One of the reasons why IP-abolitionists oppose “intellectual property” is because IP monopolies in effect boil down to a restriction on existent ownership rights. To this charge, a common retort heard even from libertarians, is that all property rights are not absolute (i.e. “you can’t shoot your gun wherever you choose”, “the right to swing your fist ends by my nose”, etc.) and so too IP laws can morally and thus justly restrict people from using certain configurations or arrangements of their already owned property.
It occurred to me that this is a mere semantic quibble. If we substitute the word “to” for the word “with”, we no longer have an equivalence between IP and those examples. For argument’s sake, we can even agree with the gist of those examples and suppose that an owner may not always have the right to do certain actions with his property but this wouldn’t contradict a fundamental right to do certain actions to his property, which is more precisely what anti-IP arguers hold.
This retort focuses solely on the restrictionist view in that it’s [morally] just to have laws that restrict existent property rights. But those examples are a flawed comparison to begin with; we would never hold that property rights to a gun would allow the violation of another persons’ property.
This is because ownership isn’t a bundle of certain permissible actions or rights, but rather the totality of a “negative” quality– a restriction upon others from violating the owner’s right to control. In any given context, violations of property rights is what determines the impermissibility for any given action, not a deficiency in the ownership rights of the hypothetical gun or swinging-fist.
Jakub Wozinski, who previously published “Hayek and Departure from Praxeology” in Libertarian Papers, asked me to post the draft of his working paper “A Priori of Justice” (RTF; PDF; text here). His note is below. Feel free to email comments to him or leave them in the comments field below.
”A Priori of Justice” is an attempt to systematize the whole libertarian legal theory. This paper is based mostly on Hoppean and Rothbardian concepts, but I suggest some improvements. In my approach I emphasize homesteading should be understood as change of location and surety, i.e. material substratum of valid contracts. It is my view that this perspective can shed new light on the whole of libertarian theory.
Another aspect of my paper is the identification of law and ethics as one integrated theory justified by action and argumentation axioms. A libertarian legal code is presented as the only possible ethic and all other theories considered hitherto to be ethics are just beliefs which cannot be rationally proved.
I am hopeful that the reader will find in “A Priori of Justice” more than just the repetition of the old theories and will be surprised by my fresh approach.
Before publishing this paper, I would like to receive comments and other suggestions for improvement or refinement from other libertarians interested in these matters. I will be grateful for any comments (please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org).