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do non-disclos. agreements satisfy Rothbard's theory?

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The Texas Trigger Posted: Wed, Oct 3 2012 11:59 AM

I recently read an article by Rothbard in his Ethics of Liberty, called Property Rights and the Theory of Contracts that changed my view of one's ability or right to sell himself into slavery to another, but more importantly this article changed my view on contract law and theory in general. 

But I think I ran into a bit of a snag with it today, and I want your thoughts:

In this thread, the OP asks where patents' place would be in a free society. Wheylous was quick to point out that they would have no place, to which the OP replied back, asking "I can understand why (patents would have no place in a free society). However, if someone had an inventive or innovative idea but did not have the resources to produce it, how could their ideas ever come into fruition? If they tried to pitch it or sell it to those who can produce it, how could it be protected from theft without some form of patent or copyright?"

Grant Underwood and Jargon were quick to point out (and later on Whisky Balls) that if such an inventor found himself with a great idea and no personal funding to make it happen, he could expose his idea to investors without risk of his idea being "stolen" (for lack of a better term) by using, basically, a non-disclosure agreement; a contract where one party agrees to show an idea to another if the latter PROMISES not to tell anyone about it. 

Here is the question: does a non-disclosure agreement have any place in a free society? It doesn't appear to satisfy Rothbard's requirement of a transfer of title, unless you said the idea was the property being transferred, but if you say that, you are back to square one because you are admitting that an idea is property, thus justifying the patent.

To me, it doesn't seem like Rothbard left any room for contracts based solely on some verbal or written promise if there is no actual property transfer.   

"If men are not angels, then who shall run the state?" 

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Just as a quick summary for those who haven't read it:

In the article, Rothbard explained that the reason one cannot sell himself into slavery is because he cannot give away direct control over his body because the body cannot be divorced from the will. Because each man has total control over his will, even in the face of draconian tyranny and subjugation, it then becomes impossible to contract yourself into slavery, because you might change your mind ex poste facto.

Rothbard explains that this misconception stems from the fallacious belief that contracts are just an official promise that one party will do one thing and another party will do another in return. While every contract may be a promise of sorts, per se, this is not what they are at their most fundamental. They are merely a transfer of one's title of ownership over a certain property with the condition that sometime in the future some pre-agreed upon title of ownership will be transferred back to the former party who first transferred his title. I totally buy this.

"If men are not angels, then who shall run the state?" 

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Oct 3 2012 12:04 PM

Rothbard supported performance bonds. I think a performance bond could be drawn up in such a way that the performance in question is keeping silent about something.

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