Sole and Despotic Dominion: my story about the future of private property for Reason

Originally published at:


And how was it received over at Reason? Probably too soon to say?


The trend is towards more concentration of power in large corporations and IP is just a part of it. When I think about the future of private property, what I’m most concerned about is that if you have enough private property, then you pretty much get to follow your own rules for how you can deploy that property, social and environmental consequences be damned. You can socialize risks and privatize profits (most clearly seen with polluting industries, which fob environmental costs onto the public). You can build monopolies largely unhindered by antitrust and other regulations (good recent article in The New Yorker about how SInclair Broadcasting has done this). You can grossly overpay top management and underpay line workers, even to the point they’re on food stamps (Walmart). You can do all kinds of tax avoidance, most of which is legal (Apple for example). You can dump a lot of dollars into lobbyists, slanted media, and campaign contributions to make sure you keep getting away with all this.


Too Bolshy for the Reason crowd – they may wear leather jackets instead of suits, smoke pot instead of drink scotch, and listen to Hendrix instead of Tchaikovskii, but when it comes to economics they worship Mises and Hayek as much as the Koch brothers do (not surprising, since the Kochs fund Reason).

Reading the story I see Cory is questioning the right and benefits of corporate entities (hallowed be Their Brands) to protect their intellectual property, package products and services as the “free” market demands, impose one-sided EULA contracts on consumers, and operate multiple transnational entities using the same brand. Worst of all, he’s making a corporate customer support line sound like a bad ol’ goverment one.

I anticipate many stern letters to the editor in response.


Hopefully, this storymight cause a little realisation in one or two the minds of the “rugged individualists” over at unReason. Even if that realisation is along the lines of “Hey, this might be personally inconvenient for someone like me”, then it’s progress.


There’s a lot of shite on Reason, but not much in the way of rabid defences of corporate IP rights: a search of the archives suggests that, if anything, they lean towards the EFF’s line of thinking. And the comments on Cory’s story are so far supportive, the notable exception being a warning not to give “vulture capitalists” (direct quote) ideas.


So far pretty well. Cory is generally received pretty well over there despite the stereotypes you see bandied about here about Libertarians. There are a good chunk that view incorporation as an illegitimate state sanctioned construct and IP as illegitimate state sanctioned monopolies. The notion that you don’t actually own personal property is right out too.


I’m glad the response has been supportive. @Purplecat is correct that Reason magazine Libertarians often change their tune when they realise something they thought affected only poor people or minorities might also affect them personally.

For example, Radley Balko (now with WaPo) did excellent work in the magazine tracking the militarisation of domestic police forces in the U.S., a trend which created a more heavy-handed law enforcement regime that was starting to impact white hipsters and suburbanites. If Cory is helping them realise that they too could fall victim to another version of the corporate rent-to-own scam foisted on The Poors that’s a good thing.


How can we make this work in the real world?


Has the state actually ever enforced these IP rights that you are so concerned about? Like, if I void the EULA on the tractor I bought from John Deere, what actual repercussions follow from that, other than forgoing my right to use state power to sue John Deere in the future?

Maybe next time write it for Jacobin instead @doctorow? :wink:

The right-libertarians lure you in with promises of legal weed and annoyance at the surveilance state, but you can get all that and more at your local DSA chapter!


Actually, Reason is actually in favor of “right to repair” laws as well as being on the side of the EFF when it comes to copyright infringement.


I’m sure they’ll listen to Reason.


By all means, what the left needs is more preaching to the choir.


So it is important to make sure that they are fighting for those causes where our interests happen to align. If they are against surveillance overreach and in favour of the right to repair, then that’s good, and the more of their energy that they bring to those causes the better.

The enemy of my enemy is useful.


Im waiting to see this done with the nutritional properties of food. Once your body can be programmed to only accept properly licenced food, you are a fully owned entity.


I want the story about what happens when the dish provider offers a full warranty but because the broken product in question is stuck in the unit, our protagonist gets to navigate the customer service of two despotic HellCorps and the same time and maybe even set them against each other.

Thank you! So good to hear that mentality here. More utility, less delicious righteousness. Though I love a self-righteous snit as much as anybody, I also like to win.

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And that’s the reason I don’t own a dishwasher and I wash by hand. It is not difficult, everybody should try it once.

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Really? I’m surprised the oleophobic coating on your dishes allows that. Did you use an etch solution, or are you buying the knock-off soaps on ebay?