Many Libertarian Ayn Rand Fans - Are Forgetting Their Ayn Rand on Intellectual Property
Let’s Not Get Between an Inventor and the Universe - and Us
The world of politics - and political thought - is inhabited by many different subcultures.
There is a broad Left-Right divide right down the middle of PoliticsLand - and there are more than a few encampments that straddle this border.
Libertarianism is an…interesting such subculture. Planted firmly on the border - with plenty hanging over on both sides.
A libertarian is:
“An advocate of the doctrine of free will…a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action.”
Libertarians want as little government as possible - so as to maximize freedom of will and individual liberty. Sounds good to all of us less government types.
But then things get…strange.
A whole lot of Libertarians spend ten times as much time and effort attacking Conservatives for not being less government enough - than they do trying to stop Leftists from actively expanding government.
A whole lot of Libertarians get the most worked up about some of their most obscure and comparatively irrelevant issues. (Pot legalization? Seriously? You’re THAT angry - about pot legalization? I thought pot was supposed to mellow you out….)
And a whole lot of Libertarians occasionally get really wrapped around their own axles - championing issues that are actually wholly contradictory to their free will-individual liberty ethos.
To wit: A whole lot of Libertarians’ demand we allow nigh complete and unfettered theft of Intellectual Property (IP).
To help us point out this combination of terrible policy and titanic hypocrisy - we call as our first witness…Ayn Rand:
“Ayn Rand was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for…developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism….
“Rand's first major success as a writer came in 1943 with ‘The Fountainhead,’….The novel centers on an uncompromising young architect named Howard Roark and his struggle against what Rand described as ‘second-handers’ - those who attempt to live through others….”
Why do we call Rand? Because a whole lot of Libertarians - LOVE her:
“Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has been and continues to be a major influence on the libertarian movement, particularly in the United States. Many libertarians justify their political views using aspects of Objectivism.”
Libertarians manage to find Rand - in EVERYTHING:
“I got to see the fabulous new Pixar movie ‘Ratatouille’ earlier this week, and have to report that A.O. Scott’s strikingly effusive review is pretty much justified. But it also makes it even harder to credit director Brad Bird’s denials that he was influenced by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, something many reviewers inferred from his previous hit ‘The Incredibles.’”
Get that? This (anti-IP) Libertarian simply won’t accept the director’s own insistence that Rand’s ideology didn’t imbue his cartoon movie about a rat chef. In part because this (anti-IP) Libertarian and many of his cohorts - found Randism to have thoroughly imbued the director’s previous cartoon movie about a superhero family.
I looked for stories of Libertarians seeing Rand in flour tortillas - but the Internet did not yield.
Except - Rand was not a reciprocal fan of Libertarianism:
“I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called ‘hippies of the right,’ who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism.
“Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs.”
There were a whole lot of reasons Rand didn’t like Libertarianism. One of which was - she knew IP theft is abhorrent. And Leftist.
Rand saw IP theft as a real-life assault on heroic creators - by “second-handers.” Lesser people attempting to live through the greater skill and harder work of their betters. From Rand’s non-fiction tome “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”:
“Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man's right to the product of his mind.
“Every type of productive work involves a combination of mental and of physical effort: of thought and of physical action to translate that thought into a material form.
“The proportion of these two elements varies in different types of work. At the lowest end of the scale, the mental effort required to perform unskilled manual labor is minimal.
“At the other end, what the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind's contribution in its purest form the origination of an idea.
“The subject of patents and copyrights is intellectual property....Thus the law establishes the property right of a mind to that which it has brought in existence."
Rand’s “Fountainhead” hero Howard Roark repeatedly waxed poetic on the paramount import of a man maintaining possession of the productions of his mind.
The quotes that follow are from the very successful 1949 Gary Cooper-starring flick made from Rand’s tome - for which she wrote the script:
“Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. But the mind is an attribute of the individual, there is no such thing as a collective brain. The man who thinks must think and act on his own. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot not be subordinated to the needs, opinions, or wishes of others. It is not an object of sacrifice….
“The creator stands on his own judgment. The parasite follows the opinions of others. The creator thinks, the parasite copies. The creator produces, the parasite loots. The creator's concern is the conquest of nature - the parasite's concern is the conquest of men. The creator requires independence, he neither serves nor rules. He deals with men by free exchange and voluntary choice. The parasite seeks power, he wants to bind all men together in common action and common slavery….
“Look at history. Everything thing we have, every great achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind. Every horror and destruction came from attempts to force men into a herd of brainless, soulless robots. Without personal rights, without personal ambition, without will, hope, or dignity. It is an ancient conflict. It has another name: the individual against the collective….
“My ideas are my property. They were taken from me by force, by breach of contract. No appeal was left to me. It was believed that my work belonged to others, to do with as they pleased. They had a claim upon me without my consent. That is was my duty to serve them without choice or reward.”
All of which - is Rand demonstrating again and again (and AGAIN) the hard-Left nature of IP theft.
Libertarians correctly oppose parasites using the force of government to steal (via taxation and other actions) money from its creators.
Libertarians should even more vociferously oppose parasites using the force of government to steal ideas from their creators.
It is ideas - that inherently come first. IP theft - preempts everything else.
Before you can sell X - you must create X. And if society allows theft of creation - the creators will stop creating and bail on society.
As Rand chronicled in her novel “Atlas Shrugged”:
“Galt's Gulch…in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged was the secluded community…composed entirely of participants in the great strike of the men of the mind called by John Galt….
“Galt went to work in 2004 as a design engineer at the Twentieth Century Motor Company, founded by the late Gerald ‘Jed’ Starnes. In 2007 he completed the prototype of a motor that could draw static electricity from the atmosphere and convert it to useful motion.
“But on the day that Galt built his prototype, Jed Starnes died. Starnes’ children announced a new business model, by which all the workers would work according to their ability but be paid according to their needs.
“John Galt would not accept this. After Gerald Starnes, Jr. announced the inauguration of the plan, John Galt said simply that he would stop the motor of the world. He would do this by calling all the men of the mind to go on strike against a code of ‘unearned rewards and unrewarded duty’….
“Galt left his prototype behind, but stripped it of its key parts and took with him all his notes….Galt wanted to make sure that no one would be able to duplicate it.”
If you want society’s most important people to stick around - not stealing from them is a really good first step.
Libertarians say they want a society predicated upon individual liberty and free will.
Then they must join us in the Randian battle to protect the products of the minds of men - from society’s parasites and second-handers.
For today’s Libertarians - a Randian request:
Get Right with her - and us - on IP.
This first appeared in Red State.