Tag: property

Property Rights in the Digital Paradigm

By Atilla Sulker | United States

Earlier this year, I published an article on Lewrockwell.com in which I discussed social media sites, free speech, and “digital property rights”. In this piece, I came to the conclusion that social media sites and blogs are very much like physical buildings and firms. The property owner may set his own rules within his property, so long as these rules don’t involve violence. He may grant, limit, or completely revoke my right to free speech, and may expel me from his property if he wishes. Social media sites ought to operate in this same way.

What my investigation underscored, however, was something more fundamental. Not only did it shed light on the fact that free speech stems from property rights, or that property rights can be applied to the internet, but it also highlighted that private property rights are an excellent tool in combating disputes over speech, among other issues, and are the final arbitrator in such disputes. I am currently working on a paper in which I seek to give a more than superficial analysis of the internet through property rights, but for the scope of this article, I shall try to summarize my argument extending digital property rights beyond social media sites.

If social media sites are like private firms in the physical realm, then networks and ISPs are like private roads and road managers, respectively. The internet is comprised of multiple networks, each connected to form the aggregate. This conglomeration of networks allows the user to explore what we refer to as the internet, a set of connected networks.

Suppose that we lived in a society in which all roads were privatized and road managers could collect money for the use of roads through various different mechanisms. A given road manager could charge a fee per mile, a fee every time someone entered their road, a larger year-long pass fee, etc. Regardless of how the fee would be collected, competition would encourage the most convenient system, and so a one time fee covering a longer term of usage would probably become popular.

Now just as buildings and land are private property, private roads are as well. If a private road manager were given full access to his property rights, he would be able to curtail the entry of certain people, limit certain speech, etc. This could be very practical, as the majority of society would demand that certain people such as criminals not be let in, this demand being backed by their willingness to give the road manager their money. Roads could also prevent overflow by not permitting the entrance of people beyond a certain limit. We now see that roads are bound by the same property rights as houses and restaurants, given that they are privatized.

Since ISPs own a certain portion of the internet, their respective network can in many ways be likened unto road managers owning certain roads within the whole conglomeration of roads and highways. For one to own property, they must either homestead “common property” (property not owned by anyone, for example, a chunk of undiscovered land), purchase it from someone else, or steal it. Public property is another interesting phenomenon. No one owns it, but everyone uses it and funds it.

Many claim that the internet is “open” or public, but this defies the fundamental nature of how property works. “Common property” does not exist in the digital realm since bandwidth, which can be likened unto lanes in a road, is created by ISPs, hence they claim the original ownership. Henceforth, they have the exclusive right to use the property as they wish. In this sense, the idea of net neutrality is rebuked, for it is a violation of digital property rights, the equivalent to the property rights of the private road owner.

These roads lead the way to websites, which can be put into two categories. The first one is the one I discussed in my previous article- social media sites and blogs. Again, these websites are like physical property in which the owner may expel people. The second type of website would be simply meant for reading information, not including any accounts (for example, an informational site). These websites can be likened unto privately owned land/ landmarks not meant for letting people in, but meant simply for viewing as one drives down a road.

Ultimately, each ISP, like a private road would offer something to bring in more customers from other firms. Imagine that there is a Starbucks in the middle of nowhere and there exist two roads to get to it. Suppose one road is made of a material that drastically speeds up the cars using it, while another road is just a normal road. Assuming the price to use either road is near the same, the customer would choose the former as he would be able to get his coffee faster and get back to what he is doing. Customers could choose ISPs over each other in this same fashion. Certain ISPs could also limit internet traffic to prevent “overflow” and keep their networks efficient. Hence trying to homogenize each network is actually betraying the idea of consumer choice, despite the rhetoric of those supporting it.

My investigation has hopefully dispelled this notion that the internet is “free” or “open”. This is a common fallacy that ignores the hierarchical connection between property rights and free speech, the former being the apparatus which the latter stems from. If we treat the internet in the same way in which we treat the physical realm, it is seen that private property rights again become the final arbitrator of disputes. Domain owners own only their plot of “land” and ISPs own their “roads”. Taking this approach is not only moral but allows the market economy to properly function and bring on a plethora of competing firms and consumer choices.

References

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. “Of Private, Common, And Public Property And The Rationale For Total Privatization.” Libertarian Papers 3, no. 1 (2011): 1-13.


This article was originally published on LewRockwell.com

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Intellectual Property: Enemy of Freedom and Society

By TJ Roberts | United States

You cannot own an idea. Although intellectual property is an idea Americans codified into their constitution, we must see that the idea of intellectual property is an idea that comes into direct conflict with the idea of freedom and human progress. It is important that humanity moves beyond the scourge of intellectual property so that we may live in a world that is no longer held back by corporate protectionism and inconsistent property law. But beyond that, lives are at stake in this fight.

Intellectual Property Violates Real Property

Lockean Property Norms

Perhaps the most important case against intellectual property is in its opposition to society’s property norms. The most prominent principle of property is the homesteading principle, which John Locke describes in chapter 5 of The Second Treatise on Government. In the Treatise, Locke explains that the Homesteading Principle is the idea that property can be justly acquired by two means: original appropriation and voluntary exchange. With original appropriation, the first user of a previously unowned resource becomes the de facto owner of the property. With voluntary exchange, justly acquired property may be exchanged between consenting senders and receivers. This is why theft is condemned. If I take your wallet from you without your consent, then the exchange was not voluntary and therefore violates Lockean property norms.

What is important to realize as well is that scarcity is fundamental to property. You cannot be the owner of a non-scarce good. In The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains that in a realm of scarcity, property norms must be established. If, somehow, all scarcity ceased to exist (this would have to include scarcity in ourselves), then property norms would not be necessary. But in this world, scarcity is the cornerstone of Lockean property theory.

Ideas are Not Scarce

Since one cannot own a non-scarce good, it is the burden of the advocate of intellectual property to prove that ideas are scarce. If they do so, then intellectual property (IP) is legitimate. It is clear, however, that ideas are not scarce, and are therefore not subject to the restrictions of private property.

Consider a world in which only one person knows that two plus two equals four. If that person reveals this knowledge to someone else, that person knows that two plus two is four and the teacher still knows this. In other words, one’s acquisition of this knowledge did not inhibit another person from gaining the same piece of knowledge, and it did not degrade the knowledge the teacher originally had either. Because of this, knowledge is not scarce. Since knowledge is not scarce, we are not able to subject ideas to property norms.

Intellectual Property Assaults Private Property

Suppose I wrote a pamphlet and I sold it to you. For the law to tell you that you cannot reprint my pamphlet and sell it to others is to tell you what you cannot do with your private property. This is prohibitive on the sovereignty of the individual and private property. This is not, of course, meant to condone plagiarism. In “Common Misconceptions about Plagiarism and Patents: A Call for an Independent Inventor Defense,” patent lawyer Stephan Kinsella shows that IP “theft” is not plagiarism. Plagiarism wouldn’t run rampant without IP. One possible alternative to intellectual property is Creative Commons, which protects the fact that you created your work all the while not restricting your work to the bureaucracy of American intellectual property law.

Intellectual Property Holds Back Progress

One of the unique benefits of a market economy is that it incentivizes innovation. The consumer is in charge and their needs and desires frequently change. Competition, therefore, is essential to a prosperous market. Intellectual Property, however, holds back competition and protects those at the top. Imagine how much better technology would be if tech companies weren’t constantly under the threat of lawsuits from their competitors. If the focus changed from protecting one’s market power to providing a quality product for their customers in order to grow in the market, the world would have higher quality products at much lower costs.

Of course, progress has occurred in society, but that has happened in spite of intellectual property, not because of it. If we didn’t have intellectual property, software would be significantly cheaper as the potential costs of copying it would drastically decline. Inevitably, the only way for software companies to make a profit would be to provide a better product than their competitors since they won’t be able to artificially increase prices if they want to stay in business. If we abolished intellectual property, we would see a new age of progress.

Intellectual Property Has a Body Count

In 2016, Martin Shkreli raised the price of a life-saving medication to $750 per pill. This led to immense public outrage. But their rage was misplaced. The reason Shkreli was able to do this wasn’t corporate greed, but because of intellectual property. If people were able to copy the drug and sell it to compete with Shkreli’s company, such a price hike would have put him out of business.

This is just one of the innumerable symptoms of the disease of intellectual property. American IP law forbids competition against new ideas, especially medicines. Since a generic is effectively illegal for years after a cure is discovered, the poor are frequently left unable to pay for these life-saving medications. The abolition of intellectual property would save lives, allowing not only for prices to fall as competition rises, but also for quality of products to rise as innovation increases.

Intellectual Property Is the Enemy of Progress

In other words, intellectual property has failed the people. It is nothing more than corporate protectionism that flies in the face of Lockean property norms that has a very real cost to humanity. If we want a society that can advance quicker, allows for competition to drive prices down, and allow for a society based on consistent property norms, then we must reject the protectionist sham that is intellectual property.

Recommended Reading

Against Intellectual PropertyStephan Kinsella

Goods, Scarce and NonscarceStephan Kinsella and Jeffrey Tucker


This post was originally published in LIFE.

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Collectivism Has Destroyed Venezuela

By Trey Johnson | Venezuela

Millions of Venezuelans escape a country destroyed by bad government and coercive collectivism.

The border of Colombia and Ecuador is full of Venezuelans who are doing their earnest to escape the clutches of a coercive regime in search of free markets and better opportunities. Common tourists, amongst the droves of Venezuelans, must wait hours and hours in a line that wraps around the immigration office here in Ipiales, Colombia. During peak days, it can take over 24 hours to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador.

The border crossing’s elevation is 2898 m (9500 ft), which makes the experience a rather cold one as nighttime approaches. Individuals in line are able to stay warm with the help of vendors selling coffee, hot dogs, and empanadas.

Most South American countries have no choice but to allow free movement of these refugees due to treaties signed by UN member states. The strain of this situation hampers economic stability and the free flow of goods and services due to long lines at the border.

While in the line, one can also learn of the tragedies affecting the people of Venezuela and understand why they are leaving their beloved homeland. Men and women full of fond memories and past success, now crushed by coercive collectivism. Doctors, welders, and professionals of all sorts are throwing away their experience to land a job in a neighboring country, hoping to make the minimum wage of $300 per month in favorable countries such as Chile and Peru. Ecuador and Colombia are not desirable, and Brazil’s language barrier makes the destination unattainable.

To date, an estimated 4 million Venezuelans have left the country. Hyperinflation is the sole reason these people have left. “There is a lot of work, but there is no money.” The minimum wage is currently 2,000,000 Bolivars per month which equates to $3 USD per month. That is $36 per year. The price of a kilogram of beef in Venezuela is $3 dollars and the price of shampoo is also $3.

To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government instituted new currency controls on money entering the country through financial institutions. In order to send money to your family members stuck in Venezuela, you must have a bank account in both Venezuela and an outside country. One refugee believes this policy is “choking the people.”

The current administration’s new constitution would completely eliminate the ability to own private property. This market uncertainty makes investments impossible.

The people who are working to stay in the country are almost at the end of what seems to be the brink of collapse. Schools are functioning, but they have no food to feed their students. Most of the faculty members leave the schools in search of new opportunities. Revolutionaries like the violin playing patriot and Oscar Pérez have become heroes to Venezuelans trying to take back their country.

The Venezuelan regime is continuing to provide a box of food to each family in accordance with its collectivist agreement. This box is called CLAP and contains two packages of flour and rice along with powdered milk “if you are lucky.” The frequency of these food distributions is about once every 5 to 6 months according to a refugee waiting in the 24-hour line.

One wealthy Venezuelan had a stable career for over 15 years. He had a house, a car, and “a whole complete life.” He went on trips with his family inside and outside the country. Right now he is busy moving groups of Venezuelans to more favorable environments scattered throughout South America. He understands the attraction of collectivism and believes “the Venezuelans have to learn the lesson.”

A Colombian bus driver passes and asks, “are you going to Cúcuta?”, a town on the border of Venezuela and Colombia, 32 hours in the opposite direction from this particular crossing.

It is truly a sad state of affairs for the people of Venezuela who slowly lost their grip on freedom and their country. Experts believe it will take 30 years to bring this country back to its former self. Many Venezuelans will most likely never return to their homeland, which is but another civilization lost to socialism and coercive collectivism.

Thousands of Venezuelans at the Border of Colombia and Ecuador

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Your “Rights” are Ultimately Meaningless

By Ryan Lau | @agorists

Enlightenment-era philosopher John Locke was a vocal supporter of the idea of rights. His famous works outlined life, liberty, and property as the three basic natural rights in the world. Though granted by an all-powerful force (nature or a creator), a government would protect these rights. However, Locke’s perception of the very idea of rights is simply inaccurate. In the grand scheme of things, a right to perform an action means very little, as it cannot stop an ensuing consequence from occurring.

First, it is worth noting that government is a downright awful guardian of rights. Inherently, the state takes away both the liberty and the property of nearly every individual it claims to protect. When it signs into a law a bill regarding a victimless act, the state usurps liberty. And, when that state takes time and money from the people via conscription and taxation to execute and enforce said law, it usurps property. Thus, with nearly every action it takes, a state is in violation of two of the three Lockean principles. This, of course, throws a wrench into the idea of a government protecting rights.

Now, if a government is not the solution, what is? Surely, there must be a way to guard these rights. After all, they have been touted as the cornerstones of a free society for hundreds of years. Yet, as stated above, the allegedly free society’s function relies on restricting the very rights it claims to protect. This progression of thought leads many, including me, to abandon the notion of a successful state, instead believing that an anarchist community will best guard rights.

Alas, a society without rulers will clearly have its flaws, too. In the absence of police and prison, there will be some people able to infringe more upon the rights of others. Simply stated, the existence of a right will never stop someone from infringing upon it. The idea of a right is actually quite similar to the idea of a gun-free zone. If a shooter has an intent of murder, then a sign that tells them they cannot shoot will in no way prevent them from doing so. Though the sign has a good intention, it does nothing, as the gunman has a stronger motive.

The exact same concept applies to the idea of a right to life. Sure, all humans, according to Locke, have a right to life. Yet, that right seemingly dissolves when the gunman pulls his trigger. The right to life, in itself, does no more to actually guard lives than does a gun-free zone sign. In fact, it may be less effective, as the sign may be a slight crime deterrent in a few instances. Hence, a society without a state operates only marginally better than one with a state, when both claim protection of rights as an ultimate goal. Sadly, this renders the very idea of rights to be insignificant to a society’s mode of function.

If not rights, then what should determine the workings of a society? In short, the answer is based on morality and on true, informed consent. More specifically, it involves ensuring, on a local level, that every individual is treated in an acceptable manner, by their own standards. It is wrong to assume that a singular definition of “right” will work for a large group of people. In fact, such an assumption may be one of very few objective wrongs in this world. Such an assumption allows for the great inhumanity of misunderstanding.

In the vast world we humans live in, it is impossible to count the sheer number of cultures, ideologies, and philosophies that exist in it. This is because that number is in constant flux, rising with every birth, and falling with every death. How, then, can we ever trust a state to seek the interest of all of them? The thought is a naive impossibility, especially with the state’s inherent tendency to rob. A single anarchist idea will fail, in nearly the same way. It simply does not come even close to representing the vast scope of ideas present in the world. The only idea that can truly guard the subjective needs of all, is no idea at all.

Without a designated philosophy, a written or unwritten code of ethics, individuals can be free to form their own. Yet, unlike with a state, or even an anarchist community, a true lack of designation allows for people to create multiple unions with those of differing values. In a state, trade barriers often limit the access people have with those bound by other states. In anarchist communities, strict economic and social guidelines may do the same. It is only when no community is given preference, that all can thrive at once.

In such a realm, may some violations of individual standards still occur? Of course they will. Such is human nature, and the imperfect state of our planet. Yet, when we abandon the universal concept of rights, and instead focus on the needs of the individual, we move away from imperfection. In the gunman scenario before, imagine the scene occurring in a hospital bed. The victim is terminally ill, yet the hospital’s policy prohibits a swift end to the victim’s suffering. Now, the gunman is no evil force; he is rather trying to meet the needs of the sick man. Objective rights would state that the gunman is evil, and violating the sick man’s right to life. Yet, voluntary action and individual need trump the very concept of rights in every situation concerning an individual’s own self.

Objective standards for a society are an incredibly dangerous chasm, in which most of us have fallen. Rights are merely a long-standing manifestation of this chasm. Yet, hope still exists for the world, and by moving away from a preference for objective standards, we begin to return to a moral existence.


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You Libertarians Benefit From the State!

By. Joshua D. Glawson

We hear it all of the time. “You, Libertarians, benefit from the State!” “Ayn Rand received social security checks.” “You use public roads, public schools, and benefit from the rest of society.” “Well, that’s the price you pay to live in a civilized society.” The erroneous attacks continue one after the other.

The common logical fallacy here is called a ‘tu quoque’ argument, also known as an ‘appeal to hypocrisy.’ According to Webster’s Dictionary, this means “a retort charging an adversary with being or doing what he criticizes in others.” In other words, if someone criticizes something, and the other person responds, “Well, you do it, too,” this is a logical fallacy. It simply does not address the concern or topic at hand. Instead, when a person uses this appeal to hypocrisy, they are attempting to negate the argument by attacking the person rather than the issue. It is very similar to an ‘ad hominem’ logical fallacy.

The contention Libertarians hold is that government should not do many of the things it now does. This assertion does not disagree that people benefit from statism, it simply addresses the issues of varying topics. For example, many Libertarians attend public schools. When they argue that taxes should not pay for schools, this does not mean that schools should not exist. Libertarianism proposes that education should be privately funded by families, charities, religious institutions, companies, etc. When Libertarians attend public schools now, it is because they are taking advantage of the system that they were coerced into and forced to pay taxes to. Why should questioning a system necessarily mean one is no longer allowed to be a part of it?

The benefits of statism are comparable to that of thieves that feed their families and pay other businesses. It is a system that advocates positive liberty. This means that everyone must support it, and it will allegedly thus benefit everyone, too. Libertarianism repudiates this concept, and instead proposes negative liberty. Negative liberty means that it costs others nothing and one is free to go about their life, as the ideology condemns coercion.

It is very common that critics of Libertarianism conflate the terms “society” and “state.” They see these as interchangeable, or one in the same. As a correction, “society” is the free association of peoples out of spontaneous order. On the other hand, the “state” is the coercive power over the people.

It is out of human nature that people wish to freely associate and trade with others. People benefit and progress by having societies. They advance mankind’s ability to freely speak, trade, and live with fewer worries than they would without others. When people begin to impede on the lives, liberties, or properties of others, there is a shift from free association to dogmatic statism. The existence of a state should be only to protect the lives, Liberty, and property of its citizens, and nothing more.

When these naysayers of Libertarianism suggest that Libertarians want to benefit from society and not pay into it, they misconstrue the basic principles of Libertarianism while concurrently mixing “state” with “society”. There is no price to live in a civilized society. In fact, the wording itself indicates that people live “civilized,” meaning the respect for other individuals, and within “society,” meaning a voluntary association of people. So, suggesting there is a price to act civilized and to voluntarily associate is a contradiction.

The Libertarian position is that individuals are to be free as in the philosophy of negative liberty. They are to freely associate and trade, and through this, prosperity and peace will emerge. People benefit from society, but can live freely without association with others if they so choose. Positive liberty and statism harm society by crushing individual Liberty, justice, and society itself.

To make it very clear, Libertarians cherish society. Society implies freedom of association and holds individual liberty fundamental to human existence. Furthermore, Libertarians advocate for the most crucial characteristic of a just system, personal responsibility.

“With great Liberty, comes great responsibility.”


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