I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
A great technology solves a problem that we didn’t know we had. It makes us aware of deprivations we didn’t know existed until we discover the new thing. Once discovered, we can’t go back.People in the 1950s, for example, never missed the smart phone. They were pleased to have a phone at all. But today, […]
Fifty years after the 1929 crash, a group of money managers and investment thinkers put together a collection of essays looking back at that experience. The result was a distillation of some pretty fine investment wisdom. Timely, I think, to review now.One of the contributors was Arthur Zeikel, then with Merrill Lynch. The title of […]
Although the mainstream media have turned its attention away from the wreckage of Obamacare, don’t think for a second that all is well.As the politicos in D.C. focus their attention on the midterm elections in November, now is a great time to study, prepare, and seek out the most affordable, accessible, and highest quality options […]
Turn on the tube and economic ignorance seems to be everywhere. There is constant shilling for more government. Business is demonized. Man is said to be trashing the environment. “Workers and women are oppressed” is the constant mantra.And members of the clueless media nod their heads in unison.Only John Stossel has provided the fresh air […]
I’m sure you’ve seen the news. As if recent, past U.S. policy fiascos in Libya, Egypt and Syria were not enough, the wheels are now coming off the proverbial bus in Iraq, site of so much blood and treasure spent in the last decade. Radical Islamist armies are marching toward Baghdad, slicing through Iraqi government […]
Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
“Do you hear that popping noise?” “Yeah…” said Joe, my racquetball companion. “What is that?” “It’s my knee” I replied, grimacing. Apparently, after a series of twists, turns and lunges, my left knee had endured enough. Every step I took produced that eerie suction sound your tongue makes after being released from the roof of […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
They’re in every grocery store… those brightly colored boxes of prepared foods loudly claiming how healthy they are. But they’re not what you think. Nearly all of the prepackaged “low-fat,” “low-carb,” and “heart-healthy” meals lining the shelves are just shadows of real food… with little to no nutritional value. “Most people think of “flavoring” as […]
One issue I have with our modern lifestyle – of many — is the emphasis on perfection. Newer, slimmer, bigger, better, faster: the message of perfection screams out to us from glossy magazines, slick television ads and popup ad after popup ad. (Or purrs, cajoles, teases, and smothers.)While I do believe fundamentally in pursuing whatever your […]
People jacked up about income inequality can find a new hobby. The 1% are victims of a doomsday machine, and the countdown is ticking. Machine, thy name is “family.”This came to mind as I was reading a preview of Columbia Professor Andrew Ang’s forthcoming, must-read book on Asset Management. Ang is that oxymoron, an exciting […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
To get free, unlimited access to these books and 100s more, join the Laissez Faire Club! The Ethics of Redistribution by Bertrand de Jouvenel Release Date: July 24, 2014 This interesting and challenging book argues that redistributing income from the rich to the poor is unethical. It also shows how redistribution works in practice: it […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
In France, each winemaking appellation is governed by specific rules. To be called a “Burgundy” or a “Bordeaux,” for example, wines must come from a specific geographic border. Not only that, these rules dictate which grapes can be grown, how they’re irrigated and pruned, and even what alcohol level is allowed in the finished product. […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
In September 2009, when President Obama made a primetime speech pitching his not-yet-passed health care overhaul, he made the following promise: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” To prove his seriousness, he further promised that “there will be a provision […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
The trend of pervasive surveillance is accelerating. Fortunately, the marketplace for privacy is growing too. And with just a little effort, you can take advantage of these privacy tools to help protect your “digital life.” Several months ago, in our Make Yourself Invisible to the NSA special report, we told you about DuckDuckGo. Unlike Google […]
What if I told you that the march of human progress could be traced in a direct line from the Epicureans of Ancient Greece… through the 18th Century’s cure for smallpox… to where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found inspiration as scrappy teenagers… to the flying car of tomorrow?Stay with me and I’ll show you […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
A discussion we had last night on Adam V. The Man — Stefan Molyneux and I were guests — kept returning to an idea that we never really had time or space to take on directly, until it was briefly touched on at the end.
The more I think about this, much of whole question of intellectual property rights seems to turn on this idea that we own what we create. That sounds very plausible at first. When people celebrate this idea, they talk about the great sculptor who makes a majestic piece of art out of stone, the composer of a symphony, or the lowly woodworker who makes a bench in his garage. They are said to be owners of something new.
Let’s look at a more mundane example. I’m making brownies using a conventional recipe and throw in a dash of bourbon. They turn out to be great. I call them Bourbon Brownies. What do I own in this case? I own those brownies. Why? Because I made them out of ingredients that I own. Because I created them, am I entitled to speak of having created something new that I own? Perhaps in a metaphorical sense. But nothing grants me the special right to a unique ownership right to my creation that somehow allows me to extract money from anyone else in the world who adds bourbon to brownies (unless, of course, I appeal to a government bureaucracy to make it possible). I own what I own — the physical brownies I took out of the oven — and nothing more.
Let’s say the word gets out and lots of people start making this recipe. Am I violated in any sense at all? Not at all. That the word gets out takes nothing away from my right to continue to make my brownies. That’s because creativity alone generates no new and special form of property.
If I have a pile of wood, I can make a bench, burn it, pulverize it, or whatever, but there is nothing in my actions that generate a transformation of my existing rights. Only the physical object changes but no new rights are created.
What if I work for a restaurant and make the discovery that adding bourbon to brownies improves them? If I used the restaurant’s ingredients, the restaurant owns the resulting brownies. It’s the same with the carpenter. If he makes a bench as a part of a labor contract, the furniture making company owns the bench. If the carpenter takes it, he is stealing. This idea of “creativity” changes absolutely nothing about property and the rights to property.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with a person who whistles a tune and then announces to himself: I own my new creation! That’s great. But the instant he whistles this tune on the bus and someone hears it, that new creation enters the commons. The supposed rights to the tune are reproduced, potentially unto infinity, without taking away anything at all from the initial creator of the tune.
People like to imagine that we would have something like intellectual property rights in a fully free society. Well, people are free to call things whatever they want. But there is no special category of property that is “intellectual.” Your property is what you own or acquire through trade. What you do with your property is your business. But merely announcing that what you do is “creative” grants you no special monopoly on anything.
For example: I can take off my bowtie and wear it as a scarf. Do I now own the idea of the bowtie scarf? I can claim that I do but that doesn’t somehow permit me to prevent others from tying ties up as scarves or to forcibly take a share of revenue from others who do this too.
Creativity is glorious. It is all around us. In some small measure, all of us are creating every second of our lives. You might find a new way to drive to work, a new way to pour your coffee, a special tactic for talking on your smartphone while surfing the web, a way to eat your hamburger that yields the right mix of tomatoes and onions in every bite, a new way to shave in the shower. There is, in principle, no difference between this kind of creativity and that of the sculptor or writer or composer of music. Creativity is the pith of life. But creativity alone grants no one the right to interfere with the freedom or property or others.
For more on this topic, see the new edition of Stephan Kinsella’s classic “Against Intellectual Property.” As always, it’s free to Club members.