Mises Wire

Home | Wire | Intellectual Poverty

Intellectual Poverty

Opponents of the state monopoly privilege grants that the state and supporters propagandistically call “intellectual property” use a variety of alternative terms, in attempt to better describe these “rights” without implying they are valid, as the word “property” seeks to do.

Boldrin and Levine, in Against Intellectual Monopoly, use the term “intellectual monopoly.” The benefit of this term is that it calls attention to the fact that IP rights are not property but monopoly grants by the state (see Are Patents “Monopolies”? and Intellectual Properganda). I sometimes still call it IP, simple for communicative efficiency and out of semantic inertia, but of late I tend to just say “patent and copyright,” to isolate the two main state legislated rights schemes that fall under the IP umbrella. In the past I have proposed the term “pattern privileges” (see Renaming Intellectual Property) and sometimes call IP advocates “intellectual properteers.”

The term intellectual poverty occurred to me the other day. It has several advantages: it is disparaging and pejorative; it rhymes with intellectual property; and it implies both intellectual impoverishment (which results from the censorship and restriction on ideas, which are the results of patent and copyright law) and material impoverishment caused by all state invasions of genuine property rights.

So, to summarize, here are the suggestions to date, including variations, and some suggested by others:


Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.