August 14, 2004  ·  Tim Wu

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Whether you like him or he drives you nuts, John Perry Barlow is incapable of being boring. From his interview with Reason, on reality TV, intellectual propetry, and his decision to leave the Republican party:

“If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will assure you have a highly knowledgeable elite and an ignorant mass.”

“I think he�s [Kerry] been in the U.S. Senate long enough to have his backbone dissolved. … But I think Kerry will be somewhat better than Bush, if for no other reason than he is not on the same side in the culture war. Kerry�s a Deadhead. He inhaled.”

“I personally think intellectual property is an oxymoron. Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It�s a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.”

“Trying to own intellectual products and creating an economy of scarcity around them as we do with physical objects is very harmful to the development of culture and the ability to speak freely, and a very important principle not talked about much, which is the right to know.”

“There are libertarian wings in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and in the past I found it most effective to be inside the Republican Party acting as a libertarian. But I�ve switched.”

“I�m an optimist. In order to be libertarian, you have to be an optimist. You have to have a benign view of human nature, to believe that human beings left to their own devices are basically good. But I�m not so sure about human institutions.”

  • Anonymous

    Go barlow

  • koreyel

    In order to be libertarian, you have to be an optimist. You have to have a benign view of human nature, to believe that human beings left to their own devices are basically good. But I�m not so sure about human institutions.”

    Not so sure of institutions? What’s not to be sure of? Survey your life experience. How many benign user-friendly institutions can you tick off?

    Human beings have a tendency to create poor institutions. Just as cats tend to land on their paws and money tends to aggrandize.

    It is near enough a natural law.

    As for this: In order to be libertarian, you have to be an optimist.

    It should really read In order to be a believer in democracy, you have to be an optimist.

    Democracy assumes human beings are wise enough to manage themselves. That is hugely optimistic because it assumes the best of people. And it is that core feature that makes Democracy one of the few ideas worth dying for.

  • Thien

    If anyone hasn’t seen it, I urge you to check out Barlow’s talk at the Conference on the Public Domain at Duke in 2001. It should be available on Duke Law’s website.

  • JonBuck

    He’s hit the nail on the head regarding so-called “Intellectual Property”. You can’t steal an intangible thing. And the way things are going might end up with de facto restrictions on freedom of speech.

    As for Libertarianism, I don’t think we’ll see it (at least on a large scale) in this country until we have a culture shift where people actually take responsibility for their actions. No more suing McDonald’s for “making” people fat.

  • http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~morganya Anonymous

    “I personally think intellectual property is an oxymoron. Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It�s a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.”

    From what I’ve seen (please correct me if you’ve seen otherwise), intellectual property rights are most often exercised when one applies another’s intellectual property to produce a tangible result (where “tangible” can include software or publications in addition to physical objects). This seems like an important distinction to me.

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Readers should be aware that the libertarianism’s
    position on intellectual property rights varies
    greatly from one libertarian to other libertarian.

    Some libertarians believe that copyright (as
    well as other intellectual property rights)
    should be perpetual, just like real property
    rights. They even claim that people should be
    able to own ideas.

    Other libertarians see copyright as a government
    intervention and therefore, it should not be
    supported.

    The bottom line is: Don’t assume that libertarianism
    wholly embraces the freedom of knowledge (the public
    domain).

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
    in this comment in the public domain.

  • http://phnk.com phnk

    The above comment backs up what I wrote in another entry : libertarians would surely be for IP, but not if state-driven. They would very probably defend private IPR management.

  • http://oknarb.web-log.nl Branko Collin

    How does this work? As a Dutchman, I am not very well informed about libertarians. The way I picture them is as bearded guys wearing straw hats, standing on the porches of their farms with double-barreled shotguns, saying (uh-oh, I feel a copyright infringement law suit coming up): “This land is my land. Get off.”

    I fail to imagine how they would do that with (privately regulated) creative works. Come in my home and tell me that I cannot make that copy? Aren’t they afraid of my shotgun?

    (My conceptions of libertarians are probably misconceptions.)

  • raoul

    Kerry is in the pockets of the multinational media conglomerates just as Bush is. However, I agree with John Perry, in that Kerry should be more aligned with those in the culture war on the copyright reform side. Sometimes change can only come in increments.