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Liberty Rejects my 1996 Anti-IP Article

Just came across this old letter from Liberty (and my now-friend Timo Virkkala) rejecting an anti-intellectual property piece I submitted to Liberty in 1996. A brief history: my first anti-IP writing also appeared around 1995.1 Here’s the text of the rejection letter:

June 27, 1996
N. Stephan Kinsella
Suite 3600
1600 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4252

Dear Mr. Kinsella:

I am very sorry for taking such a long time to get back to you regarding your proposal for an article on contract theory and intellectual property rights. We’ve been kicking around the idea, and have decided that it is probably not our fare—though interesting.

In reviewing your proposal, I notice that your argument resembles that of Williamson M. Evers “Title Transfer Theory of Contract,” which appeared in JLS early on. Are you familiar with Evers’ argument?

Thanks for thinking of us. I’m glad Wendy McElroy suggested us to you, and I hope you will consider us again.
Sincerely,

Timothy Virkkala

Interestingly, in the meantime, IP has become of intense interest among libertarians, and, in 2009 I published “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism” in Liberty.2  As for the Rothbard/Evers contract theory, in 2003 I published “A Libertarian Theory of Contract: Title Transfer, Binding Promises, and Inalienability” in the Journal of Libertarian Studies 17, no. 2 (Spring 2003), which elaborates and expands on their views.

Update: On Facebook I mentioned “The weird thing was you guys sent me a couple of rejections of other people’s articles — a weird mismatch.” Here is what I meant. See below, from earlier correspondence to Liberty (the Bank of England submission was published; see here):

Monday, March 1, 1993

Timothy Virkkala, Assistant Editor

Liberty

P.O. Box 1167

Port Townsend, WA 98368

Dear Mr. Virkkala,

In your letter of February 25, 1993, you inform me that my essay, “The Hard-Core Juvenile Defender,” has not been selected for publication in Liberty. However, I did not write nor submit such an article. I did submit, in a letter dated December 18, 1992, an essay entitled “The Perpetual Federal Budget Surplus?”. If I recall, I also submitted some time thereafter a copy of my recent article “Estoppel: A New Justification for Individual Rights,” published in the latest issue of Reason Papers, along with a proposal to write a shorter, more popular version of the article for you. I would appreciate it if you would check your records and inform me of your decision on these two submissions.

Additionally, I would like to propose to you an idea for an article or perhaps for a “Guest Reflection,” which I would be happy to write if you think you would be interested in considering it for publication. The essay would concern the following:

I spent last year in London. On the pound notes, for example the £5 note, is the language: “BANK OF ENGLAND: I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds.” Well, since there is no longer any metal standard, I wondered what this could mean. The note is five pounds; what could it mean to promise to pay the bearer of it five pounds? This promissory note language is a facade, a completely illusory promise. I decided to visit the Bank of England, located in downtown London, in the Financial District, to call their bluff, to make them make good on their promise. What would they do, I wondered—hand me back another five-pound note in exchange for the one I offered?

I made it there, and was stopped at the door by security, and I could not get past the main front desk without having a three-piece suit and “official business.” In other words, the doors of the Bank were not even open to all the holders of notes which promised them that the Bank would give them five pounds “on demand” upon presentation of their “note”. I explained that my note said the Bank would give me five pounds upon demand for my note, and that I was hereby demanding that the Bank fulfill its obligations under the note. The man behind the front desk had little patience and told me that perhaps I’d find some information if I went to the Bank of England Museum around the corner.

So I left and went to the Museum, which is quite nice, actually. I explained to a curator what had happened, and that I was interested in finding out exactly what the language could mean, since obviously it didn’t function as an actual promise to pay me five pounds—they wouldn’t even let me in the door! She went into a back room, and finally dug up an old photocopy, from God knows what source, which attempts to explain the meaning and evolution of the “I promise to pay the bearer” language. I took the pages home, and tried to understand them. Apparently, the Bank is contending now that the language only means, and only ever meant, that the Bank has an obligation to replace old, out-of-circulation pound notes with new, in-circulation ones. Right. That’s what “I promise to pay bearer on demand the sum of five pounds” means.

If you would be interested in this essay idea, please let me know and I will be happy to submit a finalized version, which would contain more elaboration on the nature of money and the “legal tender” language in the U.S., to you for your consideration. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to call or write.

and:

Friday, May 7, 1993

Timothy Virkkala, Assistant Editor

Liberty

P.O. Box 1167

Port Townsend, WA 98368

 

Dear Mr. Virkkala,

I have previously submitted to you several pieces for your consideration for possible publication in Liberty. These include:

A. In a letter dated December 18, 1992, an essay entitled “The Perpetual Federal Budget Surplus?”;

B. a copy of my recent article “Estoppel: A New Justification for Individual Rights,” published in the latest issue of Reason Papers, along with a proposal to write a shorter, more popular version of the article for you

C. in a letter dated March 1, 1993, a proposal for an article concerning my visit to the Bank of England and my attempt to collect on the ten-pound note’s “I promise to pay bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds” language.

I am still awaiting word from you regarding these items. If you recall, we did have a mixup where, after submitting item 1 above, you, in your letter of February 25, 1993, informed me that my essay, “The Hard-Core Juvenile Defender,” had not been selected for publication, although I did not write that article.

I would like to submit some further articles and items for publication in your magazine. They are enclosed with this letter and a description of them is provided below.

1. A poem entitled “Big Enough”;

2. a short story entitled “The Subjectivist’s Lament”; and

3. an article entitled “Freedom vs. Government”, which was published in July 1989 in an obscure underground LSU student newspaper called The Wonderland Times.

  1.  Letter on Intellectual Property RightsIOS Journal 5, no. 2 (June 1995), pp. 12-13 ; see also  My IP OdysseyRoderick Long: Bye-Bye for IPRoderick Long Finally Realizes IP is Unjustified; The Four Historical Phases of IP Abolitionism; and The Origins of Libertarian IP AbolitionismMy IP Odyssey.  []
  2. Vol. 23, no. 11 (Dec. 2009), p. 27;   blog postlocal PDF; Liberty‘s online version; see also “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism,” Mises Daily (Nov. 17, 2009); based on speech at Mises University 2009 (July 30, 2009; audio; video); speech podcast on The Lew Rockwell Show, #131, as The Intellectual Property Racket (Aug. 19, 2009). []
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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.