Collective Ownership vs. Non-ownership: A Primer

by on November 28, 2008 · 15 comments

It’s sad that it even needs to be said, but Mike Masnick reminds us that if you’re writing about “Digital Socialism and the Tyranny of the Consumer” then you’re deeply, deeply confused. The “tyranny of the consumer” is the distinctive feature of free-market economies. And if we were going to label someone in the copyright debate “socialist,” it would be those who advocate government-granted monopolies in the reproduction of creative works, not those who want to repeal them. The author of this piece seems not to grasp the distinction between collectively-owned resources and unowned resources. Here’s a handy cheat sheet:

Collectively Owned Unowned
The US Post Office
The British National Health Service
American public schools
AIG
Amtrak
The Cuban economy

Air
Sunlight
The Bible
Tom Sawyer
War and Peace
The TCP/IP protocols

If you’re a supporter of the kinds of institutions we find in the first column, it might be reasonable to call you a “socialist.” If you support those in the second column, not so much.

  • http://mises.org/community/blogs/copyfascism/default.aspx Jayel Aheram

    God, yes. I have been accused of being a socialist regarding my views about intellectual property in the Flickr forums (Help and FlickrCentral).

    Of course, there are many in the copyfight that are indeed copyleftist. That is, they wrongly conclude that intellectual property is anything like real private property rights and so are against it by that very fact. And many libertarians instinctively come to the defense of IP because they also conclude that it is anything like private property.

    Copypriveleges and intellectual monopolies abridge private property rights.

    You are right. It is a government-granted monopoly. And when businesses collude with government in the enforcement of these monopolies to the detriment of people's rights, it is called fascism.

  • mwendy

    Jayel, all property is an illusion. No one owns anything. The systems that we have – those like copyright and patents – seek to balance this illusion to achieve socially desirable goals. Sure – they may get in the way of you expropriating ideas not discovered or risked by you – but isn't that the point?

    We determine that a very good way to generate the initial innovation is by granting “monopolies” on those ideas, which allow those who discovered them to have more assurance their risk will be rewarded. It brings creators to the table. Government plays an important role – it creates then enforces the right which enables a lot of creators to create to the benefit of mankind.

    We call IP a private property right because we can. Sure, it's a crummy system – until you look at all the others.

  • MikeRT

    USPS, NHS, American public schools and Amtrak…

    I've never seen a list that makes such a decent case against government running economic functions.

  • http://rawdawgb.blogspot.com rawdawgbuffalo

    im mtired of all this treasury shooting from the hips and the resulting shoulda, coulda, woulda

  • andyinsdca

    “Tragedy of the commons” anyone?

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