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Radio wave frequency vs IP -- property under libertarian law?

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FlyingAxe Posted: Sat, Feb 2 2013 7:43 PM

I was wondering what libertarian view of radio wave frequency as property is/should be?

First, I am not talking about how radio frequencies would be dealt with under free markets. Please don't send me to Rothbard's article on that. But, speaking of that article, it seems that Rothbard thought that radio wave frequencies should be homesteadable.

So, I am just trying to think in what way wave frequncies are different from information. They are scarce (in a given area), that's true, but what does one own when he owns a radio wave frequency? Frequency just describes the property of radio waves that one person's radio emitter produces. If my radio emitter producers waves of the same frequency, how can another person own them just because they share the same characteristic with the waves he produced first?

Even the scarcity of the frequency is merely scarcity in who will hear the message; no different in principle from scarcity of information.

My question is also not, so much, as to what might happen in an an-cap society. People may never get past this dilemma, or they may agree to implement a legal fiction of radio wave frequency being property, or, most likely, using radio waves to transmit information will become obsolette, as everyone will use Internet to listen to "radio" (I already do). But that's not my question.

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Rothbard really does address all these questions in his essay...why do you feel his answers don't address your questions? 

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Because he doesn't address the questions that I asked. He says: If it's scarce, treat it as property. I am asking: treat what as property? Properties (forgive the pun) of air signals that my radio emitter produces?

I.e., I am addressing two issues:

a) properties (characteristics) are intangible
b) by claiming to own a characteristic (e.g., a color), you thus claim to own every physical thing that has that characteristic, which contradicts the already existing property claim on that thing by someone else based on homesteading

I am not addressing the scarcity issue. I am not addressing the economic part of the problem, just the legal one (and not "practically" legal, as in "what will the courts decide?").

This is what he wrote. If you see anything that answers my question, please let me know:

The solution for radio and television? Simple: Treat these media precisely the same way the press and book publishers are treated. For both the libertarian and the believer in the American Constitution the government should withdraw completely from any role or interference in all media of expression. In short, the federal government should denationalize the airwaves and give or sell the individual channels to private ownership. When private stations genuinely own their channels, they will be truly free and independent; they will be able to put on any programs they wish to produce, or that they feel their listeners want to hear; and they will be able to express themselves in whichever way they wish without fear of government retaliation. They will also be able to sell or rent the airwaves to whomever they wish, and in that way the users of the channels will no longer be artificially subsidized.

Furthermore, if TV channels become free, privately owned, and independent, the big networks will no longer be able to put pressure upon the FCC to outlaw the effective competition of pay-television. It is only because the FCC has outlawed pay-TV that it has not been able to gain a foothold. "Free TV" is, of course, not truly "free"; the programs are paid for by the advertisers, and the consumer pays by covering the advertising costs in the price of the product he buys. One might ask what difference it makes to the consumer whether he pays the advertising [p. 100] costs indirectly or pays directly for each program he buys. The difference is that these are not the same consumers for the same products. The television advertiser, for example, is always interested in (a) gaining the widest possible viewing market; and (b) in gaining those particular viewers who will be most susceptible to his message. Hence, the programs will all be geared to the lowest common denominator in the audience, and particularly to those viewers most susceptible to the message; that is, those viewers who do not read newspapers or magazines, so that the message will not duplicate the ads he sees there. As a result, free-TV programs tend to be unimaginative, bland, and uniform. Pay-TV would mean that each program would search for its own market, and many specialized markets for specialized audiences would develop — just as highly lucrative specialized markets have developed in the magazine and book publishing fields. The quality of programs would be higher and the offerings far more diverse. In fact, the menace of potential pay-TV competition must be great for the networks to lobby for years to keep it suppressed. But, of course, in a truly free market, both forms of television, as well as cable-TV and other forms we cannot yet envision, could and would enter the competition.

One common argument against private ownership of TV channels is that these channels are "scarce," and therefore have to be owned and parcelled out by the government. To an economist, this is a silly argument; all resources are scarce, in fact anything that has a price on the market commands that price precisely because it is scarce. We have to pay a certain amount for a loaf of bread, for shoes, for dresses because they are all scarce. If they were not scarce but superabundant like air, they would be free, and no one would have to worry about their production or allocation. In the press area, newsprint is scarce, paper is scarce, printing machinery and trucks are scarce, etc. The more scarce they are the higher the price they will command, and vice versa. Furthermore, and again pragmatically, there are far more television channels available than are now in use. The FCC's early decision to force stations into the VHF instead of the UHF zone created far more of a scarcity of channels than there needed to be.

Another common objection to private property in the broadcast media is that private stations would interfere with each other's broadcasts, and that such widespread interference would virtually prevent any programs from being heard or seen. But this is as absurd an argument for nationalizing the airwaves as claiming that since people can drive their cars over other people's land this means that all cars — or land — must be nationalized. The problem, in either case, is for the courts to [p. 101] demarcate property titles carefully enough so that any invasion of another's property will be clear-cut and subject to prosecution. In the case of land titles, this process is clear enough. But the point is that the courts can apply a similar process of staking out property rights in other areas — whether it be in airwaves, in water, or in oil pools. In the case of airwaves, the task is to find the technological unit — i.e., the place of transmission, the distance of the wave, and the technological width of a clear channel — and then to allocate property rights to this particular technological unit. If radio station WXYZ, for example, is assigned a property right in broadcasting on 1500 kilocycles, plus or minus a certain width of kilocycles, for 200 miles around Detroit, then any station which subsequently beams a program into the Detroit area on this wavelength would be subject to prosecution for interference with property rights. If the courts pursue their task of demarking and defending property rights, then there is no more reason to expect continual invasions of such rights in this area than anywhere else.

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Blargg replied on Sat, Feb 2 2013 10:02 PM

If you must talk of owning something, they own a particular channel. A channel is the capacity of the air in a geographic area to carry radio waves of a particular narrow band of frequencies without interference with other channels (of different bands of frequencies) in that same area. Within a channel, one can place transmitters of various powers at various locations. The owner can bring legal action against anyone trespassing within a channel, that is those operating transmitters of sufficient strength in that channel within its area.
 

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FlyingAxe replied on Sat, Feb 2 2013 10:08 PM

Here is another quote from both Rothbard and Kinsella. Both of them are missing the point I am making.

Rothbard:

The theory of homestead easements discussed earlier would require no restriction upon radio transmissions or on people’s low-level radiation. In the case of radio transmissions, Smith’s ownership of land and all of its appurtenances does not entitle him to own all radio waves passing over and across his land, for Smith has not homesteaded or transmitted on radio frequencies here. Hence, Jones, who transmits a wave on, say, 1200 kilohertz, homesteads the ownership of that wave as far as it travels, even if it travels across Smith’s property. If Smith tries to interfere with or otherwise disrupt Jones’s transmissions, he is guilty of interfering with Jones’s just property.[61]

Only if the radio transmissions are proven to be harmful to Smith’s person beyond a reasonable doubt should Jones’s activities be subject to injunction. The same type of argument, of course, applies to radiation transmissions.

… [61] During the 1920s, the courts were working out precisely such a system of homesteaded private property rights in airwave frequencies. It is because such a private property structure was evolving that Secretary of Commerce Hoover pushed through the Radio Act of 1927, nationalizing ownership of the airwaves. See Ronald H. Coase, “The Federal Communications Commission,” Journal of Law and Economics 2 (October 1959): 1-40. For a modern study of how such frequencies could be allocated, see A. De Vany, et al., A Property System Approach to the Electromagnetic Spectrum (San Francisco: Cato Institute, 1980).

Kinsella:

Now, why does it have to be an easement over walking-space on land on the earth’s surface, established by the passage of human bodies? Why can’t it be an easement over the airwaves (viewed as a type of volume of space with respect to a given bandwidth), established by the passages of EM waves? After all, EM waves are physical, and the airwave/spectrum used is a scarce resource like a path on land is. It’s scarce because broadcaster 1 can’t use the spectrum if broadcaster 2 sends a transmission over the same carrier channel in the same physical region; there is interference. So: the idea is that the first broadcaster to use a given bandwidth in a given region would be regarded as having homesteaded this airwave or EM spectrum. Others who broadcast on it would be viewed as trespassers. [Incidentally, the reason transmission of an EM wave for information-signalling purposes is not normally trespass even though the waves pass through others' bodies is that it does not interfere with their use of their bodies; for more on this approach to "invasion" see Rothbard's classic air pollution article; by contrast, aiming high-intensity, coherent, power-carrying EM radiation--a laser beam--at someone could be aggression, since it could affect the physical integrity of their body or other property.]

The point they are both missing is that I am not homesteading the wave. I am homesteading the characteristic of all future and present waves: their frequency. If I can do that and prevent anyone from transmitting waves of the same characteristic in the future (in a given area), the following problems arise:

a) this contradicts the other waves' owners' rights over their waves based on the fact that they produced those waves

b) it treats frequency spectrum as a "thing", as a trangible object that can be trespassed, which to me seems absurd (but maybe I am wrong; if I am, however, the same argument against IP also should fail)

c) why can I not then homestead radiowave signals in a given area based on other characteristics, such as content? I want to be the only libertarian radio host in Boston. (Not that there is one already here, afaik.)

 

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gotlucky replied on Sat, Feb 2 2013 10:48 PM

There are no problems with what they said.

a) Contradicts nothing. It doesn't matter that someone else is broadcasting and "creating" new waves. That is not the thing in dispute.

b) This is not at all the same argument as IP. Only one thing can be broadcast over a given frequency at any given time. IP is about "theft" of ideas, which in reality is just replication. If you broadcast over someone else's frequency, then you are not replicating. You are actually preventing someone else from using their frequency.

c) That doesn't even make sense. How are you using a radio wave by being a libertarian radio host?

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 3 2013 12:36 AM

a) What IS in dispute? A portion of EM spectrum? What is it that you claim to own that I am trespassing? How can you own all the space around you (up to a certain point) vis-a-vis which waves can go through it? It's my farm, and I transmitt whatever the hell I want through it, the air on it, etc. And I can block your transmission of your waves through it too.

In fact, there is a real example: miniature FM transmitters. I have one in my car (it's pretty old, so it doesn't have the aux jack). I plug in the transmitter's cable in my phone, then set it to whatever FM and then set my radio to the same FM.

Well, it's pretty difficult to find a good FM frequency, because they are all taken. So, some jerks out there are not allowing my to use my car and the air in it in whatever way I want. I should be able to sue them! (This debunks both Rothbard's and Kinsella's argument, btw, re: this issue.)

But, according to you, they should be able to sue me! So, they can come in and prevent me from listening to my phone through my FM transmitter and my radio in my car: all the things I legitimately own. (Whether or not they would actually sue me on free markets, whether it would be economical for them to do so or whether some judge would accept to arbitrate over the suit is irrelevant, unless we are using David Friedman's economic approach to law. I am discussing the logic here.)

Now imagine that the range of my FM transmitter was not just within my car, but within my house. Or within my street. Now some radio host cannot be heard on this street. Under what grounds can he sue me? He doesn't own the street any more than he owns my house or my car. At best, various owners of the houses on the street can sue me for invading their houses with my FM transmitter's waves and preventing them from listening to our host (or their personal FM transmitters).


The best one could argue, in my opinion, is that someone's waves are interfering with his waves. So, this would be similar to someone shooting an arrow and hitting my arrow that was in flight. Your property trespassed against my property.

But this would allow whoever started transmitting to continue doing so uninterrupted. If I am transmitting from 8 am to 8 pm today, others should not transmitt at the same frequency locally. But once I turn off my transmitter, someone can start transmitting and can continue doing so until 12 pm tomorrow, not allowing me to start my 8 am broadcast, since now my waves would be interfering with his waves, and those were there first.

(Of course, this is ignoring the fact that each wave is unique.)

b) A common argument against IP is that information is not a thing to be owned. It's non-tangible. It is not distinguishable from physical objects containing it. Someone can object to that argument by stating Platonic view of what information is, but you can just smile back and ask for evidence that Platonic objects exist.

I am not saying that all libertarians use this argument and that it's the only anti-IP argument. I am saying that one cannot use this argument against IP but not against EM frequency homesteading.

c) You have homesteaded some waves based on their frequency. I am homesteading waves based on their content. OK, so I need to work on this one more... :)

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c) One could argue that the radio listeners can listen at a time (on a given radio transmitter) either to me or to another libertarian host.

So, if I was there first, I have homesteaded the topic of libertarianism and the attention of all the world around me (up to a point) re: libertarianism.

That's basically what IP proponents say when they argue that IP is about scarcity, since the potential customers are scarce.
 

What can we answer them? That indeed, the potential customers are scarce, but they don't own them. That's true. But a radio host doesn't own all the world around him either.

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gotlucky replied on Sun, Feb 3 2013 11:55 AM

I don't know why you are so interested in a priori law. It really isn't relevant to actual law.

FlyingAxe:

a) What IS in dispute? A portion of EM spectrum? What is it that you claim to own that I am trespassing? How can you own all the space around you (up to a certain point) vis-a-vis which waves can go through it? It's my farm, and I transmitt whatever the hell I want through it, the air on it, etc. And I can block your transmission of your waves through it too.

A radio wave is in dispute. You are not claiming to own all the space around you. So what that it is your farm? That really has nothing to do with it. Feel free to block the wave if you want.

 

In fact, there is a real example: miniature FM transmitters. I have one in my car (it's pretty old, so it doesn't have the aux jack). I plug in the transmitter's cable in my phone, then set it to whatever FM and then set my radio to the same FM.

Well, it's pretty difficult to find a good FM frequency, because they are all taken. So, some jerks out there are not allowing my to use my car and the air in it in whatever way I want. I should be able to sue them! (This debunks both Rothbard's and Kinsella's argument, btw, re: this issue.)

Why would you sue them? How does this debunk anything?

But, according to you, they should be able to sue me! So, they can come in and prevent me from listening to my phone through my FM transmitter and my radio in my car: all the things I legitimately own. (Whether or not they would actually sue me on free markets, whether it would be economical for them to do so or whether some judge would accept to arbitrate over the suit is irrelevant, unless we are using David Friedman's economic approach to law. I am discussing the logic here.)

Really? According to me what? Why would you think that I think that? Where have I said that?

Now imagine that the range of my FM transmitter was not just within my car, but within my house. Or within my street. Now some radio host cannot be heard on this street. Under what grounds can he sue me? He doesn't own the street any more than he owns my house or my car. At best, various owners of the houses on the street can sue me for invading their houses with my FM transmitter's waves and preventing them from listening to our host (or their personal FM transmitters).

The argument has nothing to do with who owns the street. The point is that if you broadcast over his wave, you are violating his wave. That is the argument. Whether that is the right solution or not is a different matter, but you have to at least address Rothbard's actual argument.

The best one could argue, in my opinion, is that someone's waves are interfering with his waves. So, this would be similar to someone shooting an arrow and hitting my arrow that was in flight. Your property trespassed against my property.

I don't know how you missed this in Rothbard's paper. He explicitly said this.

But this would allow whoever started transmitting to continue doing so uninterrupted. If I am transmitting from 8 am to 8 pm today, others should not transmitt at the same frequency locally. But once I turn off my transmitter, someone can start transmitting and can continue doing so until 12 pm tomorrow, not allowing me to start my 8 am broadcast, since now my waves would be interfering with his waves, and those were there first.

This is why there is a dispute. This is why people come together and use the process of law to find solutions. But instead, you are saying that you can find some sort of magical rule that will apply to everyone justly in all of these disputes. Well it's not really your opinion that matters but the opinions of the parties to the dispute.

b) A common argument against IP is that information is not a thing to be owned. It's non-tangible. It is not distinguishable from physical objects containing it. Someone can object to that argument by stating Platonic view of what information is, but you can just smile back and ask for evidence that Platonic objects exist.

This is a gross mistatement of this common argument against IP. You have to decode what someone says when they say that they "own" and idea. Ideas reside in people's heads. It's a pointless statement to say that you own the thoughts in my head. But that addresses slander and libel. When it comes to copyright or patents, what IP propopents are saying is that I cannot arrange my own property into a certain configuration, or else I'm violating their property rights. What they are actually claiming is not that they actually own the idea itself, but that they own anything that is in a certain configuration.

So, suddenly my wood and nails are no longer mine when I make them into a chair of a patented configuration. Now they suddenly belong to the patent holder. That is the actual IP claim. I hope you can see why libertarians find this absurd.

I am not saying that all libertarians use this argument and that it's the only anti-IP argument. I am saying that one cannot use this argument against IP but not against EM frequency homesteading.

The argument does not apply to radio waves in the slightest. The broadcaster is not claiming to own your radio. He is not claiming to own your wave. He is not trying to stop you from broadcasting over this frequency somewhere else. He is claiming that you cannot interrupt and interfere with his broadcast. Whether this is right or wrong is another matter, but the arguments are not similar.

c) You have homesteaded some waves based on their frequency. I am homesteading waves based on their content. OK, so I need to work on this one more... :)

I was not aware that radio waves have the property of political spectrum. I thought radio waves had wavelength and frequency.

c) One could argue that the radio listeners can listen at a time (on a given radio transmitter) either to me or to another libertarian host.

One could argue a lot of things.

So, if I was there first, I have homesteaded the topic of libertarianism and the attention of all the world around me (up to a point) re: libertarianism.

So do you possess a radio that can receive radio waves that transmit through the property of political spectrum? Do you tune in to a radio wave based on its position along this spectrum?

What can we answer them? That indeed, the potential customers are scarce, but they don't own them. That's true. But a radio host doesn't own all the world around him either.

I don't think a radio host is claiming to own the world around him.


You would do a lot better if you stopped your approach of a priori law. If radio waves had been left alone, there would probably have been some very good mechanisms used to resolve broadcasting conflicts. Maybe it's time for people to start using satellite radio or something else. There have been so many advances in transmitting information in the last 20 years, maybe radio is ready to be retired and is only around to the degree it is because of government backing. Maybe not. All I know is that you are not going to create some sort of a priori just law.

Homesteading is a good rule in general, but it always needs to be supplemented by something else to make sense. Too many libertarians think that "first use" and "transforming" and "creating" are magical words that suddenly create ownership. You will never create a perfectly just society. Libertarians should just stick with decentralizing law to get rid of as many of the injustices as possible.

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Blargg replied on Sun, Feb 3 2013 12:45 PM

With older and lots of current technology, the most practical use of the radio spectrum is in chunks of contiguous frequencies (channels). Many people want to use radio transmitters and receivers. There is a limited number of channels. Thus, people work out a way to avoid conflicts in practice. With large radio stations that have lots of listeners, they want to avoid having to change channels and cause upheval for their listeners, so there are more formal arrangements for controlling a channel. With small battery-powered FM transmitters, informal arrangements suffice. Similar for things like WiFi, where they might automatically choose a quieter channel, or use newer encoding arrangements that allow coexistence with other transmitters on the same channel, where contention leads to reduced channel capacity, rather than total non-operation.

FlyingAxe, what does all this convoluted theoretical hand-waving have to do with the above? What is the point of things like the NAP if not to resolve actual conflicts in practice?

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So, if nothing else, this is a good example of how discovering rights a priori (either as ethical principles or as legal principles) is a fallacious goal.

Better to define a consequentialist goal (e.g., resolve conflicts peacefully) and find the best practical solution to its resolution. I.e., more in Friedmanite rather than Rothbardian fashion.

When Rothbard laments that David Friedman doesn't think of the state as evil, this may be a good answer to him: because defining things as evil or not evil a priori doesn't work. I don't know if I agree with this statement (intuitively it strikes me as wrong), but it seems that this is what the two answers above suggest.

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Well I still have my own opinions as to what I consider right and wrong, and I definitely consider aggression to be wrong. I just don't think that what constitutes aggression is as simple as what Rothbard thought. The whole point of rights is to know who is acting rightfully in any given situation. The rule of first use is generally good, but it can also be very vague, so it has to be supplemented by something else. Imagine if we were to follow homesteading literally:

You are building a house. So you start by laying out the foundation. As you are laying out the foundation, I jump over it into the center of where your house would be. I now say to you, "This is mine! I used it first!" Now you are in an awkward situation for building your house.

You might say that I didn't really homestead it, as all I did was walk across the land and that I actually have to transform it. This is a poor counter, as that is precisely how easements and rights of travel are created. But let's assume that it doesn't count. What if I quickly scoop up some dirt and plant a seed? Clearly I have transformed the land. So, now we have the situation where I own some of the land where you were trying to build your house.

Does that really avoid and resolve conflicts? I would imagine you would be pretty pissed off at me. Are you now supposed to just forget all the building you did just because you didn't yet transform the land within your foundation? If we want this rule of first use to have any use, it has to be tempered by norms. Just how much land can you reasonably claim when laying the foundation for your house? We can't know that a priori, at least if we are at all interested in social cooperation, and don't forget that the whole point of assigning rights is to promote social cooperation. The only way to find out what the norms are is to actually have people avoid these disputes and resolve them when they do arise.

First use is basically a good rule or starting point, but it's not perfect. Humans are social animals and are pretty good at figuring out ways of avoiding and resolving conflicts. We should be more interested in promoting decentralized law than in trying to figure out what constitutes "transforming the land" from an armchair. Obviously I might disagree with or find certain norms immoral, but the more decentralized law is, the more it seems to align itself with libertarian values.

Regarding Friedman, I disagree with him about the state. I do think that the state is evil. Obviously not everyone within it is evil, and probably most are not. But I don't think it's just one big miscalculation. It's pretty clear that the people who run it are despicable people who want to wield power against everyone else.

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But isn't what Friedman saying exactly what you're saying? He says: if we want to discover the best way to resolve conflicts, let us do exactly that by people trying to do it and competing on the free market. According to him, to discover a priori whether a certain concept is a better "law" than another is like trying to discover a priori what the best way to spell honor is. It will depend on the specific situation, specific people, and specific time.

The counter-example that you have provided is a good example of how our theory of natural law or homesteading is incomplete. But there are two possible answers to it:

1. try to continue figuring out a priori what the right answer is;
2. let the society decide through free markets.

Note that I am not saying that the second way is not a good way for a polycentric society to come to some sort of agreement or one theory of law to prevail over another. I am saying that if that is our answer right now to some legal question, then basically it's a non-answer. The correct answer to a question: "Is action X theft" would be: "I don't know" or: "Whatever the society decided on today." (Which means government's laws.)

Friedman's point is that calling government's laws non-laws (like Lysander Spooner did) or unjust laws is the same as calling government-produced cars non-cars. They certainly are cars, although admittedly bad ones, and we can wish for better ones. If we have no competing concept of property accepted by the society today, then we have to use whatever concept the government gave us to resolve conflicts (included in which is the idea that whatever the government declared as taxes is its property) — that is the conclusion we have to come to if there is no chance to discover a priori law.

As to the EM frequency, I am not married to homesteading. If there is another a priori concept that can provide a better framework for property (of which homesteading is perhaps one instance of), I am also interested in that.

(Also, whether the government officials are evil people with evil intentions has nothing to do with it. What matters is whether their laws and actions are evil. If they were all very well-meaning individuals hoping and working for the common good, I think Rothbard would still say that the state is immoral.)

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@gotlucky,

By the way, the response to your homesteading example is that the owner would have to homestead the middle of the land by walking over it. This way, he would demarkate it from others. (When God tells Abraham to walk all over the land of Israel in the Bible, that's exactly what's going on, according to some commentaries.)

Or we can say that encircling something creates a homesteading claim. Or we can say that technically the poor sucker lost his land, since he was not responsible enough to homestead it properly. Such situations are reported in other legal systems reliant on specific homesteading rules, e.g., Jewish Law:

When a person buys landed property from a colleague and manifests his ownership over it by eating produce, he acquires it, as we have explained. But with regard to the acquisition of ownerless property [...], even if a person eats produce of a tree for several years, he does not acquire the tree itself or the land itself until he performs a deed involving the land itself or performs a task involving the tree.

An incident occurred when a woman ate the produce of a date palm for thirteen years, and then another person manifested ownership over the tree by performing a task involving the tree itself. The incident was brought before the Sages, and they ruled that the latter person acquired it.

(Maimonides, Laws of Acquisition and Transfer, Mishneh Torah,  c. 1180)

The point is: either we should be able to say, a priori, that the guy who pitched a tent in the middle of the walled-off area is a thief or not. Or, we might say that there is no answer until the markets decide. Or we might say that and then say that in the absence of markets deciding on one legal concept vs. another we have to listen to what the government says.

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In fact, there is a real example: miniature FM transmitters. I have one in my car (it's pretty old, so it doesn't have the aux jack). I plug in the transmitter's cable in my phone, then set it to whatever FM and then set my radio to the same FM.

Well, it's pretty difficult to find a good FM frequency, because they are all taken. So, some jerks out there are not allowing my to use my car and the air in it in whatever way I want. I should be able to sue them! (This debunks both Rothbard's and Kinsella's argument, btw, re: this issue.)

gotlucky:
Why would you sue them? How does this debunk anything? 

Because he is interfering with my property using his property. He is tresspassing. The conflict is that I cannot pick a good frequency for my miniature FM transmitted in my car, because all the FM frequencies are taken, and their signals are interfering with my FM transmitter's signal.

 But this would allow whoever started transmitting to continue doing so uninterrupted. If I am transmitting from 8 am to 8 pm today, others should not transmitt at the same frequency locally. But once I turn off my transmitter, someone can start transmitting and can continue doing so until 12 pm tomorrow, not allowing me to start my 8 am broadcast, since now my waves would be interfering with his waves, and those were there first. 

gotlucky:
 This is why there is a dispute. This is why people come together and use the process of law to find solutions. But instead, you are saying that you can find some sort of magical rule that will apply to everyone justly in all of these disputes. Well it's not really your opinion that matters but the opinions of the parties to the dispute.

Wait, did you read what I wrote? Imagine you shoot rolled-up newspapers from a gun at someone else's property from 8 am to 12 pm, and he doesn't mind. I cannot shoot my newspaper such that it will hit your newspaper while it's in-flight. True. But the moment you stop shooting newspapers, I can start shooting mine (again, the owner doesn't mind) and can shoot them as long as I want -- and continue doing so even until tomorrow's, say, 10 am (thus preventing you from starting your newspaper shoot at 8 am). You cannot homestead the fact that tomorrow morning you will shoot newspapers through someone's yard again. Otherwise, what are you homesteading? Someone's yard? The imaginary philosophical "space" of newspaper trajectory? Some legal fiction concept?
 

gotlucky:
This is a gross mistatement of this common argument against IP. You have to decode what someone says when they say that they "own" and idea. Ideas reside in people's heads. It's a pointless statement to say that you own the thoughts in my head. But that addresses slander and libel. When it comes to copyright or patents, what IP propopents are saying is that I cannot arrange my own property into a certain configuration, or else I'm violating their property rights. What they are actually claiming is not that they actually own the idea itself, but that they own anything that is in a certain configuration.

So, suddenly my wood and nails are no longer mine when I make them into a chair of a patented configuration. Now they suddenly belong to the patent holder. That is the actual IP claim. I hope you can see why libertarians find this absurd.

I certainly do, but the way I described EM frequency (or newspaper trajectory) is very similar to what you described, and I find it equally absurd. (I am not saying that EM frequency cannot be homesteaded or owned, but I am trying to figure out a non-absurd model.)

 I am not saying that all libertarians use this argument and that it's the only anti-IP argument. I am saying that one cannot use this argument against IP but not against EM frequency homesteading. 

gotlucky:
The argument does not apply to radio waves in the slightest. The broadcaster is not claiming to own your radio. He is not claiming to own your wave. He is not trying to stop you from broadcasting over this frequency somewhere else. He is claiming that you cannot interrupt and interfere with his broadcast. Whether this is right or wrong is another matter, but the arguments are not similar.

No, that's not what he is trying to do. Again, imagine someone has regular broadcasts from 8 am till noon. One morning I start a broadcast at 7 am at the same frequency. He cannot start his broadcast, calls an enforcement agency, they recognize the fact that he has homesteaded this frequency in this geographic locale, show up at my station and shut down my radio. (Maybe this happens after some period of arbitration and non-compliance from my side.)

So, he is not only asking that I don't interfere with his broadcast, once it's started, but that I do not start broadcasts at all at the frequency which he has supposedly homesteaded, even when he is broadcasting nothing. That is the problem with homesteading frequencies that I have described.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Feb 4 2013 1:16 AM

Radio waves are waves, they are not material. Imagine we are in a giant pool and we are all splashing - this is very much like what radio transmitters are doing - what right does anyone have to stop anybody else from splashing? None, really. You can't say "your waves are coming over into my portion of the pool" because that's precisely what a pool is... a connected medium in which all disturbances dissipate in all directions.

But the things that are homesteaded are not "radio waves" but particular radio frequencies or "channels" - and it turns out that the physical facts of radio frequencies are very fortuitous... there is no good reason for there to be any significant conflict over the use of radio spectra... it is a resource that is almost as abundant as air.

Imagine we are all in a giant pool. Only one person is splashing... all others are not splashing (though they still create some disturbances in the water - an inevitability). The others put a fishing bob on the water and watch the bob move up and down. This is like radio broadcast. The beauty of radio broadcasting is that you can have two people simultaneously splashing in the pool... but at different frequencies... and then you can make a "tuned bob" that responds to one frequency but not the other... this is like have a radio receiver that can be "tuned" to any of multiple broadcasts. Thus, it is possible for everyone to be splashing simultaneously and not interfere with one another.

What is being asserted is that the channel is what is homesteaded... "transmitter-receiver pair" together are what is homesteaded. Alice purchases a transmitter that transmits at 20MHz and Bob purchases a receiver that receives 20MHz. Alice then talks over the radio to Bob. No one else was using this frequency before. Now, Alice and Bob have "homesteaded" the 20MHz frequency, at least for the duration they are using it.

Why should this be the case? Well, let us say that Alice and Bob had prior to purchasing a radio set used a shuttered spotlight to signal Morse code. Bob would look out the window of his house towards Alice's house and note the pattern in which the spotlight was being switched on and off. Now, let us suppose that a railroad tycoon buys up land between Alice's house and Bob's house and proceeds to construct a grain silo obstructing the line-of-sight between Alice's and Bob's houses. Alice and Bob have an easement on that line-of-sight because they have been using it since before the railroad company purchased the land.

Similarly, by setting up a receiver-transmitter pair and using it to communicate, Alice and Bob obtain an "easement" or homestead of that frequency at least in the region where they are using it and to the end for which they are using it. Thus, I cannot come and install a high-power transmitting tower nearby on precisely that frequency and begin blocking all other transmissions, including those from Alice to Bob, on that frequency.

This would be like in the pool scenario... Alice is splashing at a particular rate... Bob has a tuned bob (ha, unintended pun) that resonates at that frequency on the water's surface... and then Charlie comes in between and begins creating massive waves in the pool at precisely that frequency that swamp out all other waves at that frequency. Charlie is welcome to transmit powerful waves but he needs to move over and choose a frequency that is not already in use.

OK, so the FCC hand-wringers are always going on about "crowding" in the radio spectra and so on. As usual, government interference causes bad effects. The fact is that the government creates an artificial scarcity of radio spectra. There are high-bandwidth transmitting technologies (search "turbo-coding") that permit immense data rates to be crammed into what just 30 years ago would have been unimaginably narrow bands, and to do so at very modest power envelopes. Power matters because it permits the "geographical patchwork" to be more fine-grained... the fewer watts you use, your waves do not have to travel as far before dissipating into the noise region.

Also, radio transmissions are not necessarily omnidirectional (like splashing in the pool which goes every direction... in fact, I'm sure you can easily imagine ways to "guide" pool waves so they only go one direction). This can permit the radio spectra "patchwork" to be even more finely divided in terms of geographic area. With the use of an appropriate antenna you can literally have two radios on the same frequency, one that serves one half of a building and another that serves the other half of the building, at least for broadcast or fixed-link purposes. Once you put it all together, you realize that the FCC mindset regarding radio spectra is just absolutely a dinosaur mentality... braindead. There is no reason for all of these conflicts except government interference.

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Thanks, that's interesting.

I am interested to read more about the foundations of this easement concept, as in the laser Morse code example.

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FlyingAxe:

But isn't what Friedman saying exactly what you're saying? He says: if we want to discover the best way to resolve conflicts, let us do exactly that by people trying to do it and competing on the free market. According to him, to discover a priori whether a certain concept is a better "law" than another is like trying to discover a priori what the best way to spell honor is. It will depend on the specific situation, specific people, and specific time.

That is something I agree with Friedman on, but he doesn't consider the state evil. I do. Certainly some politicians and academics think they are doing good, but there are plenty that really want to rule over others.

FlyingAxe:

The counter-example that you have provided is a good example of how our theory of natural law or homesteading is incomplete. But there are two possible answers to it:

1. try to continue figuring out a priori what the right answer is;
2. let the society decide through free markets.

Note that I am not saying that the second way is not a good way for a polycentric society to come to some sort of agreement or one theory of law to prevail over another. I am saying that if that is our answer right now to some legal question, then basically it's a non-answer. The correct answer to a question: "Is action X theft" would be: "I don't know" or: "Whatever the society decided on today." (Which means government's laws.)

There is no a priori right answer. All property rights start as claims, and claims are necessary conditions for property rights. You know what you claim is yours, the question is whether others will agree to those claims. The most obvious claims are the rights over your body, whether your want to call it self-ownership or whatever. If I attack you, you want to defend yourself. If we are to get along and cooperate, we each are going to respect these claims regarding ourselves. These are pretty straightforward. I don't attack you, and you don't attack me.

Claiming property is a little trickier, but the basic idea is not complicated. If you set up shelter somewhere, you expect me to respect that. If I invade your home, you want to repel me. If we are going to get along and cooperate, we each are going to respect our claims regarding our homes. Of course, the problem we run into is just what can you legitimately claim as your home. This is why we need decentralized law. I might have a house that you think is legitimately mine, but then I might go ahead and claim that I own acres of land around it. You might not think that is a legitimate claim, so we have a dispute. We could just settle it with violence, but we might decide to settle without using further violence.

If we do decide to settle without violence, we must come to a mutually agreeable resolution. There are three possibilities:

1) We respect my initial claim.

2) We respect your initial claim.

3) We compromise and respect a new claim.

Obviously, it is possible that whatever claim we both choose to respect will not be compatible with traditional libertarian homesteading theory. I'm not saying that I think whatever we agree on is morally good. But if I prefer social cooperation, whatever we settle on is best for that. There might be times that I might prefer social conflict, such as if you were to invade my home and attack me. I might prefer to fight you over it. But it's not like we don't each have opinions as to what is the morally good or legitimate claim. I don't have to say that we should just leave it to the market to decide what is morally good. But if we are going to get along, we have to come up with something we can both respect, otherwise we won't get along.

Let's look at a quick example about theft. Suppose I take your TV without your permission. At the very least I have invaded your home. I have also taken something from you that may or may not have been your legitimate property according to some rule. These are attacks against you. We don't have to focus on the rightness or wrongness of my actions according to whatever rule. Very simply I have invaded and made attacks against you. You had a claim to that TV, and I am now making new claim to it. It's pretty clear I started this conflict. I'm not respecting you or your claims. Clearly I'm in the wrong here. Suppose, however, that I am taking TV back from you - it was originally my TV. Well, in this case it was you who was not respecting me or my claims. You invaded and attacked me. You started the conflict. I'm merely taking back something that is mine.

All homesteading does is just say that whoever had the TV first or traded for it is the legitimate moral owner. And it is generally a good rule. But it's not like we need a prioi law based on homesteading fully fleshed out in order to understand if something is theft. My problem with homesteading is that it cannot be the only thing relied upon to make sense of ownership, as it is too vague. We need the process of nonviolent dispute resolution in order to make up for the vagueness of homesteading. It's not perfect, but the world isn't perfect and people do have real disputes. If we prefer cooperation over conflict, the moral system is decentralized law. It may not always produce agreements that everyone can consider moral, but no system can.

FlyingAxe:

Friedman's point is that calling government's laws non-laws (like Lysander Spooner did) or unjust laws is the same as calling government-produced cars non-cars. They certainly are cars, although admittedly bad ones, and we can wish for better ones. If we have no competing concept of property accepted by the society today, then we have to use whatever concept the government gave us to resolve conflicts (included in which is the idea that whatever the government declared as taxes is its property) — that is the conclusion we have to come to if there is no chance to discover a priori law.

You just have to decode what is being said. Government laws are just mandates from the most powerful group of people telling everyone else that they must do X or else. If a mugger says to you, "Give me your money or else", is that a law? If a thug comes up to you and says, "You can't park more than 3 cars in your driveway or else", is that a law? That's all government laws are. It doesn't really matter what you call the claims by muggers and thugs. You can call those threats or laws or whatever, but they are formally the same as the government's laws. So it doesn't really matter if you call government's mandates laws or non-laws as long as you understand what they actually are.

FlyingAxe:

(Also, whether the government officials are evil people with evil intentions has nothing to do with it. What matters is whether their laws and actions are evil. If they were all very well-meaning individuals hoping and working for the common good, I think Rothbard would still say that the state is immoral.)

The point is that their actions are immoral. Government officials get together and decide that they will threaten to invade and attack others if they don't do what they demand. They can dress it up how they like, and there are probably a fair amount of government officials who really don't think what they are doing is wrong. But their actions are fundamentally wrong, and I suspect many know that, especially the ones higher up the chain of command.

FlyingAxe:

By the way, the response to your homesteading example is that the owner would have to homestead the middle of the land by walking over it. This way, he would demarkate it from others. (When God tells Abraham to walk all over the land of Israel in the Bible, that's exactly what's going on, according to some commentaries.)

Sure, someone could say that, but the point of assigning property rights is to avoid and resolve conflicts. If this rule does not do that, it's not fulfilling its purpose. If all it takes is for you to just walk over some land in order to own it, that could easily create a lot of conflict where there wasn't before.

FlyingAxe:

Or we can say that encircling something creates a homesteading claim. Or we can say that technically the poor sucker lost his land, since he was not responsible enough to homestead it properly. Such situations are reported in other legal systems reliant on specific homesteading rules, e.g., Jewish Law:

Yeah I don't think that considering walking as homesteading would be a very useful rule. Maybe it would, but if all it takes is for some guy to just sprint around in order to own the land, I doubt that rule would go very far.

FlyingAxe:

The point is: either we should be able to say, a priori, that the guy who pitched a tent in the middle of the walled-off area is a thief or not. Or, we might say that there is no answer until the markets decide. Or we might say that and then say that in the absence of markets deciding on one legal concept vs. another we have to listen to what the government says.

If he's a thief, what has he taken and from whom? Anyway I already addressed my thoughts on theft earlier in this massive post, but I wanted to acknowledge this.

FlyingAxe:

Because he is interfering with my property using his property. He is tresspassing. The conflict is that I cannot pick a good frequency for my miniature FM transmitted in my car, because all the FM frequencies are taken, and their signals are interfering with my FM transmitter's signal.

But why would you take him to court if you could just use a miniature FM transmitter? It's not like the broadcaster would know.

FlyingAxe:

Wait, did you read what I wrote? Imagine you shoot rolled-up newspapers from a gun at someone else's property from 8 am to 12 pm, and he doesn't mind. I cannot shoot my newspaper such that it will hit your newspaper while it's in-flight. True. But the moment you stop shooting newspapers, I can start shooting mine (again, the owner doesn't mind) and can shoot them as long as I want -- and continue doing so even until tomorrow's, say, 10 am (thus preventing you from starting your newspaper shoot at 8 am). You cannot homestead the fact that tomorrow morning you will shoot newspapers through someone's yard again. Otherwise, what are you homesteading? Someone's yard? The imaginary philosophical "space" of newspaper trajectory? Some legal fiction concept?

Why can't you shoot my newspapers? As I said, this is why there is a dispute. I say that I don't want my newspapers shot midair, and you say that you want to shoot them midair. That's the dispute. We can come together and use nonviolent dispute resolution to find a solution, we can fight over it, or we can drop the matter.

FlyingAxe:

I certainly do, but the way I described EM frequency (or newspaper trajectory) is very similar to what you described, and I find it equally absurd. (I am not saying that EM frequency cannot be homesteaded or owned, but I am trying to figure out a non-absurd model.)

It's not the same argument. Broadcasters are not claiming to own your radio. They are claiming to own the radio waves. These are specific waves, not abstractions. The argument is not at all similar.

FlyingAxe:

 

No, that's not what he is trying to do. Again, imagine someone has regular broadcasts from 8 am till noon. One morning I start a broadcast at 7 am at the same frequency. He cannot start his broadcast, calls an enforcement agency, they recognize the fact that he has homesteaded this frequency in this geographic locale, show up at my station and shut down my radio. (Maybe this happens after some period of arbitration and non-compliance from my side.)

So, he is not only asking that I don't interfere with his broadcast, once it's started, but that I do not start broadcasts at all at the frequency which he has supposedly homesteaded, even when he is broadcasting nothing. That is the problem with homesteading frequencies that I have described.

The argument you provided was that:

FlyingAxe:

A common argument against IP is that information is not a thing to be owned. It's non-tangible.

First, intangibility is not the common argument against IP. So the fact that a radio wave is intangible does not make this similar to the anti-IP argument. Second, you change the argument when you change how long someone broadcasts. If someone broadcasts 24/7, the broadcasters argument is that you cannot create your own waves that interfere with his. If you want to create a scenario where a broadcaster only transmits sometimes, then sure, maybe whoever can get his broadcast up first for the day gets to broadcast uninterrupted. It really doesn't matter much to me.

The point is that you cannot solve these problems a priori. Another main problem with these scenarios is that you ignore scarcity. It costs resources to build radio towers. Suppose there is a society where, right or wrong, radio waves are considered ownerless. So whoever has the most powerful signal is the one who gets to be heard. Well, it costs resources to build radio towers, so one way to resolve the disputes is to just build the most powerful tower you can afford and whoever has the strongest signal wins. Of course, the people who don't have enough resources are going to realize that, so hopefully they will realize that it is stupid to spend resources on a tower that won't get to transmit a signal strong enough to be heard. Maybe their towers will be close in strength and neither tower will produce a clean broadcast. Maybe one of them will pay the other to not build a radio tower. They both lose if they both build towers of similar strength (I'm assuming), but they can both win if one pays the other.

There's no real way to know what is the best solution, especially for us laymen. We should support a system where the relevant people get to decide what happens instead of the irrelevant people deciding. Instead of us saying Broadcaster A is in the right and Broadcaster B is in the wrong, let Broadcasters A and B work things out themselves.

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As the OP says, the difficulty here seems to consist in defining exactly what property is in question: what is being homesteaded, owned, bought, and sold. If it is the frequency itself, then this is like IP - i.e. it's not about owning any particular thing(s), but rather about having the exclusive right to produce instances of a universal. This is problematic.

But the fact that multiple persons cannot broadcast on the same frequency at the same time clearly indicates that there is a role for property rights here; contra IP, there is a real conflict here which the assignment of property rights should be able to resolve. It seems to me that the solution is to assign ownership to the air-space itself, though not complete ownership, only partial ownership. Firstly, let's define terms. To own something is to have the exclusive right to use it. We need to assign the broadcaster the exclusive right to use the air (presumably, in a limited region of air-space) for the purpose of broadcasting at a given frequency (as opposed to: for all purposes whatsoever). Thus he will not own the air completely, but only in part. An easement is another example of partial ownership: one does not own the land, just the right to walk across it. With partial ownership, one has a right to exclusively use the thing in question in a limited way, as opposed to in any way one pleases.

So the broadcaster needs to have the right to exclude other broadcasters from broadcasting at that same frequency in this region, but he does not need to have the right, for example, to prevent an airplane from flying in this airspace. Hence I say this is only partial ownership of the air-space. This broadcaster might have partial ownership of this air-space region, while American Airlines also has partial ownership (of a different part) of this same air-space, and there's no conflict between them. They each have their own non-conflicting easements on the same thing, so to speak.

Anyway, I think that resolves the problem. As for how one would actually homestead, that's a simple matter once we have established (as we now have) what the property in question is. As in all cases, the person who uses the property first homesteads it. So, whoever is the first to broadcast at X frequency in Q region of air-space homesteads the right to do so. The details of what counts as "use" (as with all homesteading) cannot be determined precisely a priori.

N.B. Functionally, a system where we assign (limited) property rights to the air-space itself is identical to a system where we grant IP-like rights to produce waves at a given frequency, but the legal underpinnnings of these arrangements are completely different.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Feb 4 2013 3:30 PM

We need to assign the broadcaster the exclusive right to use the air (presumably, in a limited region of air-space) for the purpose of broadcasting at a given frequency (as opposed to: for all purposes whatsoever).

Radio waves are electromagnetic, not audible/mechanical, hence, they pass through many materials and even a vacuum, not just air. The medium is not the air, it is the electromagnetic medium, which we could refer to as "the ether" for purposes of discussion. Certain frequencies are amenable to transmission along the ground and are referred to as "ground waves". The Earth itself is an electrical conductor and can be used to efficiently transmit so-called "Hertzian waves." The ether is like an "invisible pool" that connects us all together... everything we do disturbs this medium, even if very slightly. Your automobile, for example, generates "radio noise" every time a spark-plug fires (thousands of times per second when driving). Every time you switch on or off a light in your house, there is a tiny electric spark - these sparks make a little "splash" in the ether that propagates in every direction. Lightning strikes are like dropping giant boulders into the "pool" - the ether - and cause giant disturbances that echo around the entire globe and these are a major contributor to the "radio noise floor".

Time, space, frequency; these are the three basic parameters for assigning property rights in radio spectra. However, the material within that space is only consequential if it is active in radio frequencies: radio-opaque materials that cause shielding and disturb the propagation of radio waves (imagine putting up a wall in the middle of a water pool.

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Understood. We can just talk about space, regardless of what matter is occupying it.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Feb 4 2013 3:49 PM

I think for the most part, yes. I remember a long time ago reading Rothbard talking about miners' associations and how in certain parts of the US certain associations had cropped up and helped miners settle disputes between each other and essentially acted as "specialist courts" ... they were operated by miners who had detailed understanding of the technicalities of mining which are dominant considerations in setting convenient and harmonious rules. I think the same logic applies to radio frequency... the Amateur Radio Relay League, for example, has been active in setting radio practices and rules for use by amateur radio operators... the system requires a significant amount of specialized knowledge and has worked fairly well, despite the occasional interference of governments.

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@Minarchist,

You’re telling me that I can (ought to be able to) get access to other people’s property in a very specific way: I can be the only one who transmitts radio waves of 95.5 FM frequency through it and prevents others from doing so. (Presumably including the owners themselves).

I want to get another kind of exclusive access: I want to make sure that if other people’s property contains a certain kind of information (which I have produced first), I can control whether or not they will sell that property to others or even give it for free. I cannot control anything else they do with that property (after all, it’s their property), but just this particular aspect.

You will say: in the second case, you’re controlling their property. I will answer: the same is true in the first case.

You will say: in the first case, there is a conflict, in the second there is not. I will answer: yes, there is. (Obviously, since we’re discussing something here.) The conflict in the IP case is that I want you to do X with your property, while you want to do Y with it. And for some consequentialist reasons, I want to be granted easement (or easement-like access) to your property in this specific aspect.

Or, there is the conflict over potential receipients of that information: I want to be the exclusive source of them receiving that information (in whatever form). If you give them the information before me, I won’t be the first source anymore. Herein lies the conflict. (If you wish, actually, this is the same problem with EM "interference", except there it’s a continuous problem and the conflict is that they don’t receive my information at all.)

Do you see what I’m getting at?

(Btw, EM wave is still a wave. It’s a wave of the space, or electromagnetic field present in the space. So, the wave that goes through your property is not the same "thing" that originated at my property. I am basically saying that I want to dictate whether or not the space that your property occupies will vibrate at a certain frequency... which I have presumably homesteaded.)

 

@gotlucky: will answer your post soon.

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Jargon:
You’re telling me that I can (ought to be able to) get access to other people’s property in a very specific way: I can be the only one who transmitts radio waves of 95.5 FM frequency through it and prevent others from doing so. (Presumably including the owners themselves).

You producing radio waves is not like you producing shoes. Me having the exclusive right to broadcast at X frequency in a certain region and thereby having the right to exclude you from doing the same is not analogous to me having a monopoly on shoe production and having the right to prevent you from making shoes. Strictly speaking, I don't have the right to prevent you from producing radio waves at X frequency at all, I only have the right to prevent you from transmitting those waves across the medium which I own. By producing your radio waves and broadcasting them, you are in effect trespassing: sending your waves across space which I own - no different than if you were walking across my front lawn.

I want to get another kind of exclusive access: I want to make sure that if other people’s property contains a certain kind of information (which I have produced first), I can control whether or not they will sell that property to others or even give it for free. I cannot control anything else they do with that property (after all, it’s their property), but just this particular aspect.

You will say: in the second case, you’re controlling their property. I will answer: the same is true in the first case.

In the case of broadcasting, I am only controlling your property insofar as I am prohibiting you from sending it through my property. This is "control of other people's property" in the same way as all prohibitions on trespassing are control over other people's property. These are entirely legitimate controls, the kind of controls which are the essence of property rights in general: anyone can do what they like with their own property, provided this doesn't violate someone else's property rights.

This is entirely unlike IP - to make a copy of a book/cd/film does not violate anyone's property rights unless one has already assumed that IP is property. Hence, you can't make the argument for the necessity of IP being property on the basis that in the absence of it there are property rights violations - that's circular. In other words, my right to prevent you from broadcasting derives from our normal conception of property: I own some particular thing (some region of space). Whereas, my alleged power to prevent you from copying my book does not derive from the normal concept of property as ownership of particulars - but already rests on the very different concept of IP, property in universals rather than particulars.

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But you DON'T own that space. I guess this is a nuance in homesteading. If I used a certain space for purpose X, but not Y, I have homesteaded it for that purpose. If you come and start using the same space for Y, you may do so, as long as Y doesn't interfere with X. I may not use that space for Y, and you may not use it for X. This suggests being able to homestead a view.
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Jargon:
If I used a certain space for purpose X, but not Y, I have homesteaded it for that purpose.

Right, you have acquired partial ownership in the space. You have the right to use the space in way X (the way you used it), but not in any other ways (because you didn't use it in any other way).

If you come and start using the same space for Y, you may do so, as long as Y doesn't interfere with X. I may not use that space for Y, and you may not use it for X.

Right.

This suggests being able to homestead a view.

I don't think so. At least by my definition, looking at something doesn't count as use. I would define use as changing the physical nature or location of something. If the viewer isn't using the view, strictly speaking, then he can't homestead it.

But you DON'T own that space.

Why couldn't I homestead a space? It's something which does not bear unlimited simultaneous use by multiple persons - so there's the potential for conflict of the sort that assignment of property rights helps solve. It is a particular, not a universal (contra IP). It is intersubjectively knowable.

N.B. It sounds a bit odd talking about changing the physical nature/location of a space itself, but I would say that the way one does this (uses a space) is by occupying it with something. So, in this case, that would be radio waves. Or in other cases in might be airplanes, for example - an airline homesteads a route by filling that space with its airplanes, which then no other persons are permitted to occupy with their own airplanes.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Feb 4 2013 4:52 PM

(Btw, EM wave is still a wave. It’s a wave of the space, or electromagnetic field present in the space. So, the wave that goes through your property is not the same "thing" that originated at my property. I am basically saying that I want to dictate whether or not the space that your property occupies will vibrate at a certain frequency... which I have presumably homesteaded.)

Again, you're obsessing on the material properties and ignoring the nature of the ether itself. We're all splashing in the same pool all the time. In fact, if I can see your property from my property, it's becuase electromagnetic waves (visible light) are emanating from it onto mine. David Friedman actually has a blurb on this in MoF (page 86):

But what counts as interfering? If I fire a thousand megawatt laser beam at your front door I am surely violating your
property rights, just as much as if I used a machine gun. But what if I reduce the intensity of the beam—say to the
brightness of a flashlight? If you have an absolute right to control your land, then the intensity of the laser beam
should not matter. Nobody has a right to use your property without your permission, so it is up to you to decide
whether you will or will not put up with any particular invasion.

So far many will find the argument convincing. The next step is to observe that whenever I turn on a light in my house,
or even strike a match, the result is to violate the property rights of my neighbors. Anyone who can see the light from
his own property, whether with the naked eye or a powerful telescope, demonstrates by doing so that at least some of
the photons I produced have trespassed onto his property. If everyone has an absolute right to the protection of his own
property then anyone within line of sight of me can enjoin me from doing anything at all which produces light. Under
those circumstances, my 'ownership' of my property is not worth very much.

Basically, things that are passing through you or your property that do not affect you or your property are no concern of yours and cannot fall within your property rights. The key issue here is that emborderment does not always correspond to Euclidean physical space. The real question is "where are the borders?" What are the boundaries? Where are the "property lines"? It turns out that - for the vast majority of things - we can say "right here" and point to a real physical location. But for other things, we cannot point to any place. This shouldn't be too surprising as even rental agreements, for example, entitle one to property in time, that is, for a duration. Hence, the property lines not only extend in space but also in time. The idea of homesteading radio frequencies is that property lines may also be extended into electromagnetic frequencies.

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@gotlucky,

Imagine that you have a dispute with someone who is also a libertarian today. He agrees to settle the dispute peacefully with you.

Also, note that the dispute is not over the facts, but over definitions. For example, he found a phone you recently lost. He claims that by losing it, you stopped owning it. You claim you still own it. (I don't really care about the details of the case. This is just an example.)

So, what might happen? Again, I am talking about today, planet Earth, Feb. 4, 2013 CE.

1. You guys can let the government decide. But, that's basically the same as agreeing to use the violence or let some third part apply violence. Unless you guys believe that the government knows what the answer a priori is (hopefully you don't).

2. You guys can put together some sort of court. Maybe consisting of Stephan Kinsella, Walter Block, and Roderick Long. But, the question is: how do they know what the answer is?

3. You can try to re-create the world that David Friedman is imagining and let different companies bid for different legal strategies, etc. (Somewhat unrealistic in the short run.)

4. You can sit down and try to reason as to whom the phone belongs to really, a priori. (Note that the other guy is willing to agree to any of these solutions. He is also willing to reason with you, but you need to be able to use logic to convince him.) You might use natural rights, religious morality, argumentative ethics, or whatever else.

Another question is: how do you know whom the phone belongs to? Maybe he is right? Again, you can decide that you don't really know and leave it up to Kinsella et al.'s decision, but how do they know?

 

My point in this thought experiment is that when we think about the world as it is today and decide whether something is ours or not, whether we would be stealing if we did X (e.g., kept to ourselves a found item, or did not pay the parking meter), whether a certain guy or an organization is an immoral thug or not, we are using some concepts of what is moral or legal a priori, and we are using some definitions for property which we must justify to ourselves.

Unless you think purely in terms of your interests (subjective morality; i.e., what's good for you is good by definition). In that case:

5. You will try to negotiate between using violence and coming to an agreement, depending on each other's unique strengths and goals. (Something similar to what David Friedman describes here.) Each of you will weigh your desire to keep the phone and your risk of losing a physical fight (plus whatever long-term personal goals you may have in terms of how other people see you or how your character develops) and those of the other.

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Clayton,

Yeah, that makes sense, thanks.

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gotlucky replied on Tue, Feb 12 2013 11:28 PM

FlyingAxe:

1. You guys can let the government decide. But, that's basically the same as agreeing to use the violence or let some third part apply violence. Unless you guys believe that the government knows what the answer a priori is (hopefully you don't).

This is not the same as agreeing to use violence or let some third party apply violence. The point of going to a court of law is to avoid using violence as a means to resolve disputes. Certainly violence could be a part of the resolution, but that's true of any system of law. If you agree to use government courts, then you are agreeing to use that particular system of law. If it is being settled in civil court, then it just means that you both are agreeing to use a government judge or possibly use a jury of people that are not experts in resolving disputes hear your case.

FlyingAxe:

2. You guys can put together some sort of court. Maybe consisting of Stephan Kinsella, Walter Block, and Roderick Long. But, the question is: how do they know what the answer is?

This isn't actually all that different from the above, with the main (and important) exception being that you know the judges aren't idiots and really do want to reach a fair conclusion. Ultimately, however, two of these people are not experts in dispute resolution and even Kinsella doesn't have practice in a decentralized setting. He knows the current system very well, so that certainly puts him ahead of the curve because he at least has (hopefully relevant) experience in resolving disputes, though I don't know how extensive it is (his law website says he has trial experience).

FlyingAxe:

3. You can try to re-create the world that David Friedman is imagining and let different companies bid for different legal strategies, etc. (Somewhat unrealistic in the short run.)

This also isn't very different from the above scenarios. We just choose which court we want to go to? We're going to do that anyway.

FlyingAxe:

4. You can sit down and try to reason as to whom the phone belongs to really, a priori. (Note that the other guy is willing to agree to any of these solutions. He is also willing to reason with you, but you need to be able to use logic to convince him.) You might use natural rights, religious morality, argumentative ethics, or whatever else.

This is just us arguing between each other without seeking a mediator.

FlyingAxe:

Another question is: how do you know whom the phone belongs to? Maybe he is right? Again, you can decide that you don't really know and leave it up to Kinsella et al.'s decision, but how do they know?

Here's the main flaw with your scenario: all ownership requires claims. Basically, the scenario is this:

I claim to own a phone, and you respect that claim. I lose my phone, and you find it. I claim that it is still my phone, and you claim that I stopped claiming ownership over it when I lost it. Clearly I am still claiming ownership. You can choose to not respect my claims, but your argument against my claim of ownership over the phone is fundamentally flawed because you are claiming a fact that is clearly false. If you recognized the phone as mine before I lost it, then you must recognize my claim after it is recovered, unless you are okay with being inconsistent. But since you are stating that you will be logically consistent, then you recognize my claim over my phone.

FlyingAxe:

My point in this thought experiment is that when we think about the world as it is today and decide whether something is ours or not, whether we would be stealing if we did X (e.g., kept to ourselves a found item, or did not pay the parking meter), whether a certain guy or an organization is an immoral thug or not, we are using some concepts of what is moral or legal a priori, and we are using some definitions for property which we must justify to ourselves.

There is a difference between morality and law. Maybe it is moral for you to not pay the parking meter, but it is illegal for you to not pay it at certain times. Maybe it is immoral to not pay the meter, but it is illegal either way.

FlyingAxe:

Unless you think purely in terms of your interests (subjective morality; i.e., what's good for you is good by definition). In that case:

5. You will try to negotiate between using violence and coming to an agreement, depending on each other's unique strengths and goals. (Something similar to what David Friedman describes here.) Each of you will weigh your desire to keep the phone and your risk of losing a physical fight (plus whatever long-term personal goals you may have in terms of how other people see you or how your character develops) and those of the other.

The whole point of posturing and arguing is to avoid violence. I'm not really sure of what you are getting at here.

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 3:07 PM

gotlucky:

FlyingAxe:

1. You guys can let the government decide. But, that's basically the same as agreeing to use the violence or let some third part apply violence. Unless you guys believe that the government knows what the answer a priori is (hopefully you don't).

This is not the same as agreeing to use violence or let some third party apply violence. The point of going to a court of law is to avoid using violence as a means to resolve disputes. Certainly violence could be a part of the resolution, but that's true of any system of law. If you agree to use government courts, then you are agreeing to use that particular system of law. If it is being settled in civil court, then it just means that you both are agreeing to use a government judge or possibly use a jury of people that are not experts in resolving disputes hear your case.

When you go to the government's court, violence is not only a potential part of resolution/enforcement of decision, but also of the decision-making itself. I.e., how does the government know what the right answer in this situation is (whom the phone belongs to)? It knows because 51% voted for it. It knows because if you disagree, it will apply violence to you.

My point is that there should be a good reason for using a certain method for conflict resolution. There needs to be a reason for both parties to agree to. What is that reason in case of the government?

FlyingAxe:

2. You guys can put together some sort of court. Maybe consisting of Stephan Kinsella, Walter Block, and Roderick Long. But, the question is: how do they know what the answer is?

This isn't actually all that different from the above, with the main (and important) exception being that you know the judges aren't idiots and really do want to reach a fair conclusion. Ultimately, however, two of these people are not experts in dispute resolution and even Kinsella doesn't have practice in a decentralized setting. He knows the current system very well, so that certainly puts him ahead of the curve because he at least has (hopefully relevant) experience in resolving disputes, though I don't know how extensive it is (his law website says he has trial experience).

What does "fair conclusion" mean? Fair according to which principles? According to you, there is no a priori law, there is no way to know a priori what the right answer is, just by markets "figuring it out" through pitching different legal schemes (it's also not clear where they would get the schemes from).

 
FlyingAxe:

Another question is: how do you know whom the phone belongs to? Maybe he is right? Again, you can decide that you don't really know and leave it up to Kinsella et al.'s decision, but how do they know?

Here's the main flaw with your scenario: all ownership requires claims. Basically, the scenario is this:

I claim to own a phone, and you respect that claim. I lose my phone, and you find it. I claim that it is still my phone, and you claim that I stopped claiming ownership over it when I lost it.

No. The only reason why I respect your claim is that I think the item belongs to you. I don't respect your claim to moon or to my wallet. Or to a book you've written because I don't believe a priori that information is property. If you sold me an item, I no longer respect your claim to it, even if you continue making it (for instance, if you're a Gringotts goblin).

Now, when you lost your phone and I found it, the reason for me to respect your claim is not that you continue making it, but because I continue believing that the phone belongs to you.

But how do I know whether it belongs to you or not? My general point is that to answer this question we need to have some kind of a priori reasoning. The answer cannot be: "let' see what the markets decide in the future". My decision to return the phone to you or not is not in the future, but today.

(One reason why I may no longer respect your claim to the lost phone is because I may argue that you abandoned it when you lost it. I.e., you were making a claim on the phone which I respected. Then you lost the phone. After you lost it and discovered the loss, you gave up on owning it -- imagine that I can assume that because the phone got lost a long time ago, or because it fell into a sea to be washed out and discovered by me later. Because you abandoned it, you stopped claiming it as yours. Which gave me a legitimate reason to keep it once I found it. When you discovered that I found it, you renewed your claim on it, but I no longer have a reason to respect it, because I believe that my claim supersedes yours.

I am not saying I agree with this logic. I am giving an example of a kind of logic leading me to consider the phone no longer yours.)

 
FlyingAxe:

My point in this thought experiment is that when we think about the world as it is today and decide whether something is ours or not, whether we would be stealing if we did X (e.g., kept to ourselves a found item, or did not pay the parking meter), whether a certain guy or an organization is an immoral thug or not, we are using some concepts of what is moral or legal a priori, and we are using some definitions for property which we must justify to ourselves.

 There is a difference between morality and law. Maybe it is moral for you to not pay the parking meter, but it is illegal for you to not pay it at certain times. Maybe it is immoral to not pay the meter, but it is illegal either way.

What I care about is whether it's fair for me not to pay the meter. (I don't care about your answer as much as how you arrive to it.) Whether I am comitting injustice by not paying it.

I am not sure what you call by law. If it's whatever the government said, why should I respect that? If it's something else, then how do I know what that is if not through a priori reasoning? (I mean today, not in the an-cap future.)

Have you read Roderick Long's essay on Lysander Spooner? Do you believe that the government's law must correspond to some meta-concept? Is that concept morality in your opinion? Or some consequentialist principle?

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gotlucky replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 3:53 PM

FlyingAxe:

 

When you go to the government's court, violence is not only a potential part of resolution/enforcement of decision, but also of the decision-making itself. I.e., how does the government know what the right answer in this situation is (whom the phone belongs to)? It knows because 51% voted for it. It knows because if you disagree, it will apply violence to you.

My point is that there should be a good reason for using a certain method for conflict resolution. There needs to be a reason for both parties to agree to. What is that reason in case of the government?

The whole point of law is to resolve disputes through argumentation instead of open conflict, but everyone knows that if argumentation fails, open conflict is a very real possibility. There is no necessary reason why a dispute can't have a resolution in which is there is violence (beatings, executions, etc.).

Good reason for whom? Answer that, and you can easily see why the government looks out for itself and not the disputants.

FlyingAxe:

What does "fair conclusion" mean? Fair according to which principles? According to you, there is no a priori law, there is no way to know a priori what the right answer is, just by markets "figuring it out" through pitching different legal schemes (it's also not clear where they would get the schemes from).

Fair as in just. I never said those three could reach a fair conclusion. I only said that we know that they are not idiots and want to reach a fair conclusion.

FlyingAxe:

No. The only reason why I respect your claim is that I think the item belongs to you. I don't respect your claim to moon or to my wallet. Or to a book you've written because I don't believe a priori information is property. Now, when you lost your phone and I found it, the reason for me to respect your claim is not that you continue making it, but because I continue believing that the phone belongs to you.

You are misunderstanding what I wrote. In this particular scenario, I claim to own the phone, and you respect that claim. This does not mean that you respect just any claim that I make, only that in this scenario you are respecting that particular claim. What you said was this:

FlyingAxe:

 Imagine that you have a dispute with someone who is also a libertarian today. He agrees to settle the dispute peacefully with you.

Also, note that the dispute is not over the facts, but over definitions. For example, he found a phone you recently lost. He claims that by losing it, you stopped owning it. You claim you still own it. (I don't really care about the details of the case. This is just an example.)

So if you say that by losing it I stopped owning it, what you are actually saying is that you don't respect my claim over it anymore. Since he is a libertarian, we know that he believes that possession is not equivalent to ownership. That is, you don't have to currently be in possession of something in order to own it. So what we are left to conclude is that you are claiming that I abandoned the phone when I lost it, therefore you were then free to claim it as your own.

I am making the point that I never actually abandoned it, as I always maintained my claim. So if you recognized my claim beforehand, you would be inconsistent to not recognize my claim later. And you also said:

FlyingAxe:

(Note that the other guy is willing to agree to any of these solutions. He is also willing to reason with you, but you need to be able to use logic to convince him.)

So, if logic is all that is required, it's a simple case. You are being inconsistent if you recognize my claim beforehand but not later, as I never abandoned the phone.

FlyingAxe:

But how do I know whether it belongs to you or not? My general point is that to answer this question we need to have some kind of a priori reasoning. The answer cannot be: "let' see what the markets decide in the future". My decision to return the phone to you or not is not in the future, but today.

My answer is not to let the markets decide in the future. A priori reasoning will not tell you who it belongs to, because homesteading must always be informed by norms. It will help in general, but it won't help with the specifics, which I imagine you are interested in.

FlyingAxe:

What I care about is whether it's fair for me not to pay the meter. (I don't care about your answer as much as how you arrive to it.) Whether I am comitting injustice by not paying it.

That's for you to decide for yourself. It's a government owned parking space, so if you think the government cannot justly own property, then it's unjust property. So maybe you have a greater right to that spot than the government. But you will be fined by the government if they catch you, so I would recommend paying the meter.

FlyingAxe:

I am not sure what you call by law. If it's whatever the government said, why should I respect that? If it's something else, then how do I know what that is if not through a priori reasoning? (I mean today, not in the an-cap future.)

Well I generally refer to law as a process, but I might refer to law as rules (but usually only because that's what other people generally mean). The government is based on might makes right. It's no different from thugs, organized or not. As far as I'm concerned, if the government can truly make laws, then those laws are almost always if not always unjust by virtue of the fact that the government can't know what justice is. Some governments might be better or closer to what justice actually is, but none can ever know for sure.

So why should you respect what the government says? As Bastiat said, "When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law." You are the only one who can ever truly know your own morality. You can't know what the law ought to be from a priori reasoning anymore than you can know what the correct price of apples ought to be. You can have your own opinions based on your own values as to what the price of apples should be, but prices aren't there for just you. Like prices, law is not there for just you. In fact, if it were just you, there would be no need for prices or law.

FlyingAxe:

Have you read Roderick Long's essay on Lysander Spooner? Do you believe that the government's law must correspond to some meta-concept? Is that concept morality in your opinion? Or some consequentialist principle?

I have not. Do you have a link? But as far as your questions go, as long as we have government law, of course I want its law to coincide with what I believe, which is necessarily informed by my morality. Just by virtue of the fact that I'm a human means that I want any law to coincide with my own beliefs. But so does everyone else. So the question isn't "whose belief do we go with" but "what system do we go with?"

My answer to that is: "Decentralize!"

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 7:11 PM

This is the essay I was referring to. I will answer your comment later, time permitting.

praxeology.net/Spooner-Krakow.doc

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 7:33 PM

Fair is just.

And what is just? Presumably, giving to someone what is his due. And what is his due? Well, whatever he owns (not controls, but possesses and ought to control). But what one owns depends on one's view of the law.

I feel like you get bogged down in my examples, but you don't see the reason I brought them. My point is that we have to have an a priori understanding of what fair/just/due/property is in order to decide how to resolve the conflicts today. (We can also use the government, but that it's resorting to violence.)

I agree with you that a priori law may not give all the details. Local customs may matter. For instance, if I collide into a car head-on, and I was driving on the left side of the road, in the US I am clearly at fault (not from the government's point of view, but from fairness/justness point of view), but in the UK not necessarily. But we must decide a priori that if I was driving on the "wrong" side of the street (that on which people customarily do not drive), I am at fault.

I think the same must be true about a priori economic reasoning: we can't predict what will happen to the economy without knowing all the details. A priori reasoning will only provide the general principles.

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 7:40 PM

By the way, going back to the original question of radiowave frequency homesteading, I talked about this with a friend, and he asked me: why, when someone homesteads the land, he doesn't homestead it for all possible uses in the future?

I also think that people are simplifying conflict in this case. A conflict is disagreement of people over uses of some resource. The resource in question here is space of my farm (the farm I have homesteaded previously by plowing some earth). I should be able to determine what happens to it just 'cause I want to.

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gotlucky replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 7:42 PM

gotlucky:

So why should you respect what the government says? As Bastiat said, "When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law." You are the only one who can ever truly know your own morality. You can't know what the law ought to be from a priori reasoning anymore than you can know what the correct price of apples ought to be. You can have your own opinions based on your own values as to what the price of apples should be, but prices aren't there for just you. Like prices, law is not there for just you. In fact, if it were just you, there would be no need for prices or law.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 8:18 PM

And what is just?

I'm not certain, but I think the etymology of the word "just" lies in justification (explanation) - what is just is what can be explained. So, if you can explain your reasons for doing X, and those reasons are morally compelling, then you have acted justly (justifiably). Someone once found this explanation I gave useful:

- Scenario 1: Alice hits Bob over the head. Bob sues Alice. In arbitration, Bob asks, “Why did you hit me over the head?” Alice says, “I felt like it.” The arbitrator points out that this is not a justification, it’s just a statement of sentiment. To justify something, you need to give some kind of compelling reason why you acted as you did, a reason that is either (a) accepted by the injured party to be a justification, or (b) is so well recognized to be a proper justification that for the injured party to refuse to accept it is no different than simply walking away from arbitration completely. Helping the parties to understand what is a “well recognized justification” is part of the arbitrator’s specialization. A competent arbitrator’s opinion on such matters is of the nature that, if the parties sought arbitration elsewhere, they would not obtain a different outcome.

- Scenario 2: Bob steals Alice’s TV. In the course of taking her TV back from Bob, she hits Bob over the head as he makes one last swipe at the TV. Bob sues Alice. “Why did you hit me over the head?” Alice says, “Because you were interfering with my recovery of the property you stole from me.” The arbitrator points out that the use of limited force in the recovery of property is well recognized as justifiable if it is defensive and solely used to fend off the thief’s physical resistance or obstruction of the recovery process. Unless Bob can think of some objection to this, he’s stuck. He has no other arguments as to why Alice’s use of force was unjustified and, thus, why she must pay him restitution. Her actions stand justified in the eyes of the law, assuming the arbitrator is competent and they would not get a different outcome if they went to another competent arbitrator.

- Scenario 3: Bob and Alice agree to fight. Alice hits Bob over the head. Bob sues Alice. Bob asks “Why did you hit me over the head?” Alice says, “Because that’s what a fight is, you idiot.” The arbitrator asks Bob whether he did, in fact, agree to fight Alice. When Bob confirms this, the arbitrator points out that whatever happens during the fight is an extra-legal matter that cannot be decided at law. The fact that Alice and Bob agreed to fight indicates that they had relinquished from the outset the other party’s liability for their actions to at least some degree. The problem is that the law cannot judge such private arrangements of suspended liability. From the point of view of law, liability can only be ascertained according to the standards of the law.

- Scenario 4: Bob and Alice agree to fight. The rules are – no hitting on the head. A performance bond is made out to this effect. Alice hits Bob over the head. Bob sues Alice when she refuses to honor the performance bond. The arbitrator asks Alice whether she admits to hitting Bob over the head. When she admits to it, he then asks her what justification she has for not honoring the performance bond. When she says “I didn’t feel like it”, the arbitrator points out – as in Scenario 1 – that she must have a justification or Bob’s suit claim will stand. In the eyes of the law, Bob is in the position of the victim of a theft because Alice has his property.

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 9:11 PM

How does one know what is justifiable or morally compelling? Here is an excerpt of something I read elsewhere:

 

Why should someone get the right to control his money over a person who needs that money to survive? Note that I don't care about the government here. I mean what is fair and moral: if someone takes someone else's money by force because he needs it for medicine, should we let him keep it? Should he not have a moral problem himself stealing it, since he needs it more? I.e., why should we assign primacy of will based on homesteading rather urgency of use (determined in whatever way, possibly by a third party) or some societal purpose?
 
Some people may argue that this is a rather arbitrary way of determining the primacy of use. Who gets to be the judge? I am not convinced this is a good argument. First of all, a person may ask someone who he thinks is impartial to judge what is more urgent: e.g., to send one's kids to a university or to pay off mortgage. Second, we will need to use third-party expertise to judge the evidence over first-come use (homesteading) as well. I need to have some evidence as to whether I used something first.
 
Admittedly, such evidence can be much clearer than arbitrary judgement of urgency. So, perhaps this is the answer: dividing property up based on who took possession first is less arbitrary than dividing property up based on urgency of use. After all, how do you determine what's more important: to send kids to a university or to pay off mortgage?
 
But a bleeding-heart liberal (or libertarian) may argue that in all such dubious cases, rely on homesteading, but in the clear case of life-and-death (or health) vs. luxury, give precedence to that which maintains life...
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gotlucky replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 9:14 PM

Really? You have no opinions about someone's behavior when they try to justify their actions to you? If your wife cheated on you and tried to explain, you wouldn't know if it was justifiable or morally compelling one way or the other?

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FlyingAxe replied on Sun, Feb 17 2013 9:18 PM

So, what are the rules that you use? Intuition?

If I was giving money as charity either someone trying to survive or someone trying to go to college, I'd give it to someone trying to survive. So, trying to survive is a good compelling reason for a thief to steal money that is luxury to someone else. Why not? (Saying because it's the other person's property would be begging the question. We are trying to assign property based on moral principles and justice here.)

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