From my comment to my post New Book: Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Economic Growth (archived comments):
Stephan Kinsella Peter, good point. Here’s another way to think about the incoherence of IP (and of pro-IP “arguments”): I’ve pointed out many times the hypocrisy of IP advocates, who denigrate the need for scarcity as a criteria for property; they say that intangible, non-scarce “creations” are “just as much” property as are real things. In fact, some say they are MORE fundamental than rights in lowly material things–Rand and Galambos say this; Tibor Machan even implies it. Yet, when they want to enforce rights in IP they want to use physical force, against physical things–the body or property of the IP “infringer.” Why the need to stoop down into the lowly physical world to enforce these IP rights, if IP “things” are “ontologically” “types of things” that “can be owned”?
Consider a world without scarcity. Scarcity means rivalrousness–the possibility of conflict. So a world with no scarcity is hard to imagine exactly but it could be one in which people are sort of ghostly; or, one in which people are super-invulnerable and have the ability to create at will whatever objects they want, in the blink of an eye. A world so that no one can force others to do anthing, or harm them, or “take” anyting from them. If I see your “car” I can conjure up one for myself–yours is not taken. Etc.
Now, in such a world–and don’t call it absurd, since the IP advocates assure us that things other than scarce things are ontologically “real” too–the IP advocates would still say that there are property rights in intellectual creations. Right? If I create a painting, then if others duplicate it without my permission they are “trespassing.” But how would such a right even in principle be enforced, in a non-scarce world? You could not use force to stop the infringer. You could not penalize him. You could not “take” any of his property as “damages.” So IP would be completely unenforceable in a world without scarcity.
In other words, IP needs a world of scarcity in order to exist. Yet IP proponents claim that IP “objects” have independent existence, that scarcity is not necessary, etc. They even claim IP is more primary than property in lowly material things. Ridiculous.
Published: February 5, 2010 11:03 AM
Full post plus Archived comments:
The new book Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Economic Growth, by
Christine Greenhalgh & Mark Rogers, looks interesting:
What drives innovation? How does it contribute to the growth of firms, industries, and economies? And do intellectual property rights help or hurt innovation and growth? Uniquely combining microeconomics, macroeconomics, and theory with empirical analysis drawn from the United States and Europe, this book introduces graduate students and advanced undergraduates to the complex process of innovation. By addressing all the major dimensions of innovation in a single text, Christine Greenhalgh and Mark Rogers are able to show how outcomes at the microlevel feed through to the macro-outcomes that in turn determine personal incomes and job opportunities.
From a quick skim of ch. 1 (available here), it appears to adopt a mainstream approach–finding out whether there is market failure or a public goods problem (see Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s “Fallacies of the Public Goods Theory and the Production of Security,” in The Economics and Ethics of Private Property for criticism of the concept of “public goods”), and then asking whether we can fix it with some kind of state invervention. The same old “the market is not perfect, so let’s let the thugs with guns have more power” song and dance.
But at least they recognize you have to take costs into account (see my Reducing the Cost of IP Law; There’s No Such Thing as a Free Patent; Yet Another Study Finds Patents Do Not Encourage Innovation; and What Are the Costs of the Patent System?):
In addition, understanding whether these monopoly costs of IPRs [intellectual property rights] are less than the benefit to society emanating from the spur that IPRs give to innovation will provide a major theme for parts II and IV of this book.
My guess: they’ll conclude that some IPRs can help address the market failure/public goods issues and give rise to some kind of net benefit, but not our current IP system; so then we’ll have a laundry list of “reforms” that would tweak the current laws to reduce the cost enough so that there is a net benefit. Just a hunch. Unfortunately, at $45 even in e-book format, I don’t think I’ll read it until it comes out at a more reasonable price.