Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Anti-IP Crushed: EPJ's Steve Kinsella IP Debate Page

By, Chris Rossini

Below you will find a collection of resources pertaining to the Robert Wenzel/Steve Kinsella IP Debate that took place on April 1, 2013. Make sure to bookmark this page, as all related articles that are yet to be written will be added here as well.

And of course....share this with any anti-IP acquaintances that you may have.

The Debate
It's a long one, running about 2hrs 23min, but it's lively.

Highlights from The Debate
  • Steve Kinsella is clueless about Rothbard's view on IP.
  • It is clear that Steve didn't even read the paper he cites here. He couldn't tell Wenzel a damn thing that was in it.
  • Wenzel told him he had a formula dealing with getting a link on the Drudge page, yet Kinsella wouldn't grant Wenzel that this formula was scarce. Asked what the formula was, Steve , of course,didn't know. But still he wouldn't grant that it was scarce.
  • Wenzel was only able to cover about 5 points of the major problems in the views Kinsella has, so look out for a booklet covering all 16 points. They are as damning as the ones brought up in the debate.
  • All those following Kinsella and Tucker on their nutty IP views should listen to the interview closely and notice how Steve attempts to dance away when Wenzel has him cornered.
  • Hopefully, this starts to expose Kinsella-Tucker IP theory for what it is: Two glib guys talking out of their hat.

An EPJ Reader's Notes
  • Steve doesn't want Wenzel referring to his book in the debate! Lol
  • Kineslla equivocates rivalrous with scarcity.
  • Snippy bitch? Lol...I think this is Wenzel's first ad hominem on Kinsella...around 1 hour in...in his defense Kinsella was peppering him with ad hominem's for an hour before.
  • Wenzel is right, Kinsella's framework is based on a broken contract

Intellectual Communists

An EPJ reader writes:

It has been a recent fashion by some libertarians to denounce the legitimacy of intellectual property rights on the free market. They believe and promote the idea that all information should be owned in common by all men, and that no man should exclusively profit from any information. This makes them, by any honest definition of the term, intellectual communists.

Understanding Scarcity with help from Ludwig von Mises

In Human Action, Ludwig von Mises writes:
The available supply of every commodity is limited. If it were not scarce with regard to the demand of the public, the thing in question would not be considered an economic good, and no price would be paid for it.
There is a very important insight. If a price is being paid for something, it is scarce, otherwise no one would pay for it. Does this apply to ideas?

Why not?

What's The Formula Stephan?
In this segment of the debate, Wenzel tries to get Kinsella to say his use of the word "scarcity" is different from the common definition of the word. But Kinsella won't. He just holds to the position that the "Drudge formula" is not scarce, which makes him look pretty absurd, since he can't tell Wenzel what the formula is.

Tucker and Kinsella and the Keynesian Mode of Argument

Keynes used words in unfamiliar ways, which made following his thought process confusing to many.

Henry Hazlitt in The Failure of the New Economics wrote:
My criticism of Chapter 1 [of the General Theory] must apply to every sentence in it. They must apply, also, to his curious use of the term "classical," which he defends in a footnote[...]
Keynes also has some odd definitions of savings and investment. Hazlitt, again:
Keynes argues at times, as we have seen, that saving and investment are not only always the same thing but "merely different aspects of the same thing."
But then Keynes switches and use the two terms as meaning different things. Hazlitt writes:
Yet he still keeps to his old habit of deploring saving while approving investment.
In other words at some point, he is using unconventional definitions, which he does not even use consistently through out his own book! For the uncareful thinker, this confuses matters, since such a reader may often have in mind the traditional definition of the words, but argue from the perspective of the new definition.

It is Wenzel's contention that Tucker and Kinsella do the same thing with their use of the term "scarcity."

The dictionary definition of scarcity is:
1. inadequate supply; dearth; paucity
2. rarity or infrequent occurrence
Certainly, Wenzel's example of the "Drudge formula," meets these common definitions of scarcity.

Is the Pro-IP Position Pro-State?

Among the onslaught of comments from the anti-IP crowd in the IP posts here at EPJ is the frequent refrain:
How can Wenzel be a libertarian if he is for the coercive intervention of the state against individuals who  have come across an idea that they did not steal?
The answer is I am in favor of no such state coercion. I am against all state interventions. I am in favor of a private property society. Consider the Hertz example that I used in the debate with Norman Stephan Kinsella.

Hertz rents a car to B, who is supposed to return it in a week, but who instead sells it to C. B has removed all stickers and other identifying marks from the car that would identify the car as belonging to C, so that C is not aware that the car is a Hetrz rental. C is innocent relative to the broken contract between Hertz and B. Under existing law, Hertz can take the car away from C.

Within the current society, where the state has a monopoly on coercion, Hertz would have to call in the state to get the car back from C. This does not mean that Hertz would use the state in a private society world, indeed there would be no state coercion apparatus. However, since we do not live in such an ideal world, Hertz is forced to use this arm of the state.

It is no different than a person using government created sidewalks, streets, etc. There may be no alternatives. It would be absurd to charge someone using the sidewalks as being pro-state.

It's is the same for those in favor of intellectual property protection based on the guidelines of private property and the sanctity of contract. If A has a contract with B by which A reveals a formula to B with the understanding that B does not reveal the contract to anyone and B violates that contract by telling C, then A has every right in such a society to demand that C stop using the formula in any fashion, including selling or revealing it in any way to others. (Note well: A only has a claim if he can show that C obtained the formula via B violating the contract, not if C independently discovered the formula.)

The EPJ Daily Alert, Theft & IP

In the United States, variety stores in large cities, such as Walgreens and CVS, often have shaving equipment behind a locked glass case. You have to call an employee of the store to get it for you. The same stores generally, however, do not place toothpaste under lock and key. The difference is not that the stores have different  ownership rights in the two products. It is simply a case that they do a cost benefit analysis of what they will lose if a product is stolen versus how much they will lose in sales. Clearly, these stores have calculated that they are willing to absorb more loss of toothpaste than they are of the more expensive razors.

If protection of property were their only goal, which it clearly is not, they could put all their goods behind a counter and require you to ask for individual products. They don't do this because they have calculated that it is best to absorb some theft of their property, because the profit is greater if products are readily available to shoppers, even though this means some theft will occur.

It is the same thing with the ALERT, I could require each person who wants to subscribe to the ALERT to undergo a background check whereby I could prevent anyone who is in the financial industry from subscribing to the ALERT for fear they would disseminate my ideas beyond that of their personal use. But I don't do this for two reasons.

1. I would have much fewer subscribers, if I demanded a  background check. I am thus willing to absorb leakage of my ideas instead of demanding background checks of potential readers.

2. Here is the real kicker. Only in Norman Stephan Kinsella's bizarro world are ideas non-scarce. My ALERT goes out to roughly a thousand subscribers every day (with some even disseminating the information further to clients and friends), yet somehow, the ALERT hasn't found its way into the mind of everyone in the world. Imagine my shock. Indeed, it continues to be an economic good, new people subscribe to the ALERT on a daily basis.

The real world just doesn't work the way Norman Stephan Kinsella thinks. 

Why Steve Kinsella Won't Yield on Scarcity

It's becoming increasingly clear from the comments that more and more recognize that ideas can be scarce, using any common definition of the term or the way the term is used by economists. But don't expect Norman Stephan Kinsella to yield the point any time soon.

If he yields that point, it is game over for his anti-IP theory, since then, with scarcity, ideas can be economic goods, which acting man ranks on an ordinal value scale like any other goods, including physical goods. I for example may be willing to pay to hear the ideas of David Stockman when he visits San Francisco and speaks here, or I may be interested in buying his new book to see what ideas he has put in the book, both these goods fit nicely on an ordinal scale and I may rank one or both higher than a new shirt. But the key is there is no problem fitting ideas on an ordinal scale of economic goods, with purely physical goods.

Ron Paul on IP

From Ron Paul Curriculum's terms of service:
Do not reprint, republish, re-post, or otherwise distribute or transmit content or images presented on this site. Downloading is easy, but just because you may be able to copy our content doesn't mean you own it. Unauthorized use of or copying of our content, trademarks, and other proprietary material can subject you to civil or even criminal liability. Please don't violate our copyright

LOL, An Anti-IP Person...

...sent Wenzel an email via hushmail.

Hushmail describes itself:
Hushmail is a secure web-based free email service. Since 1999, millions of people and thousands of businesses have trusted Hushmail to safeguard their secrets.
Note NSK would argue that an idea is no longer "scarce" once  information is communicated to another person. Under this bizarro use of the term scarce, hushmail is a contradiction in terms and something that couldn't possibly have value to someone who buys into NSK's view.

Debating Steve Kinsella Turns Very Profitable

More people are willing to pay to read Wenzel's ideas on the economy.

The combination of this weekend, and to date this Monday, has brought in a record number of new subscribers to the EPJ Daily Alert--- new subscribers, who apparently don't live in Norman Stephan Kinsella's world with its tortured definition of scarcity. The ALERT turns out to be a scarce economic good in the real world, afterall.

Kinsella/Tucker Mind Corruption
John T. Foster emails:
In the many hundreds of pages of Rothbard I've read, I had never come across a subject in which I disagreed with him, until the subject of IP.  For some time, due to my own uninitiation, I unfortunately let Kinsella/Tucker corrupt my thoughts.  Thank you for correcting them.  I should have never doubted Rothbard.

Follow @ChrisRossini


  1. Set out like that especially your EPJ alert example actually made a lot more sense - that's IP I can live with.

    1. The current IP laws need reform, as pretty much all laws in our country do.

      That doesn't mean the principle behind it isn't sound.

      I'm a fan of Corey Doctorow's views on IP, myself.

  2. So with your "crushing" defeat of Kinsella, how does one force Joe Q public to not download his favorite band from torrentsforall.com?

    Hug your self presented debate medal tight; nobody is going to stop copying, no matter how many times you call them a commie and thief.

    1. Easy. The ISP can choose to throttle torrent traffic.

    2. Copying is theft. Justify it all you want, doesn't make it right.

    3. Then back to normal..... Ed. why would a ISP care? in fact thats asking for trouble inspecting packets of data not just in terms of costs and accusations of censorship and having customers walking (figuratively speaking)

    4. Dave, Google lists 32,100 results for the phrase "Copying is theft." Your use of that idea (pattern of words) without proper attribution can not be justified. You just don't understand Rothbard on this one. When the original person who thought the phrase "copying is theft," and wrote it on a website with a proper Copyright notice did that, his intention was not for you to use it in turn without paying him. I don't see why you're moving the supply curve for the idea "Copying is theft" without paying the originator of that pattern of words.

      Now my question to you is, where did you get the idea "Copying is theft?" That's a scarce idea, and you must have stolen it from one of the 32,100 people who originally put it online, who had all stolen it in steps from the very first person to write that phrase on a copyrighted website.

      From my understanding of Wenzel's understanding of Rothbard, your use of that idea moved the supply curve for that scarce intellectual property. Whoever owned that idea and first copyrighted it now has a monetary claim against you.

    5. @Heath:

      ISPs already do this, although not for copyright reasons.

      And guess what? The throttling was stopped by the FCC. That's right, the State is interfering with a private company that chooses to limit a certain type of traffic. But IP couldn't be enforced without the State, right?

    6. Does Google even use IP for their cash cow (i.e., their search engine)? I don't think so. And, yes, people copy it all the time (mostly trying to scam the results), but Google just keeps innovating.

      I think without State interference, there would be more than enough protection and respect for people's 'ideas' without getting ridiculous like current IP law.

    7. but Ed thats about the quantity of traffic which is flowing through their system at a given time so their network doesn't crash, not searching for 'contraband' I can imagine ISPs Saying "sure we can stop our customers abusing your copyright but you are going to pay for that detection".

  3. Well there "awake" (or whoever you are, I'm suuuure you have a good reason for remaining anonymous)...

    Enforcement is a separate issue.

    However, I would like to note that it is far easier to prevent a company from using an artist's song in an advertisement for their product, than someone from downloading it.

    Which is probably all most recording artists want anyway.

    Same goes for an author's e-book being used for a major motion picture or TV show, an inventor's novel device being appropriated by a manufacturer, etc.

    This allows them to be the sole financial beneficiary from their work.

    Which is pretty much the point of IP, you see...

    1. Financial benefits are the result of choices made by customers. When did the choices and wealth of other people become the property of artists and inventors? Are you a communist?

    2. Nope.

      But it appears you are, since you seem to advocate this:


  4. This is getting out of hand. Are you guys seriously going to keep this up?

    This is pretty much like when Bernanke stared Ron Paul in the face and said "Gold is not money." I didn't know what to think.

    Am I being lied to? Is he that ******* stupid?

    That's what I ask myself about you two when I see this stuff.

  5. Every single one of Wenzel's posts on IP were demolished by either Kinsella, or, more frequently, random posters in the comments.

    Pro-IP was soundly, thoroughly and resoundingly defeated.

  6. Chris Rossini is either willfully ignorant, or incredibly dimwitted.

  7. Steve? Gawd, this is getting to be beyond juvenile now.

    1. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

    2. Dave, probably the same thing as when people say that you are "butthurt." They have no good argument and are losing the battles & war.

  8. Still shaking my head. RMS is no libertarian but if contracts like the GPL are what it's going to take then I'm liking my Linux installs even more.

  9. The dotCommunist Manifesto:


    Make your own conclusions.

  10. Bob, I don't believe that information is, by definition, "free". Information clearly has value. Certain types might have very high value.

    My real problem is your use of the term Intellectual Property. Because it's not property in any traditional sense. If you are a unique source of certain information, then you can certainly "own" such information or ideas in that you can make it available with strings attached. But that is an issue for private licenses or contracts, with no need for special laws for a special category of property or the special laws needed for them. Further, as you point out, there is no need even for a state enforcement apparatus.

    Since information can leak, or become "liberated" (for lack of a better term), that's an inherent risk in being involved in the information business and one that you have to include in your calculations. I suspect that valuable information, such as you proffer, would have less of an issue with leakage than cheap mass market information like music and video entertainment. Even without the current state-backed regime, the kind of people who buy your product could reasonably be expected to observe your private contract or license without much effort to go after violators.

    Once information is leaked like that, there's really little you can do, other than go after individuals, which, without state involvement, would be limited to some amount tied to the actual loss, without the potential for huge punitive damages or jail time. For cheap entertainment, it wouldn't be worth it. But for your level of information, it certainly would be. There's also a much smaller pool of potential violators to worry about.

    If that's your understanding of "Intellectual Property" then why use the term? It's not property, period. It doesn't need a special category of law to deal with. That doesn't mean it's ownerless, though. Especially for people in technology, the term itself is so vague and expansive that another term might be less controversial. Something like Information Ownership, which has the added benefit of the clever (for those in IT) acronym, IO.

  11. Well I thought Kinsella made sense on IP before... after this debate I'm even more convinced. Entertaining stuff

  12. Mr. Wenzel. I receive your Daily Alert. For free I must add. Someone who pays you for it sends it to me. It's an interesting report. I could quite easily post it on a free-to-view website everyday when I get it. It wouldn't be fraud or plagiarism since I would fully and transparently cite/credit you, Robert Wenzel, as author. So my question is, would you/could you regard such actions as theft? If so, do tell me, in a private law society, how would you propose 'bringing me to book'?

  13. Christina and Roberta,

    You've handled this whole debate in the most childish manner possible, it's as if you set out to lower the threshold for the debate. Regardless of your thoughts on who the winner is in all of this, I think the only thing that anyone set out to crush or advance here is their own ego.

  14. Rothbard liked the VCR and championed it. Why has Wenzel not addressed this blatant endorsement of theft?

  15. Enforcement is an inseparable issue. To what lengths will the proponents of IP go to stamp out the copy makers? Lets go fellas, tell me how you win this war? It won't be by asking nicely. You are all in the "right" and have "justice" and Rothbard "on your side".

    Throttling Torrents does not stop anything. It is ineffective in any practical terms. Now what? I want the IP interventionists to dare speak what they support. Say it loud and clear.

  16. People in the libertarian community who claim they can derive a policy which makes intellectual property work.

    People in the general population who claim they can implement a reform which improves government efficiency.

  17. Wenzel was supposed to reply to Hans Hoppe's posting from a week or so ago. Did he reply and I missed it? If Wenzel did reply to Hoppe, would someone please direct me to it?

  18. When are you going to address Hoppe on IP, like you said you would?


  19. I have to commend Chris and Robert for beating a dead horse. As Wenzel views Rothbard as God (and therefore infallible) he builds a strawman across a completely inane idea of an algorithm (like Amazon's one click) for getting on the site of the Drudge Report, he then defends IP in ideas using arguments which would never stand up in a court of law because he lacks even a basic understanding of the law (i.e. hey Robert and Chris, why don't you both look up what rivalrous means). He does this by first hiding his own views on IP (so that they cannot be attacked) but once revealed are shown to be completely vacuous. Bravo Guys! You're making Central Bankers who believe that printing money will create wealth seem absolutely sane!!!

  20. Hoppe on IP is the strongest moral argument there is. This is why it will never be addressed. It's much more distracting to restle the meaning of scacity untill it means nothing in any real purpose of the an open debate.

    Mr.Wenzel, what about Hoppe?

  21. The whole concept of IP is unnecessary in a free market world. Let me illustrate my point with two scenarios:

    1. I am walking down the street and a shady stranger hands me a pamphlet entitled "Drudge Formula, by Robert Wenzel". I open the pamphlet and inside the cover reads "Property of Robert Wenzel". If I am a lawful person I must stop there. I have no right to do anything with this except return it to its rightful owner. I CANNOT EVEN COPY IT. Doing so would be theft, not of intellectual property, but of physical property.

    In this case intellectual property rights never even comes into play, because the formula is protected by physical property rights.

    2. I am walking down the street and a shady stranger offers to teach me the Drudge Formula. I accept, but he never mentions that he stole the formula from the originator. In this case I have no lawful obligation to refrain from doing anything I wish with this information. I have not entered into contract with the originator of the formula, thus I cannot be held to any damages as a result of any action I take with it.

    As a side note, for the purposes of this argument I use the word "lawful" to mean private law, not laws as we are currently subjected to.