2010-09-29

Kinsella Falls Short on Anti-IP

Over at the Ludwig von Mises Institute blog, Stephen Kinsella writes:
And once we see that this third category does not exist, we see that the creationist case for IP evaporates.

However, Kinsella's own case against IP appears to evaporate as soon as we call into question his insistence that people do not own their own labor. Here, I do just that. Kinsella says:

This is manifest in the argument that one homesteads unowned property with which one mixes one’s labor because one “owns” one’s labor. However, as Palmer correctly points out, “occupancy, not labor, is the act by which external things become property.”
However, I counter that it is impossible to "occupy" an acorn or an apple. How might one occupy an apple? There is a deliberate reason Locke noted that labor was necessary to take possession of the apple in the first place.

Furthermore, the word "occupy" itself means "to take possession of," so Kinsella is essentially arguing a tautology, i.e. that possession is the fundamental requirement for possession. Well, of course it is!

The idea that one cannot own one's actions is completely untenable. Someone employed in a service industry (law) ought to know this full well. When hiring Kinsella's services, one is purchasing an action - it is by definition an agreement for Kinsella to act on behalf of the purchaser. Suggesting that nothing owned is exchanged in this transaction is, again, untenable. The mere fact that economics under the Misesian framework is founded upon human action - that action is the fundamental atom of economics itself virtually demands that actions are property.

If actions are not property in the above respect, then I suggest we clearly define what property is. I can guess, however, that Kinsella's definition of property will be such as to exclude action, and mine will be such as to include it.

The debate continues... However, I don't think Kinsella has punched a hole in IP with this line of reasoning, simply because he have not yet dealt with the fact that action is ownable. He will first need to establish once and for all that it is not in order for the above argument to work.