Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: pokretanje paklene mašine


Prethodna poglavnlja:
1. Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: uvod
2. Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: satavni dijelovi

Kao i svako čovjekovo svjesno djelovanje, učestvovanje u ratu je stvar izbora. Čovjek će se uključiti u rat samo onda kad misli da mu je to najbolja opcija, uzimajući u obzir sve opcije koje su mu na raspolaganju.

Pošto su potičarima i marginalcima konflikt i naslje često privlačni načini ostvarenja njihovih životnih ciljeva, lako se može razumjeti da bi se ove dvije grupe relativno lako upustile u rat ako im se ukaže dobra prilika.

Ali, dugotrajnog i masovnog sukoba ne može biti bez učestvovanja najbrojnije kategorije--domaćina. Znamo da domaćini ne vole konflikte. Oni žele, ako ikako mogu, da ih izbjegnu jer konflikt može da uništi produktivni, pordični način zivota koji domaćin gradi.

S druge strane, iz iskustva znamo da domaćini, ne samo da su učestvovali u ratu u bivšoj Jugoslaviji, nego su oni činili najbrojniju grupu u tom ratu. Taj rat je, najvećim dijelom, bio rat domaćina jedne nacionalnosti protiv domaćina druge nacionalnosti.

Ovo se na prvi pogled kosi sa mojom prvobitnom pretpostavkom da domaćini ne vole konflikt i samim time ne žele da napadaju druge ljude. Ako bismo pitali njih, na svakoj od zaraćenih strana biste čuli isti odgovor--da se ta strana samo brani od one druge, koja napada. Ako "naša" strana ponekad i napada to je samo zato da bi se spriječili potpuno sigurni budući napadi one "njihove" strane.

Iz ove destruktivne i nasilničke slike gotovo da ne možemo prepoznati one prvobitne miroljubive i produktivne domaćine. Kako je došlo do ove preobrazbe?

Da bismo razumjeli proces preobrazbe domaćina iz miroljubivih proivođača u paranoične ratnike, moramo se vratiti u prvu fazu rata. To je faza u kojoj su političari, iz ovog ili onog razloga, zaključili da bi nasilan konflikt između njihovih simpatizera mogao učvrstiti i produbiti njihovu vlast. U slučaju bivše Jugoslavije taj pogodan momenat je došao krajem osamdestih godina prošloga stoljeća kad je postalo jasno da je jugoslovenska ekonomija u silaznoj putanji i da kao takva ne može izdržati pojačane pritiske MMF-a za vraćanje starih dugova koje je Titova vlast koristila u procesu industrijalizacije pedesetih, šezdesetih i sedamdesetih godina.

Činilo se da je to pogodan momenat da politički vrhovi nekih republika iskombinuju ekonomske reforme sa simpatijama velikog broja stanovništva prema ostvarivanju državnosti tih republika. Pogoršavanje ekonomske situcaje u zemlji služilo je kao motiv za optuživanje kako je republika X "pokradena" od strane republika Y ili Z. Nerijetko se sa najviših političkih pozicija mogla čuti zapaljiva retorika da se "tako više ne može", da se trebaju "poravnati računi" ili da "mi svoje ne damo".

Ovakva retorika sa najviših političkih pozicija bila je prvi signal marginalcima da bi najviši potički vrh, na svakoj od suprotstavljenih strana, mogao zatvoriti oči pred nasilnim djelima. Marginalci su to shvatili kao šansu da budu primijećeni, prepoznati, poštovani, da se i njih konačno neko boji i da ih uvažava.

Prve otmice, maltretiranja i ubistva 1991. u "multietničkim" dijelovima Hrvatske su bili i prvi testovi kojima su marginalci ispipavali puls trenutne političke elite, na obje strane. Ni na jednoj strani nije došlo do kategoričke osude tih, tada još sporadičnih zločina. Neću pominjati imena jer su imena za ovu priču nebitna. Bitan je mehanizam.

Čak i tada, mnogi domaćini su uviđali da su ti zločini počinjeni od strane marginalaca, a ne od strane radnih i miroljubivih ljudi. Većina jos uvijek nije u tim zločinima vidjela sjeme rata jer ih nisu vidjeli kao izraz nacionalne netrpeljivosti nego kao izraz nečovještva marginalaca. Često se mogla čuti ocjena domaćina da neko nedjelo nije uradio Srbin ili Hrvat nego nečovjek. Isto se tako od mnogih domaćina moglo čuti da onaj koji je bio maltretiran ili ubijen, nije tako završio zato što je Srbin ili Hrvat nego zato što su ga napali kriminalci i neljudi.

Dakle, većina domaćina, na obje strane, je i dalje vjerovala da im ne prijeti opasnost od domaćina druge nacionalnosti. Samim time je većini domaćina cijena ostvarenja političkih ciljeva njihovih vođa pomoću rata tada bila previsoka. Dakle, juš uvijek su neuključivanje u sukobe s marginalacima smatrali boljom opcijom.

Ali, marginalci, kad su jednom osjetili da neće biti kažnjeni, nisu stali. Maltretiranja, otmice i ubistva se nastavljaju. U opštoj mreži prenošenja informacija sistemom čula-kazala postaje sve manje jasno da li je neko nastradao zato što je bio Srbin, Hrvat ili Musliman ili zato što je naišao na neostvarenog marginalca. U svijesti domaćina postaje sve manje jasno da li je neko počinio strašan zločin zato što je "nečovjek" i marginalac ili zato što je Srbin, Hrvat ili Musliman.

Ova nesigurnost kod domaćina rađa dvije moćne emocije: strah i prezir--strah za sigurnost vlastitih porodica i prezir prema "njima". "Oni", u svijesti domaćina, više nisu samo marginalci nego sve više i domaćini druge nacionalnosti. "Oni" "nas" mrze i spremni su na svakojaka sredstva, kao što su neki dan nekuda odveli i možda ubili moga poznanika ili člana porodice. Tako počinju da razmišljaju domaćini na obje strane.

Ovaj proces dovodi do subjektivnog doživljaja pada cijene nasilnog sukoba u odnosu na neuključivanje u sukob. Nasilnim sukobom bi domaćin mogao izgbiti sve, ali mu se isto tako sve više čini da bi i neuključivanjem u sukob mogao izgubiti sve. Povećanju cijene neuključivanja u sukob sada pridonose i zahtjevi marginalaca, ohrabrenih od strane političkog vrha, da se ovaj ili onaj domaćin opredijeli da li je na "našoj" ili na "njihovoj" strani. Trećega nema.

U početku su mnogi domaćini su spremni provesti cijelu noć sakriveni u svom dvorištu ispred kuće da bi spriječili eventualni napad na sebe, porodicu ili komšije. Poslije ovoga, samo je korak do stražarenja sa puškom, puškom koju je politički vrh imao spremnu i putem marginalaca objeručke mu ponudio. Sa puškom u ruci, domaćin je postao ratnik, a organizuju ga baš oni  marginalci koji su "prvi uzeli pušku u ruke". Domaćin i sada, sa puškom u ruci, marginalca koji mu je postao vojni komandant, gleda kao marginalca i protuvu, ali pristaje na njegovu komandu jer misli da je to sada neophodno da bi zaštitio svoju porodicu.

Sada su na svakoj od zaraćenih strna domaćini napunjeni strahom i prezirom. I kada napadaju i kada ruše i ubijaju, oni se brane. Svaki novi napad samo je odgovor na prijašnji napad "one strane". Svako novo zvjerstvo je, u njihovoj svijsti, samo prevencija budućeg zvjerstva "one strane". Mehanizam je pokrenut, a zaustaviće se kad jedna ili obje strane potpuno malaksaju.

Nastavak: Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: zaključak

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: sastavni dijelovi


[Uvod u ovaj tekst možete naći ovdje.]
Rat je kompleksna pojava. Baš zato što je kompleksan, potrebno je definisati i opisati njegove osnovne dijelove. Svaki od tih osnovnih dijelova ima specifičnu funkiju u mehanizmu rata. Iako je moguće rasparčati taj mehanizam i na više kategorija dijelova, da bismo razumjeli njegovo funkcionisanje, potrebno je da primijetimo bar tri kategorije. Ja te kategorije nazivam (1) domaćini, (2) političari i (3) marginalci. Svaka od njih je definisana svojim najvažnijim pokretačkim životnim motivom.

Domaćini su najbrojnija kategorija. Gro te kategorije čine ljudi koje mnogi od nas nazivaju "običnim" ljudima. To je, recimo, moj komšija automehaničar, moj rođak kamaiondžija, moj prijatelj pekar, i naravno, moja supruga koja pomaže ljudima da se odviknu od bolesti zavisnosti. Domaćini su ljudi koji svoj život i identitet grade oko svoje porodice i imanja. Oni proizvode dobra i usluge potrebne ostalim članovima društva. To znači da domaćini nisu samo "obični" ljudi. Domaćini su i naučnici, umjetnici, sportiste i uopšte ljudi koji u prvi plan stavljaju proizvodnju i dobrovoljnu razmjenu dobara zarad unapređenja svoje porodice i imanja, kako materijalnog tako duhovnog.

Domaćini ne vole konflikt. Za njih je konflikt gubljenje dragocjenog vremena i resursa koji bi se mogli utrošiti na unaprijeđenje domaćinstva. Domaćin izbjegava trivijalne konflikte. Veći konflikti za njega predstavlaju rizik da bi mogao izgubiti porodicu i imanje. On će se odlučti na konflikt samo onda kad misli da neuključivanje u taj konflikt može imati katastrofalne posljedice za njegovu porodicu i imanje.

Političari su brojčano manja kategorija od domaćina, mada se ponekad njihov broj može enormno povećati. Političar živi za to da upravlja drugim ljudima. Neki političari vjeruju da im je to uzvišena moralna dužnost, da bi bez njih ostali ljudi zastranili u bespuću bijede i nemorala. Takvi uglavnom izbijaju na sam vrh političke piramide vlasti u društvu. Oni manje "kreativni" i manje zaneseni idejom o sebi kao spasitelju društva, dolaze do srednjih i nižih pozicija u piramidi vlasti.

Bez obzira na motive koji leže u pozadini, svim političarima je zajedničko da žele da vladaju. Što je njihova vlast čvršća, to se oni osjećaju ostvarenijima i ispunjenijima. Pošto se snaga vlasti svakog političara zasniva na tome koliko čvrsto i koliki broj ljudi vjeruje da je on taj koji treba da upravlja, političar je skoncentrisan na to da ubijedi ostale ljude da je baš on taj pravi. On je skoncentrisan na to da uvjeri ljude da je za njih najbolje da svoju životnu energiju usmjere onako kako im on to savjetuje.

Što se tiče konflikata, političar voli konflikt ako on taj konflikt može da iskoristi za učvršćenje svoje vlasti, tj. za ubijeđivanje ostalih ljudi da je on baš taj pravi vođa koji im je potreban. Dakle, za razliku od domaćina, za političara konflikt nije nešto što po svaku cijenu treba izbjegavati. Za političara je konflikt samo jedan od načina da dođe do ostvarenja svog životnog cilja. Štaviše, političar svoju valst čak i u mirnodopsko vrijeme zasniva na tezi da je on ostalim ljudima potreban kako bi odvratio potencijalne agresore od pomisli da ih napadnu. Dakle, za političara, konflikt je život.

Treća kategorija dijelova mehanizma rata su marginalci. Kako i samo ime sugeriše, ovo su ljudi koji društvo posmatraju sa margina. Marginalci su najneproduktivniji članovi društva. Pošto su neproduktivni, oni često ni ne vole da proizvode pa se odaju spletkama, prevarama i sitnom kriminalu. Za krupniji kriminal nisu dovoljno vješti. Time se bave političari.

Marginalac obično ne zasniva porodicu, a ako je i zasnuje, često su te porodice disfunkcionalne i brzo se raspadaju baš zbog marginalčeve prirode. On ne zna ili ne želi da stvori skladan, produktivan odnos sa drugim ljudima.

Marginalci su generalno neostvareni ljudi. Ili nisu dovoljno produktivni ili nemaju ostale sklonosti koje su potrebne da bi postali domaćini, a u isto vrijeme nisu dovoljno sofisticirani da bi postali političari. Oni bi voljeli da budu cijenjeni, prepoznati i poštovani od strane ostalih ljudi, ali jednostavno nemaju kapaciteta da to poštovanje steknu na "pravi" način

Za marginalca konflikt ne predstavlja veliki trošak jer je njegov život u takvom stanju da nema šta da izgubi. Porodice ili nema ili se raspala, a imanje mu je ili malo jer je neproduktivan ili na klimavim nogama zbog kriminalnog stila života. Štaviše, konflikt je jedan od načina na koji marginalac pokušava da bude primijećen od strane drugih ljudi, da stekne njihovo poštovanje. Često ćete čuti marginalca da se diči time što se s nekim posvađao. Dakle, kao i za političara, za marginalca je konflikt od posebnog značaja kao način ostvarenja njegovog životnog cilja.

Naravno, kao i svaki opis kompleksog mehanizma, ova podjela na tri osnovne grupe ljudi koje čine sastavne dijelove mehanizma rata ima u sebi elemente generalizacije. U svakoj od ove tri grupe bi se mogle definistati podgrupe, a u svakoj od podgrupa pod-podgrupe i tako unedogled. Isto tako bi se mogla opistati gradacija, tj. postepen prelaz iz jedne grupe u drugu gdje neki pojedinci imaju elemnte dviju ili svih triju grupa. Ali, kao što ni opis molekularnog sastava klipa, cilindra i radilice benzinskog motora suštinski ne doprinose objašnjenju mehanizma rada tog motora tako ni dalje detaljisanje u ovom slučaju ne doprinosi boljem objašnjenu mehanizma rata. Zato ću se zaustaviti na ovoj podjeli i u nastavku opisati kako su ovi dijelovi međusobno povezani u mehanizmu rata.

(Nastavak: Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: pokretanje paklene mašine)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: uvod

Rat je strašna pojava. Oko toga se skoro svi slažemo. Isto tako se skoro svi slažemo da u ratu većina ljudi, na obje strane, gubi. Možda se ne slažemo da li baš u svakom ratu većina više izgubi nego što dobije. Da bismo u startu otklonili sporenje oko toga, za one koji misle da postoje neki ratovi u kojima većina ljudi na jednoj od zaraćenih strana dobija više nego što gubi, ovaj članak se odnosi na one ratove u kojima većina, na obje strane, gubi više nego što dobija.

Sada treba da definišemo "gubitak" i "dobitak". Pošto su svaki gubitak i dobitak prvenstveno pojave koje se dešavaju u našem umu, i dobici i gubici su subjektivne prirode. Dakle, ne mogu se mjeriti objektivnim metodama. Nekome nije previše da izgubi imanje, zdravlje pa čak i članove porodice i prijatelje zarad nekog "višeg" cilja. Neki taj viši cilj nazivaju slobodom, državnošću ili dostojanstvom. Ova lista može da bude podugačka i nebitno je koji termin koristimo za taj "viši" cilj. Bitno je da ponekad ljudi vjeruju da neki viši cilj opravdava sve žrtve kojie su potrebne da bi se do njega došlo.

Da li je rat u bivšoj Jugoslaviji jedan od takvih ratova u kojima većina, bar na jednoj (pobjedničkoj) strani vjeruje da su gubici u ratu bili manji od dobitaka i kako to izmjeriti ako gubici i dobici postoje samo u svijesti ljudi a ne u nekom objektivnom obliku? Koristiću, naravno, moju subjektivnu ocjenu reakcija na rat u bivšim jugoslovenskim republikama, sada, dvadesetak godina kasnije. Prvenstveno mislim na Hrvatsku, Bosnu i Hercegovinu i Srbiju jer ne mislim da bismo ono što se desilo u Sloveniji mogli okarakterisati kao rat.

Čini mi se da većina Kosovara i dalje vjeruje da je rat njima donio više nego što im je odnio. S druge strane, moja je ocjena da većina ljudi u Hrvatskoj, BiH i Srbiji sada misli da im je rat odnio više nego što im je donio. Ako se oko toga ne slažemo, onda je ovo dobar momenat da prestanete sa čitanjem ovoga članka jer je sve ono što ću napisati bazirano na ovoj pretpostavci. Pokušaću da objasnim kako to može da dođe do rata u kome većina onih koji su u njega bili umiješani poslije misli da je taj rat bio greška. Kako to inače miroljubivi ljudi poput mene ili vas mogu da se pokrenu na masovno uništenje drugih ljudi?

Sljedeća sekcija: Kako zaustaviti mehanizam rata: sastavni dijelovi

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Feeding his horses


My grandfather, Dušan Rajšić, was one of the only 92 people who broke free from the Nazi concentration camp Jasenovac on April 22, 1945, after spending four years there. All other inmates were killed by the guards that day. He said that what kept some people alive for four years was if they excelled at some trade, so that they were useful to the camp managers. My grandpa had a gift of talking to animals so he was in charge of the work horses at the camp. The horses apparently followed his instructions to minor details. I later witnessed his gift when he would take us, children, into his carriage for a ride through the village.

In 1995, when we were leaving our homes in fear of retaliation by the Croatian army during the operation Storm, my grandpa said to my grandma, my uncle and his family: "You go; I have to stay and feed the horses." On April 10, 1996, on the anniversary of the Nazi state that instituted Jasenovac, my grandfather was found dead in his empty house. They say he died of natural causes. Either of natural causes, or because some passers-by got overly enthusiastic celebrating the anniversary, the date of his death is quite ironic. If there is heaven, I am sure my grandpa is taking care of his horses there.

Oh yes, and did I say that my son's name is Dušan?

My grandfather, Dusan Rajsic, in his village

My family, taking a ride in some other village

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Five reasons why the LCBO sad child posters should go down


The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is "an Ontario government enterprise and one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol." Posters like the one below (Photo by: The Ethical Adman) can be seen in many LCBO stores. They are part of what LCBO calls the Social Responsibility program. Below are five reasons why Ontarians would be better off if they didn't have to look at these posters every time they buy alcoholic beverages.

1. They are vague

What does it mean to drink responsibly? How many times per day? How large should the drinks be? What should the alcohol content be? How far should my children be when I'm drinking? Should we engage in any specific rhetorical rituals before starting to drink, like explaining to others that we are about to have a drink? Are there any thought processes we should practice? If so, what kinds of thought processes?

I could keep going with these questions, but you get the picture. Even if I wanted to follow LCBO's advice to drink responsibly, if I don't know LCBO's definition of responsible drinking, I will not be able to follow this advice.

What if my definition of responsible drinking is completely out of line compared to the LCBO definition? Then, the poster will be completely ineffective. I think that I am already drinking responsibly. So, there is no need for me to change anything even though my drinking habits may not satisfy the desires of the LCBO's poster-makers.

2. They are self-contradicting

The poster says that the lessons we, their parents, teach are important to our children. So far so good. I want my children to learn from me. In fact, I want them to learn from me and not from some government bureaucrat  that treats other adults like children who need others to remind them to behave responsibly. This is why, if I am to follow LCBO's advice to provide a good role model to my children, I should NOT give any weight to the poster. If I give any weight to the LCBO poster, I am sending the message to my children that I accept being treated like a child by other individuals (i.e., the LCBO poster-makers). I certainly do not want to send this message to my children. Therefore, as a good parent, I must ignore the poster.

3. They are hypocritical

Imagine a cocaine dealer coming to his buyer and saying: "Your children look up to you, use cocaine responsibly." You can imagine what the likely reaction to this "advice" would be. If I was a cocaine user, I would politely suggest to my dealer that he change his occupation if he is worried about the negative effects of cocaine use on the well being of my children.

So, why should my alcohol provider get any other treatment? Only because his selling of alcohol is legal and the drug dealer's selling of cocaine is not? I wouldn't say so. We know that prohibition laws are arbitrary. Someone could decide tomorrow to ban a substance that was perfectly legal yesterday.

Having this in mind, my answer to the LCBO poster-maker worrying about the well being of my children would be: If your emotional distress caused by your lack of trust in my ability to exercise responsibility is so high that you feel the need for sticking a poster in front of my face, please feel free to sell some other substance to me. I don't know, maybe strawberries. They're healthy and children like them too.

4. They induce emotional distress in our children

The first couple of times my daughter saw the LCBO sad child poster, she did not ask anything but became strangely silent. Then, after seeing the poster two or three more times, my daughter asked me: "Why is this girl so sad?" I didn't have a good answer right away. I mean, I did have a good answer, but not an answer that a seven-year-old would understand. Over time, I managed to persuade her that there is no association whatsoever between that girl on the poster and her; that the girl on the poster is sad because that's how she was supposed to look for the photo-shoot, not because her parents go to the LCBO. My daughter now understands that there are some people who feel good about themselves when they try to make others feel bad about themselves. These people made the poster.

5. They increase, rather than reduce our need for alcohol

After a person of normal intelligence sees the LCBO sad child poster, he or she generally goes through the mental process of realizing the above four points. This is generally followed by a feeling of frustration and mental pain, pain resulting from realizing that some people may actually think you are that dumb and not notice the arrogance and disrespect in the poster.

There are different ways one can ease this pain. Some people exercise, some eat, some meditate, some talk to their friends, some use drugs, and some drink alcohol. Since you are already at the liquor store, buying some more alcohol seems to be the most convenient pain killing option at the moment.

Although I don't think other people's alcohol consumption should be any of my concerns, and thus I would not include reason #5 into my personal list of reasons why the LCBO sad child poster should go down, we know that the LCBO poster-makers, at least on paper, care about our alcohol consumption. Thus, if their objective is to have some control over our alcohol consumption, they should seriously consider removing the sad child poster. The poster increases our need for drinking.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Some of my old drawings

I found these yesterday after believing for more than ten years that I lost them forever. These are some of my drawings from the time I was contemplating becoming a graphic designer or a landscape architect.   


Monday, April 1, 2013

Intellectual Property: A Classical Liberal and a Libertarian Assessment

Many contemporary theorists and commentators frame the question of intellectual property as a question of ownership over ideas. In this framework, a new product is seen as an embodiment of a new idea. Producing multiple copies of a new product is then seen as a materialization of the same idea. Some conclude that ascribing ownership over a new idea to its original creator in the same way we ascribe ownership over material objects is inconsistent with either classical liberal or libertarian theory of rights. This inconsistency has led some to conclude that a creator of a new product has no right whatsoever in limiting the future replication of that object by others. This, however, is an erroneous conclusion.

The purpose of this article is two-fold. First I will elaborate why the concept of intellectual property is inconsistent with the classical liberal and libertarian theories of rights. In short, the root of this inconsistency is in the incoherent and ultimately subjective criteria for conflict resolution created by the concept of intellectual property. Second, I will argue that this inconsistency does not imply all replication of a new object is illegitimate. Classical liberalism and libertarianism contain clear principles for evaluating the legitimacy of copying in different situations. Both of these points bear heavily on the distinction between an idea and physical objects and on the nature of ownership under the classical liberal and libertarian theories of rights.

The Distinction between an Idea and Physical Objects


In its most general form, an idea has been defined throughout history as that which is not matter. For example, I may have an idea of a circle in my mind, but as far as we know, this circle does not exist anywhere as a physical object. It takes physical objects, say, pen and paper, to translate my idea into a material form. However, this translation is only provisional. I can imagine a circle that can never exist in reality. The equation x2 + y2 = r2 defines an infinite number of dimensionless points in the x-y space, all at an equal distance, r, from one, central point. In other words, this is an equation of an ideal circular line in the Descartes’ two-dimensional coordinate system. This line, however, has no thickness or mass. No one can draw a line that has a thickness and a mass of zero.

This exercise has illustrated that, while ideas are not physical objects, they take shape through specific relationships of physical objects. In other words, an idea describes a relationship among physical objects. The idea of a circle describes a relationship of dots on a piece of paper or iron molecules in a steel rim, or polyvinyl molecules in my car radio knob or any other material particles in countless other circular objects.

We communicate our ideas to others by the use of physical objects. I am now using black shapes on a white surface to convey this idea. Some computer programs can translate these shapes into vibrations of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen molecules (i.e., audio waves) that you can hear. Maybe, someday, we will be able to communicate by the use of electromagnetic waves emitted directly from our brains. Even this form of communication of ideas requires material objects—electromagnetic waves. It takes a specific arrangement of physical objects to convey an idea. But it is important to maintain the distinction between the idea and the object. The idea is not the object. The idea is non-material. The object is material.

Since ideas are non-material phenomena, they have some attributes that physical objects don't have. For example, the same idea can exist in two different places at the same time. The idea contained in the previous sentence now exists in your mind as well as in my mind. It did not disappear from my mind after I gave it to you. Therefore, we cannot speak of "theft" of ideas in the same way we speak of theft of physical objects. Your future use of my idea does not remove my ability to use the same idea. This is not the case with physical objects. If you take my car and decide to use it, that car will not be available to me anymore.

However, there are even more troublesome implications of the distinction between ideas and physical objects. To appreciate the importance of these implications for a proper assessment of the concept of intellectual property within the classical liberal and libertarian frameworks, we need to provide a brief summary of classical liberalism and libertarianism.

Classical Liberal and Libertarian Theories of Ownership


Classical liberalism rests on the concepts of self-ownership, homesteading, and non-aggression. According to this theory, each person has the right to be the master of his or her own body. This right stems from the belief that each person has free will as a gift from God.

The next step in the logic of the classical liberal theory of rights is mixing one’s labour with nature—homesteading. One acquires legitimate ownership over the products of his or her own labour when these products are created by using resources that were not previously owned by anyone. In other words, natural resources belong to the one who finds them first. In cases when a resource is already owned by someone, another person can legitimately acquire this resource only through a voluntary exchange. The key feature of a voluntary exchange is that the exchange is performed in the absence of physical aggression or a threat of physical aggression.

Modern libertarianism has much in common with classical liberalism. Like classical liberalism, modern libertarianism is based on the concept of self-ownership, homesteading, and non-aggression. Unlike classical liberals, libertarians generally do not seek religious justifications for the origin of rights. The existence of free will is understood as an axiom—a self-evident truth that cannot be proven or disproven. Aside from the potential disagreement on the origin of free will and self-ownership, classical liberals and libertarians derive similar conclusions when it comes to the legitimate ownership over resources.

Within the classical liberal and libertarian theories of rights, ownership is defined as one’s jurisdiction over physical objects within a defined space and time. For example, I own this computer, but I don’t own the room in which I am sitting and typing this text. The room is owned by the real estate company that rents apartments to tenants. This spatial delineation of ownership performs a specific function—it defines the terms for resolving conflicts among individuals.

If I wanted to sell this apartment to someone, my landlord would probably object to this transaction. The fact that the landlord owns the apartment provides a clear rule for resolving this conflict. I don’t have the right to sell something I don’t own. On the other hand, if I wanted to sell this computer, my landlord could not object because the physical matter that makes up my computer is not under his jurisdiction. Therefore, the classical liberal and libertarian theories of rights provide a clear prescription on how to resolve our conflict. This is the ultimate practical function that any moral rule has to satisfy—to provide unambiguous criteria for conflict resolution.

In that sense, a rule that creates contradictory or conflicting prescriptions for action does not qualify as a universal moral principle. If an action can be right and wrong under the same rule, then this rule does not contain a clear demarcation principle between right and wrong and thus cannot be used as a moral principle. Intellectual property is one such rule that creates ambiguous and conflicting recommendations for action.

Conflict Creation through Intellectual Property


Let us now extend the concept of ownership from physical objects to ideas and let us go back to my circle example. Suppose I was the first person to come up with an idea of a circle, and I use this as an argument that I own the idea of a circle. Since ideas are non-material phenomena that materialize through relationships among material objects, my claim that I own the idea of a circle implies a claim of owning a relationship among physical objects. I claim that I own a relationship in which physical objects are arranged in a circular shape. This, in turn, implies a claim of ownership over physical resources—I claim that only I have the right to arrange physical objects in a circle.

This creates a problem. If I claim I own the idea of a circle and, say, my neighbor claims he owns his pen and paper, there is a conflict. My claim that I own the idea of a circle interferes with his jurisdiction over that pen and paper. He now does not have complete jurisdiction over that pen and paper. According to me, only I have the authority to leave a circular trace on that paper with that pen. According to him, however, that pen and paper are his and he may use them to draw whatever he pleases, including a circle.

Now we need an additional rule to resolve this conflict. We need to determine whose ownership has priority and why. But, whichever way we decide to solve this conflict, the result is that, after introducing the concept of intellectual property, neither the traditional classical liberal theory of ownership nor the intellectual property theory alone were initially sufficient to resolve the conflict.

The second problem is the arbitrary nature of the intellectual property rule. All arrangements of matter differ from each other to some degree. One circular arrangement may be one millimetre wider than the other in some areas. But, why stop at one millimetre, or at one micrometre, or at one nanometre, or at any order of magnitude?

So, we have to decide how similar two objects have to be to be considered identical. Like any choice, this choice is ultimately subjective in nature. One individual may think that if any two circular shapes, when superimposed, do not deviate from each other by more than 1 millimetre, they are similar enough to be considered identical. Another person may think this is too big of a difference and he or she may ask for a stricter standard, maybe one tenth of a millimetre. Yet some other people may think that even this standard is way too loose, and they may ask for a one micrometre cut-off point. Whichever the cut-off point, it is always subjective. Now my neighbor’s freedom to use his pen and paper depends on the whims of whoever decides which shapes are similar enough to my circle and which are not.

Thus, by introducing the concept of intellectual property, we have added a degree of subjectivity into the criterion delineating the distinction between right and wrong. In contrast to physical invasion of property, where the limits of one’s property have objective attributes in space and time, the limits of intellectual property are subjective in nature and they exist only in the mind of the individual that judges which objects are similar enough to be considered identical.

This leads to situations where it is humanly impossible not to violate someone else’s intellectual property. If the decision on what is similar enough to be considered identical is indeed subjective, and it is, then someone could expand the limits of intellectual property depending on his or her preferences. I may think that a hexagon is similar enough to a circle to be considered a special case of a circle. After all, if we follow the geometrical logic of a circle, a circle is a polygon with an infinite number of sides. Why not then include all polygons?

We don’t have to stop there. We could include an ellipse as well. If an ellipse that deviates one micrometre from the shape of my circle is similar enough to it to be considered identical, why not an ellipse that deviates one milimetre or one centimetre or five centimetres. Using this logic, almost any shape can be produced from our original shape if we simply expand small deviations from the original shape. There is no objective criterion when these small deviations begin to be too large.

This means that our criterion for separating right from wrong is not only subjective but it can change at any instant depending on someone’s preferences. This is a far cry from the classical liberal and libertarian theories that seek universal principles that apply equally over space and time to everyone (i.e., non-aggression) where our adherence to these principles can be verified using objective demarcation criteria (i.e., physical intrusion into a space owned by someone).

However, this incompatibility between the concept of intellectual property and physical property does not automatically mean that the creator of a new product cannot put any restrictions on its future use by others. The concept of voluntary exchange of property sets clear rules how this is to be done within the classical liberal and libertarian frameworks.

Applying Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism to a New Product


Let us go back to my circle example. Let us imagine that I designed a new product and let’s call this product the wheel. I used my own materials to produce a number of wheels and now I am considering selling or renting some of them to others.

First, I want to make sure no one sees my wheels before I sell or rent them. If someone sees them, he or she can use this information to produce their own wheel. Their acquisition of this knowledge would not violate any of the libertarian principles if, for example, they saw my wheels while visiting my neighbour for a cup of coffee. They did not intrude into my property whatsoever, and if they want to use their own resources to replicate what they saw in my yard, that would be a perfectly legitimate use of their own resources.

Second, I may want to make sure that the users of my wheels follow certain practices. This also implies that I would prefer renting the wheels over selling them. Renting would allow me to have some control over the renters’ use of the wheels. I can put different conditions in a contract, which the potential renter can either accept or reject. For example, I can ask that the renter does not produce any wheels in the future. I can specify how different any potential product produced by this person would have to be for me not to consider it a copy of my wheel.

I could even specify areas where the wheel can be used. Alternatively, I could simplify the contract and just require my renter to prevent any replication of my wheel. This would compel the renter to use the wheel only in spaces where the owner of the space can offer guarantees that no such replication would occur.

Critics may say that it would be nearly impossible for the renter to prevent any replication by third parties. This, however, may or may not be true. If it was true, I would take this into account and design a contract that I think would be acceptable to a potential renter. While I would like to prevent any replication of my wheel by third parties, if it is practically impossible to prevent legitimate replication (i.e., replication that occurs in the absence of violation of anyone’s property), then, let it be so.

The point here is not that the classical liberal and libertarian principles can ensure all my desires regarding the potential replication of my wheel are met. It simply means that these principles provide a mechanism by which a creator of a new product can have some control over its future use by others.

Conclusion


The concept of intellectual property is flawed. It is flawed because it does not have clear, objective limits, and it is in contradiction with the concept of ownership over physical objects. This is why this concept can only result in arbitrary standards that are based on the subjective judgment of whoever determines the limits of intellectual property. However, it is not true that if we abandon the idea of intellectual property, we also must accept all forms of copying and replication of new products. Classical liberalism and libertarianism contain clear principles for separating legitimate kinds of copying from the illegitimate ones.