Wednesday, August 13, 2003

In addition to Sic Itur Ad Astra by Andrew Galambos (vol.I--and I suspect the only volume which will be issued), may I suggest some additional summer reading? A brilliant thinker who lived a century before Galambos developed a theory of intellectual property which, in many ways, was quite similar to his. He worked out many of the "chinks" in the armour of property in ideas and suggested strategies for protection of intellectual property. He remains known mostly for his abolitionist writings and his battle against the Post Office, but within libertarian circles he is known primarily for his connections with Benjamin Tucker's periodical, Liberty (part of which is now available online and here is the complete index to Liberty compiled by Wendy McElroy) and for his authorship of a highly regarded series of essays questioning the validity of the American Constitution (and much of constitutional theory): No Treason. No. I (1867). No Treason. No. II, The Constitution (1867). and No Treason. No. VI, The Constitution of No Authority (1870).

Randy Barnett has taken onto himself the task of publishing all of Lysander Spooner's works online and has all of his remaining books, essays and (I think) letters on his website. [One note: Many of Spooner's writings were destroyed in a fire in the early 1900's and have been forever lost.] Spooner was a proponent of intellectual property and wrote a book developing the theoretical foundations, applications and methods of protecting intellectual property: The Law of Intellectual Property (1855). What I have found most important is that this work outlines the basis of property in general, not just intellectual property, in a sophisticated manner reminiscent of the Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid , and his "common sense philosophy" school and the great natural law libertarian thinker, Thomas Hodgskin (see, e.g., Nature and Artifice: The Life and Thought of Thomas Hodgskin by David Stack (Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1998).

Spooner's shorter essay, A Letter to Scientists and Inventors, on the Science of Justice, and Their Right of Perpetual Property in Their Disclosures and Inventions (1884). covers much the same ground as the larger work and you might want to read this first.

A caveat: Spooner's works are mostly legal briefs and not essays on his intellectual history. The notations in his writings are legal references common to legal papers and do not, unfortunately, denote where he got his ideas on intellectual property. As such, I do not know for certain whether Spooner considered himself within the common sense school of philosophy or whether he read Thomas Hodgskin. I suspect that he did, but am not sure. Mark Rose's Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993) is a good place to start if you are interested in reading up on the history of intellectual property.

Dr. David Hart moved to work at the Liberty Fund and has been doing a lot of excellent work there. You can reach him at I have had contact with him recently and he is quite a good person to contact on libertarian history (a subject which he and I have in common).

There is a lot of good material on Hart's Classical Liberalism webpage which remains available and I highly recommend the discussions on the French liberal thinkers, Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer on property theory herein.

An additional thought: Spencer Heath MacCallum pointed out an interesting thought to me once. Spencer has done extensive research on the Indians of the Pacific Northwest and noted that they were strongly private-property oriented; they believed in ownership of land (unlike other indian tribes), physical and even intellectual property. When many of the tribes were dying out, the last of the Indians refused to tell the stories of their tribes because they respected the beliefs of the other members of the tribes, which included nondisclosure of those stories to non-members of the tribes. Many stories of the tribes were never told to others and lost forever.

Was this good? Was it the right thing to do? To them it was. Their choice. Their right.
Just a thought.
Just Ken

This is on Francois-Rene Rideau's "Liberty, as it is" website. He now has the following there: To All Innocent Fifth Columnists, by Ayn Rand (1941), The Death of Politics by Karl Hess (1969), From Far Right To Far Left — And Farther — With Karl Hess by James Boyd (1970), The New Right Credo — Libertarianism by Stan Lehr and Louis Rossetto Jr. (1971). I'm pretty sure that he did not get the authorization to print any of these essays. ARI will probably be sending him a notice about the Rand essay to take it off as soon as they discover that it's online.

All of these are great classic essays on libertarianism--glad to see them available
Just a thought.
Just Ken


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