If you look at my previous post, you’ll notice that I’ve written a few essays talking about things I’m against and discussing views I disagree with, but not as many essays that describe what I am for, or that present views I agree with. This post is an attempt to rectify this, and to explain to all and sundry just what it is that I want when it comes to IP, my favorite topic.
First off, I am in favor of self-ownership. I own me, you own you, that person over there owns herself, those guys back that way all each own themselves, and so on. I am in favor of this because I believe that the person best equipped to know and do what is best for me is me, and the person most able to control, manage, and protect me is me, and also, because I don’t know what’s best for other people and I’m not in any position to manage and protect people besides myself. Thus, I oppose drug laws and other measures that restrict people’s freedom to do what they want to themselves, and I oppose slavery and any other relationship that compels people to work for the benefit of others before themselves.
As a consequence of self-ownership, I am in favor of property rights. Some level of property right is both necessary and inevitable, because it’s hard for two people to sit in one chair at the same time so it makes sense to say that the chair belongs to just one person. But beyond the baseline imposed by self-ownership and basic physics, there’s a level of property right that’s convenient for everyone. We like having our own space and our own stuff, and it’s nice to not have to constantly guard our stuff to make sure no one else takes it. The good news is that this kind of stable ownership is possible. We know this, because we have experienced it. It is a gift we all give to each other, and it is good; the benefits really do outweigh the costs.
As the above paragraph implies, I am in favor of cooperation and society. We are social creatures, and though we can often survive on our own, we are stronger when we work together. We create communities for our mutual benefit, and we benefit indeed from their existence.
But as an important qualifier to the last statement, I am in favor of voluntary association. I insist on my right to choose who I cooperate with, and I fully grant this right to all others. I would not force anyone to join any organization that I’m a part of, whether it be my church, my neighborhood home owners’ association, or my local militia (note: at the time I write this, I am not currently a member of any militia, but I’m open to offers of membership).
Finally, and most relevantly to the current topic, I am in favor of the free exchange of information. Free communication is either a natural consequence of or a helpful support to the above things I favor. Self-ownership means that I own my eyes and ears and brain and mouth, so I can take in whatever information I see and hear and then tell it to someone else, or I can come up with my own information to tell people. Property rights means that I can own a pen or paper, or a camera, or a computer, and I can use all these to enhance my ability to receive, record, transmit, edit, and synthesize information. This ability to give and receive information allows us to communicate, which helps us discover truths we were unaware of. This kind of communication is what makes cooperation possible in the first place. The better we get at communicating, the better we are at cooperating, and the more we benefit from society. This communication also helps us determine who to cooperate with. By finding and sharing truth, we can figure out who’s a friend and who isn’t, and we can then properly choose who to associate with. This free communication also bolsters and clarifies property rights. We can discuss with each other to see who gets what, and to determine if an owner is taking more than they deserve, or if they’re being robbed and need our help, and so on.
With that said, I can speak more clearly about what I am against.
I am against monopoly and lock-in. I oppose any measure to reduce people’s right of voluntary association. Measures that force people to cooperate, whether they be legal or technical, are immoral and dangerous, and we should work to weaken, circumvent, and break such measures.
I am against deception and censorship. The highest purpose of communication is to discover the truth (though it has other fine purposes, too). Deception and censorship both wreck this process.
I am against complication. We should make our rules and our relations as simple as we can, then no simpler. We all have a human tendency to accidentally complicate things, and many of us have a nasty tendency to deliberately complicate things. We must push back against both of these tendencies.
And that’s what I’m for and what I’m against. A final note: None of these are unbreakable rules. They all have exceptions. But I believe that these are all excellent general rules, and I use them to guide my opinions and actions.