brain, your harddrive, or your guitar. It is simple willfulness on your part to refuse to see this distinction. Ideas are not property. Your brain is property. Your mouth is property. Ideas are patterns that property can be configured in accordance with.

    That you have to resort to an imaginary place where ideas are homestead-able should tell you all you need to know about the not-real nature of your claims. My harddrive is an objectively real thing that we can have conflict over since only one of us can have our will expressed in regards to it at the same time due the finite nature of physical reality. Though clearly our norms regarding the just allocation of that contestable resource are ideas, the physical scarcity of the object is objective, outside our ideas. But the scarcity of your intellectual space is completely made up and subjective. As I said, I could just as easily imagine an infinite intellectual space where there is no scarcity and thus we are not contesting the same intellectual space since imagination is unlimited. The scarce nature of the harddrive is reality. The scarce nature of "intellectual space" is made up. You can assert "the harddrive is not scarce" and I can assert "the harddrive is scarce" and when both of us try to walk away with it, we find very quickly which of our assertions matches reality. What objective arbiter is there for proving scarcity in your intellectual space dimension? You assert "this intellectual space is scarce" and I assert "there are infinite parallel intellectual space universes, therefore it is not scarce". There is no objective method to evaluate these claims. You can imagine intellectual space to be scarce and I can imagine it to be infinite, and those concepts can exist simultaneously in our respectives imaginations. The harddrive, on the other hand, doesn't leave with both of us when we both try to walk away with it.

    Ultimately, the complete arbitrary nature of IP is obvious when you consider the fact that there is no such thing as an original idea. All ideas build on ideas that came before. You communicate with language that you didn't invent. You didn't invent musical scales, or putting words to melody, or grammatical rules, or pen and paper, or any of the myriad of building blocks that make up any idea, song, poem, novel, etc. To even communicate you're constantly "trespassing" on the intellectual space of many that came before you. By necessity, you must arbitrarily disregard those trespasses to assert that the new "space" that you're homesteading is justly yours and that you have the right to prosecute trespassers on it. A concept of property being physical and being rivalrous does not require such arbitrary limits.

    BTW, your call was over an hour, so I'm just addressing points as I remember them. Thus the lack of clear organization of these points.

  6. @ Brian Drake:

    You raise many points, I'll address them each as time permits. You're right that I can do anything I want with my property, so long as it doesn't interfere with your property. But that's just another way of saying that your property rights necessarily place limits on mine. Your "disagreement" with me there is PURELY SEMANTIC.

    Just to get my terminology right, we don't homestead Intellectual Space, we homestead Intellectual Objects, objects which reside in Intellectual Space.

    The doctrine of Intellectual Space is a bit more than "making shit up". My approach is to postulate its existence, based on the the fundamental observation that free people act as though IP exists, then to TEST the theory by applying logical syllogisms that already hold true for physical property.

    I'm having a conversation with Stephan Kinsella tomorrow, I'll hope to find time this weekend to write a detailed response to your thoughtful post.

    1. While I will await your more detailed response, I can already tell it's off to a bad start.

      You state "I can do long as it doesn't interfere with your property" as though that's a limitation and then say the disagreement is semantic. No. You may do literally anything you want want with your property; no limits. Anything (again, I'm using "may", obviously not "can"). You're subtly, but still substantially shifting the terms by then saying "as long as it doesn't interfere with your property." The original context is what you may do with your property, not what you may do with mine. There is no limit to what you may do in the original context. As I pointed out repeatedly, my property simply isn't your property, so it's a new context to consider it. You shift the terms by including potential actions with your property to include things that involve my property, and then recognize my property and thus declare a limitation on your property. But this is not consistent usage of terms. My property does not exist as a subset of your property that is off limits. It exists outside your property and thus is unrelated to your property (obviously disregarding consensual joint-ownership for this discussion). To say you're limited in what you can do with your property because of my property is to start by talking about your property, then expand the definition to include mine as well. Wrong. The equation is

      YOUR PROPERTY = no limits.

      When the equation is YOUR PROPERTY + MY PROPERTY, then we're talking about a different equation. It has no bearing on the original equation.

      YOUR PROPERTY + MY PROPERTY = only with my consent (or restitution...yada yada)

      but this doesn't suddenly redefine

      YOUR PROPERTY = limits

      It's simply a different equation.

      These isn't a semantic game, this is a fundamental principle. And as I pointed out, though it may seem like an inconsequential phrasing issue, wording it the way you do intentionally leaves a gaping loophole through which you can move from principle to arbitrary whim (after all, if ownership does not mean unlimited authority - if there are limits on property - then we're simply of different opinions on what other limitations there are) and as I've pointed out, the phrasing is flat out incorrect so it is not an issue of potato-pohtahto. Your equivocation is subtle, but it didn't sneak by unnoticed. Shifting terms mid-argument is not an honest method of argumentation. It's the method of a sophist, which I have good reason so far to conclude you are.

    2. ...continued

      "the fundamental observation that free people act as though IP exists..." - red flags for some more equivocation. Where have you observed these free people? What do you mean by free? Unless you've been pullin' Goodall-duty with some hermits in some frozen wasteland where no state has asserted authority, there aren't any free people to observe.

      People also act as though the State (the concept that some people have the right to rule over others) exists; that contributes nothing to the discussion on whether the concept is just. Millions of children act as though Santa Claus exists. He's still imaginary. Just like your intellectual objects.

      Surely you're familiar with the distinction between legal and moral. Observations regarding a widespread, intuitive disdain for plagiarism can just as easily be explained as a moral distaste for liars. If you write a song, and I start performing/recording it claiming I wrote it, I'm certainly a douchebag in the eyes of many people (mine as well). But that's unrelated to whether I've violated your legitimate property.

      If we're going by observations of human behavior, I'd say the widespread, growing prevalence of online "piracy" speaks loudly that in spite of the propaganda (e.g., Hollywood PSAs about "you wouldn't steal a car would you?...Downloading a movie is just like stealing a car."), many people do not act as though IP exists. Of course, if IP does exist (as a just principle), widespread violation of it does not have relevance. But if you're just going off of observation to postulate an imaginary realm of Intellectual Objects, I'd say the younger generations especially are more and more just choosing not to believe. That's the problem with imaginary things. They only "exist" if people believe in them. Physical things don't require belief, and conflict over them is not imagined.

      BTW, I'm traveling over the next few days so my reading of, and any potential responses to your replies will be delayed.

    3. Having read this exchange between Brian Drake and Alex, (and surprisingly was able to follow most of it!!!) I'm happy that this argument has been thoroughly put to rest. Thanks Brian for taking the time and effort to do this.

      Alex, I'm sure that Brian's argument will not change your mind but what I'm still wondering is why are you doing this? What do you expect to gain from this as, in the absence of force, why would anyone take any notice of this concept? Even with force, you couldn't possibly make a dent if policing this yourself and your quality of life and most likely its duration would be seriously diminished. In the absence of a publicly-funded police force and justice system, you might consider employing an agency to enforce your rights, assuming that one might exist, but that would surely eat up most or all of the profits you might make.

      Maybe you could organise all creative artists to mutually police each others rights giving world-wide cover or collectively pay for an enforcement agency. Somehow, I don't see either idea working in a libertarian world.

      BTW, I reviewed your table in which is when the thoughts above occurred to me. You've done a lot of work but its only wasted if you don't learn from it.

    4. Your questions about enforcement are very interesting, but the exact same questions arise with respect to physical property.

      The reason for this project is that I accept the validity of praxeology, and firmly believe that praxeology has not been applied to IP.

      I've written a reply to Brian Drake as a stand-alone post:

  7. Let me address Rule 1: If X is useful, and Y is a duplicate of X, and the use of Y does not interfere with the use of X, then X cannot be property.

    You actually summarize the argument properly in a previous post, but translate it into a strawman of a rule 1.
    Why didn't you just use: "if X is non-rivalrous, the X cannot be property"?

    A possible reformulation of your Rule 1 could be that if person 2 owns Y which is a duplicate (intentionally or by accident) of person 1's own X, the person 2 has no positive obligation to person 1. Another way to say it is that person 1 has no control or ownership over Y aside from contractual arrangement with person 2.
    This is generalizable to X = bike.
    In condensed form, just because something looks the same (same arrangement or pattern) does not give any grounds for ownership claims.

    For me, there are some additional signs that IP cannot be property. I don't know if they can be turned into positive rules of what is non-property.
    If IP was valid property, then it could be consistently held forever and in the possible expansion of human race into space. With a very large number of humans (just like with a large number of monkeys), parallel invention of the same patterns becomes increasingly likely. The same is true (although with decreasing degrees) for words, sentences, haikus, poems, whole books, and so on as the amount of information increases.

    We already see that frequently with patents (two inventors independently discover the same idea). Do you claim that inventor 1 can own idea X but inventor 2 cannot even he independently discovered it?
    If direct copy is the only scenario which is considered to violate IP, then why is it not just a contractual agreement?

    Finally, with a rights-based conception of IP (as opposed to some contractual emulation), such "infringement" often cannot be detected, let alone enforced, without intrusion into other people's property. If I take a bike, then you don't need to trespass to know that your bike was stolen. With IP, there is only a possibility that you could detect the "theft" without trespassing.

  8. @ Julien:

    Your first rule, " . . . if X is non-rivalrous, X cannot be property" is a good rule, and I accept it, but its application will depend crucially on the definition of "rivalrous".

    Your second rule. " . . . if person 2 owns Y which is a duplicate (intentionally or by accident) of person 1's own X, the person 2 has no positive obligation to person 1" assumes that person 2 "owns Y". Whether or not person 2 could rightly own Y is the very subject under discussion, so you're assuming the conclusion here.

    Your third rule " . . . person 1 has no control or ownership over Y aside from contractual arrangement with person 2" allows person 1 to steal from person 2, as long as there was no anti-theft contract between them. Property rights, by their very nature, impose control and limitations on the actions of all other humans on earth.

    Thanks for your post, and I encourage you to try your rules out, as I do , by substituting a physical object and then an intellectual object into the same rule. You are trying to discover a rule which holds for physical objects, and fails for intellectual objects.

  9. @Alex:

    Let's try and define rivalrous. I could be wrong but the dictionary's definition does not capture the economic sense. My understanding of rivalrous is "two individuals cannot simultaneously control".

    For example, two people cannot stand in the same place. I can have full control over the table or you do, but we cannot have both full control at once.

    As I suggested in another comment, I don't think a hypothetical "intellectual space" is rivalrous. As two people can discover the same spot and figuratively "stand" in the same place (holding this idea in their mind, simultaneously using the idea as they independently wish). So I don't see the concept of rivalry or property being useful or relevant in that space.

  10. For "rivalrous" I like: "Use by one necessarily interferes with use by another".

    And we must concur that things can be incrementally rivalrous. In many situations, interference with another person's property only partially deprives the owner of the use.

    In my theory, Intellectual Space is not homesteaded, Intellectual Objects are homesteaded.

  11. I just listened to the Molyneux podcast and although it was quite entertaining, I didn't find it to be intellectually expository and that you were talking past each other fairly regularly.

    When you say, "Intellectual Objects are homesteaded" I would point out the main difference between physical objects and intellectual "objects." I can theoretically come up with the exact same song as you independently of you, without you, and without any interference with you. I cannot in any way come up with the same land space as you in the same way. Intellectual "objects" do not interfere with use by another.

    1. I completely agree with you about the nature of my conversation with Molyneux. Hopefully my dialog with Kinsella will be more focused on principle.

      My use of my song is to commercially exploit a limited scarce market. Your commercial use of the same song interferes with that.

      The use of intellectual objects is indeed rivalrous, assertions to the contrary are baseless.

      Please review the side-by-side comparison I have given here:

      See if you find any instance where the analogy fails, and tell me why.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Really good discussion with Stef.

    All property is intellectual property in the sense that what we value in property is the creation. We wouldn't value the natural resources which went into the creation of the property, if they weren't useful in creating the property that we use. We don't value the aluminum and steel; we value the car, which is the creation.

    Kinsella's idea that property exists because it's scarce is a non-sequitur. Property exists because it was created.

    1. When Kinsella says "property", he doens't mean "the thing", he means the enforceable rights associated with the thing.

      Kinsella is correct that it is the scarce and rivalrous nature of resources that gives rise to a need for property. If resources were not scarce, there would be no conflict, and no need for property.

      The focus of Intellectual Space is to show that intellectual objects are indeed scarce and rivalrous, in exactly the same fashion as physical objects.

    2. There's more than one need for property. If people didn't need to use the resources around us in order to live, then scarcity wouldn't be relevant. On the other hand, I do understand that if things weren't scarce, then people would be able to use all the resources they need to live, without interfering with each other.

      But the moral argument for property stems from the natural requirement that humans must work in order to live. You are correct in pointing out that the difference between a broken contract and a broken promise is ownership. If one does not own the thing for which he sells in a contract, then the contract has no more weight than a promise to meet someone for dinner at a certain time. His reputation might be damaged if he broke his contract, but it is otherwise not enforceable.

      Imagine the scenario whereby I contract to write a song for someone. After it's written, my counter-party refuses to pay because I have no claim of ownership to the song. Or if someone contracts to build a fence for me, where I supply the material, and after it's built, I refuse to pay him because he has no claim upon his labor.

      Property should be recognized as two things: 1) a moral claim to use the un-owned resources I need, as well as those I purchase from someone else; and 2) a moral claim to the product of my labor. This second case is the claim for intellectual property.