[First posted June 2015]
by Richard Boren
[A note from the webmaster: To preserve the value added by those who discussed (and may continue to discuss) this early version, we will retain this page indefinitely. We’ve released the new Revision as a PDF with a separate public discussion page.]
I am in favor of treating ideas as property. The purpose of this paper is to support that position, primarily by using the principles developed by Andrew J. Galambos. In so doing I will address the specific arguments made by N. Stephan Kinsella and others cited by him in his monograph, Against Intellectual Property. I hope to demonstrate that we have no rational choice but to treat ideas as property. It will be seen that doing so is ethical and will not produce negative consequences as Kinsella claims, but instead will be beneficial to both individuals and society. I have tried to represent Kinsella’s views accurately, but for those interested in reading the full text of his paper (and I think you should) it is available at the Mises Institute website and elsewhere.
As noted, my views are primarily informed by the concepts advanced by Andrew J. Galambos, some of which will be disclosed here. I am neither a lawyer, as is Mr. Kinsella, nor a philosopher or other brand of academic, as are most of the people upon whom Kinsella relies. Other than a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I have no generally-recognized academic credentials. However, I did have a multi-year educational interaction with Professor Galambos, and it stuck. It is fair to say that I am a Galambosian, which means that I believe that he was right about how intellectual property should be treated, and much more.
Had it not been for my exposure to Galambos I might well find myself in agreement with Mr. Kinsella on the issue of intellectual property. After all, Kinsella offers the appealing prospect of getting something for nothing, a desire that Galambos identified as basic to human nature, as explained below. In this case the “something” is intellectual property. Unfortunately, as Galambos also pointed out, the laws of physics make it impossible to get something for nothing. As Milton Friedman famously said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
Those readers whose curiosity about Galambos may have been piqued by the references to him in Kinsella’s paper and elsewhere will be presented with facts rather than speculation. It is my experience that the negative comments about Galambos’ ideas always come from people who never took his courses or read his book, relying instead on hearsay and fragmentary information, drawing incorrect conclusions as a result. Mr. Kinsella is in this category. In this work I hope to reveal enough about Galambos’ ideas to convince him and others of their merits.
Galambos was an astrophysicist who observed that the progress that has been made in the physical and biological sciences since what he called the Newtonian Integration has far outstripped that in the social sciences. He believed that the methods of science could be applied to the social domain so as to dramatically increase individual freedom, while dramatically reducing violence and poverty.
Toward that end, Galambos lectured extensively on the scientific method, which I won’t go into. He also taught something else that is fundamental to science, which he labeled “semantic precision,” and discussing it here is essential. The term refers to the use of a vocabulary wherein the words have the same meaning to all participants. Words such as mass, energy, electron, wave, molecule, cell, neuron, and so forth come to mind in the physical and biological sciences. Clearly, progress would be difficult if not impossible without agreement on the meaning of these terms. Galambos noted that one of the major barriers to solving mankind’s greatest social problems was that the relevant terminology was still fuzzy at best. For example, the meaning of words such as “freedom,” “moral,” and “justice” varies from person to person and community to community. One of his tasks was to correct that.
In his courses Galambos provided what are called “stipulated definitions.” Anyone who has ever taken a course in any field will be familiar with having the instructor introduce various terms as the course goes on. Students are expected to learn them and to communicate using them. That was the way Galambos taught his courses, defining terms as he went along and never deviating from using them in the same way every time. All in all, the Galambos glossary contains about 100 words and phrases, the majority of them introduced in his basic course, V-50. This is the language that I think in today, and the concepts form my world view. I’ll use some of the words and phrases in the rest of this document, doing my best to use them as Galambos intended.
Galambos founded the for-profit Free Enterprise Institute (FEI) in the early 1960’s and operated it successfully until the mid-1980’s when he was struck by Alzheimer’s disease, eventually passing away in 1997. He made good money teaching his ideas to willing students in a university-type lecture setting, but at a lower price than college courses of comparable length, and with a money-back guarantee to boot. Most of what he taught wasn’t available anywhere else, either at that time or since. I attended FEI classes from 1975 to 1979, and accumulated about 1,000 hours of lecture time. It was far and away the most exciting and valuable educational experience of my life.
Galambos planned to write a book and even pre-sold it to his students, who paid for it in advance. I am one of those students. Publication was targeted for 1987 (not coincidentally the 300th anniversary of the publishing of Newton’s Principia Mathematica), but he never wrote it. Instead, in accordance with the book purchase contract, a lightly-edited transcript of his 1968 delivery of Course V-50, together with an extension called V-50X, given in 1976, was published by his trustees in 1999 as Sic Itur Ad Astra, Volume One (SIAA). The Latin title means, This Is the Way to the Stars. I own a copy and will be quoting from it. I also own a recording of Senior Lecturer Jay Stuart Snelson’s 1978 delivery of the course, to which I have listened numerous times.
The trustees have a contractual requirement to publish the remaining volumes, which were to have included the contents of Course V-201, the course Galambos called his most important. However they have refused to do so, saying that it was a mistake to have published anything. In line with that position, they have withdrawn Volume One from sale. I strongly disagree with these actions. In my opinion, by Galambos’ standards what his trustees have done is criminal.
One of the results of their actions is that Galambos remains an obscure figure, and I find myself having to write this. Fortunately, in lieu of the unpublished remaining volumes I have access to the notes that Jay Snelson used when he taught Course V-201. These notes are reportedly a virtual transcription of the lectures Galambos delivered. Finally, I have my own student notes.
Galambos worried that some students might misconstrue, misapply, or incompetently apply his ideas and bring unfair criticism on them. In an effort to control those things as much as possible, he required students to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This has been misunderstood and even ridiculed by some, as when Kinsella says, “…his own theories bizarrely restrict the ability of his supporters to disseminate them.” For the record, the agreement did not say that students could never discuss or use the ideas, only that doing so would require Galambos’ permission. Such agreements are common when intellectual property must be exchanged in confidence. For example, this may be done to protect trade secrets, or to withhold the existence of a scientific discovery until it is confirmed or can be turned into a product. Given that Galambos’ stated purpose was to bring about positive social change based on his ideas, it was clear that at some point they would be disseminated and used. However, in the interim, the lack of publication, coupled with piecemeal, out-of-context disclosures by some students, has led some people to gross misunderstandings of what Galambos taught, said, and did.
Importantly, Galambos did not require book purchasers to sign a non-disclosure agreement. With that book he intended to put his ideas into the marketplace. Therefore, in my opinion I am free to discuss the content of both V-50 and V-201, keeping in mind that the pitfalls of out-of-context disclosures still exist. Therefore, such disclosures as I make herein will represent my best effort to do no harm. That said, by definition the disclosures are out of the context of Galambos’ entire bundle of ideas. There is no substitute for hearing all of them, which combine to constitute a complete system that is both internally consistent and consistent with the laws of nature, including human nature. However, I have presented only those concepts that are both relevant to intellectual property and which can be understood on their own. I hope that I have done this well.
Galambos saw the American Revolution as a major turning point in the history of man—the end of the idea that we need a ruler, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. In 1776, “ruler” meant “king,” but the broader meaning was any ruler at all. He recognized that the Constitution instituted a new kind of rulership, and set about trying to find ways to “fix” it. (He also noted that the Constitution lacked a glossary, with the resulting lack of semantic precision leading to centuries of squabbles over the meaning of words and phrases.) However, within a few years he concluded that all political systems—even democracy—relying as they do on coercion, are not only morally wrong but are functionally unable to achieve their noble goals. He abandoned political government and came up with a non-political, non-utopian, total system for achieving peace, prosperity, and freedom.
Much of his system was revealed in Course V-50 (a catalog number, with “V” standing for “volition”) which consisted of 16 sessions, each of approximately three hours, plus three question-and-answer sessions of similar length, called “workshops.” His teachings came to be known as “Volitional Science,” a term coined by Jay Snelson and put into use to distinguish the concepts from what most of the world calls “social science.”
In the first session, students were told that the course was about freedom, and how to build it (not fight for it, march for it, vote for it, or pray for it). The first step was to define “freedom.”
Freedom: The societal condition wherein every individual has full (100%) control of his property.
At this point you might say, “That’s impossible,” and stop reading. Perhaps another of Galambos’ stipulated definitions will keep you engaged.
Impossible: That which would violate a law of nature.
By definition, laws of nature cannot be violated. However, there is no known law of nature that will prevent the attainment of freedom. As a way of illustrating this, Galambos pointed out that manned, heavier-than-air flight was never impossible; we just didn’t know how to do it until the various problems were solved, principally by the Wright brothers. The fact that something is difficult does not mean that it is impossible. Galambos acknowledged that it will be difficult to build freedom, at least initially, but it is not impossible. Your reading of this paper is a step in the right direction.
As an aside, I consider the definition of impossible to be one of the most valuable things I learned from Galambos. I learned that if a violation of a law of nature is observed, it simply tells us that the law wasn’t a law in the first place. Since learning this there have been countless times when I’ve heard someone say, “That’s impossible,” and known it not to be true. I’ve also heard the statement, “Anything’s possible,” and known it to be false.
You should also know that freedom as Galambos defined it is a goal, to be approached asymptotically. We can get close, but because of the nature of humans we’ll never quite reach perfection. Of course there is always a statistical possibility of that happening, meaning that at one particular instant every human will behave himself, but in general there will always be at least a few miscreants interfering with someone else’s property. The society that Galambos conceived of is based on principles that will tend to minimize such property interferences in the first place, and to quickly rectify them when they occur. His courses revealed those principles and showed how to create a society where, for all practical purposes, freedom is a fact. (I don’t know what kind of social features Mr. Kinsella wants, but I’ll speculate that he would like what Galambos had in mind.)
This discussion of freedom, taken out of the context of his full course, is an example of the out-of-context problem that worried Galambos. So here’s some needed context: To complete the definition of freedom, Galambos had to define property. He said that he would define it “differently from the way it has been defined before” and that “the entire theory of Volitional Science depends on it. ‘Property’ in Volitional Science is just as fundamental as ‘mass’ is in physics.” [SIAA p. 21]
Property: A man’s life and all non-procreative derivatives thereof.
It can be seen that this excludes children as property. Galambos later changed “man” to “volitional being” so that it would apply to other volitional (choice-making) beings in the universe.
Property is of three types:
Primordial Property: Life
Primary Property: Thoughts, ideas, and actions
Secondary Property: Tangibles
Galambos’ view of property conforms to the principle of Occam’s razor. His definition (a person’s life and its non-procreative derivatives) is simple, and all types of property receive the same treatment. Kinsella, on the other hand, wants us to treat life and tangibles in one way, and intellectual property in the opposite way, all the while saying that intellectual property isn’t property in the first place. To be sure, Occam’s razor is only a guide, but it is one that has proven quite reliable.
In a state-free society there would be no “lawmakers” and no legislated law. Instead, there would be what is known as “common law,” a set of principles by which behavior would be measured and disputes resolved. If common law was based on Galambos’ principles and definitions, it would acknowledge that you own your life, your thoughts, your ideas, your actions, and the tangible things that people usually mean when they talk about “property” today. In that society you would have a right to full (100%) control over all three types of your property. When it came to choices regarding the disposition of your property, the decision would always be yours and no one else’s. You might give some or all of it away, but that decision would be yours.
The ownership of primary property was, in Galambos’ view, essential to achieving freedom, from which lasting peace and prosperity would spring. Galambos held that freedom, once attained, would be indestructible. A similar belief was later voiced by Murray Rothbard in For a New Liberty, where he points out (I’m paraphrasing here) that if a group of people was dropped into a state-free place they would not turn around and appoint a subgroup to rule them, and would consider such a proposal ridiculous. Other modern authors such as Michael Huemer, Carl Watner, David Friedman, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Morris and Linda Tannehill, and Stefan Molyneux have made much the same observations in describing how the institutions of a totally voluntary society would function without devolving into a new state. To anyone who is as yet uncertain as to how such a society would function, you will find the answers in the works that I have listed below.
At first glance, the spirit of U.S. patent and copyright law might seem to be generally consistent with Galambos’ views on primary property, meaning that it should be protected. I have been fortunate to live my life in the USA, where people who create primary property can, and frequently do, achieve fame and/or fortune from it. Although our system of patent and copyright laws are provided and coercively enforced by the state, they at least have the nominal goal of protecting primary property. The ordinary citizen knows that if he has primary property that he thinks is valuable there are steps he can take to protect his interest in it.
Although Galambos sought to protect primary property, he rejected the methods in use today. In SIAA he said:
The patent is a coercive monopoly, with the state on the side of the one who has the patent and to hell with everybody else! And how about the copyright? That’s nothing. The copyright doesn’t have any function whatsoever. Do you know what the copyright protects? How many of you know what the copyright protects? Phraseology. You can take a book and rewrite it in different words; steal the idea and there’s nothing that the copyright does to protect you against that. You can reword an essay, a poem, a story; the copyright protects nothing except the phraseology. It’s a farce. [SIAA p. 632]
I suspect that Mr. Kinsella would agree with this. However, when people in his camp criticize innovators such as the Wright brothers for using the power of the state to protect their ideas, I must remind them that they were using the only tools and knowledge that were available at the time. They did not have the advantage of living in a state-free society operating under common law based on the rational principles advanced by Galambos.
As noted, Galambos rejected all attempts to solve problems by political action. None of his insights, discoveries, hypotheses, or proposals requires political action of any sort. He believed that all political entities inevitably collapse and that all such current entities, including the United States, are collapsing now. His prescription was to ignore them as much as possible without incurring their wrath and going to jail or worse, and to set about building a free society in parallel, one that would survive the collapse. With the advent of the Internet, which allows communities to exist in cyberspace, this is much easier to achieve, and on a larger scale, than it was in Galambos’ day.
Although we don’t yet have a state-free society, that was Galambos’ goal and his frame of reference. Therefore, I will not address any of Kinsella’s complaints that have anything to do with state-created patent and copyright laws, their imperfections, their cost to administer, or their negative consequences, and will focus only on activity in a state-free world.
I will also not address anything having to do with “natural” rights, “inalienable” rights, or rights “endowed by a creator.” To Galambos, the only rights are contractual. He said:
I don’t agree that we are endowed with any rights at all. We are endowed with our lives and our brains and the natural resources to which we have access. We are endowed with no rights whatsoever. That’s an error right there. We have to earn rights. Rights are man-made…. [SIAA p. 97]
My first encounter with Against Intellectual Property was in 2009, when a Google search for “Galambos” led me to a 2006 blog post by Mr. Kinsella on the Mises Institute website under the headline, “Galambos and Other Nuts.” Since I was certain that Galambos wasn’t a “nut,” I was disturbed to see that Kinsella had applied that label while admitting that he was almost totally ignorant of what Galambos had said. I added a comment, comparing Kinsella’s remarks to those of a critic who attacks a movie without having seen it.
I was surprised to learn that Kinsella—or anyone—had written a paper attacking intellectual property. I had no idea that anyone in a non-communist country could possibly be against owning it like any other property. I began to read Kinsella’s paper, but soon found what I thought were fatal errors and didn’t finish it. I also came across something written by Jeffrey Tucker. He said that after six years of thinking about Kinsella’s paper, he finally came to embrace Kinsella’s view and had concluded that “intellectual property is a form of exploitation and expropriation that is gravely dangerous for civilization itself.” To me, it is that belief that is gravely dangerous. Kinsella and Tucker have some influence in the libertarian community but, in my view, the influence is in the wrong direction on this matter. As a result I felt compelled to write this paper.
Recently, on the Liberty.me website, Tucker answered a subscriber’s question with the following:
It’s hard to square IP [intellectual property] with private ownership. We might be talking about different things. If you have an idea and write software, record a song, or whatever, there is nothing wrong at all with taking steps to retain your market monopoly on that product. People do this every day. The one and only problem is state grants of monopoly. I guess I’m doomed to be frustrated that the ultimate article/treatise on this subject is not written.
I have good news for Mr. Tucker. Although Galambos’ teachings may not be the “ultimate” article/treatise, it gets us over the hump. It shows how to protect intellectual property without any state intervention, indeed, without any state. If “the one and only problem is state grants of monopoly” then Mr. Tucker’s problem is solved. Unfortunately, that still leaves Mr. Kinsella, who claims that ideas aren’t property, and that attempts to treat them as such would require unethical control of other people’s property. This is his view even in the absence of a state. Since Mr. Tucker has embraced Kinsella’s paper wholeheartedly, it would seem that he agrees with these positions.
This leads me to mention an observation. It seems that the leading libertarian writers, while offering powerful defenses of life and of physical property, are usually silent when it comes to intellectual property as can be seen by looking at the indices of their books under “property” and “intellectual property.” (The opposite is true for Lysander Spooner’s The Law of Intellectual Property, which argues magnificently for intellectual property and the perpetual ownership thereof.) For most authors, it’s as though such property doesn’t exist, a surprising thing in view of the fact that their work product is ideas. Several of them paint an elaborate picture of how a libertarian society would function, with everything provided by private means, but never mention how intellectual property would be treated. Perhaps they don’t know how to handle it and simply ignore it. When I encounter these works I say to myself, “If only you knew what Galambos had to say.” With this paper I hope to effectively convey that information.
When I began to read Kinsella’s paper, I was struck by his statements that only scarce things can be property, and that ideas are not naturally scarce. Therefore, he said, ideas cannot be property and cannot be owned. I find problems with both of his premises and with his conclusion.
Kinsella begins the section of his paper called “Property and Scarcity” by saying, “Let us take a step back and look afresh at property rights.” He then goes on to claim (aided by a number of quoted sources) that it is scarcity, and the possibility of conflict over the use of scarce things, that gives rise to property rights as a means of avoiding that conflict. To this he adds that such rights must be visible. They must also be just, with the first-occupier homesteading rule providing the standard of justice.
Galambos also “stepped back and looked afresh at property rights.” The result was his afore-mentioned definition of property, first published in 1963: Property is a man’s life and all non-procreative derivatives thereof.
There is no mention of scarcity in Galambos’ definition. Rather, a person’s life and everything that person generates, tangible or intangible, scarce or not, is his property, and he owns it by default. Galambos’ goal was to show us how to create a society in which every individual has full control of that property. He then defined the societal condition in which such control existed as “freedom.” We can create that society without ever pondering the concept of scarcity.
Would this be a just way of doing things? Yes, because the first-occupier homesteading rule would apply. Galambos recognized that multiple people could independently have the same idea. His definition of property includes that possibility. Your ideas are your property. It doesn’t matter how many other people have the same idea, or when—it belongs to each of you. Although Galambos did not cite the homesteading rule as the means of establishing ownership, in effect he was saying that just as an idea can be used by more than one person it can be homesteaded by more than one person. By thinking it, you have homesteaded it. Then, by registering it, you have documented your homesteading claim, thus creating the needed visible borders and establishing your ownership versus the non-ownership of those who haven’t independently had the idea. With this system in place, conflicts could arise but they would only be about determining independency.
But let’s not forget about scarcity entirely. Kinsella says that ideas are not scarce, but are superabundant. There’s much more on this in the next section, but for the sake of argument, let’s agree with him for a moment. Suppose that—horror of horrors–some non-scarce thing was included in the definition of property. In my view it wouldn’t matter. If someone calls a non-scarce thing their property, they will simply be ignored by the rest of society. Because the thing is abundant there will be no reason for conflict.
To Mr. Kinsella’s credit, he at least acknowledges (I would say grudgingly, in Footnote 89) that there could be alternative systems to his:
Of course, in anarcho-capitalism, it is difficult to predict what extensive contractual regimes, networks, and institutions will arise. Various enclaves or communities may well require their customers, patrons, or “citizens” to abide by certain IP-like rules.
I wonder whether Mr. Kinsella ever thought about what those “IP-like” rules might be. I don’t know what he means, and I wish he had given us an example. In my view, something is either intellectual property or it is not, and the distinction has been made clear by Galambos, seemingly eliminating the possibility of anything being IP “like.” Galambos, for his part, did in fact create a set of basic rules for IP, and you are reading them here.
Mr. Kinsella is free to advocate for a society in which ideas aren’t recognized as property. As suggested by his footnote, he might do just that and start an anarcho-capitalist enclave or community where the rules explicitly deny that intellectual “property” is property at all. Indeed, that’s what he seems to want, and he could move there. However, his pronouncements could not keep the community next door from using Galambos’ definition and giving ideas the same property status as human life and tangibles, with specific rules and protections fitting the unique requirements of each. If the concept failed in practice, then that would be that.
I believe that not only is it possible for a community to successfully treat ideas as property, but that it will work for society in general, not just enclaves. I encourage creative readers to begin thinking about the advantages of living in a world where common law would treat your ideas as your property, to do with as you please. Then think about living in Kinsella’s world.
There is a problem with Kinsella’s premise that ideas aren’t naturally scarce. In fact, he says that ideas are so plentiful that they should be free, as air is free. As a quantitative matter he is correct because every human constantly generates ideas. And, as Galambos pointed out, ideas cannot be consumed. They cannot be used up. As a result, ideas exist in numbers beyond counting. In the quantitative sense ideas are not scarce. But it is not the quantitative sense that matters when it comes to deciding whether to treat them as property.
The problem with Kinsella’s argument is that he speaks of ideas as though they were a homogenous group, which they are not. Specifically, he does not distinguish between useful ideas that work to achieve their purpose, and ideas that fail to do so; in other words, good ideas and bad ideas. He also does not distinguish between important ideas and unimportant ideas.
Importance: The measure of the total amount of property affected.
Ideas that are both good and important are scarce. This is what I call qualitative scarcity, and it is what matters. The qualitative scarcity of ideas refers to a scale that begins with an enormous number existing ideas, varying widely in utility and importance. Of these, a small number are both important and good. For example, the formula, E = mc2, first disclosed in 1905, is an important, good idea, at the top of the scale. Ideas like this are incredibly scarce. There may be only a few outstanding ideas per generation, and we have only reached even that small production since Newton.
Interestingly, the economic value of the discovery that mass and energy are equivalent was not quickly or generally recognized. Even Einstein himself saw little practical application. How would you turn it into money? Galambos observed that this failure to recognize the importance of a discovery is the typical case. We just cannot see all of the implications and possibilities. Even as late as 1932 Einstein said, “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. That would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Therefore it is likely that in 1905, and for decades thereafter, he would have licensed the idea at a very low price in comparison to its ultimate economic value. This is just one of several natural conditions that will work to restrain the price set by the innovator for the use of his primary property. More of those constraints will be discussed below.
The greatest scarcity possible is something that doesn’t exist, in other words, something that is infinitely scarce. An idea that has not yet been thought of is infinitely scarce. We are today surrounded by the bounty stemming from ideas that were once infinitely scarce.
An idea that has been thought of, but has not been disclosed by the innovator, exists in a quantity of one. An idea that has been disclosed to one other person who has agreed not to disclose it exists in a quantity of two, and is scarce. According to Kinsella, it is scarcity that qualifies something as property. Scarcity is necessary, he says, because it is only scarcity that makes conflict possible. Since it is clear that ideas can be scarce, by Kinsella’s standard it follows that they are property after all.
At the other end of the scale from the few ideas that are both extremely good and extremely important, there are unimportant ideas, both good and bad. These comprise the vast majority of ideas. However, nothing about them disqualifies them from being property. It only makes them property of little value, no value, or even negative value. Therefore they have little or no market demand and there is no incentive to have conflict over them. But things change. An idea that is both good and important today may be neither tomorrow, and vice versa. The surest way to avoid a future problem is to treat all ideas as property from the start.
Galambos proposed a system whereby all ideas, even the best and most important ones, would ultimately be available on the most reasonable terms imaginable, effectively removing any rational reason for conflict. I will describe this in detail later, but mention it now so as to begin to put to rest the idea that treating ideas as property will result in the owners of those ideas (and perhaps their heirs) having a stranglehold on civilization’s progress. Such a conclusion could only be reached by someone who doesn’t know what Galambos proposed, has let his imagination run wild, and has jumped to a pessimistic conclusion. Perhaps it’s the result of seeing too many movies where a villain seeks world domination by controlling something crucial to human survival.
In addition to erroneously denying that there is any natural scarcity of ideas (which there is when it comes to quality and importance) Kinsella says that if you decide to treat the supposedly non-scarce ideas as property anyway, you will have created artificial scarcity. By this he means scarcity created by statute law in the form of patent and copyright.
Kinsella and Galambos agree that the state should end, thus putting an end to legislated laws such as patent and copyright. However, Kinsella also wants to end any effort to protect primary property in any way other than by contract. He believes that unless you are bound by such a contract you have no obligation to the innovator, and you cannot legitimately be prevented from using his primary property. Galambos, on the other hand, would protect that property just as much as tangible property is protected. A car thief can legitimately be prevented from using the car, and an idea thief can be barred from using the idea.
Why would anyone object to letting a person who comes up with an idea protect that idea? One possibility is that Mr. Kinsella doesn’t seem to place much value on the achievement we call innovation. His use of the phrases “merely innovating… merely authoring an original expression of ideas… merely thinking of and recording some original pattern of information” [the emphasis on merely is mine] suggests that he puts innovation pretty low in the hierarchy of human achievement.
Galambos had the opposite view. In Session One of V-50 he defined innovation.
Innovation: Learning how nature operates is called discovery, harnessing it is called invention; and the two together are called innovation.
All told, the word “innovation” appears about 100 times in SIAA, always in a positive context. To Galambos, all progress begins with innovation, and innovators occupy the figurative top slot. Protecting the work of innovators (their primary property), as well as their physical well-being, is the starting point for achieving freedom.
Now let’s look at what Kinsella asserts would be the negative effect of innovators having total control of their primary property and allowing them and no one else the ability to set the terms and conditions of use. He would approve of Innovator Brown making a contract with User Green wherein Green agrees to Brown’s terms and conditions. However, if Green then gives the idea to Black, Black is not bound by that contract and is free to do as he pleases with the idea. Any attempt by Brown to stop Black would be, in the view of Mr. Kinsella, exercising unethical control over Black’s own property.
He goes further and equates control with ownership. I think that’s simply not true, and wouldn’t respond to it here except for the possibility that it bears on Kinsella’s argument in a way that I do not see. Therefore, I’ll mention that Galambos made a clear distinction between the two words. It also gives me a good place to introduce two fundamental concepts.
Control: The ability to make volitional decisions concerning the disposition of property.
Ownership: The total, permanent, and moral control of property until voluntarily transferred by the owner, where possible.
Moral action: Any action that does not involve coercion.
Coercion: The attempted, intentional, interference with property. Coercion can be by force or by fraud.
The phrase, “where possible,” refers to the fact that it is not possible to sell the ownership of an idea, only its use, in the same way that it is not possible for an author to sell his authorship, only the right to read or reprint his work. This is because innovation and authorship are historical facts, which cannot be changed. The result is that the ownership of primary property is in perpetuity—automatically.
Permanent moral control is ownership. Temporary control is of two kinds—rental, which is moral, and theft, which is immoral. My control of your property, whether moral or immoral, does not confer ownership.
Mr. Kinsella says that “all libertarians” favor property rights in tangible things and rights in one’s own body. These things can be owned. However, in his view intellectual property cannot be owned. (I find it curious that he hasn’t found a better word than intellectual property to describe something that he says isn’t, and cannot be, property.) This seems to expose a logical inconsistency. If I understand Mr. Kinsella correctly, these would be his positions on property protection in the state-free, anarcho-capitalist world that he appears to want:
- I can protect my primordial property (life) by putting people on notice that I do not want them to physically harm me. Then, if they try, in self-defense I can block their blows or even, as a last resort, use deadly force. Such actions would control other people’s property–their arms, their fists, their clubs, their guns, and would be permissible. I could seek restitution from the attackers for any harm I suffered.
- I can protect my secondary property (tangibles) by putting people on notice that I do not want them to take it without my permission. If someone tries, in defense I can block their entry with a lock on my door. If they defeat that lock, I can continue to defend my secondary property by physical means, controlling their arms and legs and such other property as they had brought with them. This control of someone else’s property would be permissible. If despite my efforts they were successful and took my property, and then sold or gave it to others, it would still be my property and I could reclaim it by using force if necessary, and I could seek restitution from them for any loss.
- I can protect my primary property (ideas) by putting people on notice that they cannot be used without my permission. In defense I can take data security and contractual steps. If someone defeats those measures and steals my ideas I can seek restitution from him of such damages as I might be awarded. However, if that person sells or gives my ideas to other persons, any defensive actions against them, such as preventing them from using the ideas or attempting to obtain restitution, would unethically control their property, and would not be permitted.
How can it be ethical to control the property of others in defense of primordial and secondary property, but unethical to do the same thing in defense of primary property? In a civilized society, I don’t have to ask you not to hit me or not to steal my money. I can walk down the street and not worry that a random pedestrian will punch me in the nose. I can set my wallet down on the table and not worry that a fellow restaurant patron will snatch it the minute I glance away. Why should I accept a society where I do have to ask others not to steal my ideas, and where I would have no protection if they do? Mr. Kinsella is certainly free to set up a community where those are the rules, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
As previously stated, communities can be formed with members creating and agreeing to follow whatever common laws they desire. Although Galambos did not use the term “common law” to describe the societal rules that would be derived from the principles he taught, that seems to be his meaning. I, for one, want to live where common law recognizes ideas as property and protects them just as it protects life and tangibles, with this definition in effect.
Stealing: Taking property without the consent of the owner.
Stealing is a form of coercion and is immoral. However, all of us want to get things with as little effort as possible and stealing is one way to do it. But there are powerful social taboos against stealing. We accept that it is wrong to control someone else’s primordial property without permission or payment (a form of theft called slavery) or to control someone else’s secondary property without permission or payment (property theft). But when it comes to taking someone’s primary property without permission or payment (also property theft), Kinsella and others think that’s just fine. Their first justification is that ideas are not property in the first place, so they can’t be stolen. But we’ve seen that ideas are property after all, and therefore can be stolen.
Their second justification for using ideas without permission is that restricting the use of an idea is creating “artificial scarcity,” which is supposedly bad for society. According to Mr. Kinsella, it is ethical to counter this by simply using ideas without permission. He claims that there is no harm to the innovator because, unlike a theft of tangible property, the owner still has his idea. If you steal a chair the owner can no longer use it, and that’s bad. But if you steal someone’s idea, everyone, including the owner, can use it, so Kinsella says there can be no conflict. Apparently it is supposed to be obvious that there is no victim. It’s a win-win proposition, Kinsella seems to say. That is a very appealing scenario, so people may not examine the reasoning too closely—if they examine it at all.
But, as an example, let’s look at the act of downloading music without permission and without paying for it. Defenders of the practice say, “The musicians are still rich, aren’t they? Sure, they can’t make money by selling albums anymore, but they just have to adapt to the new business model, which is to make their money by touring. They haven’t been harmed and the rest of us have the music.” The reality is that the “new business model” is a rationalization for the change musicians have had to make to try to compensate for the activities of thieves from which they have little protection. You might as well say that a neighborhood full of burglars and petty thieves would be a “new residential model” for homeowners, and that they should adapt by buying guns.
Generally speaking, it is easy to take ideas without permission, and this is perceived as a negative. There is even an attempt to rationalize the practice by saying, “In the digital age it is so easy to copy things like music, books, movies, data, and other forms of primary property that we should stop trying to prevent it. That sort of defense is obsolete, and is a lost cause.” However, being able to easily steal something doesn’t make the theft moral, any more than the ease of capturing African natives made slavery moral.
I’m struck by the fact that the defenders of primary property theft do not make the slightest suggestion that the thieves should make at least some payment to the person whose primary property has been expropriated. No, it’s just straight-out theft. Why is that? Why doesn’t the downloader of “free” music, music from which a number of people are trying to earn a living, music that none of them want downloaded without payment, and music that gives the downloader pleasure, say, “I love this song! I’m going to pay a royalty. I’d feel bad about myself if I didn’t.” Why doesn’t the seller of counterfeit merchandise or the invention thief do the same? Of course the reason for some of them is that they are simply criminals and know that they are criminals. But others, those who we otherwise think of as “decent people,” have been given superficial, pseudo-intellectual rationalizations for their behavior, and have bought into them because it’s what they wanted to hear.
It’s the second group that bothers me most. That’s because I fear that many good people, having not given the matter much thought, and being driven in part by the desire to get something for nothing, are easy prey for the fallacy that not only is there is no harm in primary property theft, but that protecting it (creating artificial scarcity) is a social evil, and blocks the progress of civilization.
The society that many libertarians claim to want—one without a state—is one in which the activities of the individual are restricted only by what is known as the non-aggression principle. I assume that Mr. Kinsella subscribes to this view. And yet he and some of the other supposed champions of liberty believe it is perfectly acceptable for someone to take primary property from its owner and use it any way they wish, even when the owner explicitly asks them not to do so, and without any financial payment or credit for the idea. These same staunch libertarian, anarcho-capitalist folks say they are all for private property rights, but when it comes to ideas—primary property—they have no problem turning them over to the collective without the owner’s permission. With that mindset, the obvious next step is the taking of tangible property. The phrases, “He’ll never miss it” or “He can afford it” are the functional equivalent of saying, “Using an idea without permission does no harm.” After all, if we can redistribute (steal) ideas, the source of all tangible property, then why not redistribute (steal) that property too?
In Frederic Bastiat’s landmark essay, What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, we learn about the broken window fallacy. We learn to reject the claim that an obviously bad thing, a broken window, is a good thing because of what is seen: the work it provides to the glazier who replaces it. We learn that what is not seen is that if the window had not been broken, its owner could have used his money to buy a new pair of shoes, giving work to the shoemaker, and leaving him with both his original window and a new pair of shoes.
A similar fallacy involves another obviously bad thing, the theft of primary property. Kinsella seems to call it a good thing because of what is seen: ideas that are made available free to everyone, hypothetically leading to a cascade of even more innovation for the benefit of “society.” What is not seen are the potential negative effects on the innovator of taking his property without permission, without payment, and quite likely without credit or gratitude. It would defy reason to claim that those effects are zero, but that’s what “no harm” means. And yet that is what the opponents of intellectual property seem to claim.
Only the owner of property can evaluate the harm done by its theft. The value of property of every kind is subjective to its owner and the owner is the only one who can assess the harm, which may be tangible, intangible, or both. The opinion of a third party, and especially that of the thief, is irrelevant. The person who, rather than pay what the seller of property asks, simply takes the property, should not gain from that acquisition. He’s a thief. Once this is part of common law, others, knowing of his behavior, will be reluctant to accept him into their community or engage in economic transactions with him. His life will become very unpleasant.
It is beyond puzzling to see how those who, calling themselves libertarians, and advocating the sanctity of private property, can at the same time callously sacrifice the individual to the collective without so much as a “Please,” let alone a “Thank you,” and then call the results a good thing, saying no harm was done. Isn’t that what the worst political states do? And think about that action on a more personal level. When a person says, “Please don’t kill me” and you do anyway, what are you? When a person says, “Please don’t steal my car,” and you do anyway, what are you? When an inventor says, “Please don’t copy my invention without a license,” or a singer says, “Please don’t download my song without paying for it,” and you do anyway, what are you?
Here I’ll introduce some Galambos definitions which, along with those of “property” and other concepts, would be part of what I’ll call Galambosian Common Law.
Crime: Any successful act of coercion.
All attempted, intentional interferences with property (coercion) are crimes. Galambos proposed a justice system that would be privately administered (by definition, this is the only possibility in a state-free society) and restitution-based.
Injustice: A crime to which there is no recourse to the victim.
Justice: The elimination of injustice.
One of Galambos’ goals was to reduce injustice to near zero via a proprietary justice system. Its major, profit-seeking participants would be arbitrators, detectives, forensic analysts, security forces, and insurance companies. Various authors have written brilliantly on how a state-free voluntary society would provide every needed product and service, including a justice system. Reading their analyses should firmly establish that a totally private, voluntary society would be hugely successful. However, that is not a claim of perfection, but of relative success.
As Michael Huemer said, in discussing a review of his book by Kevin Vallier at BleedingHeartLibertarians.com, “The question is not whether anarchy is perfect, but whether it is better than government.” I believe that Galambos would agree, although he would use his own definitions. What Huemer calls “government,” Galambos calls the “state.”
State: Any organized coercion which has general accreditation and respectability by the people; a monopoly of crime.
Government: Any person or organization which offers services or products for sale for the purpose of protecting property, to which the owners of property can voluntarily subscribe.
Huemer defines “anarchy” by contrasting it to a government that is coercive rather than voluntary, and which has a monopoly in the services rendered. I believe that he and Galambos are in complete accord here. However, Galambos pointed out that the Greek root of “anarchy” means “without leadership.” In that sense, Galambos said, he was not an anarchist. Instead, Galambos proposed that leadership be ideological, not political.
In thinking about a state-free society, and what should or shouldn’t be protected by common law, we must take into account the things we call incentives and disincentives. Any attempt to make ideas “free” by allowing them to be used without permission or payment will be perceived as a disincentive by innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors. In a society that accepts this practice, there will indeed be “free” ideas. As we know from Bastiat, this is what will be seen. But what will not be seen are the ideas that will never be innovated or, if innovated, will not be introduced into that society’s marketplace. Innovators, entrepreneurs and investors will have an incentive to move to a community where ideas are protected.
But, asks Kinsella, what is the net effect on society of protecting ideas? Is it good or bad? He says it’s “not clear” and “debatable.” In other words, he doesn’t know. But just look at the immense cost of doing so, he says. Shouldn’t the proponents of intellectual property have to justify this cost? However, he’s referring to the legislatively-created, coercively-enforced monopoly system under the state, with taxpayers coercively forced to foot the bill. When did the state ever do anything efficiently and at low cost? Galambos visualized a state-free world, where private, profit-seeking companies would compete to provide the protection their customers wanted at the lowest possible cost. This is how all forms of property would be protected, and there is no reason why the cost of protecting intellectual property would be anything other than reasonable.
Kinsella says that “it has not been shown that IP leads to net gains in wealth [of society].” But he’s ignoring his own premise: “Wealth maximization is not the goal of law; rather the goal is justice—giving each man his due.” Galambos would agree, and so would I, adding that protecting an individual’s property in all its forms satisfies that requirement. It follows that protecting individuals would have a positive net effect on society.
Kinsella also says that if you are going to “advocate the use of force against others’ property you should satisfy a burden of proof.” He’s referring to what he calls the “unethical violation of some individuals’ rights to use their own property as they see fit.” This is what political operatives call “spin.” What he’s describing are various acts taken in defense of property. He wants us to “prove” that defending our property is ethical. As discussed above, if I block your fist as it races toward my nose, if I put a deadbolt on my door, and if I make my ideas available only with my permission, these are entirely ethical actions. My actions to seek restitution if any of my defensive measures fail and I am harmed are also ethical. To call any of them unethical because they “control” your property would void the concept of self-defense. To say that “advocating use of force against other people’s property” in these circumstances somehow turns the aggressor into the victim is ludicrous. But Kinsella applies this reasoning to the defense of primary property, calling the use of force to defend it unethical. He does this based on the false premise that it’s not really property, and that bad things will happen if you treat it so.
To achieve justice, all forms of property must be defended. Justice is not about society, but about the individual. Societal wealth will follow. As I heard John Stossel say, “Free people, left alone, will make themselves prosperous.”
Now I’ll introduce to you what I believe was Galambos’ most important idea. He called it the First Postulate of Volition. (There is a Second Postulate, but a discussion of it would go beyond the scope of this paper.) All sciences have postulates. They are sometimes called axioms, or first principles. Galambos preferred “postulate” so I’ll continue his usage. A postulate is an original premise of a science. It’s where you start and what you build upon.
The First Postulate of Volition: All volitional beings live to pursue happiness.
Despite my claim that this was Galambos’ most important idea, it’s a safe bet that you didn’t feel the earth move under your feet as you read it. It is likely that because the phrase “pursuit of happiness” appears in the Declaration of Independence your brain took a shortcut and assumed that the postulate said the same thing. But that’s not the case. Rather, it is a profound insight into human nature. (Some might see a relationship between this and Ludwig von Mises’ action axiom as stated in Human Action. Galambos read that book, sold it in the FEI bookstore, and had Mises as a guest lecturer. Although Galambos was possibly influenced by Mises on this point, I believe that his formulation is clearer, and is by far the stronger statement about how things are, i.e., this is a law of nature.)
For the postulate to make complete sense, it is necessary to define “happiness,” and doing that requires definitions of “good” and “bad.”
Good: The subjective valuation of a preference.
Bad: The subjective valuation of a dispreference.
Happiness: The totality of all the ‘goods’ that a person has subjectively experienced throughout his lifetime up to the point he’s making the evaluation, less all the ‘bads’ that he has experienced.
On first hearing, some people will dispute the claim that everyone is seeking happiness. For example, what about the person who is intent on committing suicide? With a little thought it can be seen that for that person, death is a way of ending his continuing and possibly increasing state of unhappiness. To him, death would be subjectively preferable, a “good” thing.
Galambos was a great admirer of the Declaration of Independence and its significance in the march toward freedom, and he lectured on it at length. His insight was that although life and liberty are rights that can be secured contractually, the pursuit of happiness is not a right, but human nature. It is observable that all people pursue happiness during every waking moment. We can’t help it, and no one can stop us from doing it. I’m doing it now, and so are you. It’s what we do. This, said Galambos, was a law of nature.
To repeat and reinforce the concept, it is a law of nature, specifically human nature, that every person is pursuing happiness all the time. Therefore, any proposed social organization or common law has to take that into account. Since it is impossible to violate a law of nature, attempts to do so will always fail, and there will be a net loss from the effort. It follows that if we expect to have a society of freedom the rules must not ignore or attempt to directly violate this law. It is a requirement that we acknowledge this law and work with it.
I know that some people, and perhaps most people, would say, “Freedom as Galambos defined it is unrealistic. Giving people 100% control of their property would mean that we couldn’t require them to pay for things that are good for them, as we can now by means of taxes. For example, who will build the roads?” Larken Rose, who is perpetually engaged in discussions of this sort, says that he often responds with another question: “How would you do it?” Quite often the skeptic will respond with a free market solution. They seem to know what to do, but “it has just never occurred to them that they are already in charge of themselves, their futures, and the future of the world.” [The Most Dangerous Superstition, p. 171]
Many readers of this document will already be well-versed in how a market economy can deliver all of the property protection products and services now supposedly supplied by the state, so I won’t deal with that here. But what about property in ideas? As I understand Mr. Kinsella’s position, no matter how society is organized, whether under a state or without one, ideas should not be protected like other forms of property because doing so is harmful to civilization. Not only would Galambos dispute that, he would claim that the protection of primary property is necessary. That’s because of the First Corollary to the First Postulate.
A corollary is a restatement of a postulate. Galambos restated the First Postulate, which is, once again, all volitional beings live to pursue happiness. By restatement, we have this corollary:
The First Corollary to the First Postulate: All volitional beings live to acquire property.
We are all seeking to acquire property all of the time, and as a law of nature this is true without exception. There is no way around it. Therefore, we have to find ways to deal with this fact.
To be successful, the rules of society must resolve conflicts regarding all forms of property. When it is human nature to acquire property, attempts to take it from us without our permission are going to be resisted, and there will be a cost. Property can never be acquired “free.” It is impossible for it to be otherwise. (Even when you receive a gift, you pay for it with expressed gratitude; if you don’t do that, you pay for it with a loss of self-esteem and quite likely a loss of reputation in the eyes of the gift-giver.)
It is observable that people resist having their ideas taken from them. Why? Because it is human nature to treat ideas as property, in the same way that we put “my” life and “my” automobile in the category of “my” property. I claim that this view is held by humans everywhere. Its universality explains the very existence of the term, “intellectual property.”
Every reader of this essay will have had many ideas in his lifetime. Who hasn’t said, “That was my idea?” We have all encountered the expression, “I gave him that idea.” We’ve also heard, “He stole that idea from me.” We know what these expressions mean: property was transferred as a gift, or property was stolen.
Even a person who attacks the concept of ideas as property, such as Mr. Kinsella, must think of the arguments he puts forth as his arguments. Further, in citing the ideas of others, he attributes specific ideas to specific people in the same way that one refers to an owner of tangible property, e.g., “Adam Smith’s flawed labor theory of value.” In the face of such empirical evidence, how can ideas be anything but property?
At this juncture someone might say, “Wait a minute, even if ideas are property I disagree that everyone is always trying to acquire them. Personally, I don’t care anything about acquisition. I create ideas for the good of mankind, and I give them to anyone who wants them, free of charge. I spend countless hours writing articles and blogging, all for the good of my fellow man. And what about all the scientists who are working on curing cancer and the like, and who gladly share their research, and what about the billionaire philanthropists who donate huge sums to worthy causes? Aren’t such personal sacrifices the opposite of acquiring property? We’re all giving our property away in selfless acts of altruism. Doesn’t that prove that your corollary is false?” Not surprisingly, the answer is “No.”
This is where I will introduce you to Galambos’ concept of primary profit. Perhaps you already see where I’m going just by reading that term. If not, you soon will, and you will find it useful in understanding human behavior, beginning with your own. (Those readers who are familiar with Human Action may be reminded of what Mises called psychic profit, which is a very similar concept—perhaps the same—but neither man is here to tell us.)
We begin with Galambos’ definitions of profit and of plunder.
Profit: An increase in happiness acquired by moral means.
Plunder: An increase in happiness by immoral means; property is converted to plunder when coercively transferred.
We live in a world where profit and plunder are almost always thought of in terms of money or other tangible things. As we’ve seen, these are secondary property. Profits that come in the form of secondary property are called secondary profits. Those who say they oppose profit are thinking of secondary profit.
Galambos saw that with primary property, which is intangible, we can have primary profit, which is also intangible. This, in my view, is a brilliant insight. Primary profit consists of things like the satisfaction one feels when reaching a goal, the increase in self-esteem from having done something moral in the face of temptation to do otherwise, the receipt of gratitude from someone you have helped, or the improvement of your professional or personal reputation. Practicing the Golden Rule, a feature of every major religion, produces primary profit. Some people are motivated almost entirely by primary profit. It’s a beautiful and very useful concept.
Framing these human emotions as a form of profit to correspond with monetary profit makes it possible to compare the two and to consider the fact that we make exchanges between them. When I pay to download a movie even though a pirated version is available “free,” I feel good about myself—a primary profit. I could watch the movie without paying and preserve my secondary property (money) but I choose to exchange that money for a primary profit measured in self-esteem. I also know that the “free” movie is not really free; the price I would pay to accept stolen property would be a reduction in my self-esteem—a primary loss. What’s more, the stolen property in my possession would not be my property, because theft transfers control but not ownership. I would be holding plunder.
The concept of primary profit fully explains what we call “altruism.” Galambos pointed out that there are no “selfless” acts, and no such thing as altruism. He said that Ayn Rand had made this point so well in her book, The Fountainhead, that “it would be a waste of time to put that into this Course other than to refer to it.” [SIAA p.276] All “altruistic” acts represent an attempt to earn a primary profit and increase one’s primary property. Seen in this way, a donation of money is an exchange of secondary property for primary property in expectation of receiving a primary profit. All of us are all pursuing happiness, and seeking to acquire property, all of the time. Both happiness and property come in different forms, and individuals ultimately pursue the kinds of property and profit they prefer.
Galambos had an interesting opinion about this that was shared by Ludwig von Mises. He said that scientists and other producers of primary property are drawn to socialism out of the feeling that it is unfair that they, the ones with all the brains, and the ones doing really important things, make little money, while entrepreneurs engaged in mundane pursuits make millions. To Galambos this was envy, and he referred his students to Mises’ book, The Anticapitalistic Mentality, for more on the subject.
The point is that the low-paid intellectual and the high-paid executive are pursuing the same thing: profit. The difference is in the form of profit they’ve chosen to pursue, and how wealth is measured. When wealth is measured in terms of secondary property, the businessman seems rich and the philosopher poor. But when the measurement is made in primary property we may find the reverse.
In a society that recognizes the existence of primary profit and primary wealth, (concepts taught in childhood) the effect will be, at a minimum, to reduce the envy. Rather than denigrating or despising the very idea of profit, the producers of primary property will embrace profit in its primary form. Having pursued happiness in their own way, they will see that they have accumulated primary wealth. For many of them, perhaps most, this will be enough. Others will explore ways to use their primary wealth to earn secondary profits.
Because of Galambos we now know that every human action is an action in the pursuit of happiness. We are all doing it, all the time. We are all seeking to acquire property in its various forms all the time. We are all trying to increase our happiness by coming out ahead on everything we do, whether it is a primary gain or a secondary one. This can now be considered a fact.
What has long been understood (as the concept of diminishing marginal utility) is that as our secondary property needs are met and our secondary wealth increases, further increases tend to motivate us less. When this happens, the appeal of primary property and primary profit becomes relatively greater. A person may begin to seek primary profit by engaging in activities that increase self-esteem and other forms of primary profit. This explains the philanthropic activities of not just billionaires, but of everyone.
Although there are certain specific difficulties with the ownership of ideas, all property has problems associated with its ownership. It is impossible to have property without risk or without problems. Let’s look at those property ownership problems, category by category.
Primordial Property. Life has the problem that it must be kept alive. It’s quite an effort to keep a human alive. We perish rather easily in temperatures that are not much different than optimum, and we have to be sheltered and clothed in some conditions. There are also the problems of ensuring a supply of potable water, enough calories to avoid starvation, and the correct array of nutrients required for health. There are illnesses and the potential for fatal injury, and there are animals and other humans who might attack us. It’s a big chore to maintain the property we have in our lives. Finally, despite our best efforts, we inevitably die and our primordial property falls to zero.
Secondary Property. Our tangible possessions present us with innumerable challenges. Every possession is subject to the possibility of theft or of destruction by accident or natural disaster. Most things can be damaged in normal use, and eventually everything wears out or becomes useless through obsolescence. The more secondary property one has, the more effort must be put into taking care of it. It can be quite a headache. And if you have a lot of material things there are those who would criticize you just for your success, and attack you for having “too much,” even though you acquired it through moral means.
Despite these problems and more, we are still eager to claim our lives and our tangible possessions as our private property. Occasionally some societies have experimented with not treating them so. Those societies failed, some spectacularly, and with great loss of life and much suffering. Nevertheless, there remains a contingent that hasn’t learned this lesson and still argues, if not for the outright abolition of private secondary property, then at least for its substantial redistribution. Every effort in this direction is an attempt to violate a law of nature and will fail.
Primary Property. In principle, this is the easiest property to care for. There is no required maintenance, and there are no physical problems. Ideas may lose utility over time, but they don’t wear out in the conventional sense, and they can’t be consumed. Ideas can be lost, but not destroyed. If lost, someone will inevitably discover them again, so the loss can be seen as a temporary setback at most. This is especially true in what we call modern civilization where the search for useful ideas is relentless.
The ownership of primary property seems to have few problems. However, there are three potentially significant ones, but they can be dealt with easily.
The first potential problem of primary property is what Galambos called “promiscuous disclosure.” This means non-contractual disclosure. Promiscuous disclosure is analogous to giving control of one of your tangible possessions to someone without an explicit agreement as to its allowed use, their responsibility for taking care of it, and so forth. Galambos cautioned students against making promiscuous disclosures of ideas from the course. Sometimes, spurred by their excitement and their desire to get a friend or relative or business associate to attend, they disclosed some of the course’s conclusions out of context, where they could indeed sound bizarre. Predictably, this made it harder to get the person to attend. It is important to note that despite the fact that Galambos had his students’ written agreement not to disclose, he didn’t use that as a legal club. He only mentioned the practical aspect of disclosure being counterproductive.
Innovators themselves are capable of making the blunder of promiscuous disclosures. One can envision a drunken inventor blabbing his secrets in a bar, with a sober competitor listening intently. Although most promiscuous disclosures happen less colorfully than that, in all cases the innovator has begun to lose control of his primary property when he makes a non-contractual disclosure. In the worst case, he totally loses control and the idea becomes generally known and without an apparent owner. From a moral perspective, unless coercion was used, anyone receiving an idea through promiscuous disclosure is free to use it (though he might see it as taking advantage of another person’s error and not use it, following the Golden Rule out of consideration for his own self-esteem). Realistically, almost all ideas are of such little importance and value that they can be disclosed without any precautions whatsoever. But for those ideas believed by their innovator to have present or future value, care should be taken to register them in a way that establishes borders and independency.
The second potential problem has to do with property borders which, as Mr. Kinsella correctly observes, must be visible. As a patent attorney, Mr. Kinsella has experience in the creation of the very documentation that makes them so. The patent process, flawed though it is, at least attempts to make the borders visible by articulating the details of the invention and identifying the person who claims ownership. The same thing will be done in the world envisioned by Galambos, where Mr. Kinsella would find plenty of opportunities to profit from his skill. In Course V-201, Galambos went into substantial detail about how innovators would register their ideas with companies that provided registration services on a proprietary basis. In addition, printed notices or markings could make it clear that someone has claimed ownership. Ideas that are well-documented have good borders. This is a market solution to the border problem, and is illustrated later in this paper.
The resolution of all disputes involving all forms of property begins with answering the question, “Whose property is it?” In general, we will know via various items of evidence. But property borders for ideas may not always be clear, especially for less important, poorly documented ideas. If the question of ownership is unanswered, or perhaps unanswerable, and the idea is minor, there is unlikely to be any conflict over it.
When there are competing claims about the ownership of an idea and the conflict cannot be resolved by the parties, if the idea is important enough to pursue such a resolution then the insurance and arbitration mechanisms can be brought to bear. Insurers and arbitrators and their agents will do detective work and employ various tests for independency of discovery or creation. In Course V-201 Galambos suggested nine tests for independency as a way of weeding out false claims. So-called “reverse engineering” would not be an independent creation, but theft.
In Galambos’ view, each bona fide independent innovator has the same ownership rights to the innovation as the first innovator. There is no special status accorded to the person who first had the idea other than what we might call “bragging” rights. No monopoly rights would be awarded as they are with patents. Although a competitive advantage would quite likely accrue to whoever was first with a marketable innovation, that advantage would not be protected against competition from a later independent innovator. (Galambos remarked lightheartedly that as a high school student he was quite excited to have discovered a mathematical principle, only to learn that it already had a name–the binomial theorem–and had been discovered by Isaac Newton more than 250 years earlier.)
The fact that all independent innovators have equal standing totally eliminates one of Kinsella’s biggest concerns. He fears the possibility of a greedy innovator, owning an idea in perpetuity, and controlling the use and further development of that idea, to be succeeded by generations of heirs who had nothing to do with the innovation. Quoting Kinsella, “No one would be able to manufacture—or even use—a light bulb without getting permission from Edison’s heirs.” Galambos’ brilliant idea to give equal status to independent innovation makes this a non-problem. In the worst possible case, society simply has to wait for the independent innovation of the same thing or something better. No one in society has a right to “have it now,” or a right to steal it for any reason.
Ideas are only valuable because they fill some perceived need. The greater the need the more people will be trying to fill it, and the sooner the solution will occur to one of them. Perhaps they will have an even better idea. (As it happened, Tesla was right there with the fluorescent light.) The feared monopolies charging “outrageous” prices would, in the overall scheme of things, be short-lived. They would also be rare, because they would tend to be less profitable than if they charged lower prices and had higher volume. I’ll address this again below, to further reduce the concern.
The third potential problem with primary property affects secondary property as well. It stems from what Galambos called the Principle of Least Action, suggested by a principle of the same name in physics. This was alluded to above as the desire to pursue happiness with the least effort possible, and in the ideal (but impossible) case getting something for nothing. With humans, the least action may be to use coercion, by either force or fraud, to obtain control of tangible property, or the use of an idea, without the owner’s permission. Knowing that humans have this underlying motivation, the solution is to make it unprofitable to act on it. The justice mechanism envisioned by Galambos would make immoral behavior such as stealing far less profitable than moral behavior. He posited that crime of all kinds would be so unprofitable that the number of incidences would approach zero.
Unlike a car, or a chair, or a piece of pie, use of the same primary property can be sold again and again. This is a benefit to both innovators and users. The innovator can spread his development costs over many sales, thereby lowering his cost per unit and allowing him to make use of the idea available at an affordable but still profitable market price. His rational goal is to maximize his profit, and that is usually accomplished by selling things in large numbers. It is seldom, if ever, accomplished by selling just a few things at a high price. (Remember the hardwired “car phones” that only the wealthy could afford? Now there are literally billions of handheld and vastly more capable devices that are affordable enough for almost everyone.)
It is a fallacy that protecting the ownership of primary property will choke off production of useful things. Rather, it will lead to increased production, because the innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors will know that the market value of their property will not be destroyed by theft. In addition, they will not have to build that risk into the price of their innovation, thereby enabling a lower price. Finally, the innovator’s knowledge that an independent innovation of his idea, or a competing idea, might come into the market tomorrow, will give him an incentive to keep the price low. In any event, unless we want a society where stealing is approved as a way of acquiring property, we have to live with the outcome of accepting the ownership of ideas.
In the industrialized world, the price of tangible goods, all of which are the fruit of ideas, has come down steadily. Is this because ideas have been stolen, or because they have been given at least some protection by both our laws and our sense of morality? I believe that it is the latter, and that both common law and the moral standards of individuals will be improved as Galambos’ ideas move into the mainstream.
I believe that I have argued successfully in favor of intellectual property by showing that
- Something need not be scarce to be property.
- Ideas in general are plentiful, but the ideas that matter are scarce.
- Intellectual property can be homesteaded by more than one person.
- Intellectual property can have visible borders.
- Protecting one’s ideas does not unethically control the property of others.
- Using intellectual property without permission is not harmless.
- It is human nature to treat ideas as property.
- Protecting ideas is beneficial to both the individual and society.
- Not protecting ideas harms both the individual and society.
- The ownership of ideas by innovators and heirs will not choke off civilization’s growth.
- Treating ideas as property conforms to Occam’s razor.
- Ideas are automatically owned in perpetuity.
- Keeping track of intellectual property will not be costly.
As I review the above I cannot know whether I have said too much or too little. I cannot know whether my explanations are clear and satisfactory, or have further clouded the issues. I could make this much longer, but then I would be teaching the course, and my only goal here is to counter the arguments of those who are against intellectual property. I cannot know whether you found value here, but I hope you have. And, as I mentioned earlier, I hope you begin to contemplate a society structured using the principles innovated by Galambos. I think you will conclude that it would be just, peaceful, prosperous, and worth building.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Max Planck
I’d like to take you through some steps to bring into focus the practicality and feasibility of using the abstract principles and definitions you’ve just read. I’ll begin by introducing another Galambos concept, a convenient system of notation to be used in discussing property. Influenced by his background in mathematics and the physical sciences, Galambos used the written notation, P0, P1, and P2 to identify the three types of property. In lectures, he would verbalize primary property as “P one,” and secondary property as “P two.” Thus in general conversation one might say, “In this business I expect to use this P one to generate a P two profit.”
In recent correspondence with other former Galambos students I’ve noticed some of them typing P1 rather than P one and P2 rather than P two. What a relief, at least for me, who struggles at the keyboard. I have adopted this new convention. From here on, Primary property is P1, secondary property is P2.
Let’s envision a voluntary society where the principles identified by Galambos are the basis of common law. There being no state, all property protection products and services are provided by private entities, known collectively as government per Galambos’ definition. (And it’s not “the” government, because competition prevails. Numerous companies would offer government services).
As part of the basic instruction given to children by parents and teachers, P1 will be considered to be property just as P2 is today. Children will learn that it is wrong to steal, and that stealing includes P1 as well as P2. Children will learn to respect other people’s property rights, and those include P1 as well as P2.
Children trained in this way will have the world view that ideas are property. Similarly, children will be taught that everyone is seeking happiness, and that it is a perfectly normal pursuit which they can’t help doing, so their own pursuit of happiness is nothing to be ashamed of. They will be taught that morality consists of not interfering with anyone else’s property, whether it is P0, P1, or P2. (Reading this paper means that you don’t have to wait; you can teach these principles to your child today.)
To continue with how P1 will be treated, I’ll again mention that it is the nature of things that the total number of items that are in the category of P1 is beyond counting. My decision regarding the placement of a lamp on my desk, or which drawer is best for my toothpaste, is P1. The design of a restaurant menu is someone’s P1. The ingredients and manufacturing process of a given kind of plastic is someone’s P1. A Facebook post is someone’s P1. We live in a sea of P1. The vast majority is of no use to anyone other than its owner, is not necessarily of very high quality, and is not very important, even to its owner.
Out of this enormous mass of P1, some of it may have a little utility and a little importance to someone other than its owner, but not enough to have what we call “commercial potential,” which is to say the possibility of P2 profit. Such P1 is generally given away at no charge when the occasion arises. Maybe I found a really great restaurant. This knowledge is my P1, but I’ll give it away to my friends without charge in exchange for the P1 profit that consists of the good feeling I get when they say, “Thanks for telling me.” Perhaps some of my P1 pertains to my job, where creating and using P1 is part of it, and I receive both a P1 profit in the form of satisfaction for a job well done, and a P2 profit as my effort is rewarded financially. Perhaps I’m part of a collaborative effort, where ideas flow back and forth and no one keeps track, but all enjoy the P1 excitement of achieving something that couldn’t be done on one’s own. The result of all this is that the vast majority of P1 is given away via non-contractual disclosure, and is available to everyone.
We have no reason to be concerned about the fate of low level P1, or P1 that was designed to be given away, as long as it is not interfered with. A major Galambos tenet is, “There is no such thing as a small interference with property.” Although I think there are better ways to word it, I hope the meaning is clear: interference with property is always wrong, and if you accept a small interference, you open the door for larger interferences and, ultimately, tyranny.
Now let’s talk about P1 that is good enough and important enough to have evoked Mr. Kinsella’s fear that keeping it in private hands will be a disaster to society. I’ve tried to make it clear that it is the protection of the individual and his property, and not of society, that should motivate us. That’s because if the individual is protected, society is protected. You’re about to see that Galambos’ ideas serve both interests. What follows is my interpretation of his model, although such was his confidence that I’m sure that he saw it not as a model, but as the way things will be. It was disclosed in great detail in V-201, but is presented here, and only in part, as just a conceptual framework. I believe that market forces will no doubt cause deviations from the Galambos model when it meets the real world, so leaving the details out at this point should not matter to your comprehension.
In the Galambosian model, owners of P1 will be able to register their P1 with one of presumably many companies in the P1 registration business. These and other companies will compete for P1 as “inventory,” and seek P2 profits from representing the innovator in the market. Such companies will identify potential customers for the P1, acting as the innovator’s agent, and isolating him from the fray. It’s the principle of the division of labor at work, with each participant free to do what he does best. Innovators can specialize in innovating, and the P1 matchmakers can do what they are in business to do: earn a P2 profit for themselves and their innovator customers.
Remember that P1 itself cannot be sold, only its use. There are an infinite number of contractual terms that can be arranged between the P1 owner and the prospective P1 user. One arrangement might be a payment for permanent exclusive use of the idea; another might be payment based on the gross sales of the innovation; another might be on the net profits; still another might be a royalty, perhaps based on each item sold.
Galambos chose the royalty system for his model. Although I don’t recall him mentioning it, that compensation method fits the fact that, as mentioned above, P1 ownership is perpetual. Therefore, as long as the innovation is in use, who but the owner should receive the P2 revenue and the P1 credit? Royalties are the traditional way to achieve this. And, since it would be immoral to use an innovation without paying for it, the innovator, and then his heirs, must be paid for as long as the innovation is used. In principle, this means for the duration of the Universe. It is this prospect that concerns Mr. Kinsella. However, the possibility of a negative outcome is so unlikely as to be safely ignored, as will be seen.
Galambos proposed that the initial P1 contract, whether with one user or many, would be based on negotiated price and terms, just as things are sold and licensed now. In the Galambosian model, two standard terms would always be included, in the way that certain standard clauses are used in contracts today. First, the use of the P1 must be non-coercive. Second, P1 credit must be given to the innovator. Failure to honor any of the terms would carry penalties, up to and including terminating the contract and receiving restitution for damages.
Following the initial P1 contract, after a period of time as determined by the P1 owner (presumably in cooperation with his P1 agent) the P1 would be made available to anyone who wanted to use it. The user would be allowed to pay whatever he thought it was worth, as long as the payment was greater than zero, and the standard terms of non-coercive use and P1 credit to the innovator were accepted.
In Galambos’ view, this way of handling P1 would become the standard way of doing business. The “pay what you want” feature would eliminate the possibility of bringing civilization’s progress to a halt due to unaffordable royalties. We might pay Edison’s heirs, but not much, as will be seen. However, an obvious question is why would an innovator, other than a naïve idealist, agree to the “pay what you want” plan? Wouldn’t he be leaving P2 profits on the table? Those questions are answered by the laws of economics.
We must remember that although an innovator owns the P1 forever, unlike the present patent system there is no time when he can prevent others from offering the same thing, if independently innovated. Innovators who come later have the same rights, and are free to contract with interested parties. Therefore, the clock is always running. Someone else may soon create the same P1, or perhaps a comparable or even better alternative. Other things being equal, the market value of the original P1 will shrink once a competitor comes onto the scene. Both licensors and licensees will have this in mind when agreeing to the original price and terms of the license, helping to keep the price down from the beginning.
In a market economy, the price and terms of the license will be the market price, agreed to voluntarily. Since innovators cannot force us to buy their P1, those who demand more than the highest bid will have no sales. The world will move on without them, and eventually the P1 in question will be made available from an independent source, or there will be a substitute for it, at a price the P1 users are willing to pay. How long will “eventually” be? Not long, if the demand for the P1 is high. In fact, it might happen very quickly. The original innovator may respond by lowering his price rather than “sitting tight” with no sales and taking the risk that the market value of his innovation might go to zero if a competitor appears. Alternatively, the prospective licensee may reevaluate his position and decide to pay the higher price.
Better innovations will be surely developed, making their predecessors obsolete. We know this from observing our world, where obsolescence is expected. I imagine that the patent for the rotary phone dial (“What’s a ‘rotary phone,’ Grandpa?”) does not have much value today. An innovator, realizing this (and once again with the advice of his agent, who does this for a living) will reach a point where it makes economic sense to release the P1 to everyone, essentially adopting a mass marketing approach, hoping that increased sales volume will work to offset his lower P2 profit per unit. (It is certainly possible that this strategy could be adopted early on, or even from the beginning. That would be up to the P1 owner and his advisor.)
One possible problem with the “pay what you want as long as it’s more than zero” format is that a user of the P1 might pay virtually nothing, thus technically satisfying the “more than zero” requirement while providing no significant P2 benefit to the owner. Galambos acknowledged that this (known in economics as “freeriding”) could happen. However, he believed that anyone who did this would find it difficult to bargain for other P1 in the future. (“Aren’t you the guy who only paid a tenth of a cent for the right to manufacture that widget?”) Just as a “big tipper” might get special service at a restaurant the next time he comes in, a person that pays generous voluntary royalties will be remembered, perhaps by being given the “first look” at new P1, while the cheapskate might not be given access to it at all. It remains to be seen whether this system will work in the real world exactly as Galambos described it. Remember, it’s a model. That said, I have confidence that its fundamental premises are sound.
The ultimate fact of economics that will keep innovators from holding the world hostage is that users of P1 cannot pay more in total royalties to all providers of P1 than the profitability of the enterprise will support. Left alone, people will only do things that they believe will be profitable. Let us say that a business can afford to pay royalties equal to 10% of its gross revenue. Suppose that it needs to use three different items of P1, and each owner asks for a royalty of 10%. Clearly the business cannot pay 30% of its gross revenue. The new business might not move forward at all but, more likely, a compromise will be reached at the negotiating table. I think the reader can see many ways in which this could be resolved.
In worrying, as some do, about all the possible ways in which an innovator might impede the progress of civilization by restricting access to his innovation and/or pricing it so high as to be unaffordable, it is easy to overlook the most likely case. Innovators, like all humans, are engaged in the pursuit of happiness all the time. The most likely case is for them to make their innovations available at a price that will bring them not only a monetary profit, but the satisfaction of having produced something that others want, and receiving acknowledgment and praise for providing it. This is clearly the usual behavior of innovators. I believe that we would be hard-pressed to find many exceptions, and shouldn’t worry about them.
Let’s use the supposed problem of “Edison’s heirs” as an example of why we have nothing to fear from heirs in general. Suppose that today a company gets a license to use the P1 for a light that uses almost no energy, is cool to the touch, and will last 100 years. In the license they have agreed to pay a 9% royalty on gross sales for the exclusive right to use this new P1. Let’s say that this company can afford to pay 12% in total royalties to all P1 licensors combined, so that leaves them with just 3% available to pay all other royalties. They look into it and realize that after Edison several more innovators contributed P1 to the light bulb. However, a couple of the innovations are no longer used, and there is no reason to pay a royalty. They find that there are three companies whose P1 is essential, and is available on a “pay what you want” basis.
Finally, they discover that the only one of Edison’s innovations still in use by anyone is the discovery that the air had to be evacuated from the bulb so that the filament won’t instantly burn. However, their new P1 operates in air and with no filament, so there is no need to evacuate the bulb. In fact, there is no longer a part called “bulb.” Therefore there is no reason to pay Edison’s heirs. His innovation had a good run, but now it looks like it’s over.
This outcome will be typical, with only a few innovations having perpetual utility. In those cases, royalties will be ongoing, but so many innovations will have been added on top of them that the heirs will collect extremely small amounts, albeit on potentially enormous volume.
The lesson here is that no matter what the owners of P1 may ask to be paid, no business can pay more in total royalties than its profit margin will support, and it will only pay for things it uses. Innovations that come later and that must be implemented in order for the product to remain competitive will have to be paid out of the same total percentage that the business can afford. Therefore, royalty recipients will be under pressure to adjust their royalty fee downward if they want their innovations to be used at all. With luck, total revenues will grow, and 1% of a new larger pie will be worth more than 3% of the old pie. Galambos suggested a formula for how royalties would be adjusted downward as you worked backward through the chain of innovations that led to the present state of the art. Royalty calculations would be performed, tracked, and paid by computer at low cost.
Now let’s consider a case where the P1 is so fundamental that it will always be used. Einstein’s equation, E = mc2, is a law of nature. Einstein does not own nature itself, but he does own his discovery of it and the law described by that equation. Had Galambos’ system been in effect, we would still be paying Einstein’s heirs.
Somehow the idea of paying heirs seems to provoke a sort of indignation in some people. Let’s look at that more closely. Paying anything to the heirs means that the owner of the P1 has died. Galambos believed, without elaborating, that physical death is not necessarily inevitable. Other scientists say the same thing, and the prospect of perhaps digitizing our “selves” may provide another way to be immortal. But let’s say life was extended to 1,000 years. Would anyone object to paying a 1,000 year old Einstein? I don’t think so. Even modest improvements in life expectancy will bring this into focus. After all, Einstein would only be 136 years old today. Would it bother you to know that nuclear power plants were paying him a royalty? If we begin to act in accord with the laws of nature and make the protection of primary property part of common law and of everyone’s world view, we will set the stage for this eventuality.
But we still haven’t addressed the “problem” of heirs that troubles some people. They believe that the heirs of a deceased innovator don’t deserve to be paid. They don’t seem to have the same negative feeling when the heirs inherit a large amount of P2, such as money or a house, but no stake in royalties. For some reason it bothers them to think that in purchasing a product they are paying people who had nothing to do with its innovation. Perhaps this is envy, which is among the least appealing traits in humans. Whatever the reason, I offer the following.
We are talking about a society in which the P1’s owner faces the prospect of competition from the very start. The better and more important the P1 is, the more competition there will be. As a result, the P2 royalty stream may be sharply reduced or even ended before the P1 owner’s death, thus eliminating the “problem” of paying the heirs. Further, each subsequent innovation that builds on the original P1 dilutes the share of P2 that can flow to the owner of any specific item of P1 in that chain. The heirs might get very little, and perhaps nothing, as we saw in the Edison illustration.
Einstein’s heirs would clearly get something, but it would be diluted by the many subsequent P1 developments that were necessary to turn E = mc2 into something, such as nuclear power plants, that can generate a large amount of P2. Because of this economic reality it would be extremely rare for an innovator’s heirs to be collecting a large amount of P2, and virtually impossible to do so for generations. Although they will control the use of the P1 in perpetuity, it is quite another thing for an innovation to have perpetual market value. The more likely case will be for the heirs to be struggling to get any revenue at all.
Because of all of the above, the concern that civilization will routinely be held hostage by a greedy, unreasonable, or even insane innovator or his heirs is totally unfounded
Galambos didn’t focus on heirs in the sense of children and other family members who traditionally receive some or all of a person’s P2. This will likely occur as long as humans exist, but Galambos’ interest was in the major P1 innovators. He advocated that those whose P1 could produce a long term stream of P2 should create something like what we now call “foundations” that would collect revenue and invest the accumulated wealth in areas designated by its owner. With the protection of primary property, things like the Rockefeller and Ford foundations would be joined by entities bearing the names of Einstein, Planck, and Tesla. But, despite focusing on the major innovators, Galambos observed that every human accumulates P1 and P2, and has the ability to make similar plans for it upon his death. Rather than worrying about someone else’s heirs, and what they might be paid, it might be more profitable to plan for the disposition of one’s own P1 and P2.
I would like to thank Carl Watner, Alvin Lowi, Jr., Frederic G. Marks, Brian Gladish, Greg Boren, and my wife Pauline Boren. Their encouragement and their many suggestions, most of which were adopted, made this a much better paper than if I had done it all on my own.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please address comments and questions to me at richardborenP1@gmail.com
Sources regarding intellectual property.
Sic Itur Ad Astra, Volume One, by Andrew J. Galambos. This is the transcript of his 1968 delivery of Course V-50. Discloses the basics of the Science of Volition. Used copies sometimes available. Course can be taken online at www.fei-ajg.com, subject to significant restrictions. Site is operated by the same people who refuse to publish.
The V-50 Lectures by Jay Stuart Snelson (1978 audio recording). Snelson put Galambos’ ideas into a beautifully crafted and delivered lecture series, attended by many thousands of people over his 14 year career at FEI. Published by Charles Holloway in 2008.
Thrust for Freedom by Andrew J. Galambos. A collection of short essays originally published under that name in 1963. Among them is Galambos’ definition of property, with an explanatory narrative, and a number of lengthy passages from Sic Itur Ad Astra.
Capitalism, the Liberal Revolution. A website devoted to the work of Galambos and Snelson. Created by Frederic G. Marks, first a Galambos student, and then his attorney for many years. www.capitalismtheliberalrevolution.com. (“Liberal” means “pertaining to freedom” here.)
The Law of Intellectual Property by Lysander Spooner. Argues persuasively for the ownership of ideas in perpetuity. Galambos arrived at the same conclusion independently, and via different reasoning. Available at www.lysanderspooner.org
Sources arguing for a state-free society and describing how, in that society, the functions traditionally assigned to the state will be successfully provided on a proprietary basis.
The Voluntaryist. A newsletter published by Carl Watner. Also offers a website filled with many essays. A treasure trove of thought on these matters. www.voluntaryist.com
No Treason No. VI, the Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner. Are you bound to obey political laws that you did not agree to? Well, no. See www.lysanderspooner.org.
Everyday Anarchy and Practical Anarchy by Stefan Molyneux, best read in that order.
The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer. I put more Post-it notes in this book than any other in my library.
Democracy, The God That Failed, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. No one could read this and Huemer’s book and still believe in the state, or that private enterprise couldn’t successfully take its place.
The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose. Beautifully written in an in-your-face style. Easy to read but will upset a statist’s stomach.
The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman. Excellent analysis of the private production of government services.
For a New Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard. Excellent on everything, but like most leaves out intellectual property.
The Market for Liberty by Morris and Linda Tannehill. An excellent book, quite possibly containing some of Galambos’ ideas supplied by a former student without authorization.
The Enterprise of Law, Justice Without the State by Bruce L. Benson. A powerful examination of how a privatized justice system would work—and how it used to work before the State got involved.
Taming the Violence of Faith by Jay Stuart Snelson. After parting ways with Galambos in 1978, Snelson lectured extensively on a variety of topics, including a lecture series, Human Action Principles. Listing his primary influences as Ludwig von Mises, Andrew Galambos, and Robert LeFevre, Snelson spent his later years writing this book, which offers his own prescription for achieving peace, prosperity, and freedom. More about Snelson and his work can be found at www.jaysnelson.com
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This book is a popularized account of the research of Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky, psychologists who won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Entertaining and instructive in its own right, I offer it as part of the vast and rapidly growing body of knowledge of human behavior. As far as I know, nothing contradicts Galambos’ observations and hypotheses. Rather, such experimental and anecdotal evidence of which I am aware fully supports them. Although I believe that Galambos was wrong about a few factual matters where his inputs were either flawed or insufficient, in the 40 years since I first heard his ideas I have yet to learn of any significant error.
The Iron Web by Larken Rose. This suspenseful, action-packed novel is 100% pure when it comes to ending the State. It might be a good way to introduce some people to this view. Without giving anything away, a presidential election is a major theme. A good beach read, and it would make a heck of movie. Available at Amazon or www.larkenrose.com
Kicking the Dragon by Larken Rose. Mr. Rose first gained notoriety regarding his conflict with the IRS, which wound up with him going to prison. Wrongly labeled a “tax protestor,” Rose simply asked a single question, and was refused an answer. Expecting vindication in court by a jury of his peers, what he found was a rigged game from start to finish. If you think a Soviet-style show trial can’t happen here in the USA, think again. Available for $5.00 as an epub or mobi file here www.larkenrose.com
Original post and comments can be seen here.