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A Review of the Kinsella/Wenzel IP "Debate"

Disclaimer: I'm a regular reader of Wenzel's blog.

Update: Here is the YouTube of the Debate


Having said that, this was not a debate. This was Kinsella generously attempting to give Wenzel a lesson in IP and law on various levels, and Wenzel substituting loud noises for sound arguments in an attempt cover up his quite-obvious ignorance in the subject matter. It was evident that this was going to be the case from the very beginning: Kinsella opened with a pertinent statement, outlining his main arguments.

Wenzel? Opened with a completely irrelevant, sanctimonious b!tch session: "I didn't call you names leading up to this debate, Stephen, why did you say something mean about me?"

I don't use the word often, but this was truly PATHETIC on the part of Wenzel.

Wenzel's combination of petulance and ignorance throughout was utterly unbearable. That Kinsella stuck around as long as he did is nothing short of miraculous.

To put it in terms that I think all of us can understand: Ever have a debate with someone when they don't really make an argument at all? They just kinda yell things or try to tell you what YOU believe, when they actually don't have a clue about the issue? They can't answer any questions you pose, and instead evade them at all costs or repeatedly cite what they think are "gotcha" points that are actually ignorant strawmen built on a foundation of sand? And worst of all, they actually think this means they are "winning"?

That someone in this debate was Bob Wenzel.

Kinsella was stuck trying to explain and distinguish terminology to the uninformed Wenzel most of the time, as the precision of the technical language involved- let alone IP theory generally- was beyond Wenzel's grasp. While Kinsella has posited an entire theory, with well defined terms, Wenzel has not even outlined any fundamentals or definitions before or during this "debate". As such, he merely attempted at various points to "appeal to authority" by throwing out a few quotes, without any semblance of theory underpinning the baseless claims or criticisms he was arbitrarily tossing around. Unfortunately for Wenzel, Kinsella was more familiar with the actual context and implication of those quotes- namely, Rothbard's - than was Wenzel. Thus, even Wenzel's own best shots merely resulted in self-inflicted wounds.

Start to finish, I was embarrassed for Wenzel.

Incidentally, the bloody mary example that Kinsella gives at approx 1 hr 32 min, to me, demolished the singular point Wenzel thought he had been making the entire time until then: that ideas are scarce "property" (a point, by the way, that in the manner Wenzel was attempting to make it was riddled with ambiguity and without context in which to consider what he might actually be driving at anyways). Kinsella demonstrates through this example that one may take duplicate another's idea without affecting another's property (as defined by Kinsella) at all, and that the implications for any concept of property rights would be profound if one deems this duplication an illegitimate act (as the logical implications of Wenzel's singular point - even without a proper theoretical construct, since he hasn't ever offered one - would).

In any case, for as much as Wenzel talked (or more accurately, blogged) leading up to this, I was stunned at how truly and utterly pathetic he was. There is no other way to describe it.

I was literally shaking my head.


This "debate" was a failure on all counts. Those who disagree with Kinsella will be immensely disappointed in Wenzel's complete ignorance, which left him unable to discuss the subject matter in any productive capacity.

And those who agree with Kinsella have nothing to celebrate, since there was no meaningful challenge presented.

I started this post by saying "I'm a regular reader of Wenzel's blog."

I'll be reading with new eyes. His self-righteous feigning of expertise here signals to me some serious cracks in the foundation of his credibility.

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Wenzel should read his own posts...

Maybe Wenzel should read this post from his own blog before his next debate: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2012/07/thou-shall-not-...

False argument

If someone pretends to offer a competitive viewpoint on the so called "right" of "intellectual property rights" but it is pretense, not genuine, then what can be the result?

Those who are willing to know a competitive viewpoint can know one, not until there is a demand can there be a supply.


Such a disappointment. I was

Such a disappointment. I was eager to listen to this debate as I know so little about the foundations upon which the IP debate rests. I find good debates such a great way to get the lay of the land when it comes to an issue I don't know well. (Also, you can listen while you get the housework done.)

After two hours, my house is clean but I know little more about the IP debate than before.

I'm thankful W was so ignorant of how several words are defined in economic theory because K's relatively patient explanations and examples at least taught me how words like property and scarcity are being used in this context.

If anyone can point to a good debate on the subject, I'm all ears. I make my living off my ability to sell my copyrighted material. At least that's what I've always assumed. I'm very interested in hearing a decent challenge to that assumption.

Engage in a reasoned discussion.

Make a wish?

There are sources I can refer to when discussing political economy, so my example of a competitive understanding on this subject can include links and quotes to those sources.

I think there is a very good way to start this discussion so as to avoid argument for the sake of argument; along the lines of placing the actual practices of securing whatever it is that is being disused in political economy.

The subject matter having to do with the term Intellectual Property works as well as Land, Water, Money, Security, or any Rights under the Sun, even the right to sunlight works when in works, how it works, while it works, as it works, so where does it work?

I think it may be a good idea to set up a hypothetical place where the discussion can find exactly where the boarders of one viewpoint end and the boarders of another viewpoint begins, so why not construct a hypothetical example of a Free Market Government Place on Earth, existing for a time on Earth, before this Free Market Government Place was overpowered by the opposition to Free Market Governments, and so an example of such a thing can serve to illustrate how a new working example, a hypothetical one working today, works.

I can call this Free Market Government Place with names, more names, because this Free Market Government Place is where the boarders of the Intellectual Property Rights Free Market Government Place ends, and the place where no such thing exits begins, and in that Non-Intellectual Property Rights Place, there in that place, those who have no need for Intellectual Property Rights are, in fact, in thought, and in deed, where they belong, and everyone knows where the boarder is, sooner or later.

I can call this Free Market Government Place a name called a Democratic Federated Republic, and I can use the time period between 1776 and 1788, in America, as the example used to describe how a Free Market Government Place works, and therefore the hypothetical modern example of it, with that understanding of how it works, can commence.

In a Free Market Government Place such as a Democratic Federated Republic those who are being persecuted for their beliefs, for their thoughts, for their capacity to make more good things at the end of the day compared to the good things they have at the start of the day, those who are targeted, and persecuted, those people, can vote with their feet on out of the Un-Free, Non-Market, Non-Government Places, and arrive in the Free Market Government Places, at will, and pay their own way, or they can find investors who may help pay their way, and share the risks, and share the benefits, if any benefits do materialize out of the costs paid by those who agree to expend those costs.

This is already a lot of text, but please bear with me, the concept here is to set-up a place, call it a State, call it Massachusetts, and next to that State, there is another State, call it Vermont, and know, in this Free Market Government Example, those being targeted in Massachusetts can walk on up to Vermont, at will, and no one claims the absolute right to force the walker back to where he left persecution.

In this Free Market Government, in reality, that is how it worked, in this Free Market Government, constructed hypothetically, there is a State where all the Intellectual Property Rights Proponents go, and those who don't care for it, go to the other State, in the Voluntary Union.

Once the concept of voluntary union is thereby illustrated, copied, and employed, those being persecuted can vote with their feet, and eventually all those agreeing that Intellectual Property Rights are forms of persecution move to State A.

State A = Those people gathering there share their ideas as if their ideas were like sunlight.

State B = Those people gathering there share their Intellectual Property Rights Idea with no one, not without a transfer of a royalty of some kind transferred to the first person to corner that market created in that State, from everyone else who uses that idea.

That is my start. It is not short. It is not sweat. It is not an argument for the sake of argument. It is a way to see how things work in reality.




Thanks to both responders. I

Thanks to both responders. I did find a couple of Stephan's lectures and listened, but neither got to what I'm trying to understand.

I did download the link offered and read through several few pages; I'll look at the rest soon.

I guess the primary problem I'm having is that: I'm struggling to define IP rights as not natural rights. I mean if I produce something from my own intellect, I don't get how that production is not mine. S uses the example of a slab of marble and says that the ownership of the art that may result from me carving on it is simply an enhancement of that slab of marble. But if my "marble" is the English language, which I can't own, and the enhancement my imagination and wordsmithing, how is the "thing," the sculpted piece of letters of less value than the slab or marble? It seems to me that, according to S's view, it is only because the marble creation is a thing that can be handled and bought and sold by turns that gives it protection. But my creation, derived from the ownership of my own mind and the commons of language, once let out of the box, is part of common knowledge and has no claim of property. In the word of a novelist, S's example would mean that the paper -- or the hard drive space -- was equivalent to the marble, something I bought and owned?

Ideas are not scarce in the

Ideas are not scarce in the sense that they can be possessed by two people at once, simultaneously. Because you and I can have the exact same idea at once how can you claim ownership of that idea? Is that not claiming an ownership of my very own person?

Know your stuff, learn real history and economics @LibertyClassroom.com

not all bad

While the "debate" itself sucked donkey nuts, the debates it spawned in the comments sections on both Wenzel's site and on Kinsella's site are quite educational. I encourage you to read through the comments. Interesting points are raised by both sides.

"It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go - maybe even longer. If a reasonably intelligent person learned to play Go, in a few months he could beat all existing computer programs." - Piet Hut

I quite honestly do not know

I quite honestly do not know the libertarian property rights argument for IP but here is a great resource against IP

Know your stuff, learn real history and economics @LibertyClassroom.com

ugh, I have to agree

While Wenzel is right about Rothbard being in favor of copyright, his childish and emotional outbursts were quite pathetic. He sort of reminds me of Piers Morgan. Very disappointing.

It is clear that Kinsella is a lawyer. His arguments were cogent, rational, and well thought out.

UPDATE: Wenzel finally starts making some arguments at about 50 minutes. Too bad no one will make it that far into this "debate."

"It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go - maybe even longer. If a reasonably intelligent person learned to play Go, in a few months he could beat all existing computer programs." - Piet Hut

I blame both of them. I could

I blame both of them. I could only take 40 mins. It was a train wreck. But I found Kinsella evasive and unresponsive also. Like most debates, they talked past each other. And this is true of almost every debate I've suffered through. I prefer dialectic to debate. But RW and SK personally hate each other too much to have any kind of useful exchange.

They both share blame, for

They both share blame, for sure. Kinsella was snippy at times, too, and his remarks in the weeks leading up to the debate were certainly more personal than necessary.

But I think that Kinsella's evasion, if it can be called that, during the "debate" was not a matter of not having answers but rather a matter of frustration over Wenzel's lack of clarity as it pertains to terminology. While Kinsella has a clear definition for the words he was using with specific purpose (agree or disagree with them), Wenzel was using words loosely and without definitions, or with definitions that differed from Kinsella, but without understanding or acknowledging this. The clearest example, of course, was "scarcity." Yet they could never reconcile that their differences started with semantics, despite Kinsella's best efforts (he attempted to have Wenzel define things, just as he had, repeatedly, to no avail).

Nonetheless, I'm with you as far as the general (in)effectiveness of debates go.

Although, ironically, my greatest intellectual awakening came as a result of a seemingly fragile elderly gentleman who was given a short few minutes to speak during a debate back in 2007...

He conveyed his message to me pretty effectively! :-)

I listened to the whole thing

I listened to the whole thing and Kinsella was open from the start but after Wenzel was being a loudmouth etc Kinsella began to stoop to his level. Kinsella opened with a clear and defined definition of his argument and defined some of his terms. Wenzel began quoting Kinsella from the get go to try and defame him.

Both eventually, yes. Wenzel was definitely more obnoxious throughout.

When they were talking past each other Wenzel was giving personal attacks and logical fallacies. When Kinsella was talking past Wenzel he was actually making sense and trying to argue the argument Wenzel was making for IP.

Know your stuff, learn real history and economics @LibertyClassroom.com

it's impossible to argue with someone like that,

without stooping down to his level. Well, actually, the other Stephan was able to manage it when Wenzel interviewed him :)

"It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go - maybe even longer. If a reasonably intelligent person learned to play Go, in a few months he could beat all existing computer programs." - Piet Hut

I completely concur

I was fully expecting a decent argument for being pro IP in a libertarian property rights philosophy. There was NONE to be found save some half understood and worse explained pleas to Rothbard.

Wenzel could not understand that scarcity does not define a limited number of people having an idea at the same time yet it describes two or more people physically not being able to poses property at the same time.

I need another glass of wine...

Know your stuff, learn real history and economics @LibertyClassroom.com

"I'll be reading with new eyes."

Me too.

Start to finish, I was embarrassed for Wenzel.

What a pathetic performance by Wenzel.

And to think that he thinks he won?

allegory - ˈalɪg(ə)ri/ - noun - 1. a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

Also shows how amazing Ron Paul is

He not only is very learned but he's very calm and rational in his responses to emotional attacks.

I listened for about 25 mins

[note: I'm also a regular reader and fan of RW's blog]

I agree that Wenzel was a mess. He should've straightened out his beef prior to the debate. Why did we need to hear RW complain in public? Is getting side-tracked by stuff like that important to the liberty movement?

I got almost nothing out of what I listened to and couldn't bear to listen longer (maybe I'll revisit). RW was very emotional ("Stephan! Stephan!") and I agree that it's a concern that his judgment can get clouded by these types of issues.


Please include links to what you're talking about


Here: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2013/04/kinsella-crushe...

However, I'd suggest banging your head against a wall would be a more productive use of 2 hours 23 minutes of your time.

Thanks, maybe one day when I

Thanks, maybe one day when I have nothing better to do.

Thanks for the summary

This reminds me of his unbalanced criticism of Rand Paul on his blog. If nothing else being an obstinate contrarian will boost traffic and ad revenue to his site.


Well, I hope this opens the eyes of a lot of Wenzel's followers. The guy has the maturity level of a middle school bully, and just resorts to screaming and indignation when he clearly knows that he has been had. It's a testament to Kinsella that he actually stuck around until the end.

One Counterpoint

I don't think Kinsella should've called RW a clown and/or whatever else he called him prior to the debate. RW was right that Kinsella was out of line for that stuff. My issue w/ it is that it had ZERO place in this debate. They should've straightened this up off the air.