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Are you trying to tell me you are a libertarian as well?

Let me ask this a different way. Hank Reardon brings Reardon Metal onto the market. Do you think you're entitled to just take a piece of it down to the metallurgical lab, analyze it for the chemical components and think you can mix the ingredients together in your own smelting facility?

The question presupposes that a regulated monopoly is consistent with a free market.  Who is the final arbiter of true laissez-faire capitalism, the buyer or the seller?

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No, we want them because property is created by men. And the men who create it are entitled to it.

I don't know where I've been talking about "trade." It flummoxes me to see these replies to what I've said that... do not appear to speak to what I've written. Or maybe they do in some sidling fashion

First of all, I write this just having read your "obnoxiously long anecdote," so I wanted to remark that I quite enjoyed it, and certainly I find it interesting as a commentary on copying. Thanks for

Property is a response to scarcity; scarcity forms part of the context in which we develop property rights. That doesn't mean that property rights (or more specifically the Objectivist theory of property rights) will necessarily develop in response to the fact of scarcity in some given society, in some given time frame. Indeed, while there were many different systems of property over the millennia, so far as I know, it took Ayn Rand to finally lay out a just theory of property rights. (Though I'm sure that there are at least echoes of similar thoughts throughout history.)

Well it's true in a sense that what the Incas did (though I'm taking your word on that; I haven't studied the Inca in... quite a while, and never deeply when I did) was not "property per se," but it was still an attempt to address the allocation of scarce material wealth... which I think you recognize when you say that they "understood scarcity." Which is my point.

Other systems of allocating such wealth may be better or worse, when judged by some standard whether ethical or economic or sociopolitical, moral or immoral according to a given ethics, but they're operating within the same general context. And if you substantially alter that context, you change the results (which is exactly what you should expect; this is why context is so important, and why we cannot remove conclusions from their context and act as though there is no connection). Here, the context for property is the nature of material wealth, and specifically that it is scarce. Were material wealth not scarce, we wouldn't need the Incan method of allocating material wealth... or the Objectivist one, or any other.

As to the bulk of the remainder of your post, I'm afraid don't understand the meaning. But I think/hope that this reply already addresses the central point, and trust you to clarify where necessary.

No, I'm not making anything so. I'm discussing what I find to be true in reality, and providing my reasoning and examples. I am attempting to point to reality just as much as you are.

Right. And what I'm saying is that the reason why it is "important" that you can call something yours and dispose of it for yourself is the fact that it is scarce. Were it not scarce, it would not be important that you could call it your own. You couldn't be deprived of something that was not scarce.

When you say "how scarce it is," it reflects the confusion that seems endemic to this conversation, but I will try again to clarify this point: scarcity (as I am using it, at least) is binary, it is an on/off switch, an either/or, and not a matter of degree. Material values are scarce (as in: all of them, down to every instance). Ideas are not. Material values are thus ownable whereas ideas are not.
 

You cannot take a man's thoughts. Or to the extent that you can in some metaphorical fashion, this is, again, "learning."

Actual commons are material wealth, which is why it results in tragedy when everyone is supposed to take ownership. Ideas and thoughts are not material wealth, they are not property, and when everyone shares in an increase in thought and idea it is a boon to the world, down to a man.

Toggle switch or no there is no physical aspect of an object that makes it of value as property unless you want to trade it, which comes much later in the process. 

Something is important to me because it in MINE.  I am the source of it's value.  Only in trade is it's value to others become important.  I can be on a deserted island and the value in something I create is because I did it.  The word "I" is what creates value - the "it" is irrelevant. Value assumes a valuer and I am the source of it's value when I create it. 

The tragedy of the commons is an event that demonstrates what happens when no one owns something - They rush in and take it until it's depleted.  

Since value is created by the user and property a creation of the mind, IP is in the same boat as all property.  The only difference is that with no reason for a ROI then invention will slow to a crawl since there is no incentive to spend a life's work creating something that will not pay your life work back.  Thus the pool of goods people take will deplete.

 

 

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I am having copy/paste issue so I will just reiterate a comment from earlier that basically said you have taken nothing from a man if he invents a spear because the man can still use the spear.

If I spend years inventing something new then yes - You have deprived me on the ROI for my time and money I spent inventing it.  I have no reason to spend my life inventing something if it becomes communal property and I do not get a return for my time.  

This is the point.  Just as taking someone's property is depriving them of the time they spent earning the object, so it taking a man's ideas depriving him of the time he spent earning them.  Unless we are going to advocate the spiritual equivalent of to each his own ability to each his own need, if I am going to spend my time creating something I jolly well want to enjoy the full unbridled benefit of my time and sweat in doing what only I could have done.  

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Toggle switch or no there is no physical aspect of an object that makes it of value as property unless you want to trade it, which comes much later in the process.

I don't know where I've been talking about "trade." It flummoxes me to see these replies to what I've said that... do not appear to speak to what I've written. Or maybe they do in some sidling fashion? But if so, then apparently I need it explained to me, step by step.

But just so as we're clear: I'm not talking about trade.

And on "value," what is it that I've said about value that you are taking issue with specifically (if you are taking any issue with what I've written at all; I honestly cannot tell)? If you mean value in trade, like this is worth X amount, or two pigs for a cow, or so forth, again, that's not what I'm talking about.

Property is a response to the fact man needs to live and using his mind is his tool to do it. 

This is the crux of the issue.  

If this is the crux of the issue, then let us endeavor to get it right. Man needs to live and he uses his mind to do so. And also his body. Where property is concerned, man needs to perform both mental and physical labor, in order to create material wealth, which is the stuff he needs to live. This is why the quote from Rand I've offered says this:

Any material element or resource which, in order to become of use or value to men, requires the application of human knowledge and effort, should be private property—by the right of those who apply the knowledge and effort.

The application of knowledge and effort.

And here's another quote which may serve this same point:

Just as man can’t exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one’s rights into reality—to think, to work and to keep the results—which means: the right of property.

To think. To work. And to keep the results, which are material wealth, which are property.

I am having copy/paste issue so I will just reiterate a comment from earlier that basically said you have taken nothing from a man if he invents a spear because the man can still use the spear.

If I spend years inventing something new then yes - You have deprived me on the ROI for my time and money I spent inventing it.  I have no reason to spend my life inventing something if it becomes communal property and I do not get a return for my time.

If you invent a spear and no one takes it from you, then the property you have created--which is the spear--is not communal property. You do get a return for your time: you have a spear.

This is the point.  Just as taking someone's property is depriving them of the time they spent earning the object, so it taking a man's ideas depriving him of the time he spent earning them.

If by "taking a man's ideas" you mean seeing someone else use a spear, and thereby come to understand how to fashion a spear of your own, then you do not deprive the initial spear carrier of the time he has spent earning that spear, which is still his property.

Unless we are going to advocate the spiritual equivalent of to each his own ability to each his own need, if I am going to spend my time creating something I jolly well want to enjoy the full unbridled benefit of my time and sweat in doing what only I could have done.

If you spend your time creating a spear, I jolly well agree that you should have the full unbridled benefit of your time and sweat in doing what you've done (whether "only you" could have done it or not). That full unbridled benefit is the use and disposal of the property that you have created, which is the spear. Those are your rights in property, because that is what you have created.

Would you like the power to tell other people that they may not learn from your example and craft spears of their own, to benefit their own lives? I disagree that you have any right to such a power.

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Would you like the power to tell other people that they may not learn from your example and craft spears of their own, to benefit their own lives? I disagree that you have any right to such a power.

Well stated, and I think better than I have been trying to do :thumbsup:

This presumed right in the form of IP is, I think, fundamentally at odds with a free and unregulated market place.  The production of a marketable product cannot be stolen, as from a store, without paying for it, and that makes sense morally.  But where is the moral imperative that knowledge gained by window shopping, e.g., via advertising or general awareness (gained without contract), must not be used to create a competitive or improved product, or one that is simply recreated for personal use?

Where is the argument that laissez-faire capitalism cannot exist without an artificial monopoly in place?

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I don't know where I've been talking about "trade." It flummoxes me to see these replies to what I've said that... do not appear to speak to what I've written. Or maybe they do in some sidling fashion? But if so, then apparently I need it explained to me, step by step.

But just so as we're clear: I'm not talking about trade.

And on "value," what is it that I've said about value that you are taking issue with specifically (if you are taking any issue with what I've written at all; I honestly cannot tell)? If you mean value in trade, like this is worth X amount, or two pigs for a cow, or so forth, again, that's not what I'm talking about.  

 

I know you're not talking about trade - I keep having to go back to it since you bring in an economic concept known as scarcity.

I take issue with the whole tribal concept of IP as communal property and specifically you are using an economic concept to justify making this particular species of property communal. 

If it is that distracting however I'll delimit that point since I do not want to distract from the real point. 

Property as a moral concept. 

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If this is the crux of the issue, then let us endeavor to get it right. Man needs to live and he uses his mind to do so. And also his body. Where property is concerned, man needs to perform both mental and physical labor, in order to create material wealth, which is the stuff he needs to live. This is why the quote from Rand I've offered says this:

The application of knowledge and effort.

And here's another quote which may serve this same point:

To think. To work. And to keep the results, which are material wealth, which are property.

If you invent a spear and no one takes it from you, then the property you have created--which is the spear--is not communal property. You do get a return for your time: you have a spear.

Exactly!  Now to bring this home, the essential factor is that I created it for my use.  What it is does not matter.  Only the fact I created it.  It has value because of me. How it works in reality is really irrelevant at this point.  To put it negatively, what it is or what others may think of it are not important.  There is another science that deals with that. 

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If by "taking a man's ideas" you mean seeing someone else use a spear, and thereby come to understand how to fashion a spear of your own, then you do not deprive the initial spear carrier of the time he has spent earning that spear, which is still his property.

If you spend your time creating a spear, I jolly well agree that you should have the full unbridled benefit of your time and sweat in doing what you've done (whether "only you" could have done it or not). That full unbridled benefit is the use and disposal of the property that you have created, which is the spear. Those are your rights in property, because that is what you have created.

Would you like the power to tell other people that they may not learn from your example and craft spears of their own, to benefit their own lives? I disagree that you have any right to such a power.

First - A spear is a poor example since no one would IP something so fundamentally simple and common place in an advanced society necessary for property rights in the first place.  I know I started this example but that was to demonstrate why scarcity was not an issue - So I will apologize for setting up such a bad example. 

What we are talking about is IP.  This requires a proper context of an advance society that has the need to demarcate different types of property rights into subcategories to protect people.  A savage is still trying to discover fire and principles, let alone political rights or something advanced like IP.    

So here is a better example in context of mondern society: If I spend 10 years creating a new kind of medicine to cure a disease then I want a return on my 10 years.  If someone takes my medicine then makes their own copies and sells it then yes, he has deprived of the ROI for my ten years.  This doesn't even bring up the money I spent also to do this.  I might as well just worked an easier job and saved my money.  Just because I can still sell the medicine for lower amounts and quantities while others cash in on my 10 years of labor does not change the fact I'm being robbed of my effort.  Worse, I have no incentive to do such an effort while I wait for someone else to do the intellectual lifting.  Now the world is robbed of the knowledge in the long run.  

I would not tell them that cannot learn from my example.  But I would charge them for it and give Mrs. Architect the vacation she deserves since she had to put up with me for those ten years :)

Also, remember, statue of limitations will eventually run out and people will still get access to this via public domain. IP involves complicated approval like all patents and copyrights and has limited applicability. Unless you have access to a mixed economy where the mouse can get it pushed out but that is a different thread.     

 

Does this help make things clear? 

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The tragedy of the commons is an event that demonstrates what happens when no one owns something - They rush in and take it until it's depleted.

 You’re conflating scarce things with nonscarce things.  Ideas aren’t scarce.  They can be copied without limit, and still remain in the mind they’re copied from.  That’s completely different from, say, a piece of land.

Since value is created by the user and property a creation of the mind, IP is in the same boat as all property.  The only difference is that with no reason for a ROI then invention will slow to a crawl since there is no incentive to spend a life's work creating something that will not pay your life work back.  Thus the pool of goods people take will deplete.

If I spend 10 years creating a new kind of medicine to cure a disease then I want a return on my 10 years.  If someone takes my medicine then makes their own copies and sells it then yes, he has deprived of the ROI for my ten years.  This doesn't even bring up the money I spent also to do this.  I might as well just worked an easier job and saved my money.  Just because I can still sell the medicine for lower amounts and quantities while others cash in on my 10 years of labor does not change the fact I'm being robbed of my effort.  Worse, I have no incentive to do such an effort while I wait for someone else to do the intellectual lifting.  Now the world is robbed of the knowledge in the long run.  

 Empirical evidence does not support such a claim.  I previously cited what happened with the steam engine.  After the expiration of the Watt patent, innovation increased.  Watt made more money.  I also cited a research paper which found this:

The political economy of government-operated patent systems indicates that such systems are susceptible to pressures that cause the ill effects of patents to grow over time. The political economy pressures tend to benefit those who own patents and are in a good position to lobby for stronger patent protection, but disadvantage current and future innovators as well as ultimate consumers. This explains why the political demand for stronger patent protection comes from old and stagnant industries and firms, not from new and innovative ones.

And this:

In new industries such as biotechnology and software —where innovation was already thriving in their absencepatents have been introduced without any positive impact on the rate of innovation.

This shows that not only does the absence of patents not inhibit innovation, patents actually hinder innovators and favor old and stagnant industries.

Edited by Robert Romero
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I know you're not talking about trade

Great Googly Moogly! If you know I'm not talking about trade, please don't respond as though I were! :) Conversation about these kinds of topics is hard enough as it is when we're all talking about the same things.

I keep having to go back to it since you bring in an economic concept known as scarcity.

I disagree that you have to keep going back to "it," seeing as how I have tried to clarify several times that you mistake my meaning. It's like, have you ever had a conversation referencing "selfishness" or "altruism," where someone else insists upon his own meaning for the terms, and you keep saying, "but when I talk about selfishness, this is what I mean," yet they never seem to allow for that, and the conversation never goes anywhere except to argue in circles over the meaning of "selfishness"? That's what this has been like for me, where I keep trying to point at my meaning, but you insist that because "scarcity is an economic concept," I must mean all of these other things that I'm not saying and do not believe. Frustrating!

I continue to favor my meaning of "scarcity," and hold to the arguments I've made, but never mind all of that now. We're much further along towards mutual understanding below...
 

First - A spear is a poor example since no one would IP something so fundamentally simple and common place in an advanced society necessary for property rights in the first place.  I know I started this example but that was to demonstrate why scarcity was not an issue - So I will apologize for setting up such a bad example.

Apologies aren't necessary, and doubly so because a spear is a (nearly) perfect example. Not because I think that the spear is or ought to be patentable in 2015, but because I believe its simplicity allows us to examine the bare bones of our arguments.

Furthermore, while the spear specifically may not be patentable in 2015, that doesn't mean that other seemingly simple things might not be the subject of IP today. And further furthermore, if my memory of Rand's essay "Patents and Copyrights" serves, there is nothing in it which would disqualify the spear from being subject to IP on principle, except for its having been invented long ago, and thus whatever term of IP protection having run out (which is, of course, another fraught topic).

The example I would like to pursue, if it pleases you, is the one I brought up to Eiuol (though it does not appear that he plans on following up on it): the knork. Or fnife? No, I prefer knork. :)

Here is the post where I introduced it. Do you agree that such a thing serves our purpose? Or if not, why not?

So here is a better example in context of mondern society: If I spend 10 years creating a new kind of medicine to cure a disease then I want a return on my 10 years.

But the medicine is itself the return on your investment. The thing that you have created is your property.

If someone takes my medicine then makes their own copies and sells it then yes, he has deprived of the ROI for my ten years.

Takes how? If someone steals some vial of medicine that you've created, or steals your lab results, or etc., then that's theft. If someone buys your medicine from you under the condition that they are not to make copies, then breaks that contractual agreement, that's a violation. If someone buys your medicine from you, free from such condition, then makes their own copies and sells those copies, then I would say that was okay. As property is/entails the right of disposal, insofar as a person owns a vial of medicine (free from prohibiting condition), they have the right to copy it, too.

If someone else independently creates this medicine, or similar, that's their property just as much as the medicine you've created is yours.

This doesn't even bring up the money I spent also to do this.  I might as well just worked an easier job and saved my money.  Just because I can still sell the medicine for lower amounts and quantities while others cash in on my 10 years of labor does not change the fact I'm being robbed of my effort.  Worse, I have no incentive to do such an effort while I wait for someone else to do the intellectual lifting.  Now the world is robbed of the knowledge in the long run.

You also may create the cure for a disease, spending ten years and however much money and whatever other resource to do so, and find that someone else makes an even better cure in the same time frame that makes your own "worthless" qua market value. It may ruin you financially, for all of your efforts. This is immaterial. Because you invest X, hoping to realize some return in the market, that doesn't guarantee you anything; all that you are guaranteed is that the material wealth you create is your property--that which you have rights to, and cannot be deprived of (in justice). Not some specific return in the marketplace.

If this fact drains you of the incentive to try, or inspires you to go into some other line where you expect you'll stand a better chance of making money, then so be it... but I would imagine that so long as there is disease, there will be financial incentive enough for many bright people to search for medicine--because those suffering from disease will be willing to pay to alleviate their suffering. (And if they are not willing to pay, then where does the financial incentive we imagine come from in the first place?)

I would not tell them that cannot learn from my example.  But I would charge them for it and give Mrs. Architect the vacation she deserves since she had to put up with me for those ten years :)

I would like you and Mrs. Architect to be able to take that vacation. Anyone who cures a disease ought to be rewarded (generally speaking). And I suspect that, in the absence of IP laws, the marketplace would adapt accordingly to allow you to do that. But this is a little like trying to express how the Lunar program could possibly exist outside of a coercive government taxing and making it so. I am confident in the principles, but I cannot guarantee that I know the specifics of how it would happen.

Also, remember, statue of limitations will eventually run out and people will still get access to this via public domain.

Yes, I don't like that either. LOL. If what we're discussing is truly property, then I see no call for it to be looted and given away to the public--and for what? Their "need"? If I invent Mickey Mouse, and if I truly own him, then let me pass him down to my children's children just as much as a chair that I've carved.

IP involves complicated approval like all patents and copyrights and has limited applicability.

IP is indeed convoluted. There are other adjectives I could use, as well. I attribute its "complicated" nature to the fact that it is not based in rights, in reason or reality, but that it is a legal fiction. Contradiction, arbitrariness, and injustice are thus to be expected in application.

Does this help make things clear? 

Clearly we disagree. :) But that's okay; it's the stuff that good discussion is made from.

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There are at least a few potential answers to that question. I think that the vast majority of humanity will have discovered that the banana is of use by learning from observing the behavior, or explicit instruction, of others.

To clarify: Indeed, but that's part of my point, that any recognition of any scarcity is dependent upon already identifying value. I suppose you'd say "services are non-scarce, and no one considers a massage to be property for example". But if you discover how to make something valuable, and there's a unique way to do so, perhaps a banana-harvesting machine, then I'd see it as just to allow the inventor to reap all the benefit of desire for that machine that anyone has. Like with a massage, providing such a service ought to be at any cost the provider wishes. I only go further with intellectual -property- to distinguish it from a service. Inventing a banana-harvester is a specific method to acquire value from a banana. Owning a banana is similar, to the extent you have a specific usage in mind, e.g. baking banana bread.

If scarcity is to mean also rivalrousness, where one person using an item denies a person from using it, it kind of misses out on why anyone wants anything. If that's fundamental to property, I don't see how it's proper to say a road can be property, or the data in my computer.

 

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 Empirical evidence does not support such a claim.  I previously cited what happened with the steam engine.  After the expiration of the Watt patent, innovation increased.  Watt made more money.  I also cited a research paper which found this:

 

But he did have the patent and was allowed to benefit first ;)

I fully expect that at some point the intellectual patent will run out and the  same thing would happen. 

 

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Well stated, and I think better than I have been trying to do :thumbsup:

This presumed right in the form of IP is, I think, fundamentally at odds with a free and unregulated market place.  The production of a marketable product cannot be stolen, as from a store, without paying for it, and that makes sense morally.  But where is the moral imperative that knowledge gained by window shopping, e.g., via advertising or general awareness (gained without contract), must not be used to create a competitive or improved product, or one that is simply recreated for personal use?

Where is the argument that laissez-faire capitalism cannot exist without an artificial monopoly in place?

How is 'patentless' capitalism any less artificial? Or capitalism for that matter.

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The example I would like to pursue, if it pleases you, is the one I brought up to Eiuol (though it does not appear that he plans on following up on it): the knork. Or fnife? No, I prefer knork. :)

 

Since I am not a patent expert this is merely an onion but I would say no one could patent an idea that is simply a riff on something already existing.  That is why I said a spear is a bad example - By the time you get to an advanced society that has developed individual rights and has the need for species of property rights like IP simple designs are common (like forks). A fork was new in an age when the concept was not applicable. Today any interchange of parts is just playing with the same public domain material.  You'd have to invent a sonic fork or an infrared knife for it to be considered.  

OK, now I want the Stake Saber 2000 that looks like a Jedi light saber.  

It would be like taking something that is public domain, like the Star Spangled Banner, adding a few blast beats, then claiming it new IP.  It's just not going to happen.

Now if you want to talk implementation that is a separate thing and an interesting conversation into itself.  Where do you draw the line on IP. 

 

 

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How is 'patentless' capitalism any less artificial? Or capitalism for that matter.

To the degree that Objectivistism claims all property is intellectual, which I view as an overstatement, a distinction remains between real and potential property.  Real property can be traced as a possession;  ideas cannot.  It is the physical form that establishes something that can be properly owned and traded.  Real estate is not artificial; potential estate is. 

Consider objections that are raised by efforts to "pick winners" in the marketplace.  Isn't that primarily what IP is used for?  It's defended as being a fair reward for bringing something new to the marketplace, or as the ancient merchants considered it, an allowance for artisans to live by their products of innovation (and even then at the risk of monopoly).  That's all well and good as an intention, but is it absolutely necessary, i.e., is a monopoly to protect the potential reward for innovation the only means to realize a profit for being innovative?

And where is the guarantee, known in advance, of how valuable some future product of innovation will be.  Isn't that more properly the role that buyers play and those who compete in the marketplace?  There can be no demand on innovation for what has yet to appear as a product, so should there be a demand on how it will be received by those who may or may not find it beneficial to their own lives?

Do merchants really need to be protected from buyers and competition?

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The question presupposes that a regulated monopoly is consistent with a free market.  Who is the final arbiter of true laissez-faire capitalism, the buyer or the seller?

A temporary regulated period of time, where an inventor has an opportunity to recoup the investment of time and energy spent creating a new product. Depending on the type of patent, this window of opportunity is only 14-20 years in the USA, providing the periodic fees are paid to maintain the enforcement.

Laissez-faire capitalism is about protecting individual rights. Other people inventing new products does not prevent you from inventing a new product.

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What is the source of this individual right to monopoly?  What is the actual damage, not potential, that someone incurs by allowing others to combine their idea with anothers labor??

While it is true that other people's inventions don't prevent me from being inventive, the practice of IP certainly impedes my ability to compete with existing inventions, or to improve on them for about a quarter of a century.

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Would you be so kind as to spend several years of your life, invest some (perhaps much money in some cases) of your money, and mix it with creative thought to invent something so I can dispose of the fruit of your labor, before you're able to recoup the investment on a market that allows such practices?

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While it is true that other people's inventions don't prevent me from being inventive, the practice of IP certainly impedes my ability to compete with existing inventions, or to improve on them for about a quarter of a century.

That's how capitalism works. It's just that you worded it in a loaded way. I just want to point out that my ownership of a factory impedes on your ability to improve the factory and compete with other factories. As much as you may actually run a better factory, it's not yours. The ability to compete and improve things is a classical liberal (i.e. Jeffersonian) view as far as I know. "Fairness" over anything else, equal access for all!

In other words, your line of reasoning here weakens any egoistic premise to capitalism.

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Would you be so kind as to spend several years of your life, invest some (perhaps much money in some cases) of your money, and mix it with creative thought to invent something so I can dispose of the fruit of your labor, before you're able to recoup the investment on a market that allows such practices?

If you are claiming that such a market practice isn't moral, then I think you need to convince me what aspect of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness supports an individual right to monopoly in that marketplace.  I think the closest you can come is to some form of a right to pursue property (happiness).  But in that case, how would the lack of a right to monopoly prevent you from any return on your investment?  An investment of labor doesn't guarantee a return in the marketplace; buyers do.  Are they not to be trusted to value your time and innovation with their patronage?  Must you force them to do so?

It seems a curious form of laissez-faire that requires impeding others participation into order to secure your own.

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True, bringing a product to market does not guarantee a return in the marketplace, but it sure helps if you don't have to spend the time and effort, test prototypes thru trial and error, and the many other expenses an inventor may have to go through to come up with a viable invention by forcing them to do it for you. Ok. It's not force in the visually obvious sense of a slave being given the 'choice' between a whip or the business end of a hoe.

In the absence of a patent system, putting the product on the market is akin to signing the 'Gift Certificate' and is akin to saying to the inventor, this is the thanks you get for coming up with this marvelous work of your mind.

Edited by dream_weaver
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That's how capitalism works. It's just that you worded it in a loaded way. I just want to point out that my ownership of a factory impedes on your ability to improve the factory and compete with other factories. As much as you may actually run a better factory, it's not yours. The ability to compete and improve things is a classical liberal (i.e. Jeffersonian) view as far as I know. "Fairness" over anything else, equal access for all!

In other words, your line of reasoning here weakens any egoistic premise to capitalism.

The legal defense of an egotistic premise ought to show some harm to myself for participation in a free-for-all.  No one but myself is enjoying the profit on marketable goods that I deliver to market.  The harm seems limited to a potential loss at best.

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Indeed, but that's part of my point, that any recognition of any scarcity is dependent upon already identifying value.

To take this back some ways, my contention has been that the concept of property is dependent upon recognition of scarcity; that scarcity forms the context in which property is sensible. You may be right that to recognize scarcity, you must first identify some value, but this is not the same as forming the concept of property, or dividing things between "what's mine" and "what's yours." Before you separate things into "mine" and "yours," you first need a reason to do so. Scarcity provides that reason.

...if you discover how to make something valuable, and there's a unique way to do so, perhaps a banana-harvesting machine, then I'd see it as just to allow the inventor to reap all the benefit of desire for that machine that anyone has.

Every method to make something valuable is unique in its way. Climbing up a tree to grab a banana is also a unique method to obtain a banana. But I don't believe that the first man to do so had any right to prohibit the second from trying. I don't agree that this is just.

A machine to gather bananas is not different in my eyes, or it is different in degree (of complexity, of difficulty, etc.), but not kind. I agree that the inventor of the banana-harvesting machine should reap the benefits of his machine, i.e. the machine that he has built. But I don't believe that gives him any proper authority to prevent others from acting likewise for their own benefit.

If scarcity is...fundamental to property, I don't see how it's proper to say a road can be property, or the data in my computer.

Because a road (and even data) is material wealth and is scarce, as all material wealth is, even if that isn't apparent immediately (as was the case earlier in this thread for Robert Romero when he spoke of air as though it isn't scarce). Roads can become congested, they must be constructed, and maintained, and etc. Data, which I suppose is the intelligent manipulation of electricity, is still material wealth; the manipulation itself requires both mental and physical labor to effect, to say nothing of the physical hardware required to manipulate, store, and access that data. If I were to somehow sneak into your system and delete your files, that would be just as much a destruction of your hard-earned material wealth as if I were to take a baseball bat to your computer. If I were to lounge about on the road you had built, blocking your path, I would take from you your use of it.

Since I am not a patent expert this is merely an onion

So that's why it makes me cry! ;)

but I would say no one could patent an idea that is simply a riff on something already existing.

I'm no patent expert either, but I have a suspicion that the vast majority of patents are granted to things that could sensibly be described as riffs on something already existing. But I think that's no criticism of innovators... I think it speaks to the reality of what innovation is.

In "The Metaphysical and the Man-Made," Ayn Rand said, "Man’s imagination is nothing more than the ability to rearrange the things he has observed in reality." I think this reasonably close to saying that when we imagine, and when we innovate, we "simply riff on something already existing." Actually, it sounds to me like a direct analogue.

I expect (with the caveat repeated: no expert) that if we were to study the history of invention, we would find a magnitude more of incremental changes to existing technologies and processes, and adaptations of existing technologies to new fields/uses, as opposed to seemingly out-of-nowhere game changers.

I know that in arguing this same topic in another, earlier thread, I came to (briefly) investigate the history of the piano (which is a long argued example between Eiuol and myself). Was the piano sufficiently something new at the time of its invention as to be patentable? Or was it simply a riff on a harpsichord? I don't know that I have that answer, so this isn't a rhetorical question, per se... but it's a question that I think pertains to the subject.

That is why I said a spear is a bad example - By the time you get to an advanced society that has developed individual rights and has the need for species of property rights like IP simple designs are common (like forks). A fork was new in an age when the concept was not applicable. Today any interchange of parts is just playing with the same public domain material.  You'd have to invent a sonic fork or an infrared knife for it to be considered.  

OK, now I want the Stake Saber 2000 that looks like a Jedi light saber.

LOL, that would be cool... but I think it robs a little bit of the majesty of the lightsaber. Like, now I'm imagining Jedis using tiny lightsabers to cut their toenails, and using the Force to do laundry, and it all seems a bit too mundane. :)

Anyways, if you don't like your spear example or my knork, then I'm just as happy to discuss the SteakSaber 2000. I don't believe it will hurt my earlier case example any to do a simple search and replace. So here it is:

Imagine that I come over to your home for dinner. While there, I observe that you have fashioned a new implement for cutting and eating your steak; it is a SteakSaber 2000 (SS2k).

Okay.

If I were to steal your SS2k, I would have harmed you. Your SS2k is material wealth, and it is property. Whose property? Yours. You not only invented it, but you fashioned it; it exists as material wealth because of your labors. It is as an extension of your life. It is scarce. Which means that, were I to take it from you, you would not have it and you could not use it. I would have deprived you of the fruit of your labors, which is what your very life depends upon. To be very clear about this, to take your SS2k is an assault on your life, and physical force in response is moral.

I assume we agree so far?

But imagine that I do not steal your SS2k. Instead, I go home and--unbeknownst to you--I fashion my own SS2k, for my own, private, solitary usage. What do we make of this? Have I harmed you in any fashion? Have I stolen anything from you? Have I committed some assault on your life? I would say not. I would say that I have not deprived you of the fruit of your labors, but that I have performed my own labors, and am now entitled to the fruits thereof, which is now my private property.

When it comes to "intellectual property," I recognize that many people would have questions about "the market" and "trade," and all of those questions can be discussed in their turn. But first I would like to try to hammer out this rather more delimited example, if possible. What do you make of the idea that I could make my own SS2k? I say you are no less for my doing so, and that I have not stolen a thing from you (for ideas are not scarce, and are thus not property). Material wealth overall has increased. I would say that if you were to discover that I had made a SS2k, and if you were to use force (or The Force) to try to deprive me of it, accounting it your own, or to punish me for its creation, that you would be initiating the use of force against me.

But what do you say?

Now if you want to talk implementation that is a separate thing and an interesting conversation into itself.  Where do you draw the line on IP.

I'd love to talk implementation, here or elsewhere (though I cannot yet agree on the fundamentals, yet many of my misgivings re: IP have to do with implementation, or were spurred on by thoughts of implementation). I agree that it is a separate discussion and also very interesting.

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