The Libertarian Standard » Science http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:04:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Science http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com/category/science/ TV-G Yes, We Have No Bananas http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/24/yes-we-have-no-bananas/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/24/yes-we-have-no-bananas/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:28:29 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13372 YesWeHaveNoBananasIn a recent post on my personal blog (“Is mediocrity intelligent?”), I talked about the importance of a diversity of strategies — even apparently “wrong” ones — to the long-term survival of a species. The corollary of course is that overinvestment in any single strategy can be catastrophic.

We see this issue at play in modern agribusiness.

As Popular Science informs us,

The 1923 musical hit “Yes! We Have No Bananas” is said to have been written after songwriters Frank Silver and Irving Cohn were denied in an attempt to purchase their favorite fruit by a syntactically colorful, out-of-stock neighborhood grocer.

It seems that an early infestation of Panama disease was already causing shortages in 1923. But the out-of-stock bananas in question were not the Cavendish variety we all eat today; they were Gros Michel (“Big Mike”) bananas, and they were all that American banana lovers ate until the 1950s, when the disease finally finished them off.

I would love to know what a Gros Michel banana tastes like. I’m a big fan of bananas and eat them every day. (Actually, I drink them, blended into smoothies.) But the reason I only know the taste of Cavendish — and the reason you do too, unless you’re old enough to have had some Gros Michel mixed into your pablum — is that Cavendish bananas are resistant to the strain of disease that wiped out our original bananas. We have to assume that the Plan B bananas we now enjoy are only second best as far as flavor goes. They may not even be first best at survival, because the banana industry is searching for a Plan C banana to take the place of the Cavendish once the inevitable crop disease sends it the way of the Gros Michel — something that they predict will happen in the next decade or two. (See Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.)

Why are bananas so vulnerable to these blights? Why aren’t agricultural scientists worried about our other favorite fruits — apples, for example?

Because there are many different types of apples. I’m dizzied by the variety at our local produce warehouse.

But not only is there just the one type of banana at the green grocers and in supermarkets; each banana you’ve probably every eaten is a clone of every other banana you’ve eaten. One genetic pattern manifested billions of times over, across millions of households in the past half century. And each Gros Michel was a clone of every other one, too. That’s because bananas reproduce asexually (as do potatoes, another food that’s especially vulnerable to disease — remember the Irish potato famine?).

Cavendish DNA is different enough from Gros Michel DNA that the disease that targeted the one species was no threat to the other. But any infection that can kill one Cavendish plant can wipe out the worldwide supply.

There are many reasons food activists attack Big Agribusiness — some good, some bad, and some wacky. One criticism that seems eminently reasonable to me is a concern that Big Agra puts all its billions of eggs in one giant basket.

Once upon a time, genetic diversity in farm products was built into how farming took place. Farmers farmed local land with local genetic strains of plants and animals. Chickens may have come from Asia, and Europe never saw a tomato until the Spanish brought some back from the New World, but even as trade began to go global several centuries ago, the limits of transportation and technology meant that gene pools could be local and diverse in a way that is much harder in our era of global overnight shipping and transnational corporate bureaucracies.

If an infestation wipes out the Golden Delicious, I can eat Fugi apples instead. But if the Cavendish disappears tomorrow, there isn’t yet a different banana to take its place.

CalvinPlanB

In “Is mediocrity intelligent?” I wrote about the time my professor presented to the “artificial life” department at Bell Labs. In the context of a communications-research lab, artificial life was about using the lessons of biology, ecology, and evolution to make telephone networks more robust.

You may think that agriculture is more “natural” than phone switches and fiberoptics, but farming often short-circuits nature’s mechanisms to suit our short-term goals. One of the main such strategies of nature is diversity. And as I tried to illustrate, in that post, with the concept of the genetic deme (an isolated and seemingly inferior gene pool within a species), diversity means that what looks like an inferior strategy today could turn out to be the salvation of the species tomorrow.

As Larry Reed wrote recently in the Freeman,

Statists those who prefer force-based political action over spontaneous, peaceful, and voluntary initiatives — excel at distilling their views into slogans. (“A Slogan Worth Your Bumper?”)

But what I find revealing is the contradictions at play in the juxtaposition of different bumper stickers on the same car. (And when you see a whole bunch of bumper stickers on the same car, odds are you’re driving behind a left-wing statist.)

CelebrateDiversity

Last weekend, at a red light, I was behind a minivan that brandished three bumper stickers:

One said, “Women for Obama.”

If that wasn’t enough to declare the driver’s politics, the next bumper sticker made the claim that strong public schools create strong communities.

The last bumper stick advised us in rainbow colors to “Celebrate Diversity!”

(Pop quiz: Are bumper stickers #2 and #3 in accord or at odds?)

Now, it’s a standard complaint against leftists that they talk diversity while pushing ideological conformity. Political correctness, and all that.

But to me the greater irony is that the Left consistently pushes centralization. Eat local, buy local, but decide everything in Washington DC.

I know that there are left-wing decentralists, and perhaps they genuinely do see the important parallels between genetic diversity and political federalism, between local communities and local authority. But I keep thinking of a story Tom Woods tells of his attending a decentralist conference back in the 1990s, where he happily discovered like-minded activists from both Left and Right. But to the apparent delight of the left-wing so-called decentralists, the highlight of the event was the keynote speaker: Vice President Al Gore.

BananaBookNo, in my experience, the vast majority of people with Buy Local bumper stickers, as with the Celebrate Diversity crowd, are also often, e.g., Women for Obama — that is to say, champions of ever-more-centralized authority. I’m confident that the driver in front of me at the intersection saw no irony in celebrating diversity while advocating strong public schools — and an even stronger central government.

But in the biosphere, where diversity rules, order is spontaneous. That spontaneous order is both the cause of and the result from overwhelming diversity. There are no central strategies in evolution, only in the human world, and only in recent human history. Evolution gave the natural world hundreds of varieties of banana. The United Fruit Company (hardly a free-market firm, by the way) gave us only one.

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Hedy Lamarr Bet on the Wrong Horse http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/01/hedy-lamarr-bet-on-the-wrong-horse/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/01/hedy-lamarr-bet-on-the-wrong-horse/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 13:06:13 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12603 NakedHedwig

“Hedy stands naked in a field. She looks off-camera in dismay as her horse gallops away with the clothes she had draped over its back to take a dip in a woodland pond.”


That’s the opening line of my article “Putting Hedy Lamarr on Hold,” featured today in the Freeman.

I shared a draft with a writer friend of mine over the weekend. She is far more educated and literary than I am. She saw a parallel between the opening scene and the larger story that I confess I was not conscious of. I thought I’d just been going for sex appeal.

Here’s more of the opening:

She is not called Lamarr yet. That name will come later, in Hollywood. For now she is still Hedwig Kiesler, a Viennese teenager in Prague, playing her first starring role in a feature film, Ekstase (“Ecstasy,” 1933). The controversial Czechoslovakian film will become famous for Hedy’s nude scenes (which are not sexual) and its sex scenes (which show only her face, in close-up, in the throes of passion).

The film will give Hedy her first taste of fame. She will be known as the Ecstasy girl. An Austrian director will tell the press, “Hedy Kiesler is the most beautiful girl in the world.” Later, MGM movie mogul Louis B. Mayer will repeat the claim, using the name he insisted she change to: Hedy Lamarr.

But while the world of her time will remember her for her photogenic beauty, history will remember her as the inventor of frequency hopping, the foundational technology of today’s mobile phones and wireless Internet. [FULL ARTICLE]

FreemanHedyThe piece goes on to explain how Hedy invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum during World War II and why it took so long for that invention to usher in the wireless Internet age. Short answer: the government kept the technology secret for decades. Not only did Hedy Lamarr not see a cent from her invention; she didn’t even get credit for it until the end of the century.

So here’s what my writer friend said:

The more I think about it, the movie image you start with — Hedy looking at her runaway horse and thinking, ok now what? is exactly what you describe in your title: Hedy Lamarr on hold. She’s on hold in the movie (for a moment, I guess — given the movie title, I imagine that she’s not alone for long) and then her invention is on hold for a much longer time. … A Hollywood starlet and inventive genius who made millions in the market surrendered her most innovative idea to Leviathan, who stifled it. And she did so, ironically, because of a lack of imagination on her part — a naive faith that the state would protect and serve its citizens.

(By the way, I’m especially pleased that FEE decided not only to feature my article but also to use the image I put together for it!)

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TLS Podcast Picks: Cuba, Public Pensions, 3D Printing and IP http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/10/tls-podcast-picks-cuba-public-pensions-3d-printing-and-ip/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/10/tls-podcast-picks-cuba-public-pensions-3d-printing-and-ip/#comments Sun, 11 Nov 2012 03:39:56 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11981 Recommended podcasts:

Until the 1959 ouster of dictator Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s legislature convened in the domed Capitolio building in Havana. Today it’s a symbol of a prerevolutionary Cuba that no one under the age of 50 experienced. © Paolo Pellegrin/National Geographic

  • Cuba’s New Now,” KERA Think (Nov. 8, 2012). Fascinating interview by the amazing KERA Think host, Krys Boyd: “What has changed in Cuba since Fidel Castro ostensibly stepped away from power and are the changes happening fast enough for the Cuban people? We’ll talk this hour with National Geographic Magazine contributor Cynthia Gorney, whose story “Cuba’s New Now” appears in the current issue of the magazine.”
  • Joshua Rauh on Public Pensions,” EconTalk. Chilling discussion of the looming public pension crisis, with host Russ Roberts: “Joshua Rauh, Professor of Finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the unfunded liabilities from state employee pensions. The publicly stated shortfall in revenue relative to promised pensions is about $1 trillion. Rauh estimates the number to be over $4 trillion. Rauh explains why that number is more realistic, how the problem grew in recent years, and how the fiscal situation might be fixed moving forward. He also discusses some of the political and legal choices that we are likely to face going forward as states face strained budgets from promises made in the past to retired workers.” My guess? States and localities will end up declaring bankruptcy to modify their pension obligations.
  • Chris Anderson on 3D Printing and the Maker Movement,” Surprisingly Free. “Chris Anderson, former Wired magazine editor-in-chief and author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, describes what he calls the maker movement. According to Anderson, modern technologies, such as 3D printing and open source design, are democratizing manufacturing. The same disruption that digital technologies brought to information goods like music, movies and publishing will soon make its way to the world of physical goods, he says.” A good discussion of IP implications of 3D printing begins around 14:00.
  • My recent Libertopia talk, Intellectual Nonsense: Fallacious Arguments for IP.
  • My interview, “Silver for the People Interview: Stephan Kinsella—Copyright Laws Cost the U.S. $Billions in Economic Growth” (at Libertopia, San Diego, Oct. 12, 2012).
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Vint Cerf’s Confusing Views on Internet Access and Human Rights http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/06/vint-cerfs-confusing-views-on-internet-access-and-human-rights/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/06/vint-cerfs-confusing-views-on-internet-access-and-human-rights/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2012 13:12:52 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10293 Vint Cerf, the “father of the Internet,” has given very confusing reasons for his view that Internet Access Is Not a Human Right. First, he says that Internet access, unlike freedom of speech and access to information, is not a human right. Cerf’s stance on the debate boiled down to this: ‘Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.’”

Hunh? What does “access to information” even mean? It seems to be some unlibertarian positive right. And if such things can be “rights,” why can’t access to the Internet? Because of the contextless, ad hoc assertion that “Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.”

He goes on to try to elaborate on his shaky view of rights:

In order for something to be considered a human right, it must be among the things a person needs to lead a healthy and meaningful life, such as freedom from torture or freedom of thought, Cerf argued.

Well we need education and food to lead a healthy life, so if you are going by this standard you open the door to any number of welfarist, socialist positive rights, such as social security, employment, equal pay for equal work, vacation time, food, housing, medical care and education, as I discuss in Intellectual Property as Socialistic “Human Rights”.

The better approach is to recognize that there are no positive rights at all, since a positive right implies a positive duty on behalf of others to provide you with the thing you have a “right” to, such as food, education, and so on. The idea of positive rights implies that others are your partial slaves. If the positive rights are universal, that means we are all each others’ slaves. (The one exception is to this prohibition on positive obligations or duties is those that are voluntarily assumed by the obligor, such as the parental obligation to children, the obligation of a criminal or tortfeasor to help or make amends to his victims, and so on. See How We Come to Own Ourselves.)

I argue in Internet Access as a Human Right for a different approach to this issue. First, we need to be skeptical of the very term “human rights.” Common conceptions of “human rights” tend to hold that human rights include socialistic, positive welfare rights. This is why it is better for libertarians to refer to “natural” rights, or just plain rights or “libertarian rights.” Human rights can be seen as including three different things:

  1. natural rights or related negative rights (right to free speech, etc.);
  2. positive, socialistic welfare rights;
  3. procedural or prophylactic/civil rights (i.e. rights that are not natural but that are good fictional standins for limitations on state power).

The first is of course to be welcomed, though it’s usually just an atrophied subset of the full panoply of real libertarian rights. For example human rights contemplate the legitimacy of governments, and taxation (conception #2 above requires it), and imprisonment and other punishments for violating state decrees, while libertarians recognize that these things violate rights. (The right to free speech is not really a fundamental natural right, actually, but only a consequence of more fundamental basic libertarian rights to have one’s body be free of aggression. See Rothbard,  “Human Rights” As Property Rights. But at least it indicates an aspect of, or consequence of, a real libertarian right. Not that this somewhat unclear view of rights doesn’t lead to trouble–if you view “free speech” as an independent right, unanchored from bodily and property rights, then they can be used to trump real property rights, as in the cases where state courts have “deemed” shopping malls to be “public spaces” and “therefore” they must allow people to engage in protests etc., in the name of “free speech.”)

The second set of rights are completely unlibertarian. There are not positive welfare rights.

The third are not “real” rights but are valuable so long as there are states, as fictions that help limit state power. For example, consider the idea of the “presumption of innocence.” This is the idea that the state has the burden of proving someone committed a crime before convicting them. This implies that someone is “innocent” if the state cannot prove he is guilty, and that it is unjust to punish him unless the state’s court can prove him guilty. In the libertarian conception, this is not quite right. If someone actually committed a (real) crime (such as assault and battery), then it is not unjust for the victim to punish or administer (proportional) force against the aggressor.1 Now, in a free society, if the victim does not go through established procedures and instead acts as a vigilante, there are various dangers and risks: he may punish someone who is actually innocent, and thus incur liability; he may be seen as reckless and suffer consequences like ostracism or shunning or increased insurance rates. But if a victim retaliates against a person who actually did aggress against him, even if the victim does not go through due process or reliable procedures first to prove his guilt, the aggressor’s rights are not actually violated. And yet the “presumption of innocence” is contrary to this understanding. Should we libertarians thus oppose it? Should we reject subset 3 above, as we reject subset 2? No, not usually. So long as the state is around, “fake” prophylactic civil or procedural rights, like the presumption of innocence, due process, etc., are good, as they help to limit state power.

So, does an actualy guilty person actually have a right to be presumed innocent? No. But should we libertarians want the state to be bound and limited as if he has this right? Yes. For the state is a much worse criminal than the accused private aggressor. Ultimately, fake, prophylactic rights are libertarian because they act as limits on state power, which helps reduce violations of rights of innocent people accused of crimes by the state (or of people accused of commiting non-crimes, like tax evasion or drug use), and also helps make the state less dangerous overall. It partially declaws the state. Thus, the fiction of prophylactic procedural and some civil rights are in the service of real rights since they are aimed at keeping the greatest violator of rights–the state–at bay.

And this is why, in my previous post, I argued that there could be some good from viewing Internet access as a “human right”–though there is some danger in it, too. To the extent it acts as a prophylactic right (type 3) or even an aspect of real rights (type 1), that is good. This means the state may not restrict people’s access to the Internet. It would be seen as an aspect of or consequence of free speech and related rights, which are themselves mere implications of the basic natural rights to self-ownership and ownership of property. But there is a danger it could be seen as a positive right (type 2)–that the state has to provide taxpayer-funded Internet access to people. As I noted in my previous post:

one has to be wary of the catch-phrase “human rights” as it can sometimes mean positive welfare rights. But not always. In fact, the UN Human Rights Council has recently opined that denying Internet access or related penalties–via laws such as  “three strikes” laws in France and the United Kingdom that boot users off the Internet for repeated copyright infringement, as well as ACTA and the DMCA–can violate human rights to free speech and related rights. In other words, the idea is that Internet access is a human right, and state regulations and laws that impair this are illegitimate.

Now, is Internet access really a human right–or, as we would say, an individual right, or libertarian right? Is free speech even a legitimate human right? No. As Rothbard explains, all human rights are property rights. But in a state legal system, a legal right simply acts as a limitation on state power. For the libertarian, who sees all or most state power as bad precisely because it infringes on real libertarian rights, any limitation on state power, even if it is labeled as a “right” but is really not a genuine libertarian right, is to be welcome. With one exception: that of positive rights, such as a right to food or a job; such “rights,” instead of being limitations on state power, are disguised grants of power to the state: it is then authorized to take from A to provide B with his “right.” But for other negative rights, such as a right to free speech, even though these are not real, independent rights (in libertarian theory, the right to free speech is merely a consequence of the more fundamental right to one’s body), it is still useful to have them seen as limits on the state. Other examples include constitutional and other “rights” that are not really natural rights, but merely “civil” rights, such as the right to due process, rights against double jeopardy, and so on. Any libertarian should favor these “rights” being imposed as limitations on state power.

And so it is with Internet access. There is no doubt that the Internet has become one of the most important weapons against the state, and use of the Internet crucial to survival in the modern world. Anything that restricts the power of states to hamper the Internet or to harm individuals by limiting their access to the Internet is good. And this is why I am not opposed to the UN implicit recognition of Internet access as a human right. (But please, don’t impose a global tax to set up municipal “free” wifi in poor communities around the world!)

Update: See the recent decisions of various local courts and regional and international tribunals in this ASIL International Law in Brief, for a sample of how these courts tend to be better than the policies of the states. See also The UN, International Law, and Nuclear Weapons.

In any case, regardless of his somewhat confused views about the nature of rights, he is a heroic opponent of the evil SOPA.


  1. See my Punishment and Proportionality: The Estoppel Approach; New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory

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Kinsella’s “Rethinking Intellectual Property” course: Audio and Slides http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/25/kinsellasrethinking-intellectual-property-course-audio-and-slides/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/25/kinsellasrethinking-intellectual-property-course-audio-and-slides/#comments Sun, 25 Dec 2011 18:01:44 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10159 In late 2010 I taught my first Mises Academy course, “Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics.”1 I reprised the course in Spring 2011: “Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics.”2 This was a 6-week course, which provided an overview of current intellectual property law and the history and origins of IP. (In Teaching an Online Mises Academy Course, I offer my reflections on teaching the Rethinking IP class the first time.) Here is some feedback provided by past students of this course:

“The class (everything) was perfect. Content wasn’t too deep (nor too shallow) – the reviewed material was just brilliant and the “tuning” was great for someone like myself (engineering background – no profound legal/lawyer experience). It provided all the material to really “understand” (instead of “just knowing”) all that was covered which I find always very important in a class.”

“Instruction was very comprehensive and thought provoking. The instructor was fantastic and very knowledgeable and answered every question asked.”

“Learned more then i expected, the professor seemed to really enjoy teaching the class, and the readings provided were excellent. Overall for the cost I was extremely satisfied.”

“Very interesting ideas I was not exposed to. Inexpensive, convenient, good quality.”

“It is a very fascinating topic and I was quite eager to learn about what I.P. is all about. I thought that Professor Kinsella was able to convey complicated issues to us clearly.”

“Professor Kinsella’s enthusiasm and extra links posted showed his true knowledge and interest in the subject. Great to see.”

And:

Thank you so very much for all the excellent work — very few classes have really changed my life dramatically, actually only 3 have, and all 3 were classes I took at the Mises Academy, starting with Rethinking Intellectual Property (PP350) (the other two were EH476 (Bubbles), and PP900 (Private Defense)). …

My purposes for taking the classes are: 1. just for the fun of it, 2. learning & self-education, and 3. to understand what is happening with some degree of clarity so I can eventually start being part of the solution where I live — or at least stop being part of the problem.

The IP class was a total blast — finally (finally) sound reasoning. All the (three) classes I took dramatically changed the way I see the world. I’m still digesting it all, to tell the truth. Very few events in my life have managed to make me feel like I wished I was 15 all over again. Thank you. …

[M]uch respect and admiration for all the great work done by all the members of the whole team.

Students would often give real-time feedback, in comments such as the following at the end of the lectures (these are from the actual IP-lecture chat transcripts):

  • “Thank you, great lecture!”
  • “Thanks, excellent lecture.”
  • “Great job.”
  • “Great lecture!”
  • “Thank you, Sir. Great lecture!”
  • “Thanks for an excellent talk.”

(Student reaction to the first lecture of my Libertarian Legal Theory course can be found in Student Comments for First Lecture of Libertarian Legal Theory Course: Not Too Late to Sign Up!) In the meantime IP has continued to metastasize and increasingly harm property rights, capitalism, prosperity, technology, and freedom of expression–all, perversely, in the name of “property rights.” The patent smartphone wars have continued to escalate. And copyright, as I argue in here, is even worse. It threatens to enable the state to ratchet up the police state and threatens freedom on the Internet.3 The latest threat in this regard is the evil Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

Below is an introductory video for the course followed by the audio and slides for each of the 6 lectures. The “suggested readings” for each lecture are appended to the end of this post.

Update: the audio files may also be subscribed to in this podcast feed. (In iTunes (for Windows) you can subscribe to podcast by copying the feed address to iTunes>Advanced>Subscribe to podcast; on Macs, you can click on the link to have iTunes add it to podcasts.)

Introductory video from the Mises Blog post Kinsella Can Be Your Professor:

Lecture 1: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN HISTORY

(mp3 download)

Lecture 2: OVERVIEW OF JUSTIFICATIONS FOR IP; PROPERTY, SCARCITY, AND IDEAS

(mp3 download)

Lecture 3: EXAMINING THE UTILITARIAN CASE FOR IP

(mp3 download)

Lecture 4: IP STATUTES AND TREATIES; OVERVIEW OF JUSTIFICTIONS FOR IP; PROPERTY, SCARCITY AND IDEAS; RIGHTS-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR IP: CREATION AS A SOURCE OF RIGHTS

(mp3 download)

Lecture 5: PROPERTY, SCARCITY, AND IDEAS; EXAMINING RIGHTS-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR IP

(mp3 download)

Lecture 6: THE FUTURE; INTEGRATING IP THEORY WITH AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS AND LIBERTARIAN THEORY; PROPOSED REFORMS; IMAGINING A POST-IP WORLD; THE FUTURE OF OPEN VS. CLOSED

(mp3 download)

 

SUGGESTED READING MATERIAL

The “suggested readings” for each lecture are appended below. The links were internal Mises Academy links so would not work here, and I had no time to add individual links for all of them, but until I find time to code in the links, most of these materials can be found on stephankinsella.com/publications, c4sif.org/resources, mises.org, hanshoppe.com/publications, or on Wikipedia or by google search. (If there is a particular link you cannot find online, email me or add to the comments, and I’ll try to find it and update the post with that link.)

Main Texts

  • Kinsella, Against Intellectual Property (AIP)
  • Boldrin & Levine, Against Intellectual Monopoly (AIM)

LECTURE 1: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN HISTORY

SUGGESTED READINGS

  • Legal Background:

  • AIP, pp. 9-14

Optional

  • URL Copyright Basics (US Copyright Office) URL
  • URL Copyright overview (LII/Cornell) URL
  • URL Patent law overview (LII/Cornell) URL
  • URL Patent introductory information (Ladas & Parry) URL
  • URL US Patent law information (USPTO) URL

History:

  • AIM, ch. 2, pp. 33-35 (“World Before Copyright” section); ch. 3, pp. 48-51 (“World Without Patent” section).

  • AIP, pp. 9-14
  • URL Statute of Anne (Wikipedia) URL
  • URL Stationers’ Company (Wikipedia) URL
  • URL History of patent law (Wikipedia) URL
  • URL Letters Patent (Wikipedia) URL
  • URL Statute of Monopolies 1624 (Wikipedia) URL

Optional

  • URL Krummenacker, Are “Intellectual Property Rights” Justified? (Historical Origins section) URL
  • URL Palmer, Intellectual Property: A Non-Posnerian Law and Economics Approach (pp. 264-71) URL
  • URL A Brief History of the Patent Law of the United States (Ladas & Parry)

LECTURE 2: OVERVIEW OF JUSTIFICATIONS FOR IP; PROPERTY, SCARCITY, AND IDEAS

SUGGESTED READINGS

Law

  • URL Defamation (Wikipedia)–beginning to Section 5 only URL
  • URL Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy URL

History

  • URL Machlup, “An Economic Review of the Patent System” [pp. 2-5] URL

Optional

  • URL Machlup & Penrose, “The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century” [pp. 2-6, et pass.] URL
  • URL Frumkin, “The Origin of Patents” URL

Economic and Utilitarian Arguments

  • AIP, pp. 19-23

Optional

  • AIM, ch. 7, esp. pp. 176-201

  • URL Kinsella, There’s No Such Thing as a Free Patent URL
  • URL Machlup, “An Economic Review of the Patent System” [pp. 19-26 et seq., et pass.] URL
  • URL Machlup & Edith Penrose, “The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century,” pp. 7-28 URL
  • URL Hurt & Schuchman, “The Economic Rationale of Copyright” URL

Deontological/Natural Rights-Based Arguments

  • AIP, pp. 23-28

  • URL Ayn Rand Lexicon-Patents and Copyrights URL
  • URL Ayn Rand Lexicon-Production URL

Optional

  • URL Dale Halling, Ayn Rand on Intellectual Property URL
  • URL Kinsella, Comment to “Galambos and Other Nuts” URL
  • URL Machlup & Edith Penrose, “The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century,” pp. 7-28 URL
  • URL Greg Perkins, Don’t Steal This Article! URL
  • URL Kinsella, Objectivists: “All Property is Intellectual Property” URL
  • URL Kinsella, Inventors are Like Unto … GODS … URL
  • URL Hurt & Schuchman, “The Economic Rationale of Copyright” URL

Property, Scarcity, Ideas

  • URL Tucker & Kinsella, “Goods, Scarce and Nonscarce” URL
  • AIP, pp. 28-42

Optional

  • URL Kinsella, “Intellectual Property and the Structure of Human Action” URL
  • URL Boudewijn Bouckaert, “What Is Property?” URL
  • URL Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, chs. 1 & 2 (esp. pp. 13-15, 18-30); p. 158 & p. 158n120, et pass.

LECTURE 3: EXAMINING THE UTILITARIAN CASE FOR IP

SUGGESTED READINGS

***Note: Use same readings as for Lecture 2 starting with “History”–PLUS the new material re patent trolls linked below***

Law

  • Page Patent Troll email response Page
  • URL Hidden from students: Patent Troll email response URL
  • URL Patent Trolls and Empirical Thinking URL
  • URL Facebook Threatened by a Non-Patent Troll URL

OUTRAGE OF THE WEEK

  • URL Once Again, the Copyright/Trademark Tail Tries to Wag the Internet Dog

 

LECTURE 4:  IP STATUTES AND TREATIES; OVERVIEW OF JUSTIFICTIONS FOR IP; PROPERTY, SCARCITY AND IDEAS; RIGHTS-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR IP: CREATION AS A SOURCE OF RIGHTS

SUGGESTED READINGS

***Note: Use same readings as for Lecture 2 starting with “Economic and Utilitarian Arguments”–PLUS the new material linked below***

Recent News & Outrages

  • URL Outrages: See following recent C4SIF entries: Hershey Claims Ownership of Orange, Brown and Tan Candy Wrappings; UK High Court Ruling Implies Headlines Are Copyright; Universities attacking high schools over trademarks; EFF rescues ASL Ally’s sign-langu URL

Law

  • URL Photography and the law URL
  • URL Key IP Statutes and Treaties

LECTURE 5: PROPERTY, SCARCITY, AND IDEAS; EXAMINING RIGHTS-BASED ARGUMENTS FOR IP

SUGGESTED READINGS

***read the material from Week 2 starting with “Deontological/Natural Rights-Based Arguments”***

LECTURE 6: THE FUTURE; INTEGRATING IP THEORY WITH AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS AND LIBERTARIAN THEORY;
PROPOSED REFORMS; IMAGINING A POST-IP WORLD; THE FUTURE OF OPEN VS. CLOSED

SUGGESTED READINGS

Outrages of the Week/Recent News

  • URL See recent postings on C4SIF.org (since Dec. 8) URL

Austrian Economics and IP

  • URL Kinsella, “Mises on Intellectual Property“ URL
  • URL Hayek and Rothbard references in “Other Publications and Resources” section URL

Libertarianism and IP

  • URL A Libertarian Theory of Contract: Title Transfer, Binding Promises, and Inalienability, pp. 30-33 URL
  • URL Kinsella, “Locke on IP; Mises, Rothbard, and Rand on Creation, Production, and “Rearranging”” URL

IP as Contract

  • AIP, pp. 45-55 (IP as Contract)

Reputation, Trademark, and Communication

  • URL Kinsella, “Reply to Van Dun: Non-Aggression and Title Transfer,” pp. 59-63 URL

Proposed Reforms

  • URL Kinsella, “Reducing the Cost of IP Law,” URL

Innovation in a Post-IP World

  • URL Kinsella, “Innovations that Thrive without IP URL
  • URL Kinsella, “Funding for Creation and Innovation in an IP-Free World ” URL
  • URL Kinsella, “The Creator-Endorsed Mark as an Alternative to Copyright” URL

OPTIONAL

  • URL Property Title Records and Insurance in a Free Society

[C4SIF]


  1. Discussed on the Mises Blog in Study with Kinsella Online; Lecture 1

  2. Discussed in Rethinking IP; and on the Mises Blog in Study with Kinsella Online and in Rethinking Intellectual Property: Kinsella’s Mises Academy Online Course

  3. See my posts The Ominous PROTECT IP Act and the End of Internet Freedom; Copyright and the End of Internet Freedom

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http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/25/kinsellasrethinking-intellectual-property-course-audio-and-slides/feed/ 1 copyright,Mises Academy,patent,SOPA In late 2010 I taught my first Mises Academy course, "Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics." ((Discussed on the Mises Blog in Study with Kinsella Online; Lecture 1.)) I reprised the course in Spring 2011: “Rethinking Intelle... In late 2010 I taught my first Mises Academy course, "Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics." ((Discussed on the Mises Blog in Study with Kinsella Online; Lecture 1.)) I reprised the course in Spring 2011: “Rethinking Intelle... Stephan Kinsella clean <iframe width="290" height="30" src="http://libertarianstandard.com/?powerpress_embed=10159-podcast&amp;powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Hayden Responds to “Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence” http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/14/hayden-responds-to-climate-contrarians-ignore-overwhelming-evidence/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/14/hayden-responds-to-climate-contrarians-ignore-overwhelming-evidence/#comments Thu, 15 Dec 2011 02:20:43 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9990 Physicist Howard Hayden, a staunch advocate of sound energy policy, sent me a copy of his scathing letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence, a global warming screed by Prof. Michael E. Mann. It was not published, but the text of the email is appended below, with permission. Hayden is also author of the books A Primer on CO2 and Climate and the recent Bass Ackwards: How Climate Alarmists Confuse Cause with Effect, among others. See also my previous post, Physicist Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims.

As noted in my post Access to Energy, Hayden helped the late, great Petr Beckmann found the dissident physics journal Galilean Electrodynamics (brochures and further Beckmann info here; further dissident physics links). Hayden later began to publish his own pro-energy newsletter, The Energy Advocate, following in the footsteps of Beckmann’s own journal Access to EnergyI love Hayden’s email sign-off, “People will do anything to save the world … except take a course in science.”

Here’s the letter:

***

December 5, 2011

Editor
Wall Street Journal

Re:  Michael Mann:  Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence

Dear Editor:

One of the problems with being brilliant far beyond the rest of humanity is that you go through school so fast that you manage to skip a few things along the way.  The Geniuses of Deep Science (GODS), such as Michael Mann and the railway engineer who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are in that category.

While we peons were in grade school learning about the Vikings settling Greenland in the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), the GODS were studying advanced electrodynamics and quantum mechanics. In our art courses we studied paintings from the Little Ice Age (LIA), but the GODS skipped that to concentrate on the Standard Model and string theory.

Not only did the GODS skip over basic science classes, they mastered the art of focusing people’s minds.  They were so good at the craft that they convinced their lesser colleagues and the Nobel Committee that one study of tree rings could supplant thousands of papers in geology journals, paintings in art galleries, and records of crop production from around the world.  Gone was the MWP.  Gone was the LIA.  Who needs that stuff, anyway?

The GODS even invented a new kind of hockey-stick statistics that is so brilliant that a committee of ordinary professors of statistics couldn’t even understand it, so they called it faulty.

You and I might try to draw a connection between CO2 concentration and temperature by making a kind of freshman-algebra graph with a measure of CO2 on one axis and temperature rise on the other.  But the GODS are so superior that they’ve never had to stoop to such childish maneuvers.

With the release of two sets of Climategate emails, the GODS have lost a little luster, but they should be able to hide the decline.

Best Regards,

Howard C. Hayden

Prof. Emeritus of Physics, UConn

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Democracy Distorts Democracy! http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/09/democracy-distorts-democracy/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/09/democracy-distorts-democracy/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2011 12:00:16 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8326 That, at least, was my impression of the worry expressed in a recent Wired.com article, “Real-Time Debate Feedback Distorts Democracy.”

What’s all the hoopla about? Well, you may recall that back in the 2008 presidential election CNN debuted a new ratings-capturing gimmick below the bloviating candidates: “A real-time graph depicting the averaged reactions of 32 supposedly undecided voters, who expressed favor or disfavor by turning handheld dials as they watched.”

A study by British scientists purports to show that a relative handful of indecisive common folk can “unduly” influence millions of their equally indecisive fellows around the country with this real-time feedback. Wait, we needed what was probably a tax-funded scientific study to tell us that?

Anyway … this, apparently, is BAD FOR DEMOCRACY™.

We can’t have WE THE PEOPLE™ influencing WE THE PEOPLE™ while a “debate” is going on! Oh noes! It’s the job of the elites — in the media, in politics, in government bureaucracies, in academia, and in think tanks — to influence the people before and after the “debates.” Now that’s democracy!

“The responses of a small group of individuals could, via the [graph], influence millions of voters. This possibility is not conducive to a healthy democracy,’ wrote Davis and Memon.”

Well, then, if it’s the influence of a few on the many that we should be concerned about, where’s the worry about the influence of political-campaign spin on voters? of “unbiased,” “fair and balanced,” “we report, you decide” journalist coverage of the campaigns? of slanted commentary and analysis by mainstream-media talking heads and political pundits? of “debates” consisting entirely of hyper-choreographed, alternating presentations of substanceless soundbites and slogans in response to a moderator’s softball questions? No, that’s all the essence of democratic discourse, of course. Nevermind that these elites are also relatively small groups of individuals influencing millions of voters.

It’s not so much the real-time nature of the feedback that these people find troubling. I presume they do not have a problem with a politically opinionated and outspoken individual providing running commentary to his friends or family while they watch the “debates” on tv … unless he’s espousing opinions with which they strongly disagree, of course. It’s the scale of the influence that really bothers them. CNN’s graph allows a few commoners to rival the influence of their betters. They don’t like the competition.

Would they also be troubled by a mass techno-democracy in which the preferences and reactions of millions of Americans were aggregated in some kind of social-media graph so that millions of Americans, instead of just 32, could influence each other in real-time? I think so: “real-time onscreen feedback is fundamentally incompatible with the notion that voters ought to think for themselves.” Voters ought to think for  themselves … except, that is, when it is the elites who are trying to influence them.

You know what does worry me about CNN’s real-time feedback graph?

It’s that journalists will quite naturally not be unbiased in selecting a “representative sample” of supposedly undecided voters. It’s that the graph or the sample of voters producing it could be tampered with by someone or some group with an agenda. There are token mentions of these two worries in the Wired.com article, but the bulk of the worry is over a few voters influencing millions of others. On the other hand, “random” samples of 32 voters are potentially more representative than juries, and it would be tough for their composition and deliberations to be more thoroughly manipulated by the MSM than juries are by judges and lawyers.

What worries me the most is that more people seem to be concerned about the graph than the far more insidious influence of our statist elites on society that I just highlighted.

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The State’s Corruption of Nuclear Power http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/01/the-states-corruption-of-nuclear-power/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/01/the-states-corruption-of-nuclear-power/#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2011 04:34:29 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8290 There’s a lot of misinformation and confusion out there about nuclear power. Environmentalist wackos are against nuclear because they are against energy; as environut Paul Ehrlich infamously said, “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.1 Others think nuclear power plants can explode like nuclear bombs (they can’t). Still others fret about where the waste would be stored, the same types who wonder about landfills. They don’t realize the waste problem is far worse with other types of energy, or that nuclear is safer and cleaner too.2

The current nuclear technology is superior in many ways to fossil fuel energy production, but thorium-based nuclear energy has many advantages over the current uranium-based systems. As noted here, in a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor, “1) it cannot be used for producing the raw material for atomic bombs, 2) it cannot meltdown under any circumstances, and 3) after 500 years its waste will be no more dangerous than the ashes from a conventional coal burning power plant.” Point 1 should give you a clue as to why this did not become the dominant technology. Thorium does not provide material for nuclear bombs, while uranium reactors do. (See Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium (“US physicists in the late 1940s explored thorium fuel for power. It has a higher neutron yield than uranium, a better fission rating, longer fuel cycles, and does not require the extra cost of isotope separation. The plans were shelved because thorium does not produce plutonium for bombs. As a happy bonus, it can burn up plutonium and toxic waste from old reactors, reducing radio-toxicity and acting as an eco-cleaner.”); Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium (“After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.”); see also the video below around 7:10.)


  1. See also Lew Rockwell’s great Anti-Environmentalist Manifesto, and his The Enviro-Skeptic’s Manifesto

  2. See Petr Beckmann’s The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear (Amazon; PDF) and his pamphlets The Non-Problem of Nuclear Waste and Why “Soft” Technology Will Not Be America’s Energy Salvation, mentioned in my post Access to Energy

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Arthur C. Clarke vs. Economics and Capitalism http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/30/arthur-c-clarke-vs-economics-and-capitalism/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/03/30/arthur-c-clarke-vs-economics-and-capitalism/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2011 03:17:22 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8274 A few years ago in honor of Arthur C. Clarke’s then-recent birthday, I wrote on my own blog that he must never have read Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard,

because according to this quote cited by Gregory Benford in his happy-birthday letter in Locus Magazine (January 2008), he claims that “there are some general laws governing scientific extrapolation, as there are not (pace Marx) in the case of politics and economics.” Well, far be it from me to disagree that Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but Clarke is wrong here. Sir Clarke, you may be 90 years old now, and happy birthday by the way, but it’s never too late to acquire a firm grasp of sound economic theory.

As disappointing as it is, it’s not surprising that he had a natural-scientistic bias against economics. Sadly, he died only a few months after my post.

In a more recent article in the Sri Lanka Guardian, more of Clarke’s economic ignorance is on display:

While researching for this article I came across a searing indictment by Clarke on the American capitalist system. After observing that the structure of American society may be unfitted for the effort that the conquest of space demands he continued, “No nation can afford to divert its ablest men into essentially non-creative and occasionally parasitic occupations such as law, insurance and banking”. He also referred to a photograph in Life Magazine showing 7,000 engineers massed behind a new model car they had produced as ‘a horrifying social document’. He was appalled by the squandering of technical manpower it represented. All this indeed makes one wonder whether he really was a closet socialist.

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. — Murray Rothbard

Maybe not a socialist, at least not of the Marxist variety, but there’s definitely a technocratic central-planner streak in there. Now, there may be government policies that divert more people to work in the legal, insurance, and banking professions (particularly legal) than otherwise would in a free market, but somehow I think Clarke has in mind here a more general dismissal of the value of these professions — which is just silly ignorance.

As for so many engineers working on automobiles rather than spaceships and space elevators, well, there’s just more money in it, bub. Deal with it. And, quite frankly, as much as I dream about space exploration and colonization, I’d rather keep driving ever-improving cars than make do with horse-and-buggy for who knows how long while the nation’s resources are diverted to centrally-planned space projects that will undoubtedly waste vast resources and trillions of dollars and may not come to fruition in my lifetime. So sue me for having high time preference.

But in my old blogpost I did identify some good quotes from Clarke, again reported by Benford:

“[F]or the one fact about the Future of which we can be certain is that it will be utterly fantastic.” Sounds more American than British to me.

“[E]xact knowledge is the friend, not the enemy, of imagination and fantasy.”

Here’s one that evokes, for me at least, the evils and waste of war: “All this effort, all this death, when we could be building the staging area for a seaborne space elevator.” But Clarke probably had in mind using the state to direct all that effort and money toward his pet space elevator.

In his May 2008 memorial letter for Clarke, Benford added two more quotes that I like:

“There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.”

“New ideas pass through three periods: It can’t be done; it probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing; I knew it was a good ideal all along!”

[Cross-posted at Prometheus Unbound.]

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Our Dystopian Future: Biodiesel http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/02/01/our-dystopian-future-biodiesel/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/02/01/our-dystopian-future-biodiesel/#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 19:00:27 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=7958 Recently, I was listening to the BrainStuff podcast, which I highly recommend, and Marshall Brain, the host and founder of Howstuffworks.com covers the possibility of bacteria or algae being used to create fuel, eliminating our need for fossil fuels. This is quite fascinating, and listeners speculated that the oil companies might simply kill such technologies. Brain then started speculating on ways to get around this possibility, and came up with the idea that an inexpensive do-it-yourself kit might be developed, and spread widely, making it impossible for the cheap and easy method for fuel production to be shut down. This is a very optimistic view, but I think his idea could be jeopardized by intellectual property laws.

If such a method were produced, it is difficult to imagine the bacteria/algae being unencumbered by patents. The patent holders would have incentives to prevent the sort of underground fuel production plants that Brain describes. The oil companies would not need to kill the technology. Unauthorized production of fuel could be addressed in the same way that unauthorized production of drugs and alcohol is addressed: with police raids and tax crackdowns. In fact, one way to help prevent people “unfairly” using the intellectual property of others would be to require the tracking of mileage and gas purchases for registered vehicles, so that no one could own a car, drive 20,000 miles in a year, but not have gas purchases which correspond to the miles driven. The templates for these things are already in place. All which is really needed is a new application. Old wine in new bottles.

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