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Cato on IP

From Nine Lives of Neoliberalism:

The Cato Institute’s suggestions to Congress in the early 2000s recommend “balancing artistic and entrepreneurial incentives to create with the interests of the larger community of users in an unhindered exchange of ideas and products.”

Citing: Cato Institute, Cato Handbook for Congress: Policy Recommendations for the 108th Congress (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2003), 411 [ch. 40 on Intellectual Property].

They take no principled stand against IP. They write instead:

the market alternative to shutdown of file sharing, or targeting individual file swappers, may well be the improvement of digital rights management technologies to protect intellectual property.


A good argument can be made … that, in a world without any IP protection, some individuals would be discouraged from producing important goods or ideas (consider pharmaceuticals or genetically altered foods to feed hungry populations). Indeed, those who advocate the abolition of copyright or patent law might ask themselves why the same arguments and reasoning should not be applied to tangible property.

Sad. Their former senior scholar Tom Palmer used to be against IP (I say used to, because in later years he seemed to back-peddle a bit for the case of pharmaceutical patents, after all Cato has some Big Pharma donors),1 and I was invited to a debate there on IP but then disinvited.2 Taco has also had some of its scholars take the wrong position on drug reimportation since this might undermine patent rights.3 I.e., when free markets and free trade conflict with patent rights, these IP socialists favor patents and are willing to sacrifice private property rights, the free market, and free trade. Sad.

I shouldn’t be surprised; this section was co-authored by Adam Thierer, who has no principled (that is, libertarian) opposition to IP.

Udate: Sadly, David Henderson appears to have softened his own stance on IP too. Jeff Tucker winning economist David Henderson over to the anti-IP side.

  1. Cato vs. Public Citizen on IP and the TPP. []
  2. Disinvited From Cato. []
  3. See Cato Tugs Stray Back Onto the Reservation; Epstein on reimportation. []
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