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It’s A Fucking Disgrace that the Libertarian Party Platform Does Not Condemn “Intellectual Property” (Patent and Copyright)

I’ve made this point many times.

[Update: Amend the LP Platform to Abolish IP!]

See for example this Facebook post:

As noted recently, I’ve just joined the Libertarian Party, after more than 35 years of being a small-l libertarian.
As noted there, my main goal is to persuade the party to adopt a clear platform plank calling for abolition of patent and copyright law. As I have in the past (https://www.facebook.com/nskinsella/posts/10155071618778181)
Intellectual property law is 100%, clearly and undeniably unlibertarian. Among destructive and evil state policies, it ranks among the worst, which are (in no particular order):

1. war;
2. the Fed/central banking/fiat money;
3. government schools;
4. taxation;
5. the drug war;
6. intellectual property — in particular, the federal patent and copyright laws.
Now not all libertarians are anarchists, and thus not all agree that war and taxation are always and completley wrong. And not all are Austrians, so some are not completely opposed to central banking. I’m not aware of many libertarian arguments for government schools, and there are just zero arguments for the drug war. Of all the libertarian stances, the drug war is simply not debatable. If there is a litmus test, it is the drug war. All libertarians must be completely and utterly opposed to the inhumane and evil prohibition of drugs.
And patent and copyright law also. There might be some argument for taxation or even war (especially among minarchists), but just as there is no libertarian argument at all for outlawing drugs, there is no argument at all for patent or copyright. They are as blatantly and clearly immoral and unlibertarian as the drug war is.
And in one respect IP law is even worse than other state laws and policies: unlike war, taxation, drug laws, and so on, intellectual property pretends to be a type of “property right”, and thus is far more insidious. This is why it confuses and seduces some libertarians into thinking there is a role for IP law in a free society, when it is as contrary to human freedom and property rights as the drug war is. And possibly even more destructive, since it hampers innovation and the free communication of thought and ideas, and thus impedes human progress.
Patent law is a war on innovation, and literally kills people. Copyright law is a war on speech and thought, distorts culture, stifles free speech, and threatens freedom on the Internet, one of the most important weapons against state tyranny in human history.
When Harry Browne ran on the LP ticket, as I recall, he would repeatedly, emphatically call for an end to the “insane war on drugs”! Yes. And we libertarians should also call for an end to the insane patent and copyright war on innovation, competition, property rights, artistic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press!! Down with the insane IP War on thought and innovation!!
[For those libertarians not clear on why IP is so horrific, there are tons of resources easily available for you to consult — see http://c4sif.org/resources/ ]
***
And yet. And yet… if you take a look at the LP Platform, though it champions free markets and freedom of expression and the press, there is no mention at all of intellectual property law, of patent or copyright law.
The Libertarian Party, under the “Personal Liberty” section of its most recent Platform, has the courage to declaim: “We oppose the administration of the death penalty by the state.” (Sec. 1.8) Likewise, Sec. 1.9 opposes laws that criminalize gambling, the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes, and consensual transactions involving sexual services, i.e. prostitution. The LP Platform is clearly not averse to naming specific laws that we hold to be unlibertarian and unjust. The Platform is not just some broad statement of principles that is too abstract to mention specific categories of laws or state actions that we libertarians oppose, that we want reformed or abolished. Thus, there is no excuse not to condemn patent and copyright law in the Platform.
Section 1, on Personal Liberty, calls for “full freedom of expression” and communication, and opposes “government censorship”–yet no mention is made of copyright law, which clearly censors speech and the press. The very roots of copyright law lie in state control of the printing press (see http://www.questioncopyright.org/promise).
Section 2, on Economic Liberty, calls for “A free and competitive market ” and for respect for property rights, but it does not condemn patent law, which is an egregious restriction property rights and on market competition, with its roots in protectionism (see the Statute of Monopolies of 1623). Sec. 2.1 rightly condemns eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services, but not a word is said about patent law, which is arguably worse than all of these. Section 2.8 champions free markets–and yet patent law’s very purpose is to limit competition and is utterly incompatible with private property and free markets.
Therefore, I call on the LP to amend its Platform at the earliest opportunity to clearly and explicitly condemn federal patent and copyright law and to call for the abolition of both.
As a suggestion, I propose amending Section 1.2, and either 2.1 or 2.8, as follows (with the proposed amended language surrounded *by asterisks*):
***
1.2 Expression and Communication
We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology, *and oppose copyright law.* We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.
2.1 Property and Contract
As respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld. Libertarians would free property owners from government restrictions on their rights to control and enjoy their property, as long as their choices do not harm or infringe on the rights of others. Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, *patent law*, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services (including wages, rents, and interest) are abridgements of such fundamental rights. For voluntary dealings among private entities, parties should be free to choose with whom they trade and set whatever trade terms are mutually agreeable.
2.8 Marketplace Freedom
Libertarians support free markets *and competition*. We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of entities based on voluntary association. *We oppose all forms of protectionism including tariffs and patent law.* We oppose all forms of government subsidies and bailouts to business, labor, or any other special interest. Government should not compete with private enterprise.
***
Yours sincerely, Stephan Kinsella, LP member since 2018
p.s.: While we’re at it, the Platform should also condemn antitrust law.
Coda: From this post:
I will never again vote for a national Libertarian Party candidate who is not explicitly opposed to patent and copyright law. This is why I would not have voted for Hornberger if he had won the nomination (he claims to be “unclear” on the issue or whatever), and why I continue to be baffled and mortified by “libertarian” “radical” thinkers like David Friedman, Michael Huemer, and others, who feign “geez, I just don’t know WHAT to think about IP” even though they pose as anarcho-capitalist-theorist “experts.” Hey, guess what, if you are not good on IP, you are not a good libertarian. IP is one of the most evil and anti-libertarian things the state imposes on us; if haven’t figured this out yet, you are not a libertarian. http://c4sif.org/2015/10/classical-liberals-and-anarchists-on-intellectual-property/
Down with patent law, down with copyright law, down will all forms of “IP”. And down with all libertarian alleged “thought leaders” who are bad on this issue! If you are confused on it, at least have the decency to (a) shut up about it, and (b) don’t pretend you are some libertarian theory expert. Let me be as clear as possible: if you are not opposed to patent and copyright law, you are in favor of censorship, fascism, protectionism. You are in favor of utterly illiberal laws. You are in favor of destruction of human life and progress and freedom. You are afraid to oppose utter and blatant evil. Shame on you. Shame on you.
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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Let's you and him fight August 31, 2020, 12:13 pm

    Two things.

    I want to see debate between Thomas Massie and Stephan Kinsella on IP. I don’t care if it is about IP in general or restricted to Massie’s little world of Mechanical Engineering Patents and Electricity Accumulators. (Everyone could live off the grid by now if not for patents! We are thirty years behind schedule! Mail is faster!)

    Surely Gene Epstein’s Soho Forum seems an ok arena. I would pay at least twice the cost of Netflix subscription just to watch that.

    Massie is a normie on patents. Perhaps not on copyright or trademark, because people with farms naturally intuit that trademarks are prima facie bullshit and copyrights are a scam. But patents seem to be difficult for them, I do not know why.

    Perhaps the worst possible insult against David Friedman and Michael Huemer (great teacher, btw) is that they share the same opinion as Ron Paul in at least one issue. Let Massie, the Heir of Ron Paul, be the champion to defend that stupidity on behalf of all the unyielding skeptics.

    Second.
    Hornberger is horrible on IP, but at least he is great on Culture, BLM, Civil Rights, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, War on Drugs, the Department of Education, Socialized Medicine, Student Loans, Income Tax, all the three letter agencies. Plus he speaks Spanish better than Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio! He was too good for whatever the LP stands for.

    A 98/100 libertarian should be good enough to vote for if someone is into voting. But only if he had any chance of winning the Presidency. In the real world, it is better to stick to 100% anarcholibertarian purity.

    • Stephan Kinsella December 23, 2020, 12:18 am

      I like Hornberger. I’m not sure he’s horrible on IP; he seems to be unclear and unwilling to take a stand on the issue.

      • A Texas Libertarian December 30, 2020, 9:25 am

        I don’t really like Hornberger that much, even though politically he’s aligned with me on nearly everything (apart from his strident advocacy of open borders), and he’s a libertarian Catholic like me. It’s not that I hate him; it’s more disappointment.

        I think it’s because he just strikes me as a Left winger. I’ve noticed that a lot of his posts find ways to be sympathetic to cultural Leftism while pointing out the hypocrisy of conservatives when they attack the Left. His campaign was almost solely aimed at explaining to minorities that the LP is really the party which cares about them. How did that work out for you Jacob?

        “unwilling to take a stand on the issue”

        I think Hornberger is unwilling to stand up against the cultural maw of the Left, just like Jorgensen when she came out in support of BLM and ‘anti-racism’.

        If you can’t stand against the insanity of the Left, you ain’t serious about liberty.

        Also, is Hornberger married? Divorced? Any kids? Has there been some tragedy in his life? Did he have aspirations of becoming a priest? Or is he just a single dude in his sixties? I asked him via email, but he never responded to me (on that). This may seem trivial to some, especially libertarians, but it matters to me how my potential leaders spend their lives.

  • a Texas libertarian December 30, 2020, 9:41 am

    (just noticed I could use my WordPress account here)

    “Let me be as clear as possible: if you are not opposed to patent and copyright law, you are in favor of censorship, fascism, protectionism.”

    Yup. I remember when I was bad on this issue. I think it was because of my intellectual devotion to Rothbard. I wonder if it is his fault that Anti-IP is not a plank in the LP? I believe he helped write the platform.

    I emailed Dominick Armentano about his book (which I love) entitled “Antitrust and Monopoly: Anatomy of a Policy Failure” and whether he thought American IP laws contributed to the unnatural growth of large companies people mistakenly view as free market monopolies. I asked him if antitrust law was just the crutch that the government used to mend the leg they broke with IP laws? He honestly said he wasn’t too sure how he felt about IP. I offered that maybe that would be a neat addition to his book for a future edition, and he said probably not because he is in his eighties! I told him that his work is great as is and will stand for the ages without any input from me. Great guy.

    What would you say about this Stephan? I apologize if you’ve already answered this a million times elsewhere. I’ve neglected your writing unjustly for quite some time now.

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