Comment: Rothbard on reputations

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Rothbard on reputations

"Let us consider, in fact, the implications of believing in a property right in one’s “reputation.” Suppose that Brown has produced his mousetrap, and then Robinson comes out with a better one. The “reputation.” of Brown for excellence in mousetraps now declines sharply as consumers shift their attitudes and their purchases, and buy Robinson’s mousetrap instead. Can we not then say, on the principle of the “reputation” theory, that Robinson has injured the reputation of Brown, and can we not then outlaw Robinson from competing with Brown? If not, why not? Or should it be illegal for Robinson to advertise, and to tell the world that his mousetrap is better?5 In fact, of course, people’s subjective attitudes and ideas about someone or his product will fluctuate continually, and hence it is impossible for Brown to stabilize his reputation by coercion; certainly it would be immoral and aggressive against other people’s property right to try. Aggressive and criminal, then, either to outlaw one’s competition or to outlaw false libels spread about one or one’s product."

Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito