The Intellectual Propertarian/Environmentalist Analogy
By Bryan Caplan
Stephen Kinsella offers an analogy to offend two disjoint movements in one swoop:
I would love to see libertarian IP advocates have to live in a world
that truly implemented their IP views fully, consistently–it would be
like a communist USSR stripped of its power to ape Western price structures,
to ameliorate the effects of communism. They would either die out, as
the material world was strangled by an impossible nettle of ghostly
IP-rights tendrils, or they would cry uncle. Even today, one imagines
the cognitive dissonance of Objectivists living in our digital
age–cutting and pasting, linking, learning and reworking ideas of
others–all the while maintaining that all the things they themselves
cannot but help engage in are “immoral” or some such tedious nonsense.
I think of modern do-gooder environmentalists–they must feel pangs of
guilt while flying on a jumbo jet to a friend’s wedding 2000 miles
away, or to attend UN conference or job posting on another continent.
They must wring their hangs in agonized guilt and indecision about
whether to use styrofoam, paper, or a washable coffee cup. They must
feel tremendous guilt whenever they discard a scrap of soiled napkin
instead of recycling it. Environmentalist parents must feel terrible
pangs of guilt at using disposable diapers (or they suffer by using
cloth ones: either way, I am pleased by the thought of their
discomfort). Likewise, when an Objectivist emails a vandalized picture
of an apostate like Alan Greenspan to a friend they must be
conflicted–wait, no, there’s a fair use exception!
The growing literature that Kinsella cites looks too large for me to delve into, so I’m hoping that someone who’s done his homework can give me a quick bottom line. I’ve long thought that libertarians could simply repackage copyright as a restrictive covenant – an agreement not to copy a work or resell without imposing the same condition. Does anyone dispute this on libertarian grounds, and if so, why?