Monday, April 1, 2013

Kinsella Crushed!!


The IP Debate with Stephan Kinsella

Okay here it is. It's two hours and 23 minutes, but as you will notice early on, I keep it lively.

This was really fun to do and at points it gets pretty wild, so if you have kids around be aware that there are short bursts of, ahem, adult language.

I want to point out again that although I bash Kinsella on several points and show that he does not even understand the points he is trying to make. I covered only about a third of the sloppy thinking and mischaracterizations that Kinsella makes in his book.  I will be out with a booklet detailing in a more formal fashion the 16 errors I found in Kinsella's writings.

From this debate, it's clear Kinsella is sloppy in his thinking and writing, the booklet hopefully will put a nail in the coffin of this nutty notion that ideas aren't scarce and therefore we should just "take" from people who do not want to be taken from.

Podcast




YouTube

142 comments:

  1. Awesome, this has been a long time comming.

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  2. Well, aside from the tone of the debate. It's clear Wenzel scored heavy.

    For those who don't have 2 hours and 23 minutes. Here's my summary and thoughts:

    1. Kinsella doesn't understand Rothbard's view. This seemed pretty incredible, but Wenzel nailed Kinsella on this,cold.

    2. Kinsella failed to answer Wenzel when Wenzel asked him if Wenzel's formula was scarce. That Kinsella failed to answer that question is indication that Kinsella knew that if he answered it his entire theory would come tumbling down.

    3. Wenzel's case for ideas being scarce and the subject of rivalry hits home with me.

    4.I have mixed emotions on the debating tactic Wenzel chose,but his points were all made, despite his attempt to ride all over Kinsella. Maybe if Wenzel let Kinsella take the debate in other directions, it would have been a plain old boring debate.

    5.I think Wenzel may have just wanted to nail Kinsella down on different points for his booklet. It really seemed that Kinsella was unprepared for the onslaught.

    6. I was on the fence on IP, but Wenzel has me convinced that ideas can be scarce.

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    1. The discussion of scarcity was based on a false equivocation though. In the sense Kinsella was using the term a thing isn't scarce simply because it's not 'super-abundant'. Scarcity is when one person's employment of the thing prevents another's employment of it. Property rights are the system by which this conflict is resolved and one person's incidental exclusion of another person, as a side effect of employing the thing, is deemed to be just.

      In the sense Wenzel was using the terms, knowledge is scarce not because one person's use of it prevents other people's use of it, but simply because some people don't have it. But using the term in this sense does not apply to defining what property is because, again, property is about determining whose employment of a thing may justly prevent another from using it. Scarcity in this sense does not produce property.

      In the discussion a problem was posed where B contracts with A to get access to a secret formula, and then B breaks the contract by providing the secret knowledge to C. The question of whether C may employ the secret formula hinges on whether the secret formula itself is property. If it is property then there must be a basis for it to be property. Wenzel argued that it is scarce in the sense that not everybody has it and therefore is property. But this usage of 'scarcity' does not produce property and therefore this argument is insufficient.

      Then the question is, is the formula actually scarce in the sense that is the basis for property? Does one persons' employment of the knowledge incidentally exclude other people's employment of it?

      There are two ways in which the secret formula can be employed; First, as knowledge directing the employment of other means in order to act. This is the most obvious employment of the secret formula and how A's customers use it, but this was not discussed directly. We presume that the formula is such that its employment in this way does not prevent others from employing it as well, and therefore the formula is not scarce when employed as knowledge directing means.

      The second way is the one that Wenzel brought up; C may offer to tell the secret to anyone for a price, rather than use it as knowledge to direct means. This competition reduces the price A is able to sell the secret for. Under this usage of the secret formula, is it scarce in the sense that creates property? Does A being unable to persuade customers to give him the price he was previously asking due to competition by C constitute preventing A from employing the secret formula in this way? If the answer is yes, then independent discovery, which has precisely the same result, must also constitute preventing A from employing the secret formula in this way. Therefore independent discovery has precisely the same basis to be considered a violation of A's property as does C getting the secret from B. Wenzel specifically addressed independent discovery so it is a given that independent discovery does not in fact violate any property rights. Therefore, the answer is no, C's competition with A using knowledge gotten though B's breach of contract does not constitute preventing A from employing the secret formula in this second fashion. Therefore this is not a basis for determining that the secret formula is property.

      Additionally, we can point out that A can still sit in his shop and ask whatever price he pleases. The fact that he will not get as high a price as he wants is irrelevant; A does not have any kind of right to any customer's subjective valuation of the 'secret' any more than A has a right to be thought well of by his customers.

      In conclusion, no basis for determining that a property right exists in the secret formula itself was presented.

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    2. "In the discussion a problem was posed where B contracts with A to get access to a secret formula, and then B breaks the contract by providing the secret knowledge to C. The question of whether C may employ the secret formula hinges on whether the secret formula itself is property. If it is property then there must be a basis for it to be property. Wenzel argued that it is scarce in the sense that not everybody has it and therefore is property. But this usage of 'scarcity' does not produce property and therefore this argument is insufficient."

      I would disagree with you here. I would say the implicit understanding of such a contract is that it is a scarce good & property.

      Ipso facto.

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    3. So you're saying that it's property because there's a contract about it? Before that works as a convincing basis for declaring something property you need to show why the nature of property is such that having a contract causes things to be property.

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    4. Well, if it wasn't property and "superabundant", etc....would there be a need for a contract?

      Really, I do think it speaks for itself convincingly. Of course, maybe it's a matter of opinion at this point...but I don't think it needs more explanation.

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    5. Please correct me if I paraphrase incorrectly, but I believe you're asking "If it is not property, and therefore is super-abundant (i.e., everybody already has it) would there be a need for a contract?"

      This argument fails because no justification has been given that a thing not being super-abundant necessarily makes it an ownable good. For your argument to work such a justification must be given; you must show that the nature of property is such that anything which is not super-abundant must be an ownable good.

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    6. I'm not trying to be circular, but my contention is that the connotation of "property" is given implicitly when a contract is written over a good.(whether the good is an idea or physical)

      If you can show me where a contract written in relation to ownership of a good isn't related to its property status I would consider your point.

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    7. "my contention is that the connotation of "property" is given implicitly when a contract is written over a good."

      What is the basis, justification, or argument from first principals that supports that conclusion? Simply presenting a valid chain of logical reasoning which leads from the definition and nature of property to the conclusion that ideas are property would be sufficient. Thus far I have been unable to find it.

      "If you can show me where a contract written in relation to ownership of a good isn't related to its property status I would consider your point."

      When you use the phrase 'ownership of a good' you are implicitly assuming the good is ownable. It would be a contradiction in terms to show 'ownership of a good' which is not ownable.

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    8. I think you and I are stuck in praxeological differences, I'm not sure we can move farther...but I'll give a go a little longer:

      "When you use the phrase 'ownership of a good' you are implicitly assuming the good is ownable. It would be a contradiction in terms to show 'ownership of a good' which is not ownable."

      That is correct. So what you in my mind have to explain is why people write contracts for intellectual property(like NDA's) if what you posit is they can't be owned....

      A priori, current action, etc.- all seem to defy your contention.

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    9. "So what you in my mind have to explain is why people write contracts for intellectual property(like NDA's) if what you posit is they can't be owned...."

      As one example, one might write a contract about non-ownable things because in the absence of the contract they would have no basis for preventing people who gain access to the non-ownable thing from using it. If a thing is ownable then property rights are sufficient basis for preventing people who gain access to the thing from using it; no contract is necessary.

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    10. "one might write a contract about non-ownable things because in the absence of the contract they would have no basis for preventing people who gain access to the non-ownable thing from using it."

      See, I find this interesting. The anti-ip crowd usually talks with import about the notion that ideas aren't scarce(and then moves over to rivalrous/superabundant when the conversation gets difficult)...but what you are saying here is that someone might object to said use of a "superabundant" resource against using it.

      I'm sorry, that doesn't make any sense to me. Why would someone write a contract with someone else so they wouldn't breathe air for example if no one owns air?

      No contract would be necessary if something can't be owned. However, we all know that if someone's got a good idea(and common sense) they will get a NDA before partnering with another party in implementing it(at the least). The above says to me: "Good ideas are scarce and property".

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    11. I said 'non-ownable', I did not say 'super-abundant'. When you claimed earlier that these are the same I asked you to provide a basis for that claim, but you have not done so. Therefore any argument you make assuming that they are the same is unfounded.

      I repeat "As one example, one might write a contract about non-ownable, non-superabundant things because in the absence of the contract they would have no basis for preventing people who gain access to the non-ownable, non-superabundant thing from using it. If a thing is ownable then property rights are sufficient basis for preventing people who gain access to the thing from using it; no contract is necessary.

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    12. Ok, let's retrench for a moment.

      "As one example, one might write a contract about non-ownable things because in the absence of the contract they would have no basis for preventing people who gain access to the non-ownable thing from using it. "

      That's what you said earlier, then:

      "I repeat "As one example, one might write a contract about non-ownable, non-superabundant things"

      So, you actually didn't repeat what you posted, you added "non-superabundant" to your statement. That's fine, I'm sure you have a reason.

      So help me out, give me an example of something that is "non-ownable" and "non-superabundant" that someone would write a contract over.

      I'm being serious now. Give me an example, I'm open to your thoughts.

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    13. I added those words in order to clarify my original meaning, because you misunderstood the original example as "one might write a contract about superabundant things [...]"

      The problem is that you appear to define property as 'that which is not superabundant.' This definition is wrong and I believe you may have based it on the following fallacious reasoning; It has been stated, and I agree, that that which is superabundant has no reason to be property. From this, you reason, if the good is not superabundant then it can be property. This fallacious reasoning is called 'denying the antecedent' and you can read about it on Wikipedia if you like.

      So long as you hold this wrong definition of property you will believe that 'non-ownable, non-superabundant good' is a contradiction in terms and you will not be open to any example of such a good.

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    14. My definition of property fits with Bastiat.

      I'm quite happy with it. As long as you don't take my stuff it doesn't matter if we agree or not.

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    15. So an appeal to authority without even quoting the definition? That's not an answer.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I'm a fan of EPJ and have been looking forward to this debate for while as I am not familiar with IP rights. I will never get these 2 hr and 23 minutes back. I agree with Kinsella that Wenzel does not define his terms, which really limits the debate from ever starting. I get Wenzel's approach to "destroy" Kinsella's IP views. Here is what I'm going to do. This summer I'll read Kinsella's book while I wait Wenzel's equivalent of "The Failure of the New Economics", by Henry Hazlitt.

    Why not have the debate hosted at the mises institute with a mutual agreed upon moderator. A great moderator would be Jim Puplava of the Financial Sense Newshour as he is calm, an austrian, and civil.

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  5. Hey Bob,
    Quick Question:

    It seems to me that you could have pinned Kinsella fairly quickly during the whole debate about your drudge formula. Kinsella seems to imply that two people contracting over the sale a non-superabundant idea is completely separate from IP law in a free-market. He says something along the lines of "great you understand contracts", while implying that IP laws are completely different, and, furthermore, illegitimate. Well, maybe I'm just missing something, but the whole basis of contracts is that one of the people engaged in the contract owns whatever item is being sold. Thus, if Kinsella thinks that ideas can be contracted over, it follows that he must agree that ideas can be considered property. HIs whole argument rests on his assumption that ideas are not property. Am I missing something here?

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    1. Yes,it is true I could have nailed him in the first 10 minutes with the Drudge formula argument, but it wouldn't have been as much fun.

      Kinsella is off on so much, I just figured I would punch him out on a few points. I mean the guy completely distorts Rothbard. Amazing anyone follows him.

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    2. hold on guys,

      since when do contracts have to be over something someone owns?
      if you agree to work in an office of a company, one of the stipulations in the contract might be 'no swearing in the office'.
      this is a contract regarding your behaviour, your actions.

      same as a contract saying 'i'll tell you my idea, on the agreement you dont tell anyone else, if word gets out and i can prove in a private court it came from you, you owe me $1000.'
      this is a contract regarding someone’s actions too

      so in conclusion, ideas can be dealt with in contracts, and yet not be property

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    3. Well, I would say that a person owns his labor (this is Lockean, of course) and thus any stipulations about the "sale" of the person's labor is simply part of a contract over the employee's labor, which he owns. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you?

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    4. Kinsella explicitly denies that labor is an ownable thing. He says that saying you own your labor is only correct in a metaphorical sense; that in fact you own your body and can employ it as you see fit and therefore you can agree to perform labor. He says that an employment contract is not in fact a contract to transfer title to 'labor'. Instead it is a contract to transfer title to money conditioned on the labor being performed. This is supported by the idea that if the labor is not performed it is not generally accepted that force can be used to obtain the labor, and that instead payment is not made.

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    5. Uh, what happens if I come up with the same drudge formula. Can you sue me? How do you know it doesn't go that route over his A to B to C method?

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  6. Was looking forward to this for some time but disappointed.

    Mainly disappointed at the behaviour of these two very intelligent people who agree with 99% of each other’s views, being rude and childish at each other, when it could have been such a good debate.

    My final verdict is that RW is actually kind of agreeing with SK but doesn’t realise it, and so SK is the winner.

    Rob, im a big fan of yours but i think you’re getting a little tripped up with the semantics of the phrase ‘scarce resource’.
    You believe that because something is currently “scarce”, as in your idea/formula which only you know, it is therefore a scarce resource. – this is incorrect - it is not a scarce resource in the definitive sense.

    A car is always a scarce good.
    Knowledge, an idea, a song, a formula is not a scarce good. Even if only one person currently knows it, it is not scarce.

    Perhaps we need to use a different word from the word ‘scarce ‘ to avoid this confusion.
    Perhaps we should use ‘instantly-duplicable’ – an idea is instantly duplicable, a car is not.

    so RW, if you have your drudge formula that only you know, it just comes down to how you share it contractually. if you share it with B on the agreement he doesnt share it with anyone else, and he tells C and C tells the whole world, your claim is with B and thats it.
    So as SK says, thats all down to private contracts.

    Just to reiterate, if only one person knows an idea, it does not make it a scarce resource. it just makes it a non-scarce resource which only one person currently 'knows'.
    And to examine that a little further, as SK mentions, no idea is truly one persons anyway, its all built on knowledge picked up from others earlier.

    And finally, there’s a famous & good book called “getting to yes” about how to debate & argue – the key message is “soft on the person, hard on the issues” – a lot of this debate was the opposite.

    But thanks to both of you, much enjoyed.

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    1. Give the man a prize, something that is scarce isn't scarce. As Wenzel points out in the debate, Kinsella's argument that it is not scarce doesn't kick in until after a contract is broken. Further, this doesn't mean even at this point that it is superabundant, which Wenzel points out is even an identifying factor that Hoppe uses for non-scarcity.

      If A, B and C have a formula, but it is in C's possession only because B broke a contract and neither A, B or C desire further free reproduction of the formula, it is still scarce--and damaging to A (in reduced sales)if C is selling the formula.

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    2. This is where I thought RW had SK by the nuts:
      If RW can contract with B over sharing his formula, then the formula must be the "property" of RW. You and I can only contract over something one of us "owns." Thus, ideas are property, and contracts over those ideas would effectively be enforced as IP law in a free market.
      Also, the drudge formula does have some "price" assuming other people want their links to be posted there. If you duplicate it 10 billion times, then that formula may not work as well and thus its "price" would fall. It is in the interest of RW to keep his formula scarce through contract. Of course, if another person independently came to "know" the formula and shared it freely, RW would be out quite a bit of potential wealth, though his contract would not be violated. Bad luck for him, essentially. I do not see how that is any different from owning, say, a bunch of oil. Maybe I'm just confused?

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    3. "If RW can contract with B over sharing his formula, then the formula must be the "property" of RW. Thus, ideas are property, and contracts over those ideas would effectively be enforced as IP law in a free market. "

      Not really. I can contract with you over my labor, which is not property, and is not owned by me (at least not in the same sense that a chair is owned by me).

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  7. Yes, Thoughtful Idiot, you are missing something. I can contract to show up at your party and perform an action in exchange for a monetary payment, but the only ownable thing that gets transferred is the money from you to me. The title transfer is conditional upon me using the scarce resource of my body (ownable) to perform a particular action (not ownable), but the contract cannot force me to perform a certain action against my will. Ultimately, the contract is about the transfer of title to scarce (rivalrous, meaning that exclusive use by one person necessarily excludes exclusive use by another) resources, but there are certain stipulations that trigger the title transfer. Similarly, you could contract with me not to reveal one of your ideas. If violated the contract, I would have to transfer title to scarce resources as stipulated by the contract. In the first case, just because the condition triggering a title transfer is a particular action, that doesn't mean that action is ownable. In the second case, it doesn't mean that ideas are ownable.

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    1. You don't think that in your first case your "labor" is own-able? How can you possibly contract over something you do not own? It seems to me that would be an illegitimate contract?

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    2. yes, that was my thinking too, is your labour, your actions at the party not own-able too?
      but then, regarding ip contracts, that doesnt really matter.
      you're contracting someone not to share your idea, not to do a certain action too.

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    3. No, labor is not ownable. The contract stipulates the transfer of ownable resources on certain conditions. Those conditions may involve performing or not performing certain actions, but that in no way means those actions are ownable. The contract is not "over something you do not own." The contract simply states requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to trigger a title transfer.

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    4. This is where you and I (including Locke and Rothbard) must come and an impasse. Locke states (and Rothbard verifies) that I own my body, and therefore own my labor. Also, you mention that the only title that is being transferred is money. Of course, money is only 1/2 of every transaction and therefore the other half must be of something else "owned."

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    5. Thoughtful Idiot, please explain to me why half of every transaction must be owned?

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    6. Thoughtful Idiot, the entire purpose of property rights is to permit the conflict-free use of scarce resources. It is true that we each own the scarce resource of our physical body, and therefore we choose what actions to perform with it. But it is sloppy and unnecessary to assume that because there are property rights in bodies that there are property rights in the actions, thoughts, etc. that result from body ownership. This is the reason why, if you fail to perform a certain action that you agree to perform, you can not be forced against your will to perform it. Your actions are not ownable, and you can not transfer ownership over them to someone else via contract.

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    7. I said "something else" owned. Both sides of the transaction involve things owned. Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" may be of help to you. Regardless, if you don't believe that you own your labor, then that is fine, just be aware that you are parting ways with the likes of Hazlitt, Rothbard, Locke, etc.

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    8. Stephen, I may be misunderstanding you, so correct me if my interpretation of your statement is wrong. If I agree to perform an action in a contract (say, fixing your leaky sink) and yet do not perform that action (labor), you cannot enforce that contract either by insisting that I fulfill the contract or sending me to jail? Is that what you are saying?

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    9. If you agree to perform an action yet do not perform it, I can not force you to perform it against your will. If the contract stipulated monetary damages for your failure to perform the action, then I would be entitled to receive the stipulated sum of money from you. If you failed to perform the action yet kept my money, then you would be in violation of the contract for failing to perform the action yet keeping my money. You would then be subject to a tort because the conditions upon which the title transfer relied were not met, and therefore the title transfer was not consented to.

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    10. Thoughtful Idiot, I'm familiar with Mises, Rothbard, Hoppe, Hazlitt, Locke, etc. The idea that you own your labor is incorrect. Labor cannot be owned, as I've explained. This is sloppy and dangerous thinking that lead to Karl Marx's thought and has corrupted economics. You don't believe in the labor theory of value do you? With all due respect, appeals to authority have nothing to do with the truth, so I am curious to hear your argument against what I have said rather than notice that I'm parting ways great thinkers.

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    11. Stephen, I agree that you would be subject to a tort due to breach of contract. But if the contract stipulated that you could force me against my will to fix your sink if I did not do so voluntarily, then you absolutely could force me to perform that action in a libertarian society.

      In terms of owning your labor, this is clearly stated at the beginning of Locke's 2nd Treatise and is a theory with which I agree. If you would like to understand my views refer to that document. On what basis do you say that Labor cannot be owned?

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    12. Thoughtful Idiot, Locke (as he is commonly interpreted) was wrong. You own your body. The fact that you control your body, that you use means to achieve ends, does not mean that actions, thoughts, goals, etc. are ownable things. These are effects of the fact that you own your body, and in a discussion of property rights, you only have to go as far as body ownership to develop a full system of thought. It is unnecessary to proceed beyond body ownership to imprecise concepts of ownership of labor, thoughts, etc. that cause confusion. Property rights (rights of exclusive control) are necessary only in scarce physical things that can only be used by one person at a time. Labor, thoughts, etc. are not scarce physical things; your body is. You have a property right in your body, but the effects of your body ownership are not necessarily ownable, and you don't necessarily own all the effects of your body ownership. If you act in such a way as to create a beautiful marble statue after many hours of labor, that doesn't mean that you own the statue. The question is: who owns the marble? If the marble belonged to you, the statue would be yours; but if the marble belonged to someone else, the resulting statue would be theirs. And your labor is not a physical thing that can be the subject of property rights such as marble.

      Regarding the contract example, if you want to take your argument to the realm of whether voluntary slavery is possible in a libertarian society, I think that discussion is a separate one and not relevant to a discussion about why it's sloppy thinking to conceptualize ownership over labor.

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    13. Stephen, Okay I finally understand where you are coming from in terms of what you deem property. With that said, under the homesteading theory of property rights, if the marble did not belong to anyone, and you formed it into a statue, the act of mixing your labor with the marble would mean the statue belongs to you. Similarly, the only way the marble could have previously been owned by someone else is if they had mixed their labor with the stone or in the immediate area of where the stone is. Finally, I have heard different interpretations of Locke's treatise (notably the Straussian interpretation) and do not think they hold much water. While it seems that Kinsella dismisses the importance of how people come to recognize the importance of property rights, I think it is of the utmost importance in terms of IP.

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    14. Thoughtful Idiot, sorry, I responded to this post some time ago and it appears my comment didn't get approved.

      Yes, if you are the first person to use a previously unclaimed resource, then you have the best claim to it. This is the homesteading or embordering idea. Kinsella's point is simply that "mixing your labor" is not sufficient to create a property right.

      I'm not sure what you mean when you say that Kinsella "dismisses the importance of how people come to recognize the importance of property rights." He has a lot of good articles about how we come to own ourselves, what libertarianism is, etc. that hit on this subject.

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  8. Previous history between the two of you aside, you acted like an ass in this "debate". You clearly made the point that Kinsella acted similarly, but two wrongs don't make a right.

    Your argument about the formula doesn't to seem to hold water. The idea is not that the formula is known by only you, thus making it scarce. The formula *CAN* be known by everyone simultaneously. It matters not that the formula isn't known by everyone now. Scarcity and rarity are not the same in this case



    Your whole IP defense of thoughts are scarce can be debunked by a 1 minute video pretty much aimed at kids by Nina Paley.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeTybKL1pM4

    @jackweil scarce and rivalrous goods mean that my use of Item A precludes your (simultaneous) use of Item A. If I'm driving a car, you can't drive the same car at the same time. Using the example of the cake from the podcast, if we both (or any number of people) know the recipe for the cake, given that we have our own physical goods to produce the cake, we can both make the cake at the same time without my knowlege of the recipe precluding your use of it. That is what is meant by scarcity or rivalrous good. RW didn't allow Kinsella to make this point as he was furiously yelling at him.

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  9. Lance,

    I, too, find the use of the terms "scarce", "scarcity", "non-scarce", "non-scarcity" imprecise for when describing pr-anti-IP arguments. I (and many others) believe the terms "rivalrous" and "non-rivalrous" are more appropriate.

    Richard G.

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  10. I noticed Kinsella has not posted the debate on his site...yet?

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    1. Wouldn't it be ironic if SK makes a claim against RW posting any of this debate for some reason?

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  11. So suppose you share your house-building technology with twelve architects under contractual protection of the scarcity of your idea. One of them puts the technology on bittorrent, but you can't figure out which one did that. I download (and re-share) the information and put it to use. I realize your argument is that at this point, a contract was already broken. You are right there. But let's continue for a second. Do you consequently use violence against me for using that information while I was under no contractual obligation not to put your idea to use? Or do you not use violence at all? Or against all twelve architects?

    I think the practical enforceability of your -- and Rothbard's -- conception of IP is a serious issue that you did not adequately address.

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  12. I'm confused, your Hertz example. In it you are comparing it to your drudge thing. But Hertz is out of a car till it is returned or they must now buy a new one. When you give your drudge report thing to someone else you both now have the knowledge, you do not lose the information in handing it off to someone else. Hertz on the other hand would be out a car. I'm only like 2 hours in though so maybe this gets covered.

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    1. The point is not that two of us have the knowledge but that I am damaged if person B, that I contract with, gives it to C,my damages would be against B, but I could contact C and tell him that he has no legitimate claim to the formula, just as Hertz can tell C to give the car back.

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    2. But the critical question is if you can use force in order to prevent C from selling or using the secret, take the money C made selling the secret, and go after C's customers similarly. A property right in the secret knowledge would give the same justification for the use of force as the property right in the car gives Hertz.

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  13. Ok I'm a bit confused here. In the Hertz example Hertz is out of a car, they don't have it anymore. In the Drudge example the originator still has the knowledge. How are these to examples synonymous to begin with?

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    1. As owner of the "Drudge formula" I am out a stream of income because C can also now sell the formula. This is damage to me, the original owner of the formula, especially if I am not interested in blogging anymore and simply want to generate income from the formula. My desire in holding onto the formula is only to generate income, which shrinks by C having the formula and selling it.

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    2. Libertarianism allows for all sorts of "harm." If a grocery store opens up across the street from your grocery store, that "harms" you. That's called competition. If someone learns about something you do and copies it, that's called competition. You have no right to prevent people from "damaging" you through competition.

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    3. How can you prove you lost income from a third party selling the formula? what if people simply didn't want to buy it from you and would rather buy it from someone else or not at all. You never would have sold it to those people anyway. Or what if it is given away for free? Or what if they simply sold it at a lower rate and that attracted customers that again wouldn't have purchased it at the higher rate?

      Actually what if another product comes along and replaces yours by being better.

      All of these situations potentially cut into your profit. what is it about this formula being yours originally and cutting into your profits that separates it from being different or better and cutting into your profit.

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    4. 1.So are you saying Hertz can't get its car back,if a someone sells a car only leased, to a third person?

      2.You are not stipulating how "omeone "learns" about something.

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    5. Of course, if someone sees that RW is consistently getting links onto Drudge and then independently derives the formula themselves and proceeds to give that away to 10 million people, RW is out of luck. This is different than person B obtaining the formula through contract and then violating that contract by giving the formula to 10 million people. This "contract" enforcement is effectively IP law in a free-market.

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    6. Cars are not equivalent to ideas, and the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate how they are. You are simply begging the question and equating ideas to physical things without providing an argument.

      And it doesn't matter how someone learns about something, unless they violated a specific contract that they had.

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    7. How do you know it is independent or "stolen"?

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  14. I don't understand the vitriol over this topic. It seems to me like the whole debate is about semantics and trivialities. Correct me if I am wrong, but you both agree on what is important: If you have an idea you want to protect, it is your responsibility to do so, not the government's.

    You two should just have had a one-on-one game of basketball, thrown a couple elbows and blown off some steam.

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  15. The biggest question after listening to the debate is... what is Wenzel's secret formula to get on Drudge?

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    1. Kinsella says it is not scarce. You must have it already.

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    2. I humbly submit that the formula is not scarce, because anyone with the correct knowledge and intellectual capacity can potentially come up with the same formula.

      So theoretically there is no limit to the number of people who can originally have the same formula. A truly scarce resource is scarce because there is a limit in availability (potential ownership), not a limit in actual ownership.

      Feel free to rip this apart btw, I just thought it up.

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    3. It may not be scarce in the future "theoretically," but if I am the only person that has the formula now. It is scarce, now.

      Do you know the formula?

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    4. and if I said yes? and no you can't see it.

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    5. Sadly, I do not. So the formula is scarce at this moment, but were it to become known to others who had no intention of keeping it secret, say by means of a break in contract, then it would no longer be scarce.

      Even though you have damages against the party that breached the contract, seeing as the resource is no longer scarce, wouldn't that nullify any claim you have to it as property?

      Again, I am only thinking out loud so to speak, playing devil's advocate if you will. I only want to spark intelligent discourse about this topic.

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    6. Scarcity has a specific meaning in economics: rivalrousness. If exclusive use of a good by one person necessarily excludes exclusive use by another, that good is scarce. If many people can use it simultaneously, it is not scarce. End of discussion. Whether someone knows your secret formula has nothing whatsoever to do with it being scarce.

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    7. That's another Kinsella straw man that if B gives it to C, then C is going to give it out to everyone in the entire world for free.

      The formula would still be valuable to me, but because C might also be now selling it, there would be damage to me, since the price I could get for the formula would drop.

      Kinsella's anti_IP theory doesn't kick in until A. a contract is broken (A bizarre point from which to start a theory)and then it doesn't work until it gets superabundant, which is unlikley to be the case.

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    8. It doesn't matter if it's "valuable"; it matters if it's scarce. Only scarce things are the subject of property rights. You keep using the term "damage" in an entirely unprincipled way. Competition "damages" people in the market. That doesn't mean that you have a property right to stop people from "damaging" you through competition.

      What you say about Kinsella's IP theory is false. His theory kicks in from the beginning: ownership of bodies. His framework starts from the fact that many things in the real world are scarce (rivalrous), that people can come into conflict over the use of these scarce resources, and that therefore property rights (rights of exclusive control) are necessary to permit peaceful interaction. Rights of exclusive control over ideas are not necessary because ideas are not scarce (rivalrous). The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that they are, and you have failed to even provide an argument.

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    9. So my Drudge formula is not scarce? Please post for all that would like to use it.

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    10. Your argument is an obvious equivocation. Your reasoning is this: 1) You have a Drudge Formula 2) Only you know it, 3) therefore the Drudge Formula is scarce. To show you why this is ridiculous, consider the following:

      Imagine a secret island that has literally an infinite supply of gold, but only one person knows the location. Reconstruct your reasoning: 1) There is an island with an infinite supply of gold, 2) Only one person knows it, 3) Therefore, the supply of gold is scarce.

      What's scarce in your example is the knowledge about the idea, not the idea itself.

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    11. Robert, what is your definition of scarce?

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    12. I find it interesting that the anti-IP crowd starts by using the word "scarce", then when things get sticky they go to "rivalrous".

      "Scarcity has a specific meaning in economics: rivalrousness. "

      That's technically not true, per wiki:

      "In economics, rivalry is a characteristic of a good."

      If they want to make their case that taking someone's idea under an NDA for example without compensation as agreed in said contract is not "theft" then they should start by using the "proper" terminology...which is obviously not the word "scarce" in any way, shape, or form.

      So I don't want to hear about ideas not being "scarce" from this crowd anymore, I want to hear about rivalrous(or not)...lol...then we can discuss if the theft is "rivalrous".



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    13. In this day and age the speed with which information can be spread and the ease in which it can be obtained, I do not believe you can call it a straw man to say that if you contract a secret you run the risk of virtually the entire world knowing it eventually.

      That risk is real and contracts dealing with ideas must be made with that risk in mind. Is it right or perfect, absolutely not.

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    14. So I have told aprox. 5 people my Drudge formula (or parts of it), why don't you tell it to the world, if these things get out so easily.

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    15. Nick, Wikipedia, while a great resource, hardly uses the terminology of Austro-anarchist libertarianism. This is the terminology that Kinsella was using, and Bob had every opportunity to quibble about definitions of terms.

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    16. I am not saying it will get out, I am saying there is a chance it will. I am sure when you told those people you considered there was risk (possibly negligible) it might get out.

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    17. Please don't take the following literally, I am only using analogy to clarify a position:

      Consider this, all ideas exist in infinite supply. When we come up with an idea, we are not creating it, we are discovering it. Much as one discovers a grain of sand. By sharing that idea, it not as if we passed on that grain of sand, but more as if we took someone to the beach.

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    18. Let me elaborate:

      You did not create your Drudge formula, you discovered it. The method you use to get on Drudge existed before you discovered it.

      Furthermore, by discovering the formula you have not taken possession of it. The method is still there for others to discover, and whether or not they do is irrelevant.

      If you want to profit from your discovery you can, but you have no right to that specific formula, since you are not in possession of it. In fact, nobody can come into possession of the formula, they can only discover it.

      Therefore nobody can justify a right to that formula.

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    19. Baggorama, if I may say so, I think you've really hit on a wonderful point here with the notion of "discovering" ideas and not "creating" them. I have copied and pasted your comments. I wish I could email you off-line, but your Blogger profile does not provide any way to do so.

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    20. Forgive me Scott, I have updated my profile with my email address. Feel free to contact me do discuss anything you wish.

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  16. Bob, I've been a fan of your blog for sometime but I thought your determination to "destroy" SK smacked of a personal vendetta, and was therefore a selfish waste of other people's time. Of course you're entitled to act in your own best interests. But you mentioned several times that you were doing this because SK pissed you off AND in the interest of naive libertarian, Austrians, and anarchist everywhere.

    The tone of the debate sullied both of you gentlemen. A giant shit throwing contest is how I would characterize it. I don't know how I could recommend this debate to anyone else in all honesty regardless of how many points were scored.

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  17. Robert, even if your IP views are correct, there is absolutely no practical way to enforce them making the point moot. 1s and 0s will always be easily obtained and duplicated. The internet is still in its early years and duplicating IP will only get easier. I don't see the point of debating this when it is virtually impossible to protect IP.

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    1. "I don't see the point of debating this when it is virtually impossible to protect IP."

      I think it's important to recognize & distinguish theft, even if there isn't a currently good way to stop it.

      For instance, would it makes sense to say if I don't have a way to stop someone from stealing my car that it is OK for them to do it?

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    2. Dustin writes:

      "I don't see the point of debating this when it is virtually impossible to protect IP."

      Oh, so you are the one that knows my Drudge formula. Should I send all that are asking to you?

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    3. If you know something, keep it private and act on it, in a "non-visible" way then it couldn't be reverse-engineered or copied. Your risk is that someone else discovers it. An example is... your Drudge formula. You don't make money from the dissemination of it, but instead you use it privately. If someone else figures it out and publicises it, its efficacy quickly diminishes, by arbitrage as it were.

      But at the point you wish to make money via dissemination you have to transmit that knowledge in some form, so there is the opportunity to copy it. It is almost impossible to protect.

      To my way of thinking, your Drudge formula is objective in the same way the knowledge of rubbing sticks together can make fire. Should the person who can legally prove they were the first to know it be granted monopoly?

      I think the problem is how do you define when knowledge stops being purely objective and starts becoming subjective to its purveyor?

      You could argue a song is objective.. "put these exact noises together in this exact way and people will buy it".

      Software is a great example. There are so many layers of abstraction... if someone wants control over their subjective version of it fine... but if they controlled the very idea, progress would halt until that person changed their mind, or their IP was stripped from them.

      Imho, the thing that is so hard to work out in the IP discussion is abstraction and objectivity.

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  18. Robert, I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

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  19. After 2:23 grueling miutes, some debate thoughts:

    -Robert Wenzel, scarcity does not describe a limited number of people holding an idea. It does describe two people not being about to poses something at the same time.

    -I hardly made it through that debate, very ugly.

    -I went in that debate fully expecting to hear a well thought-through argument against IP. I left finding none.

    -Unfortunately Kinsella eventually stooped down to Wenzel's level.

    -Overall Kinsella clearly has a better argument. (What was Wenzel's?)

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    1. "-Unfortunately Kinsella eventually stooped down to Wenzel's level."

      Ya know, I find this an interesting comment. I took notes during the debate, do you realize that every ad hominem in the first hour of it came solely from Kinsella?

      I know Bob can be abrasive at times, especially in some of his early interviews on his new radio show...but I do think he's improved greatly and toned some things down.

      The only thing I can find close to an ad hominem in the first hour from Wenzel is the "I'm going to destroy you" type stuff...but I'm not really sure in this instance because I think he's speaking to Kinsella's arguments against IP.

      In the 2nd hour it became more vitriolic on both sides...but I wouldn't expect anyone to sit there and be called a clown, worm, etc. without responding eventually.

      Sure, Bob was angry/upset and yelling at times...but I still heard no ad hominem's in the first hour from Bob's side.

      If fact, according to my notes...the ad hominem's even by the end of the debate were significantly higher from Kinsella than Wenzel.

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    3. @Nick I especially enjoyed the Kinsella line "every principled libertarian opposes IP" (paraphrased). I know lots of principled libertarians who don't oppose IP, and lots who do (similarly, I know principled libertarians on both sides of the abortion debate). Reasonable people can disagree.

      Generally, when libertarians have the "big rifts", it seems to me the rifts are over axiomatic principles. In other words it's how the basic axioms of operation are defined. IP is one of those cases.

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    4. Nick needs to learn about ad hominem tu quoque.

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  20. I finally figured out who won this debate. Drudge. Clear winner.

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  21. I would proffer that the people who can create IP are a scarce resource. However, beyond that, the idea of scarcity as the thing that defines property rights is, in itself, an artificial construct. As Robert would say, if I understand correctly, a "designed property right."

    Kinsella, early in the debate brings in an example where two "real" property owners make a contract with each other to maintain their property in a certain manner. He compares this with IP and says the two owners have a contract with each other, but the IP owner is forcing others people into a contract they were not party to.

    Socialists/Marxists would say the same thing about so-called real property. They claim that your ownership of property forces them into a contract they were not a party to, and you have no right to claim ownership of the "real" property. Although I don't agree with the socialists (or Kinsella on IP), it is true that every contract for ownership of property forces a contract on third parties who were not a party to the contract of the property. The third parties honor the contract by convention or by force, if necessary. Today, that force is mostly from the government, but it could be privately administered in a truly free market. No matter what entity enforces the contract, it is still a designed right.

    Property rights are the construct we use to allow peaceful negotiation for goods among ourselves. They are axiomatic in nature. We define them to allow commerce in goods.

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    1. You make some very good points, sir!

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  22. How does anyone think that Wenzel won this "debate?" He barely let Kinsella get a coherent thought out before he started yelling and name calling. Bill O'Rielly uses the same tactic. Does he win debates?
    To be fair, I only listened for 30 minutes, but Wenzel was so hung up on the irrelevant issue of whether or not Kinsella correctly interpreted Rothbard that it seemed like a bad use of my time. Wenzel wouldn't even define what IP meant. THAT IS NOT HOW YOU DEBATE. You define your terms first. Then, you do the actual debate.

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  23. It seems to me the issue here is exclusivity. A thing can be property only if there is an ability to exclude it from others. If the thing cannot be exclusive then it cannot be property. If it is not property, then it is outside the scope of libertarian property rights and, therefore, the discussion ends there.

    So, the question hinges on precisely what the "thing" is and whether is can be "exclusive." Suppose that Mr Wenzel knows this magic formula. The "thing" is the particular arrangement of neurons and chemicals inside Mr Wenzel's head. That particular arrangement of his particular chemicals and his particular neurons are exclusively his and are under his control. Thus, this particular "thing" is his property.

    Mr Wenzel may decide to enter into a contract with his friend Mr Kinsella (subject, of course, to Mr Kinsella agreeing) such that Mr Wenzel will communicate this particular "thing" to Mr Kinsella subject to the restriction that Mr Kinsella never communicate the essence of the "thing" to anyone else. Being ever the clever one, Mr Kinsella tries to pin down the definition of "essence." A big argument ensues and ultimately the two decide that a mutually agreed upon third party will decide whether this clause was breached.

    At this point, there are two instances of neurons and chemicals: one exclusively Mr Wenzel's and the other, exclusively Mr Kinsella's. These instances both refer to one essence. The essence itself is unowned because it is not property. However, each instance is rightly the property of the person in whose head the neurons and chemicals belong. Mr Kinsella is subject to a restriction on his arrangement while Mr Wenzel is not.

    A few days later, Mr Kinsella breaks his covenant with Mr Wenzel and tells Dr Murphy the secret formula. Dr Murphy is known far and wide for his honest Christian dealings (that is, known to everyone except Mr Kinsella) and straight away informs Mr Wenzel of Mr Kinsella's treachery. Dr Murphy willingly agrees not to communicate the third instance of the essence of an arrangement of neurons and chemicals which now resides in his head. Mr Wenzel then procedes to sue the shit out of Mr Kinsella per their contract.

    A week later, marketing genius Stephan Molyneux happens to develop a particular arrangement of neurons and chemicals whose essence is the same as the three instances that currently exist in this mad little world I've created. Molyneux and Kinsella have not communicated at all. Mr Wenzel still has his property as his arrangement has not left his head. Mr Kinsella has not broken his contract. There is simply a new, fource, instance of the same essence. Because there is no contract between Mr Molyneux and Mr Wenzel, Mr Wenzel can do nothing but curse his rotten luck as Molyneux cannot help but blab the formula to his 450,000 podcast listeners. While Mr Wenzel certainly had his future income stream reduced by Mr Molyneux's actions, his own property, the particular arrangement of neurons and chemicals, was not appropriated by Mr Molyneux nor was there any agreement violated.

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    1. I tend to agree. If I have an idea, such as a plot for a book about north-western teenage vampires, and tell my friend about it in great detail, I am still in complete ownership of the idea. He now also has gained it.

      I think this idea of IP rights has merit, but only in privately enforced contracts. If I refuse to tell my friend the idea until he agrees not to blab about it for 5 years, and he agrees, then my idea is protected. If he doesn't agree, then I don't tell him. I do not agree with an overall government umbrella type approach to IP.

      However, even in my private example, enforcement is nearly impossible. If I go ahead and write the book, and sell it on a website that demands that people agree to my IP or Copyright before they buy and read it, enforcement works for a while. But, eventually somebody will donate the book to charity or throw it away. Someone else will pick it up, whom hasn't signed the IP protection I requested from first users, and they can do as they please. Even if I put a notice in the front of the book, there is no law stating that somebody has to read a book from cover to cover. I often start after the ToC and Publisher stuff.

      Because IP is nearly impossible to enforce (short of forced lobotomy), I believe that it is a waste of time. First-mover advantage (such as Apple's iPhone) is adequate. Even though Apple patented the crap out of the iPhone, the reason it made 100's of Billions of $ is because of execution of the first-mover advantage.

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  24. Should read: Kinsella Crushed... by utter stupidity.

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  25. Is Wenzel autistic? Serious question. I can't imagine legitimate thought processes that would make a person act like this.

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  26. Is the debate going to be magically downloaded soon via my iTunes podcast subscription to the Robert Wenzel show? Ilana Mercer is the last one to download.

    I'm so old, I used to play 45 rpm records on a portable player on the front seat of my car.

    Murray Rothbard would have described iTunes podcasts as "the Garden of Eden" model of economics.

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  27. 20 minutes in, and I'm listening to two men talk about worms and weasels. Next time, respect your listeners and get to point. I'm not going to finish listening to this, which is a shame because I was pretty excited for this.

    Disappointed, expected better.

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  28. I posted this over on Kinsella's site. Hopefully this comment doesn't get censored, because I feel it adds to the conversation.
    _____

    The significance of scarcity is that it is a necessary precondition for property to arise in the first place. Like in Hoppe’s conception of ‘super-abundance,’ without scarcity the assertion of property rights would be pointless and unenforceable. On earth, in non-underwater-or-vacuum conditions, feel free to claim a particular gulp of air as your property, but good luck trying to enforce that claim or to convince anyone else you’re not insane.

    Since everyone here seems to love Rothbard, I’d like to remind us that in Man, Economy, and State, he identifies a ‘means’ as being scarce in the sense that it is ‘limited with respect to the ends [it] could possibly serve.(5)’ He also points out that all means are scarce. If something is not scarce, yet it provides value, it does not and cannot factor into economic calculation; rather, it is considered a ‘general condition of human welfare.’ It may be important, or indeed necessary, and it may have taken a lot of ‘work’ to develop (whatever that means), but still it cannot be considered a means, a good. Even if some people (say a man drowning, with respect to air) do not have access to this general means, it is still not scarce, and thus is not a good. If it is not a good, it cannot and thus will not be economized (choosing which ends to be satisfied with the available means). I have a recipe for a margarita. I have enough physical ingredients to make ten margaritas, but I obviously have enough ‘recipe’ to make an infinite number of them. You see this, right?

    If we consider this with regard to an idea, we see that it does not fit Rothbard’s own definition of a means in the praxeological framework, since an idea does not have to be economized – its supply is equal to any potential demand that may arise for it. If we consider some good whose supply curve extends upward to infinity, the price will always be zero. This being the case, an idea should be categorized as a general condition of human action and welfare, not a means. It then should be analyzed the same way sunlight and air are – necessary factors of life that in typical conditions it would be absurd and pointless to claim ownership over.

    Also, as to the Drudge formula locked away in your drawer, you do realize that the formula per se is not in the drawer, right? It’s a piece of paper, or a flash drive, or something else that’s physical that is in your drawer. It’s true, the physical object is absolutely your property, and because we’re all good little Rothbardians we can check with the quote from scripture and see that this fits (units of a good must be economized and applied toward their most valuable ends). But we can also see that the scratchings on the paper that symbolize in your mind a special formula do not signify ownership over the formula, anymore than the fact that your name is Bob means you own the name Bob.

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  29. I was looking forward to this debate since I have read both Kinsella’s work and Tucker’s on IP. I was extremely disappointed. Wenzel needs more of an argument then “You're wrong Kinsella.” Wenzel did not convince me that ideas are property. If I observe Wenzel building a house and I like his design, I would not be violating his rights if I decide to build a house just like it. We can both use the design at the same time. Wenzel does not seem to understand this.
    As far as his formula for getting on Drudge is concerned, he is free to keep it a secret as long as he wants. But he will not be able to bind third parties from using the formula if it gets out into the “wild.” An infinite number of people CAN use a formula at the same time. An infinite number of people CANNOT use a Hertz rental car at the same time.
    I enjoy reading Wenzel’s site, but he has not convinced me on IP. I was also very disappointed on how uncivil this debate was. This is a debate “in the family” so to speak. Between two libertarians that probably agree 99.9% of the time. It is sad that it degraded into name calling.

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    1. I guess we're even, you haven't convinced me either.

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    2. "An infinite number of people CAN use a formula at the same time. An infinite number of people CANNOT use a Hertz rental car at the same time. "

      YOU DENY THIS?

      Obviously facts don't seem to convince you.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. John, I believe that Pete was directing his question at RW.

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    6. Thanks Scott. I see that now. My apologies Pete.

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  30. I'm disappointed in Kinsella with the before the debate stuff and both in the debate. Yet I think Kinsella wins, I think he has a solid point out scarcity and it is amazing Wenzel seems to not understand that point.

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  31. Will Wenzel do the right thing and apologise to Kinsella about his behaviour, admit he got a little confused and that kinsella was right?

    Wenzel, your site is great, you’re right on everything else, but not this one.

    I would have even more respect for you if you did what most people can’t do and admit defeat in this debate. Your credibility would then be restored.

    Also, you owe Jeffery Tucker an apology too.
    That man has done so much good work for the liberty movement, how you’ve talked about him is shameful.

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  32. Mr Inventor has a Great Idea and offers to reveal it to Mr Blabber for a sum of money. Mr Wenzel claims this is a case of selling an idea which is owned by Mr Inventor. But Mr Inventor did not sell the idea; he sold a service, the service of revealing the idea. The idea was not the property of Mr Inventor, but his time was and he traded his expert time for some money. Mr inventor lost his time (not his idea). Mr Blabber lost some money. Time and money were traded, not ideas.

    Mr Wenzel is claiming to defend IP and his first step is to redefine IP so it no longer means what it has commonly meant. He is offering a case of contract law, claiming it is a contract "protecting" IP. However his example does not require the concept of IP at all. It only requires contract law and the trading of time for money. He defends this word-confusion by claiming it is a Certified Rothbardian Word-Confusion and thus not only permissable, but required by his academic standards. Kinsella rightly pointed out that what Rothbard was saying was that in a truly free society, people would not be punished for using the ideas they obtained from others (as they now are under IP law), and thus Mr Inventor would have to rely on contract to keep his idea secret.

    The next obvious question is what happens when this non-disclosure contract is broken and Mr Blabber blabs the idea he agreed not to blab. Answer: Mr Inventor should then collect from Mr Blabber whatever damages are specified in the contract.

    Final question: what of Mr Learner, who learns of the Great Idea from Mr Blabber and uses it? Answer: good for him. He observed something and is under no contractual obligation to pay for his observation.

    Mr Wenzel simply refused to answer this final question, repeatedly claiming that Mr Kinsella's "whole theory starts with a contract violation". This is not true. What is true is that Mr Wenzel's little story has to do with time and money being contractually traded and not with Intellectual Property, and this is made clear by that final question about the breaking of the contract in Mr Wenzel's story. IP law would use force to stop Mr Learner from using his newly acquired idea - claiming irrationally that an idea in his head is not "his". Mr Wenzel's Rothbardian Scheme would not use force against Mr Learner (we hope) but Mr Wenzel would not answer that final question.

    The question of scarcity is something of a distraction. The real issue at the root of the idea of property is that an object may be in demand by more than one person and (here's the point) it cannot be used and controlled by more than one person. This is not true of ideas. Whether an idea is scarce or common, the use of it by one person does not prevent its use by another.

    Mr Wenzel did not defend IP, he defended keeping secrets using non-disclosure contracts and he simply called his efforts 'a defense of IP'. Actual IP law is nothing more than an attempt to forcefully prohibit competition (a coercive monopoly) pretending to be a defense of property. Ideas as property is an example of metaphorical reasoning. Ideas are pattern, not matter. Patterns cannot be owned or controlled. Like beauty, they only exist in the mind of the beholder. Making a crime of sameness is absurd.

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    1. Franklin, thank you for that wonderful, intelligent post. Sadly, your Blogger profile is not public, so I can't engage in further discussion offline.

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    2. Thank you, Scott, for your kind remarks. Unfortunately, I don't know what is meant by a Blogger profile, let alone a public one.

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    3. If I click on your name (which, after you've posted something, has been auto-magically turned into a link) I see the following message:

      "The Blogger Profile you requested cannot be displayed. Many Blogger users have not yet elected to publicly share their Profile.

      If you're a Blogger user, we encourage you to enable access to your Profile.'

      Feel free to send me an email at srauly at hotmail dot com

      Delete
    4. "Mr Wenzel did not defend IP, he defended keeping secrets using non-disclosure contracts and he simply called his efforts 'a defense of IP'. Actual IP law is nothing more than an attempt to forcefully prohibit competition (a coercive monopoly) pretending to be a defense of property."

      Hmmm...it sounds like your quibble is the definition of "IP".

      When I listen to Kinsella I can't help to think of your comment about "Actual IP law" and the "bouncing" back and forth between current legal framework(which we all know has nothing to do with free markets) and the theoretical notion of an unique idea being property.

      I think this is natural for lawyers to do....because that is the framework they use all day long.

      But going the hear of the matter, if you think NDA's are acceptable...is it not a contract over said "unique idea" that deals with its ownership and use?

      If so, can't you see how it could be termed as "intellectual property"?(notice the lower case, I'm trying to distinguish it from the current legal framework)

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  33. Wenzel finally gets to speak at Mises so now he is an appointed IP expert. Not part of the Kinsella clan either. Just find it hilarious that Wenzel has yet to publish libertarian literature on IP to bolster his position and opinions. As an adult, how could Wenzel really be offended by the terms clown or weazel?

    As a professional, Bob you and I both know it is not a could idea to tell someone youre going to destroy them, even if your position is correct because you gain sympothy for your adversary while the popcorn gallery looks upon you with even more scrutiny. Hang in there Bob. I hope you dont become as unknown as your magic dredg formula that you entirely come up with all by yourself...just like EPJ was the most original idea out there: a site that discusses politics and finance from an Austrian perspective. Hmmmmm....did the Mises Institute steal your idea or was it Lew Rockwell's site that did? Haha.

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    1. Aside from having the facts wrong, great points. It was Kinsella not the Mises Institute that asked me to debate on IP and he asked me before I spoke and Mises.

      What other absurd theories do you have, I am assuming they are not "scarce"?

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  34. Bob, can you please explain how an idea is scarce? The atoms that make up your brain and the ways that they combine to hold that idea are scarce, and you have property rights over them. You also have the right to contract with people so that they do not share that idea. I do not see how this means that you have a property right over this idea or that the idea is scarce. You merely have the right to your own mind and to make voluntary contracts with others that prohibit them from sharing an idea. I do not see how this gives you the right to use force to prevent others outside of the contract from using your idea, which is essentially what IP allows.

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  35. Come on Wenzel, publish my earlier comment. What's the matter you got sand in your pussy or are you busy fondling a ball sac?

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    1. I thought in your view thoughts and ideas aren't scarce, so I just assumed everyone knew it already.

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    2. Bob, ideas are free goods. Just because someone does not have an idea does not mean that ideas are scarce. Any person can come up with the same idea. This does not imply that everyone has this knowledge.

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    3. On the children's playground you should have learned what "assume" stands for....wait, you've never the playground. So I guess now the faulted Wenzel can read minds since I have NEVER stated my views on your site about shit before today yet you claim to know what my views are....
      If that's all ya got for a come back then go back to grabbing ball sacs.

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  36. I discuss this at EPJ tmrw morning. The post will be up at 8:00 AM ET.

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  37. Before dinner, I started to compose a lengthy response which included some platitudes directed at Mr. Wenzel, but after dinner I re-thought my response and am now going to try to keep it short and to the point. Mr. Wenzel, I think you suffer from something that is quite common in the libertarian/anarchist community, and something that I, too, had to work through a while back. You have have the ability to provide great insights and clear vision from a libertarian/anarchist/pacifist perspective on most topics, but when the subject hits close to home (your wallet), your vision becomes clouded.

    I could be wrong, but I'll go on record as saying that the passion you bring to this subject smacks of someone who has a personal financial interest in this and, as such, your opinions are biased. You are a blogger, a writer, a speaker (I think?). Your written words provide income to you. The idea that your words could be easily copied and reproduced scares you. In an ideal anarchist society where someone could replicate your opinions with the click of a mouse and post them elsewhere (where you wouldn't get ad-click revenue, etc.) you worry that you might have trouble putting food on the table. That's understandable. But it's no different than the blue-collar libertarian who demonizes "illegal" aliens of Mexican descent, or white-collar libertarians who rant about outsourcing IT work to India. I've been in the latter category (an an IT developer) but after a short while of getting worked up about outsourcing and H1-B visas, I realized that my love of liberty could not be reconciled to the protectionism that would be required to eliminate the competition of outsourcing. I had the choice of being a hypocrite or embracing libertarianism/anarchism/pacificism entirely, and letting the chips fall where they may. I chose the latter. You can, too.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. Wenzel your site is losing popularity by the second. You should put out a statement apologizing for your behavior in the debate, and then stop censoring comments. Lastly, stop acting like a deuche bag all of the time.

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  40. Jesus, I'm starting to feel sorry for Wenzel. He is literally in his own little world. Delusional.

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  41. What is a Drudge formula?

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  42. Face it Wenzel, you are a great curator of ideas, and I love what you do with this website, but when it come to rational arguement you are lost.

    Its all slippery semantics, non definitions and bluster. What is your exact arguement for IP? No one here knows because not even you can define it.

    You can only repeat the words and ideas of Rothbard and Mises, not think for yourself. That is the real reason why you hate the anti-IP movement, because it is new and contradicts Rothbard (some of his most weakest and half-hearted arguements he ever made).

    Lets use the Austrian method of deductive logic for one moment.

    Say I open a chicken fast food business on Jones Road. No-one in history has EVER opened such a business on Jones Road, EVER.

    By normal IP standards, I have invented something new. I just combined these two things....

    1 - running a chicken shop, and
    2 - having business on Jones Road.

    Since I am the first to come up with such a combination it is my invention. Am I the owner of this IP? Am I able to extract payment and real property from those who copy me by opening another similar business on Jones Road?

    Some here may think this example is absurd but its not, from a praxeological standpoint, all 'ideas' and 'intellectual property' claims are reduced to this very example.

    All IP is taking known ideas and combining them into a form no-one has done before. To be consistant and claim that we have a right to our IP, you MUST also claim I have the right my IP of a Chicken Shop on Jones Road.

    There is no difference. There is no logical way out of this contradiction, except for spin and obfuscation.

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  43. Scarcity is what acting persons experience when they perceive an action as costly; given that we are not omniscient, information relevant to our actions is scarce and it is an obvious fallacy to deny it; actually, quite a self-contradictory one on the part of alleged "Austrian economists".

    To deny that you have the right to sell information is to deny every kind of property rights;
    and to deny that you have the right to impose conditions upon the use of information you give others is a denial of the right to have voluntary commitments enforced.
    No less bizarre, to be sure, than Rothbard's insistence on 100 percent "banking", but at least he understood the Law of contracts in other fields than money.

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  44. Vincent, no one denies you have the right to sell information. No one denies you can enforce voluntary commitments/contracts. (note the word voluntary)

    The arguement is, do you have the right to invasively aggress against my body and physical property, based on subjective whims and feelings about your 'idea' being used.

    Idea's and thoughts can not be defined as property, they are arbitrary and subjective.

    "Scarcity is what acting persons experience when they perceive an action as costly"

    This statement sums it up. You PERCEIVE the action as costly. That does not mean it is costly. It's only your perception. What may seem costly to you may seem worthless to another.

    So how do you propose to translate that into a property right? You can not, you can only demand your whims and subjective perception of cost be enforced on others as a claim against their real and tangible property.

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  45. Wow, I'm sorry Wenzel is sad. He slices and dices phrases to try and defend his point of view, which remains nebulous since he refuses to define it and thus can change his viewpoint to try and win arguments. It's pure cowardice that he refuses to outline at the beginning what his viewpoint is. It's a bit like someone who writes a paper in which you only find out at the end what's the paper is about!?!

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  46. Just finished listening to the whole debate. I must say, my estimation for Wenzel's intellectual ability had dropped drastically. The Drudge Report algorithm example is just daft. First because he creates and builds his whole case around something that can only exists in a completely unrealistic vacuum. All the information Wenzel would need to know about website development in order to create an algorithm would require that he was already paying for the right to use that information (plus there would be no internet since it's exactly because all these things have been free or at very low cost that it has grown so fast). Second, given that fact that there are infinitely more intelligent and knowledgeable people about the web once these individuals were exposed to its use, they would grasp how it works and develop as well as improve on said algorithm. That's is what happens when one is exposed to the results of knowledge, they build upon it!!!

    Finally it's sad that you try to invoke Rothbard for providing your point. Rothbard builds his case for IP based on contract law's application between two individuals. You try to take it and apply it globally using an example that not only has no basis in the real world but since you don't know and don't care about how the law is applied in case of copyright and IP, would be thrown out of court by any judge with half a brain!!! Breathtaking to say the least...

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  47. Wow... the sad thing is Wenzel actually thinks he did a good job.. I am embarrassed for him.. Truthfully, I've never heard of Wenzel, but he sounds like the Sean Hannity of libertarianism. I am only a half an hour in but I really hope he starts making a freakin point and at least starts defending IP in some way....

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  48. Mr. Wenzel,

    I have listened to the debate.

    I think you confuse secrecy with scarcity. If you have a Drudge formula in your mind and you didn't share anything about it, how can you know if the rest of the 7 billion people on this planet doesn't have the same formula? If everybody has the same formula in his mind but doesn't share it, it is not a question of scarcity but a question of secrecy.

    Beside that, I have serious doubts about your debate skills. I couldn't remember any of your points and you didn't educate me on the IP subject. I understood a lot more Kinsella and his points.

    I don't understand why you were so aggressive. You turned me off. You were not listening to Kinsella. The only thing you wanted is to make your point about the formula. Is this all you have? A formula?

    You didn't write any books about IP. Kinsella did. You said you wanted to be ready before to do it right. Kinsella by publishing, expose himself to critics. You don't.

    Your personality shows that you want to be "right". Kinsella's personality shows that he tries to find the truth about this subject.

    You complained about the way he treated you with disrespect by using names. You do the same. Many times you use the word stupid.

    The fact you had 14 points (or so) you wanted to go through shows that you are a poor listener. If a debate is like a tango, you were dancing alone. You didn't go with the flow. If you are a poor listener, I have serious doubts that you are a deep thinker.

    The consequences of your position are disastrous. If knowledge is what you say, I mean we will need permission for everything. It doesn't make any sense. What about Pythagoras'theorem? The alphabet?

    If as you say, knowledge is a scarce resource, you can keep your ideas for yourself, I am not interested to buy it from you. Maybe your product (ideas about IP) are the best products in the world but I didn't like the sale speech from your aggressive representative of your company. Maybe Kinsella's product are less perfect but I like the guy and I bought from him.

    You lost a sale. We are in a free market. The way you sell, you will be out of business.

    Kinsella's business crushed Wenzel's business.

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