Laissez-Faire Books was founded in 1972 when issues of intellectual property hadn’t been worked out in detail in the libertarian world. There was of course the Randian view, which took IP to the most absurd extremes. Then there was the Rothbardian view, which had a very strict view of what is and what is not property and because IP doesn’t pass this test, the Rothbardian perspective tended toward the open model.
LFB itself never questioned the statist conventions on this topic. In fact, it even went through a period in which its owner worked to send take down notices to sites for posting old books to which it claimed the rights. How well I recall my own disgust! LFB uses the state to stop the spread of libertarian ideas! That’s just incredible.
Well, Agora Financial took over the institution this year and it immediately became obvious that they were Kinsellaites on this question. While working at the Mises Institute, I had worked with the new LFB to do some co-publishing in the commons. So when I accepted the position as publisher and executive editor, I made it a condition that, wherever possible, we always publish into the commons.
Management readily agreed, and even wondered why I was making such a big deal out of this. After all, this is a gigantically successful company and they have learned that the most important way to sell a product is to market it as widely and broadly as possible. If by putting something in the commons, you stand to reach more people, isn’t this a great thing? Isn’t this what commerce is all about? And from a mission point of view, isn’t this what libertarian education is all about?
Indeed it is! I immediately felt that we would soon be running an important experiment: a large scale publisher in the world of commerce would soon be publishing with Creative Commons and eschewing copyright in every way. This is a massive step for the libertarian world and even for the world of publishing in general.
Cato Institute has launched a new website: libertarianism.org. In a previous incarnation, the domain served as a promotion page for David Boaz’s Libertarianism: A Primer.
Designed to be an introductory and exploratory — if not quite a portal — site, it sports an elegant, stylized dove-wing logo. This is Cato’s version of what the Advocates for Self-Government offer at libertarianism.com. But Cato’s new site offers more links and videos on its front page, so it is bound to get more hits. The site offers a basic banner introduction:
LIBERTY. It’s a simple idea, but it’s also the linchpin of a complex system of values and practices: justice, prosperity, responsibility, toleration, cooperation, and peace. Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. THEY’RE CALLED LIBERTARIANS.
Well, that’s one way of putting it.
Just below the banner, a video of an F.A. Hayek lecture on why ethics not arise from our reason. A familiar Hayekian topic, and I just started listening to it. Below that are three other videos, one by Milton Friedman on humility, a short (and terrific) Murray Rothbard lecture on economic recessions, and Joan Kennedy Taylor on feminism. Today’s featured essays are by George H. Smith (“Religious Toleration Versus Religious Freedom”) and Tom G. Palmer (“Myths of Individualism.”) [Keep reading…]
Next month I’ll be teaching a new Mises Academy course,”Libertarian Controversies.” This is my fourth Mises Academy course (the previous three are Libertarian Legal Theory, Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics, and The Social Theory of Hoppe), and my fifth time teaching there (I have reprised the IP course once).
From the course page:
Modern libertarianism is a young, developing and vibrant science. Variants includes classical liberalism, minarchism, and, in its most rigorous form, anarcho-Austrian libertarianism. Libertarians of various stripes are influenced by utilitarian, pragmatic and natural law theories, and by thinkers including Ayn Rand, Hayek, Rothbard, Mises, and others. For decades there has been vigorous debate among different camps of libertarians about a host of controversial issues, from the foundation of rights to the nature of government, and about concrete issues such as abortion, strategy and activism, living in an unfree world, anarchy v. minarchy, punishment and restitution, and so on. In this course, libertarian legal theorist Stephan Kinsella will explore a variety of libertarian misconceptions and controversies, from an Austro-libertarian perspective.
In the discussion about misconceptions, Kinsella will identify a number of common libertarian mistakes, confusions, fallacies or flawed reasoning and propose a solution or more consistent approach. Issues to be discussed include: creation as a source of property rights; labor as being owned; unintentional equivocation (harm, authority, hierarchy, etc.); alienability and voluntary slavery; [Keep reading…]
A decade ago Terence Ball wrote a critique of some Frankenstein-like creature meant to represent free market ideology. He robbed the graves of men and women as diverse as Murray Rothbard, Margaret Thatcher, Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand to put it together and came up with something that no libertarian would endorse, I suspect, but which nevertheless is recognizable as libertarian(ish). It may not be the same species, but it is in the same genus. Or at least the same family.
He imagined a country called Marketopia and described how life would be there, with the purpose of showing us that while markets are good for some things, there are areas where they are inappropriate. As he wrote, “why do some (or perhaps all) Marketopian practices make many – perhaps most – of us uneasy or queasy, or worse?” The great problem with his essay is that he never demonstrates to the reader’s satisfaction that he understands what his own argument is. He claims to be interested in three questions: Why do people get queasy at the practices of Marketopia, what distortions of the language would Marketopia produce and are we already headed towards Marketopia.
About the second question I care nothing at all, and about the third… well, watching a statist fretting over how close we are to a Free Market is a bit like listening to a neocon quaking that Iran presents a military threat to the United States. It would be less embarrassing to watch a grown man sleep with a night light to protect him from the Bogey Man in his closet. The first question bears some scrutiny, however, but I wish I could do it knowing what exactly Dr. Ball had in mind.
Is this Marketopia supposed to be what would always happen if libertarianism ever won the day, or is he just demonstrating how market activity is inappropriate for some relationships? If the latter is his point, I would say he came up with a handful of examples where I agree with him, but what does he propose to do about it? If the former, it should be pointed out that many of these activities are legal now but do not occur.