Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property

by Stephan Kinsella on April 1, 2013

From my Kinsella on Liberty podcast:

KOL 038 | Debate with Robert Wenzel on Intellectual Property

by STEPHAN KINSELLA on APRIL 1, 2013

in INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY,KINSELLA ON LIBERTY PODCAST,LIBERTARIANISM

Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 038.

Blogger Robert Wenzel and I had a “debate” earlier today about IP, to be jointly put up on my podcast and his Economic Policy Journal “podcast” (it’s on his site at Kinsella Crushed!! and Initial Report on Debate, and mentioned ahead of time several times as linked below). Bob is an Austrian libertarian (I think) blogger but has been criticizing me and Jeff Tucker’s anti-IP views for a few years now (see links below), so we decided to discuss it.

The discussion went on for over 2 hours. It went about as I expected: he tried to dwell on side points, he refused to—was unable to—even attempt to define IP much less provide a coherent justification for it. He repeatedly engaged in question-begging: calling using information you learn from others “stealing,” which presupposes that there is some owned thing that is stolen. He started out with several bizarre, off-point attacks: for example challenging my claim in my 2001 piece Against Intellectual Property that Rothbard was one of the original libertarian opponents of IP. The entire criticism by Wenzel is bizarre because whether or not I am right in listing Rothbard as an opponent of patent and copyright has nothing to do with whether IP is justified. Further, later in the paper I have an extensive section dealing with Rothbard’s attempt to come up with some kind of contractual scheme that emulated some aspects of IP, which he confusingly calls “copyright.” Some libertarians, like Wenzel, apparently think Rothbard did support copyright (though Wenzel repeatedly equivocates on whether he is talking about state copyright or Rothbard’s private “copyright” scheme), or patent, or something in between, and others say he didn’t. For example  David Gordon writing on LewRockwell.com, in Sam Konkin and Libertarian Theory, observes:

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