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Do Property Rights Presuppose Scarcity? by David Faraci

David Faraci has a draft paper up, Do Property Rights Presuppose Scarcity?, involving a good deal of criticism of my anti-IP arguments. I don’t agree with him. I may post something more substantive about this in due course. But I will give him this: he seems sincere, intelligent, and civil, a rarity among IP advocates.

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  • PeaceRequiresAnarchy October 13, 2012, 12:43 am

    It’s not clear that he’s definitely advocating IP. His paper is just challenging the position that property rights definitely “presuppose” scarcity. He argues that IP is only one kind of non-scare good and argues that there may be reasons to have property rights in non-scare goods (not necessarily IP).

    I disagree with his arguments as well. A quick summary of his arguments (from memory– I read the article yesterday–hopefully I summarize them accurately):

    His first argument is that there may be reasons other than conflict-avoidance for property rights and these reasons may mean that there should be property rights in non-scare goods. As a side claim he says that that these property rights need not necessarily interfere with property rights in scare goods.

    His second argument (page 14 to the end, if I recall correctly) builds on this side claim. He argues that Stephan’s objection to IP advocates that granting property rights in IP grants people control over other people’s physical property and is thus objectionable is in fact a genuine concern, but cannot be used as a reason to reject property rights in all non-scare goods. He uses an example of “a [non-scare] piece of original music [encoded] in a digital media file” to try to make his argument.

    I don’t believe he is successful, however. It seems to me that granting property rights in the non-scare good in question (the piece of music encoded in a digital media file) actually does interfere with other property rights in tangible things. He would have to elaborate more on his example in order for me to respond more. I don’t think he makes much of a case with the example so there isn’t much that I can say in response to it. The page-ish that he wrote on it just doesn’t demonstrate that property rights can be granted in non-scare things without interfering with property rights in scare things, as far as I can tell.

    I disagree with his first argument for the same reason that I disagree with his second argument. If it is true that granting property rights in non-scare things interferes with property rights in scare things, then Faraci’s argument that there may be other reasons for property rights is bunk, because these other reasons conflict with the conflict-avoidance reason. Okay, I have to reference the paper. Page 9:

    “It is important to notice, however, that the inclusion of further values, such as fairness, in no way undermines the claim that the need for conflict-resolution is the root justification for property rights. The reason, quite simply, is that (on this view) property rights respect the value of fairness only insofar as they are necessary for conflict-resolution. What we are respecting, really, is fairness in how we resolve conflicts.”

    So the inclusion of further values (beyond just fairness) *would* undermine the conflict-resolution justification of property rights, as far as I can tell. For example, if we add the value of supporting artists who come up with creative works by granting them property rights in the ideal objects that they thought up (IP), then we would be granting these artists control of other peoples’ tangible possessions, which Faraci agrees is objectionable.

    Faraci mentions several other arguments for possible reasons to disagree with the position that property rights “presuppose” scarcity, but I didn’t find any of them persuasive. I don’t wish to write out a 17-page paper myself at the moment so I’ll just leave it at “I disagree” as much as I don’t like doing that. I don’t blame Stephan for not wanting to take the time to write up something more substantive at the moment than “I don’t agree with him.” And this is not because Faraci’s arguments are nonsensical or anything like that. In fact, as Stephan said, he is sincere, intelligent and civil.

To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.