Property is theft, competition is theft too…

Kevin Carson discusses why, not only property is theft, but competition is theft too.

Consider local zoning and “safety” laws that require a seller of baked goods to rent expensive commercial property instead of operating out of their home, and to use standard industrial-sized ovens and dishwashers instead of the spare capacity of their regular household appliances. The only way to amortize that cost is by operating on a scale that requires several employees, lots of hours of paperwork, extensive remodelling to meet local code and ADA requirements, and so forth.

From the consumer standpoint, a major part of the price of the baked goods you buy is the embedded cost of that expensive rent, the cost of servicing the loans, and other overhead. And from the producer standpoint, all possibilities of starting out small with minimal capital outlays and overhead, and expanding incrementally with minimal risk, are foreclosed.

In every case, the effect is to require more hours of labor, more capital expenditures, and more overhead to be serviced, than a given unit of output would require for purely technical reasons.

Merry Christmas everyone. See you next year, when I will begin a series attacking both pro-choice and anti-abortion positions, which should be of great interest.

7 thoughts on “Property is theft, competition is theft too…

  1. Anthony December 24, 2011 at 01:10

    thx for this article!

  2. Gomi December 27, 2011 at 12:57

    Excellent article, making excellent points.

    However, as an intellectual creator (I’m both a software developer and a fiction writer), pretty much everything I produce is an intangible idea. While I fully agree that the current glut of copyright and patent laws are almost entirely about raising the threshold of entry, I disagree with the blanket and without exception condemnation of such things from Kevin Carson.

    My labor, the hours I spend producing code or prose, is as worthy as the labor of someone who produces tangible products like bread or shoes. Just as there should be some kind of rule that people can’t simply take the baker’s bread without permission, there should be rules that people can’t simply take my intangible code or stories without permission.

    Yes, intangibles can be copied without taking something away, but, in doing so, you end up creating an institutional bias in favor of tangible producers.

    The worker’s right to their labor, while trampled on under capitalism, would also be trampled on by any system which neglects at least some balance of protections between those who produce the tangible and the intangible.

    Personally, I far prefer limited intellectual property rights, based on individual systems like Creative Commons or the GNU license family. Temporally limited rights for the creator alone.

      • Gomi December 27, 2011 at 21:31

        I strongly agree with your argument that the issue belongs to the creator, rather than the holder of some legal fiction, which is what I meant by “rights for the creator alone.” Much like the person who makes the bread or shoe deserving the credit, the person who write the code or the prose deserves the credit, rather than a legal entity external to the creators. I believe in direct individual value for labor.

        However, I at least somewhat disagree with your idea of percentage of labor, because I think it still biases for physical production, with fixed very low percentages of physical income for intellectual contribution. A publisher without content is nothing, like a manufacturer without a process. Maybe I haven’t seen it elsewhere, but do you also say that the labor of miners or harvesters to create the raw materials should only be worth 0.1% to 1% of the final value?

        • Francois Tremblay December 28, 2011 at 01:02

          What? No. The percentage mechanism only applies to intellectual work.

          • Gomi December 28, 2011 at 07:45

            Then why?

            Let’s take book publishers. In simple terms, they need three things: raw paper stock, printing machines and written content. Why does the content alone merit a mere 1%, while the others are worth more? Why create a bias for the physical goods and against the intangible?

            This is my point about a lot of arguments against intellectual property, like Carson’s and your’s: It constructs a system where physical material and production is granted greater standing, either in rights or predetermined value. I would argue that intellectual and creative creation is worth no less than physical creation. Not more, but certainly no less.

            The current standing of intellectual property law is, like most state constructs, biased against “the little guy.” It’s a barrier to innovation and a disincentive to individual creation. But, at the same time, it seems most of the arguments against IP are just as punishing towards individual creation.

            • Francois Tremblay December 28, 2011 at 15:15

              The percentages are just examples. I actually think that in the case of writing a book the percentage should be a lot higher. Either way, it should reflect the relative importance of the intellectual element to the production process. If 5%, or 10%, or 20% is the real percentage, then it should be 5%, 10% or 20%. The actual percentage doesn’t matter for my theory.

              If you disagree with my theory on the basis of the percentages, then you don’t really disagree with the structure I’m proposing, just on a detail. Simply change them in your head to something you think is more realistic. Maybe this is not clear enough in my entry, and I will add a phrase to make it clearer.

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