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Hayek Contra Copyright Laws

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In his brilliant article on “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” Friedrich Hayek suggests a strong causal connection between copyright laws and socialism. In discussing the development of the intellectual class, whom he characterizes as “secondhanders in ideas” and inherently inclined to promote socialism, Hayek writes:

One of the most important points that would have to be examined in such a discussion would be how far the growth of this [intellectual] class has been artificially stimulated by the law of copyright.

However, in a footnote he goes on to express doubt that an open debate on this issue could take place in a society in which the intellectual class itself controls the media:

It would be interesting to discover how far a seriously critical view of the benefits to society of the law of copyright, or the expression of doubts about the public interest in the existence of a class which makes its living from the writing of books, would have a chance of being publicly stated in a society in which the channels of expression are so largely controlled by people who have a vested interest on the existing situation.

So yet another benefit of the abolition of copyright laws may very well be a liquidation of the professional intellectual class that defends and propagandizes for the American Welfare-Warfare State.

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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