“Around this time I met the Galambosian.”

by Stephan Kinsella on May 29, 2013

A great anecdote from Jerome Tuccille’s hilarious It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand, about one of the stranger kooks in the libertarian movement, Andrew Galambos.1 I quoted this way back in the Summer 1998 issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association IP Law Newsletter (which I founded in 1997):

 Around this time I met the Galambosian.

“I am a Galambosian,” he said.

A what? I was beginning to feel like a right-wing Yossarian. All these mothers were out to destroy every principle I believed in! If it wasn’t squarejawed Southwesterners with mixed premises, or Ivy League intellectuals who mouthed off in public like truck drivers, or shifty-eyed carny barkers from the Middlewest, it was an S. J. Perelman character with a pipe and an ascot, telling me he was a Galambosian.

“What the hell is a Galambosian?”

There was this individual, it seems, named Joseph Andrew Galambos who evolved a theory of “primary property rights.” Apparently, as soon as someone came up with a new idea—whether an invention or an original philosophical concept—the prototype belonged irrevocably to him and was to be regarded forevermore as his primary properly. Somewhere along the line Galambos picked up the notion that Thomas Paine had invented the word “liberty,” whereupon he established the Thomas Paine Royalty Fund, and every time he gave a lecture and used the word “liberty” he dropped a nickel into his fund box as a royalty payment to Tom. How he determined that a nickel was the proper measure of homage to Mr. Paine, I have no idea. Legend even had it that Galambos was still diligently searching for Thomas Paine’s descendants so he could turn over moneys due their famous ancestor.

Sometime in the early or middle 1960s, Galambos decided that his name, Joseph Andrew, was actually the primary property of his father. In order to avoid giving his father a royalty payment every time he spoke the name, Galambos reversed the order and sent out notices to all his friends that henceforth his name was Andrew Joseph, and that he was to be addressed as Andy, instead of Joe.

“There are five legitimate functions of government,” said the Galambosian.

“No kidding. What are they?”

“I am not at liberty to say. The theory was originated by Andy Galambos and it is his primary property.”

The Galambosian also informed me that Andy had been introduced to Ayn Rand several years before, and that after five minutes of conversation they had pronounced each other insane.

“Of course, it is Miss Rand who is really insane,” said the Galambosian.

“Why is that?”

“I’m afraid I cannot tell you. The reasoning behind that theory belongs to Andy.”

The most peculiar thing about the whole Galambosian concept was the impossibility of finding out anything about it. Galambos’ disciples were not at liberty to disseminate his philosophy without paying a royalty to their leader—who could not even waive payment, since primary property was an absolute good and could not be given away. You were stuck with it whether you wanted it or not, throughout eternity. Consequently, all the converts were those proselytized by Galambos himself—a time-consuming and self-restricting process, it being physically impossible to convert more than a handful of people at a time.

“If the rest of us were free to discuss his ideas,” said the Galambosian, “there is no question in my mind that Galambosianism would spread throughout the world like wildfire.

  1. For more on Galambos, see Galambos and Other NutsGalambosian IP RecursionShades of GalambosAgainst Intellectual Property, p. 27). []
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