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Great interview with Stephan Kinsella

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John James Posted: Mon, Mar 19 2012 6:33 AM

I wanted to make sure everyone caught this, as it offers all kinds of insight and a number of great summaries for various concepts.

It's a long interview, and there are some parts that get into explanations of more involved theories (such as contract rights and remote actor liability) that are a bit dryer, and might lose a newbie.  I know some newbs who would get a lot out of Kinsella's story and his points about IP, so I wanted to send a snipped version that they would be more likely to get through.

That's what I've reproduced here.  Obviously I highly recommend the full interview, which you can view at the link, but you might find this one a bit easier to send to folks who might not yet be as interested in the deeper stuff.


Daily Bell Interview: Stephan Kinsella on the Logic of Libertarianism and Why Intellectual Property Doesn’t Exist

The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Stephen Kinsella).

Introduction: Stephan Kinsella is a libertarian scholar and attorney in Houston. The Executive Editor of Libertarian Papers and Director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom (C4SIF), he is Counsel/Treasurer of the Property and Freedom Society, serves on the Advisory Panel of the Center for a Stateless Society and is also a member of the Editorial Board of Reason Papers and of The Journal of Peace, Prosperity & Freedom [Australia]. He was formerly a partner with Duane Morris LLP, General Counsel for Applied Optoelectronics, Inc. and adjunct law professor at South Texas College of Law. Stephan has published many libertarian articles and books including Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (co-editor, Mises Institute, 2009), Against Intellectual Property (Mises Institute, 2008; Laissez Faire Books edition forthcoming) and the forthcoming Law in a Libertarian World: Legal Foundations of a Free Society and Copy This Book (both Laissez Faire Books). Stephan’s legal publications include International Investment, Political Risk, and Dispute Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide (co-author, Oxford University Press, 2005), Louisiana Civil Law Dictionary (co-author, Quid Pro Books, 2011) and several other legal treatises published by Oxford University Press, Oceana Publications and West/Thompson Reuters.

Daily Bell: Give us some background on yourself. Where did you go to school? How did you become a lawyer?

Stephan Kinsella: I was from a young age interested in science, philosophy, justice, fairness and "the big questions." I ended up majoring in electrical engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU). This was the mid-1980s. I liked engineering but over time became more and more interested in political philosophy.

In the late '80s I started publishing columns in the LSU student newspaper, The Daily Reveille, from an explicitly libertarian perspective. As my interests became more sharply political and philosophical, my girlfriend (later wife) and friends urged me to consider law school. After all, I liked to argue. I might as well get paid for it! I was by this time in engineering grad school. Unlike many attorneys I know, I had not always wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, it had never occurred to me until my girlfriend suggested it over dinner, when I was wondering what degree I could pursue next—partly in order to avoid having to enter the workforce just yet. And also to make more money. At the time I naively thought one had to have a pre-law degree and many prerequisite courses that engineers would lack; and I feared law school would be too difficult. I remember my girlfriend's chemical engineer father laughing out loud at my concern that law school might be more difficult than engineering.

So I walked across the LSU campus one day and talked to the vice chancellor about all this. He tried to dissuade me, saying that engineering undergrads tended to find law school difficult. But he conceded that a pre-law degree is not needed; all one needs is a BS or BA in something. I took the LSAT and did well enough to get accepted at LSU Law Center. (In the US, law is a graduate degree, the Juris Doctor, which requires an initial B.A. or B.S. degree. Because of ABA protectionism. But I digress.)

I discuss some of this in my article "How I Became A Libertarian," (December 18, 2002), also published as "Being a Libertarian" in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (compiled by Walter Block; Mises Institute 2010).)

I actually greatly enjoyed law school. Unlike many of my fellow law students, apparently, who seemed in agony. I was free to talk about laws, rules, human action and interaction. Norms and opinions were relevant. I enjoyed the Socratic discussion method. In one sense, it was unlike electrical engineering, which studies the impersonal behavior of subatomic particles. In law, the subject matter is acting humans and the legal norms that pertain to human action. On the other hand, I found it similar to engineering in that it was analytical and focused on solving problems. It is less mechanistic and deterministic than is engineering but it is still analytical. So if you are the type of engineer who can shift modes of thought and who is able to write and speak coherently (not all engineers are), then law school is fairly easy. By contrast, many liberal arts majors are not used to thinking analytically. The first year of law school is meant to break their spirit and remold them into the analytical, lawyer-thinking, problem-solving mold.

In any case, I became a lawyer and do not regret it. It can be lucrative and mentally stimulating. In my own case, my legal career has complemented my libertarian and scholarly interests. As Gary North has pointed out, for most people there is a difference between career and calling. Your career or occupation is what puts food on the table. Your calling is what you are passionate about – "the most important thing you can do with your life in which you are most difficult to replace." Occasionally they are the same, but often not; but there is no reason not to arrange your life so as to have both. In my case, my various scholarly publications and networks helped my legal career if only by adding publications to my CV. And my legal knowledge and expertise, I believe, has helped to inform my libertarian theorizing.

Daily Bell: You founded your own firm. Tell us how that came about.

Stephan Kinsella: After law school my first job was in oil and gas law at a large Houston based law firm, Jackson Walker. I found the work fascinating; it was all about contract and property rights. Then I moved into patent law because it was more in demand at this time (mid '90s) and unlike state-based oil & gas law, it is a national legal field so allows more geographic mobility. My wife's employer at the time was pushing her to take a job in the head office outside Philadelphia. So I switched to patent law in part to accommodate this and in part to capitalize on the then-burgeoning field of IP law.

I recall discussing my career choices at this time with my friend, LSU law professor Saúl Litvinoff, an old-world gentleman, who confessed that he was "nonplussed" that I, a man, a husband, would take into account my wife's career plans in my own career decisions. Oh, well. Different times.

I ended up taking a job with a Philadelphia law firm, Schnader Harrison, doing patents and related IP work. I and others there ended up moving later to Duane Morris, and when I moved back to Houston in 1997 I opened their Houston office. In 2000 I decided to join one of my clients as general counsel. At the time I had been at big law firms for about ten years and had learned a lot and enjoyed it but was ready for a change. And after about ten years as general counsel, I was ready for another shift so I have recently formed my own legal practice, specializing in intellectual property, technology and commercial law.

Daily Bell: Why were you attracted to Austrian economics and why did libertarianism attract you?

Stephan Kinsella: I was always interested in science, truth, goodness and fairness. I have always been strongly individualistic and merit-oriented. This is probably because I was adopted and thus have always tended to cavalierly dismiss the importance of "blood ties" and any inherited or "unearned" group characteristics. This made me an ideal candidate to be enthralled by Ayn Rand's master-of-universe "I don't need anything from you or owe you anything" themes.

Another factor is my strong sense of outrage at injustice, which probably developed as a result of my hatred of bullies and bullying. I was frequently attacked by them as a kid because I was small for my age, bookish and a smartass. Not a good combination.

A librarian at my high school (Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) one day recommended Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead to me. (I believe this was in 1982, when I was a junior in high school — the same year Rand died.) "Read this. You'll like it," she told me. I devoured it. Rand's ruthless logic of justice appealed to me. I was thrilled to see a more-or-less rigorous application of reason to fields outside the natural sciences. I think this helped me to avoid succumbing, in college, to the simplistic and naïve empiricism-scientism that most of my fellow engineering classmates naturally absorbed. Mises's dualistic epistemology and criticism of monism-positivism-empiricism, which I studied much later, also helped shield me from scientism.

By my first year of college (1983), where I studied electrical engineering, I was a fairly avid "Objectivist" style libertarian. I had read Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson and some of Milton Friedman's works (see my The Greatest Libertarian Books), but I initially steered clear of self-styled "libertarian" writing. Since Rand was so right on so many things, I at first assumed she must be right in denouncing libertarianism as the enemy of liberty. I eventually learned better, of course.

Daily Bell: How did you meet Lew Rockwell and become affiliated with Mises?

Stephan Kinsella: I eventually started reading more radical libertarians like Rothbard and Austrians like Mises and Hayek and soon became an Austrian and anarchist. The Austrian approach to knowledge made so much sense to me. It was rigorous without being mathematical and it was "Kantian" without succumbing to idealism: Like Rand's epistemology, the Misesian approach is also realistic. (Some of my favorite works in this regard are Mises' Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, Rothbard's The Mantle of Science and Hoppe's Economic Science and the Austrian Method. See also my posts Mises and Rand (and Rothbard) and C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" and Misesian Dualism.)

In 1988, when I was in law school, I read Hans-Hermann Hoppe's controversial and provocative article in Liberty, "The Ultimate Justification of the Private Property Ethic" (for more on this topic, see my Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide). In this article Hoppe sets forth his "argumentation ethics" defense of libertarianism. This idea had a profound influence on me. I wrote several papers defending libertarian ethics, based on this theory (discussed in the previously mentioned article) and I wrote an in-depth review essay of Hoppe's The Economics and Ethics of Private Property. I promptly sent it to Hoppe, who sent back a warm thank you note. This was around 1994.

Later that year, in October 1994, I attended the John Randolph Club meeting which was held near Washington, D.C., primarily to meet Hoppe, Rothbard and Rockwell. While there I was able to get Rothbard to autograph my copy of Man, Economy & State, which he inscribed "To Stephan: For Man & Economy, and against the state —Best regards, Murray Rothbard" (he died the following January). I started attending and speaking at various Mises Institute conferences such as their annual Austrian Scholars Conference. I am now involved with Hoppe's Property and Freedom Society, which has annual meetings in Bodrum, Turkey, since its founding in 2006.

Daily Bell: Tell us about your legal theory of property and how you came to believe that intellectual property doesn't exist.

Stephan Kinsella: My main interest has always been and remains the basics of libertarian ethics: What are individual rights and property, how is this justified and so on. As I discuss in Intellectual Property and Libertarianism, from the beginning of my exposure to libertarian ideas, the intellectual property (IP) issue nagged at me. I was never satisfied with Ayn Rand's justification for it, for example. Her argument is a bizarre mixture of utilitarianism with overwrought deification of "the creator" — not the Creator up there, but Man, The Creator, who has a property right in what He Creates. Her proof that patents and copyrights are property rights is lacking. (See my speech The Intellectual Property Quagmire, or, The Perils of Libertarian Creationism, Austrian Scholars Conference 2008; and my blog posts Objectivist Law Prof Mossoff on Copyright; or, the Misuse of Labor, Value, and Creation Metaphors; Regret: The Glory of State Law; and Inventors are Like Unto.... GODS......)

So I kept trying to find a better justification for IP and this search continued after I started practicing patent law, in 1993 or so.

Many libertarians abandon minarchy in favor of anarchy when they realize that even a minarchist government is unlibertarian. That was my experience. And it was like this for me also with IP. I came to see that the reason I had been unable to find a way to justify IP was because it is, in fact, unlibertarian. I was heavily influenced by previous thinkers, as discussed in The Origins of Libertarian IP Abolitionism and The Four Historical Phases of IP Abolitionism. Perhaps the unlibertarian character of patent and copyright would have been obvious if Congress had not enacted patent and copyright statutes long ago, making them part and parcel of America's "free-market" legal system — and if early libertarians like Rand had not so vigorously championed such rights.

But libertarianism's initial presumption should have been that IP is invalid, not the other way around. After all, we libertarians already realize that "intellectual" rights, such as the right to a reputation protected by defamation law, are illegitimate. (See Murray N. Rothbard, Knowledge, True and False.)

Why, then, would we presume that other laws, protecting intangible, intellectual rights, are valid—especially artificial rights that are solely the product of legislation, i.e., decrees of the fake-law-generating wing of a criminal state? (For a criticism of legislation as a means of making law, see Legislation and Law in a Free Society and Another Problem with Legislation: James Carter v. the Field Codes.)

But IP is widely seen as basically legitimate. There have always been criticisms of existing IP laws and policies and many calls for "reform." But I became opposed not just to "ridiculous" patents and "outrageous" IP lawsuits, but to patent and copyright per se. Patent and copyright law should be abolished, not reformed. The basic reason is that patent and copyright are explicitly anti-competitive grants by the state of monopoly privilege, rooted in mercantilism, protectionism and thought control. To grant someone a patent or copyright is to grant them a right to control others' property − a "negative servitude" granted by state fiat instead of contractually negotiated. This is a form of theft, trespass, or wealth redistribution.

So to answer your question: IP rights − patent and copyright − "exist," but are not legitimate any more than welfare rights are. There are many types of IP; all are illegitimate, in my view. Not only because most of them are based on and require legislation (I view all legislation as unlibertarian; see Legislation and Law in a Free Society) but because they try to set up rights in non-scarce things, which in effect grants negative servitudes to some people at the expense of the property rights of others.


Daily Bell: You provide non-utilitarian arguments for intellectual property being incompatible with libertarian property rights principles. Can you explain this?

Stephan Kinsella: I alluded to this above in my discussion about negative servitudes. An IP right gives the holder the right to stop others from using their property as they wish. For example, George Lucas, courtesy copyright law, can use the force of state courts to stop me from writing and publishing "The Continuing Adventures of Han Solo." J.D. Salinger's estate was able to block the publication of a sequel to Catcher in the Rye, for example. This is censorship. (See The Patent, Copyright, Trademark, and Trade Secret Horror Files.) And Apple can get a court order blocking Samsung from selling a tablet if it resembles an iPad too closely. This is just protection from competition. (See Intellectual Property Advocates Hate Competition.)

Daily Bell: You offer a discourse ethics argument for the justification of individual rights, using an extension of the concept of "estoppel." Can you expand please?

Stephan Kinsella: This approach is summarized in Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide and New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory. The libertarian approach is a very symmetrical one: the non-aggression principle does not rule out force, but only the initiation of force. In other words, you are permitted to use force only in response to some else's use of force. If they do not use force you may not use force yourself. There is a symmetry here: force for force, but no force if no force was used. In law school I learned about the concept of estoppel, which is a legal doctrine that estops or prevents you from asserting a position in a legal proceeding that is inconsistent with something you had done previously. You have to be consistent. I was at this time fascinated with Hoppe's argumentation ethics, which is probably why it struck me that the basic reasoning of legal estoppel could be used to explain or justify the libertarian approach to symmetry in force: The reason you are permitted to use force against someone who himself initiated force is that he has already in a sense admitted that he thinks force is permissible, by his act of aggression. Therefore if he were to complain if the victim or the victim's agents were to try to use defensive or even retaliatory force against him, he would be holding inconsistent positions: His pro-force view that is implicit and inherent in his act of aggression and his anti-force view implicit in his objection to being punished. Using language borrowed from the law, we might say he should be "estopped" from complaining if a victim were to use force to defend himself from the aggressor or even to punish or retaliate against the aggressor. I tried to work this into a theory of libertarian rights, relying heavily on insights from Hoppe's argumentation ethics and from his social theory in general.


[Against Intellectual Property] was first published as an article in the Journal of Libertarian Studies in 2001, with the title suggested by Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, then the journal's editor. My initial title had been "The Legitimacy of Intellectual Property," the name of the earlier paper I had delivered at the Austrian Scholars Conference the preceding year.

It was only 11 years ago, but at the time there was not yet much interest among libertarians in intellectual property (IP). It was thought of as an arcane and insignificant issue, not as one of our most pressing problems. Libertarian attention was focused on taxes, war, the state, the drug war, asset forfeiture, business regulations, civil liberties and so on, not on patent and copyright.

I felt the same way. I looked into this issue primarily because I had been, since 1993, a practicing patent attorney and had always been dissatisfied with Ayn Rand's arguments in favor of IP (Ayn Rand, "Patents and Copyrights," in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: New American Library, 1967), p. 133). Her weird admixture of utilitarian and propertarian arguments raised red flags for me. It included tortuous arguments as to why a 17-year patent term and a 70-year copyright term were just about right and why it was fair for the first guy to the patent office to get a monopoly that could be used against an independent inventor just one day behind him. I knew Rand's approach was wrong but I assumed there must be a better way to justify IP rights. So I read and thought and tried to figure this out. In the end, I concluded that patent and copyright are completely statist and unjustified derogations from property rights and the free market. So I wrote the article to get it out of my system and then moved on to other fields that interest me more, like rights theory, libertarian legal theory and the intersection of Austrian economics and law.

In the meantime, with the flowering of the Internet and digital information and with increasing abuses of rights in the name of IP, more and more libertarians have become interested in the IP issue and have realized that it is antithetical to libertarian property rights and freedom. It is in fact becoming a huge threat to freedom and increasingly used by the state against the Internet, which is one of the most important weapons we have against state oppression. (For more on this see SOPA is the Symptom, Copyright is the Disease: The SOPA wakeup call to ABOLISH COPYRIGHT. For more discussion of SOPA and PIPA, see and Techdirt. See also Where does IP Rank Among the Worst State Laws?; Masnick on the Horrible PROTECT IP Act: The Coming IPolice State; Copyright and the End of Internet Freedom; and Patent vs. Copyright: Which is Worse?)

Daily Bell: What is the reaction to your theory of IP? Hostility?

Stephan Kinsella: At first there was apathy. The few people who thought about it mostly thought my views were too extreme − maybe we need to fix copyright and patent but surely the basic idea is sound. But my impression is that nowadays most libertarians are strongly opposed to IP. (See The Death Throes of Pro-IP Libertarianism; The Origins of Libertarian IP Abolitionism; The Four Historical Phases of IP Abolitionism.) And, in fact, scholars associated with the Mises Institute sensed the importance of this issue earlier than most − for example, the Mises Institute awarded my "Against Intellectual Property" paper the O.P. Alford III Prize for 2002.

Laissez Faire Books is coming out with a new edition of my Against Intellectual Property later this year. I am also in the process of writing a new book on IP, tentatively entitled Copy This Book, taking into account more recent arguments, evidence and examples. In the meantime, readers interested in these ideas may find useful the list of selected writings and talks that supplement the arguments made in AIP, which I have compiled in my C4SIF blogpost "Selected Supplementary Material for Against Intellectual Property." For further information see various works linked at and material posted going forward at

Daily Bell: How do you think artists and writers feel about it? What do they do to make a living if they do not receive royalties?

Stephan Kinsella: Well, sharing is not piracy, and copying is not theft. (And competition is not theft, either − see Intellectual Property Advocates Hate Competition.) But people are used to thinking in these terms, due to state- and special interest-inspired propaganda to the contrary. Most artists and writers do not make much money from copyright; if they are successful at all they typically go through a publisher who makes most of the profits and owns the copyrights anyway. Luckily, technology is allowing writers and musicians to bypass the publishing and music industry gatekeepers.

There are any number of models artists can use to profit off of their talent and artistry. It is not up to the state to protect them from competition. Musicians can obviously get paid for performing and having their music copied and "pirated" helps them in this respect by making them more well known, more popular. As Cory Doctorow has noted, "for pretty much every writer − the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity." Artists are just entrepreneurs. It's up to them to figure out how or if they can make a monetary profit from their passion − from their calling, as I discussed above. Sometimes they can. Musicians can sell music, even in the face of piracy. Or they can sell their services − concerts, etc. Painters and other artists can profit in similar ways. A novelist could use kickstarter for a sequel or get paid to consult on a movie version (see Conversation with an author about copyright and publishing in a free society). Authors of non-fiction such as academic articles do not even get paid today − but it enhances their reputations and helps them land jobs in academia, for example. Inventors have an incentive to invent to make better products that outcompete the competition − for a while. Or they are hired in the R&D department of a corporation that is always trying to innovate. And so on. And if you cannot make your calling your career, then find a way. As director Francis Ford Coppola has observed:

"You have to remember that it's only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script."

For some other examples, see: Funding for Creation and Innovation in an IP-Free World; Examples of Ways Content Creators Can Profit Without Intellectual Property; Innovations that Thrive without IP; The Creator-Endorsed Mark as an Alternative to Copyright. Techdirt also has a number of studies of how creators can profit from their works without relying on copyright, such as How Being More Open, Human And Awesome Can Save Anyone Worried About Making Money In Entertainment.

Daily Bell: We find your theories reasonable but are you making headway? Are people generally hostile?

Stephan Kinsella: As I mentioned earlier, libertarians have, in my impression, generally become more opposed to IP, and generally on principled grounds. Most "mainstream" people are reluctant to take a principled or "extreme" position, instead recognizing that IP is "broken" and needs to be "reformed." They think IP abolitionism is too extreme, but really cannot articulate why. (See There are No Good Arguments for Intellectual Property: Redux.)

Daily Bell: We've come to the conclusion that copyright law and patent law are deterrents to progress and technology. Your view?

Stephan Kinsella: The empirical studies all point this direction (see Yet Another Study Finds Patents Do Not Encourage Innovation). And this should not be surprising. Everything the state does, without exception, destroys. IP, especially patent and copyright, are pure creatures of state legislation. The origins of copyright lie in censorship and thought control; the origins of patents lie in mercantilism and protectionism. It should be no surprise that state interventions in the market lead to destruction of wealth, which of course will have an adverse effect on innovation.

Daily Bell: What would the world look like without patent and copyright law?

Stephan Kinsella: As far as copyright, I think it would look somewhat like what our current world is heading to since there is rampant "piracy" despite copyright law. Except there would be fewer outrageous, draconian results like jail terms and prison. (See Six Year Federal Prison Sentence for Copyright Infringement; Man sentenced to federal prison for uploading "Wolverine" movie; British student Richard O'Dwyer can be extradited to US for having website with links to pirated movies.) And there would be more freedom to engage in remixing and other forms of creativity and a richer public domain to draw on. We would still have a huge amount of artistic works being created, of course.

Without patents, companies would be free to compete without fear of lawsuits − and without being able to rely on a state-granted monopoly privilege to protect them from competition. I believe that an IP-free world would have far more innovation and diverse creativity than today's world. And there would be fewer barriers to entry so smaller companies could compete with the oligopolies that patent law has helped to create.

Daily Bell: Can you explain how patent and copyright law evolved and why it was likely a reaction to the Gutenberg Press and a means of controlling information rather than protecting the public?

Stephan Kinsella: The roots of copyright lie in censorship. It was easy for state and church to control thought by controlling the scribes, but then the printing press came along and the authorities worried that they couldn't control official thought as easily. So Queen Mary created the Stationer's Company in 1557, with the exclusive franchise over book publishing, to control the press and what information the people could access. When the charter of the Stationer's Company expired, the publishers lobbied for an extension, but in the Statute of Anne (1710) Parliament gave copyright to authors instead. Authors liked this because it freed their works from state control. Nowadays they use copyright much as the state originally did: to censor and ban books − or their publishers do, who have gained a quasi-oligopolistic gatekeeper function, courtesy copyright law. For more on this, see History of Copyright, part 1: Black Death; How to Slow Economic Progress. And now we see copyright being used, along with regulation of gambling, child pornography and terrorism, as an excuse for the state to radically infringe Internet freedom and civil liberties. (Where does IP Rank Among the Worst State Laws?; Masnick on the Horrible PROTECT IP Act: The Coming IPolice State; Copyright and the End of Internet Freedom; Patent vs. Copyright: Which is Worse?)

Patents originated in mercantilism and protectionism; the crown would grant monopolies to favored court cronies, such as monopolies on playing cards, leather, iron, soap, coal, books and wine. The Statute of Monopolies (1624) eliminated much of this but retained the idea of a monopoly grant to an inventor of some useful machine or process. (See "Why 'Intellectual Property' is not Genuine Property," Adam Smith Forum, Moscow; also How to Slow Economic Progress.)

Daily Bell: Didn't Germany do better WITHOUT strict copyright than Britain did WITH it? Isn't this the reason that Germany progressed so much in literature, philosophy, mathematics, etc. during the 17th and 18th centuries?

Stephan Kinsella: It probably had something to do with it. As noted in Frank Thadeusz's article No Copyright Law: The Real Reason for Germany's Industrial Expansion?, a new study by economic historian Eckhard Hoffner shows that Germany's lack of copyright in the 19th century led to an unprecedented explosion of publishing, knowledge, etc., unlike in neighboring countries England and France where copyright law enriched publishers but stultified the spread of knowledge and limited publishing to a mass audience. The article claims that this is the main reason that Germany's production and industry had caught up with everyone else by 1900. This seems believable to me. (See also Jeff Tucker, Germany and Its Industrial Rise: Due to No Copyright.)


Daily Bell: What would be the best approach to socio-politics in your view?

Stephan Kinsella: As I explain in What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist and What Libertarianism Is, I am definitely an anarchist − have been since 1988 or so. I prefer the term "anarcho-libertarian" nowadays, in part because of confusion spread by some left-libertarians about the connotations of "capitalism." But I am in favor of a free market and capitalism rightly understood. I am basically a Rothbardian-Hoppean in terms of politics.

Daily Bell: Do you think the Internet itself, via what we call the Internet Reformation, is having a big impact on the powers-that-be and their ability to control society and information?

Stephan Kinsella: As some earlier answers have indicated − yes. The Internet is one of the most significant developments in our lifetime, perhaps in the history of humanity. The state is trying to control the Internet but I believe and hope that by the time the state is fully roused to the danger the Internet poses to it, it will be too late for it to stop it. As a Salon writer said about former congressman/now copyright lobbyist Chris Dodd after the Internet uprising that helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA): "No wonder Chris Dodd is so angry. The Internet is treating him like damage, and routing around it." My hope is that the Internet will find ways to treat the state like the cancerous damage that it is, and route around it and leave it in the dust.

Daily Bell: Where does the IP movement go now? What are the next moves? Are you content with theorizing about it? Is it having a real-world impact? What would that be?

Stephan Kinsella: Ultimately we have to try to highlight the illogic and injustices of the system so that people realize IP is illegitimate. This is an uphill battle, of course. Most people are unprincipled and utilitarian, influenced by state propaganda and economically illiterate. I have pondered trying to set up some kind of patent defense league but have not yet figured out how viable this is. I would also like to urge some group like EFF or Creative Commons to come up with a simple, reliable, inexpensive way for people to abandon their copyrights. At present there is no easy way to do this. And though it is not prudent to advocate that people flout the law, the widespread disregard for copyright and resort to piracy, torrents and encryption will put some limits on how effective copyright enforcement can be.

Daily Bell: Any other points you want to make?

Stephan Kinsella: Let me close with a quote from Lew Rockwell:

"Let me state this as plainly as possible. The enemy is the state. There are other enemies too, but none so fearsome, destructive, dangerous, or culturally and economically debilitating. No matter what other proximate enemy you can name – big business, unions, victim lobbies, foreign lobbies, medical cartels, religious groups, classes, city dwellers, farmers, left-wing professors, right-wing blue-collar workers, or even bankers and arms merchants – none are as horrible as the hydra known as the leviathan state. If you understand this point – and only this point – you can understand the core of libertarian strategy."

Daily Bell: Any references, web sites, etc. you want to point to?

Stephan Kinsella: As mentioned, I am working on Copy This Book and I also have another book in the works, Law in a Libertarian World: Legal Foundations of a Free Society, an edited selection of my rights and law-related articles. Also, I blog regularly at The Libertarian Standard and C4SIF. Finally, readers can obtain here the slides and audio for the four Mises Academy lectures I delivered last year: Rethinking Intellectual Property, Libertarian Legal Theory, The Social Theory of Hoppe, and Libertarian Controversies.

Daily Bell: Thanks for your time.

Stephan Kinsella: You're welcome. Thanks for your interest.

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Wesker1982 replied on Mon, Mar 19 2012 10:51 AM

I can't wait for IP laws to be abolished so I can finally read The Continuing Adventures of Han Solo. 

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