Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hans-Hermann Hoppe Slams Walter Block Theory

Well, not personally and directly, but on a general theoretical level.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has an important new essay out, A Realistic Libertarianism, of which I will have more comments over the next couple of days. But, for now, I want to point out one statement made by Hoppe in his essay that applies to my on-going debate with Walter Block on Intellectual Property.

During our debate Dr. Block accused me of debating from contradiction because I was using words that I was not paying for. I argued that I doubted that anyone had copyrighted the words I was using or in any other way restricted there use.

Dr. Block argued that I did not know this for certain and that it was incumbent upon me to trace back the linage of the words I was using before using them, given my IP perspective, I argued that I had no obligation to trace back the lineage. However, I argued, if anyone could establish a direct ownership lineage to any word I was using, I would be obligated to pay them for such use  (and perhaps a fine). But that would be the only condition that I would be restricted in the use of words. Not because of some non-traceable unlikely claim of ownership of current words by someone.

It appears Dr. Hoppe is in my camp on this, though he is arguing in a much broader sense then my narrow application of this line of thought to IP. (Indeed, Prof. Hoppe may not believe in IP protection, himself, I don't know.) My point is merely that I hold the same view as Hoppe that there is no obligation to chase down possible owners of property, when there is  no indication there were any or no indication that they can be readily found, which is contra to Dr. Block's view. Specifically, Prof. Hoppe writes:
As a matter of fact, most private holdings are likely just, irrespective of their history – unless and except in such cases in which a specific claimant can prove that they are not. The burden of proof, however, is on whoever challenges the current property holdings and distribution. He must show that he is in possession of an older title to the property in question than its current owner. Otherwise, if a claimant cannot prove this, everything is to remain as it currently is.
This is also my view. This is in direct contrast to Dr. Block's view.

I welcome Dr. Block to discuss where he finds the error in Prof. Hoppe's view. I will gladly publish any such comment from Dr. Block..

The relevant debate rounds are these:

Round 2, here.

Round 3, here.



  1. Hoppe is anti IP and has written about it

  2. Suppose that you were able to trace a word back to its original author, but you used the word without paying him or his heirs. Further, suppose that you believe that you are obligated to pay. None of this shows that you would be contradicting yourself by using the word without paying. You would be doing what you believe you ought not to do. That is very different from a contradiction.

    1. Great comment David!

      I think one thing that's been lost in this debate is that people 'abandon' property of all sorts all the time for a variety of reasons. (including a word they may have created) Although, RW did touch on it lightly with the museum piece examples.

      My point being, is that even in your example the creator of the words would have to establish & enforce the title and transfer said title to his heir, by which they would have to do the same thing it would seem from a logical standpoint lest it becomes de facto community property per Bastiat's argument.(in the words example, it might simply be abandoned or claimed by another if physical property)

      In other words, if the creator gives up the rights to his property and doesn't transfer them to the heirs it doesn't matter if the heirs want it or not.

      All actions for property rights should start with a claim, correct? (and I say this as both a statement and question, feel free to respond and agree or correct me) "Pony tails" were obviously abandoned a long time ago.

      I think that was also the point of RW's example about us all using the toilet paper of a hotel(or restaurant for that matter). Everyone knows that technically it's their TP, but the owners don't run around their premises making claims on it to those that used it. (some might argue that patronizing said establishment constitutes part of the service, but what if you walk in off the street and buy nothing?)

  3. We should puts IP for words to rest except for Trademarks.

    Let us accept Block wrong to worry existent words are owned & start with the ~million dictionary words as free & propose to allow exclusive ownership for newbies. This creates a potential nonviable restriction few would like to live under.

    At the S/370 announcement an IBM (considered a monopoly) mgr proudly said “We control the cost of addition.”

    A new books says IBM is in trouble. So, with Word-protection the law, it turns the Watson super computer (~200,000 processors) on churning out non-dictionary words. The avg word length is 5-6 letters. Shortly IBM could own all new words <13 letters expanding daily & widely publishing for all to know “If it's not in Funk & Wagnalls & <15 letters, ITS MINE!” … in days “... <16 letters” going even faster if only pronounceable words were valued. ShamWow might have been worth $100K, $1M or more.

    RW's word-rights contention is no problems because to communicate people would set enough words free but that assumes words are invented randomly over time as useful. But not when someone (Soros could do it) can so dominate all practical words. It could be an impeding world. Were ownership forever how long before heirs too rich for $-matters went Left-nuts & disallowed new ones to save the planet from uncontrolled prosperity & growth?

    IBM's Watson could possibly write novels, but it couldn't restrain us because novels are non trivial. We might gain new themes & write better novels ourselves.

    Copyright & patient law disallow trivia. One IP lawyer explains “Names, titles, and other short phrases are simply too minimal” (some can be protected under Trademark for a different purpose).

    In Hopp's words: “... so a libertarian theorist must turn his attention to the actions of real people. Instead of being a mere theorist, he must also become a sociologist and psychologist and take account of “empirical” social reality, i.e., the world as it really is.”