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The Ancap Rejection of Intellectual Property

    There is a weird form of primacy of consciousness behind the rejection of intellectual property - one I engaged in a lot during my early years as an Anarchist.

    The essence of private property is being the product of an individual's mind, made concrete through his actions, becoming an extension of him. The root of the right to private property is man's rational, volitional and selfish nature. In order to live, we need to choose our values, and act to acquire and keep them - property is merely the social sanction of the "keeping" part of that. Those who defend private property, yet oppose things like patents and copyrights - like Anarchocapitalists - usually think in one or two ways.

    The first one is thinking that intellectual property contradicts my right to my own labour, by prohibiting the taking of the necessary concrete steps needed to build something. It goes something like "my body is my own, so there is no moral justification for prohibiting that I take the necessary, physical steps to build someone's idea". This is a less interesting, gross misconceptualization of property as something inherently physical, and rooted in scarcity - we're not "free to defraud" or do many other things with our bodies and property.

    The second, most interesting argument against intellectual property, is one that acknowledges the mental, volitional origin of both value and property, yet believes that intellectual property presents a contradiction. The idea is essentially the following: "Property does indeed originate in the realm of ideas, but enforcing someone's control over a particular idea contradicts my right to arrive at it independently. What if, in the absence of Thomas Edison, I were able to invent the light bulb by myself? Wouldn't that potential entitle me to the fruits of that idea as well, if I choose to disregard his work and pursue the idea myself?".

    "What if" is the essential part of that thought, and where the primacy of consciousness lies. It is true, had there not been a Thomas Edison, maybe you or me would be able to create the light bulb, but A is A - there was a Thomas Edison, and he did invent it, not me or you. He was the one who brought that idea, which did not exist, into existence - the fact that we can imagine a different situation does not change that.

    It was not the physical movements of assembling a light bulb that created its value, but the idea, and the process of making it concrete. We do not have the right to someone's land "because we, too, have the potential to discover and work on that land". A is A - they have discovered and worked the land, and it is theirs. Because the essence of property is the creative nature of the individual, and not the scarcity of a good, the same principle applies to a book, or an engine.

  -  February 28th, 2020

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