Is it possible to own a radio frequency ?

Over at FR33 Agents, Pambas! asks, "Is it possible to own a radio frequency ?":

Here is the scenario:

A have a broadcasting station, from which he decide to broadcast in the 100 Mhz frequency music and talk-shows, or whatever cruise is mind. The station can broadcast in a radius if 25 km.

within the is area, B have a property, and can he decide to broadcast on the same frequency has A, with the same range has A broadcast station.

Can B sue A because the radio waves trespass his property ?

Share you though on this one :D Its not has easy has it seems ...

Here's my reply:

If A and B were both information broadcasters competing for consumers, I think they would be motivated to resolve their conflict quickly--sadly, from experience, by forming a cartel. If the cartel could not be enforced, market participants would play a positive-sum game of making the market as attractive as possible to gain new consumers.

The more difficult situation is where B is not participating in the information broadcast market, but is generating noise in the frequency, perhaps by the use of some sparking electrical equipment. In this case, information broadcasters would be creating a secondary market for organizations that could maximize the amount of useful medium for transmission--perhaps insurance companies that could pool the risk of accidental bandwidth pollution across geography and frequency and be large enough to participate in other markets common to the polluter, such as finance or contract reputation. At some stage, the cost/benefits would have to balance so either the polluter would be motivated to reduce his noise, or the broadcasters would abandon their plans to use transmission through the electromagnetic spectrum.

It might be sad for entrepreneur A who invested resources in a broadcast station without considering the problems that may occur, but eventually he and other owners of capital will become more careful in their planning before sinking their resources into new technology.

In short, entrepreneurs swim in this ocean all the time. Over time, more of us will realize that coercion is only a short-term fix for problems at best. As this happens, the growing market for liberty will draw more resources into non-coercive institutions.

Can you think of anything I should add?

Share this

I checked the original site,

I checked the original site, and figured that they are using anarchy as a starting condition. I think of anarchy as pickup sports game, no sanctioning body, just some basic rules everyone can agree on or they go home without playing.

So here are some options, with all starting conditions being equal except that B is simply noise generating on 100mhz for S&G:

A could enter into negotiations with B, so that a diplomatic and equitable solution can be reached. B could be effectively "bought out" of the game.

A could broadcast using more powerful transceiver equipment, "drowning out" the lesser signal of B, whose sole purpose may be that he doesn't like what A is 'casting.

An A vs. B EM War would exhaust resources, but could also get both parties to open their eyes and respect each other. This would hopefully re-open the diplomatic option after both sides are sick of being childish.

Worst case scenario:

B is a rich retired radio engineer, who simply hates A's guts. So with that new assumption, lets say no diplomatic or rational resolution is possible until B or A dies of old age. Still under the starting condition that B is just generating noise.

Here are some other options for A, in that case:

A uses SINCGAR-esque radios for his broadcast, he also sells these radios to his customers. If B is such a huge jerk, I imagine many huge jerks exists and the market would be looking for ways to sort the signal from the noise. SINCGAR type radios can do that.

A can effectively respond to B as if he has violated the NAP. A can then use DF-ing gear, find the enemy signal broadcast location and neutralize it with EMP, sabotage or directed microwave. B will escalate most likely.

A can drop all ideas of broadcasting analog, because B would win the EM War that is most likely to occur.

Just some ideas.

In liberty,
Sv. S.Elmo

If A and B were both

If A and B were both information broadcasters competing for consumers, I think they would be motivated to resolve their conflict quickly--sadly, from experience, by forming a cartel.

What, two broadcasters forming a 100 MHz cartel? Isn't that a bit like two squatters on the same quarter acre of land forming a cartel on that land? Imagine that they say to the public, "bwa ha ha, we, the Bob and Bill cartel, wholly own the quarter acre of 43 Pleasant Drive." Passersby will say, yeah, whatever, and forget about the two clowns who jointly own 43 Pleasant Drive.

In case it's not obvious: it's not much of a "cartel" if it owns 43 Pleasant Drive, a tiny little dot in the middle of Pleasantville. And it's not much of a "cartel" if it's the 100 MHz cartel. In the middle of all those other frequencies.

Any, my own answer is very general. The institution of property in land took a long time to develop. Much of the development may have been pre-human, in the form of the development of territorial instincts in animals.

An institution of property in radio frequency is liable to develop, in which people are able to own, and to buy and sell, frequency in a given area. Violators of this system of frequency property can be treated the same as violators of land property.

Of course, until this institution develops, the situation is liable to be chaotic.

The original question envisions ownership of land automatically extending to ownership of everything on the land including frequency broadcast over that land. But consider that ownership of land has not extended to all of space above the land. If an airplane passes at an altitude of 20,000 feet directly over your property, you don't get to sue it for trespass. In principle it could have worked out that way but we can observe that it did not. And similarly, ownership of frequency probably would not work out this way either.

I can give a principled, moral reason for this. In real life we can only legitimately claim ownership of land that we actually put to use. If a farmer grows crops on certain unowned land, that land becomes his, but the whole rest of the continent does not automatically becomes his - only the part he is using. Other people have the right to grow crops nearby because in doing so they are not interfering with that first farmer's activities. The extent of our ownership, then, is limited by the extent of our activities. Since the farmer is not growing crops on neighboring land, his ownership does not extend to that neighboring land.

But the same applies to airplanes flying over land. Since the farmer was not using the skies above his land, he has no claim on them, and so he has no right to claim that the planes are trespassing on his land. And similarly, if a landowner has not been broadcasting on his land, then he has no right to claim ownership of broadcast rights on his land.

First use of land creates ownership. The first person who farms unowned land gains ownership. The first person who broadcasts over land gains ownership over broadcast rights in the particular frequency he is using in the area that he is using. The skies remain unowned because of the character of the use of the sky by planes. That is, a farmer needs to retain control over his land for a long period of time in order to farm, and so needs long-term ownership. But an airplane pilot only needs each bit of sky that he's traveling through for the few seconds it takes for him to travel through it. The character of his use is to transient to create a permanent property right.

Intangible Property, a broader IP

Owning frequency property... jeez, that's as intangible as IP. I doubt that by the time a system develops to monetize yet another intangible and unenforceable property, that the system would even be relevant.

Analog broadcasts are not the way of the future, and rightly so.

The problem with IP is not

The problem with IP is not that it is intangible, but that the use of ideas is non-rivalrous. Two or a thousand people can sing the same song at the same time, but two or a thousand people cannot brush their teeth with the same toothbrush at the same time. Hence the inevitability of a system to decide who gets to use the toothbrush when - a system of property rights. Only one of us can use it. This is a physical constraint, not a matter of choice. Whoever uses it, something decided this. This is also inevitable. Therefore a system for deciding who uses what when is inevitable. Among such systems, we human have settled on a system of property rights. Since my singing a song does not stop you from singing it, none of the foregoing applies to the singing of songs.

Broadcasting on a frequency in an area is like using toothbrushes and unlike singing songs.

Singing at different pitches...

I disagree with your conclusion, but you had me going until that final sentence. The problem with your analogy is that multiple types of technologies can be used to broadcast on the same frequency in the same area with little to no issue.

This will only become even more prevalent in the very near future.

Don't get me wrong, your analogy does work on some levels. But the fractal nature of life and viewing it as organized complexity shows that the novelty of a spectrum is very fleeting. Sure it may be one toothbrush, but if you drill down, new technologies are so advanced that they only need to utilize a portion of the surface area of one fiber of said toothbrush. Since use of the surface area is so minuscule and relatively passive... the toothbrush holder would never even know of its existence unless he went to great pains to be made awares.

I think the jet liner analogy from earlier is more fitting at this level.

These technologies are with us now. The state see's fit to keep most of these technologies out of our hands unless we fork over extortionate fee's for license monopolies.

In liberty,
Sv. S.Elmo

I disagree with your

I disagree with your conclusion, but you had me going until that final sentence. The problem with your analogy is that multiple types of technologies can be used to broadcast on the same frequency in the same area with little to no issue.

You're quibbling. My description directly applies to a specific familiar broadcast technology, but the existence of other technologies, while doubtless increasing the room available, does not increase it to infinity, so we are still dealing with a scarce, rivalrous resource.

Similarly, the technology of multi-story buildings allows many people to use the same plot of land for a home without sacrificing horizontal space, simply by layering them on top of each other. But we still have ownership: in the case of condos, the ownership of the land is joint among the condo owners. In the case of an apartment building, the land belongs to a landlord. There is still rivalry in use. Infinitely many developers cannot simply indefinitely build buildings on top of each other, for a variety of reasons, such as physical constraints. And similarly for the use of spectrum.

This is in contrast to intellectual property. The same song can literally be sung simultaneously by all six billion people, or a trillion should there ever be that many, or indeed by infinitely many people.

But anyway, if it were in fact the case that infinitely many people could use the same frequency in the same area for as many and as large data transfers as they like without any problem, then we wouldn't have the problems in the first place that spurred the question about property in spectrum. If conditions were not right for property in spectrum because spectrum was non-rivalrous, then it wouldn't matter!

It's incoherent to on the one hand be concerned about the problem of spectrum use but on the other hand, when I explain a solution, to deny that there is a problem.

I don't see how I am

I don't see how I am quibbling, we are discussing the minutia of something rather ethereal. The whole discussion may be quibbling, but singling me out seems like it is ad-hominem.

...while doubtless increasing the room available, does not increase it to infinity, so we are still dealing with a scarce, rivalrous resource.

Scarcity would imply that it is tangible and ownable, I cannot agree to that. Virtually unlimited broadcast bandwidth is available, I fail to see how that is unimportant or of little value to the discussion.

There is still rivalry in use. Infinitely many developers cannot simply indefinitely build buildings on top of each other, for a variety of reasons, such as physical constraints. And similarly for the use of spectrum.

Apples and oranges.

And similarly for the use of spectrum.

No, real estate is real. The spectrum is EM freq. Huge difference.

...then we wouldn't have the problems in the first place that spurred the question about property in spectrum.

You hit the nail on the head for me! Property in the spectrum IS the problem for me, not how to deal with it. Sure it is an interesting intellectual exercise to imagine all the ways individuals could settle the issue, but to me that is merely an exercise.

My stance on the issue is that there is a problem only because people attempt to own something that inherently cannot be owned.

It's incoherent to on the one hand be concerned about the problem of spectrum use but on the other hand, when I explain a solution, to deny that there is a problem.

The solution you explain cannot be directly confronted, it is an intellectual orphan that you drop off at the curb of this discussion.

What I was trying to get across is that I have a problem with spectrum ownership, it is something that cannot be readily owned. Enforcing your ownership is next to impossible.

Therefore a system for deciding who uses what when is inevitable. Among such systems, we human have settled on a system of property rights.

I feel that solution to be wholly inadequate, for the sake that it could escalate to armed violence against supposed broadcast trespassers/criminals upon attempting to enforce the property rights. That is the danger of applying real property rights to imagined property. I enjoy my real property rights, but I would never defend IP with the same gusto and liberal application of ballistic compliance measures.

I cannot possibly imagine a single situation in which enforcing IP, or spectrum property with violence or the threat of violence (real or implied) is ever defensible or beneficial to a free society.

The solution is inadequate for the medium.

No, real estate is real. The

No, real estate is real. The spectrum is EM freq. Huge difference.

They are both real. And they are both intangible. Real estate is not stuff - or not primarily stuff, though the landowner of course also owns the building and the dirt. It is primarily location - a specific area. And location is a where, not a what. It is intangible. You can steal a landowner's building and his dirt - if you are so inclined - but good luck trying to steal the location, which is intangible.

Meanwhile as has been pointed out, the EM property in question is not EM freq, but EM freq combined with location. It is actually not just a little like real estate, but is very much like real estate, since location is a key component, and real estate is also about location.

Closing arguments.

Meanwhile as has been pointed out, the EM property in question is not EM freq, but EM freq combined with location. It is actually not just a little like real estate, but is very much like real estate, since location is a key component, and real estate is also about location.

Scarcity of location, I feel you. We can visit this place in the starship of the mind, as Sagan would say...

Lets imagine a sparsely populated virtual frontier land of EM broadcasts forming the landscape and denizens. EM burst broadcasts carrying digital packets being the jets flying over, a relatively fancy new technology. If a problem occurs here, I see no reason why it should ever be allowed to spill over into the physical realm.

Justify it as they want, they need protect their EM property with EM measures, not physical. Maybe a Virtual NAP can be applied, but this is up to the free-market of ideas.

As for how physical location is different from EM location: People need a physical location (no matter how ephemeral) to exist in any real sense, they don't need EM freq. Which I suppose is why the EM spectrum would essentially be a sparsely populated frontier.

Sure, they are both fruit... but they are apples and oranges, still.

This is my final statement on the subject, I yield to your tenacity, tovarische.

Regards,
Sv. S.Elmo

Guilty as charged

What, two broadcasters forming a 100 MHz cartel?

True, the market as described in this scenario wasn't well suited to a cartel. The low rate of saturation suggests that it would be easy for others to enter at different frequencies (assuming the receiving radios operated at these frequencies, as analog FM receivers do today). I'm also not sure how the broadcast footprints of the two transmitters overlap (can B reach a significant number of listeners that A can't, and vice versa). The broadcasters would probably discard the cartel option and go straight to the "let's cooperate to grow the market" strategy.

My point was supposed to be that two broadcasters, having sunk resources into their transmitters, would be unlikely to try to destroy each others' investments. Their most likely goal would be to each maximize the return on their own investment. This would lead them, for example, to coordinate content, share expenses other than the transmitters (like studios and engineers), and discuss coordinating prices for advertising time rather than start a price war.

The methods that the broadcasters use to maximize return on investment may or may not maximize the utility for their listeners.

The unenforceability of IP

The unenforceability of IP is due, I think, to two key factors.

The first factor is location. Art museums protect their property by posting guards and locking the building at night. Any homeowner protects his home by locking it and by being personally on the premises much of the time. The list goes on. A key element in this is location. If the guards are in Paris, how can they protect theft of a painting in New York? If the Guggenheim stores its Paul Klees by leaving them outside the locked building, then locking the building is pointless.

So location is important. It is hard to protect things far away (far from you, far from your safes and locked buildings, far from your guards).

The other factor is knowledge. Locked doors, after all, merely delay the criminal, giving the owner time to prevent the crime. If a criminal is able to make his crime a perfect secret, known to no one, then he can get away with anything he likes. He can get into a locked safe - eventually - if he can manage to keep his safe-cracking a secret for long enough for him to get in, get out, and get away.

So knowledge is important. It is hard to protect things if you don't know they are being stolen from you.

Both of these factors combine to make it hard to protect IP. But neither of these factors is in play in broadcasting. Broadcaster antennas are easy to find, both by sight and by inferring the location from the strength of the signal, and they are necessarily close to you, if they are close enough to interfere with your broadcast. And the fact of broadcasting is impossible to hide - especially if it intrudes on your own broadcasts.

IP has of course been well enforced in the past, due to a specific situation. While a lone copier could work in secret, it is hard for a pirate publisher with massive sales to remain hidden. This has protected IP owners very well in the past, because of economies of scale. It is expensive to xerox an entire book. In most cases you may as well simply buy a copy of the book. So the small-scale copier is blocked by the inherent expense of copying, leaving only the large-scale copier, who is easy to find due to his large scale.

Location is more of a problem with IP, but if governments with large territory do your work for you, then that problem is also solved. Location would be a problem for private enforcement, but is much less of a problem for state enforcement.

Government has yet to solve

Government has yet to solve the problem of IP. IP is frequently stolen and sold. I fail to see that as "solved".

The FCC has yet to solve the problem of Pirate Radio, due to the nature of certain broadcast types. The FCC seems incapable of doing the serious SIGINT it takes to stop these rogues.

In liberty,
Sv. S.Elmo

Government has yet to solve

Government has yet to solve the problem of IP. IP is frequently stolen and sold. I fail to see that as "solved".

You are using a different definition of "solved" from me. You mean "solved" in the sense of complete elimination of violations. In that sense, physical property is not "solved" either, but that wasn't the sense I meant. I mean "solved" in the sense that physical property is "solved". I am contrasting this situation to one in which no there is no effective IP - a situation which I think we are approaching. As I explained, IP was solved up to now due to the technology of the time. I mentioned xeroxes. Today, copying is much less expensive, so the solution that held for paper is unraveling.

The FCC has yet to solve the problem of Pirate Radio, due to the nature of certain broadcast types.

Again, you seem to be defining "solved" as complete elimination of violations. That is not how I meant it.

Ah, well then I can

Ah, well then I can certainly agree with your dissertation on IP. I would also retract my statement in response to it. I was using the dictionary definition to solved: find the solution to.

I made that statement assuming that you were using solved in its literal form.

Thanks for the heads up.

Property, scarcity, and technology

Constant and Elmo,

You've each made a similar point at separate occasions, but you seem to disagree with each others' examples.

The concept of property ownership is a means to solve disputes over scarce resources. Technology, however, can be used to relieve scarcity--perhaps not entirely, but to some point where it is no longer cost effective to define property ownership. At this stage, the resource can be treated as a commons.

Using 20th century technology--transmitting continuous analog signals at a narrow frequency range (we've been using 100 MHz in the example) to actual FM receivers that can decode these into maybe 50 stations maximum within a county sized area of reception--a radio frequency is a scarce resource that needs expensive property protection (which is usually socialized in statist regimes). Using 21st century technology--implicitly, Elmo seems to be talking about transmitting packets of information at a series of channels around 2.4GHz with adaptive transmitters/receivers the way the wireless connection works that I am using to post this comment--the EM spectrum is no longer scarce. The scarcity is not completely removed, but it is removed to the point where I can assume to walk into most merchants and get sufficient bandwidth for a two-way video conversation supplied by a completely private regime, and the cost is low enough to be absorbed by the merchant as an incentive to buy a cup of coffee.

On the other hand, Constant is comparing the cost of sharing information using 20th century technology of xerox machines to the 21st century technology of digital transmission. It is not exactly the same point, because (I am becoming convinced) IP is fundamentally non-rivalrous. The added physical cost of copying was sufficient to make the number of those copying IP much smaller, so treating a specific song or a book as a scarce resource was a fiction that was easier to maintain.

Would you both agree that the technology used to exploit a resource can determine whether it is treated as "property" or not?

Using 21st century

Using 21st century technology--implicitly, Elmo seems to be talking about transmitting packets of information at a series of channels around 2.4GHz with adaptive transmitters/receivers the way the wireless connection works that I am using to post this comment--the EM spectrum is no longer scarce.

Maybe, maybe not. So far use has tended to fill the physical capacity of actual connections to the Internet, and I don't see any fundamental reason to doubt that use can easily fill theoretical capacity. If there is anything limiting the full use of theoretical capacity it is not that we have run out of things to send over it, but that we don't yet have the installed technological capacity to make full use of it.

People have been underestimating the ability of people to soak up capacity for a long time.

The scarcity is not completely removed, but it is removed to the point where I can assume to walk into most merchants and get sufficient bandwidth for a two-way video conversation supplied by a completely private regime, and the cost is low enough to be absorbed by the merchant as an incentive to buy a cup of coffee.

I don't think the explanation for free wifi at cafes has much to do with non-scarcity of EM. On my own home wifi setup, the bottleneck is not my wifi capacity but my broadband connection to the Internet. The low cost of cafe wifi isn't really about the wifi part at all. It's about the cafe's broadband Internet connection. This doesn't really prove very much about whether EM is scarce or not.

The degree of scarcity of EM - that is, the effective scarcity of EM given our current methods of using it - would be revealed by how many different people can set up independent wireless lans in a given location. As I recall from when I set up mine, it was pointed out that wifi has several channels. I think there are 11 channels, actually. And the instructions I recieved told me that I should choose a different channel to avoid interference with my neighbors' wifi. That is most definitely a case of scarcity! Maybe not theoretical scarcity, but my wifi equipment isn't theoretical equipment, it's actual equipment that will actually interfere with my neighbors' equipment if we're not careful to set our wifi to different channels. Google wifi channel for plenty of discussion of this point.

People have been

People have been underestimating the ability of people to soak up capacity for a long time.

Whether the technical capabilities of wi-fi transceivers remove scarcity for all time forward or for all locations is not at issue. I claim that the technology can remove scarcity for some situations, and because enforcing property rights comes with a cost, it can become cost effective to treat a resource not as "property" but as "commons".

As you suggest in this comment, a resource provided as a commons increases demand for the resource, which could again change the cost effectiveness of how we supply the resource.

I probably confused things by referring to technological implementations as "20th/21st century" solutions, implying a continuous removal of scarcity. Competing entrepreneurs will look for ways to reduce scarcity (i.e., increase supply) and thus lower their costs. Changes in demand, as you point out, also affect price. When the price for a resource is lower than the cost of policing property rights, it will be more effective to treat it as a commons.

You and Elmo both seemed to be acknowledging this relationship between technology, scarcity and property, but not making it explicit.

"Property" vs. "Commons"

I like it.

Note that this argument suggests that property is not sacred and eternal. Rather, it suggests that property is a socially-defined institution, and changes in society, technological and otherwise, may result in changes in property rights -- even if the property owner does not consent.

Once upon a time, society recognized that –

- ranchers could drive their livestock across private land, and landowners that objected had to incur the cost of fencing the herds out,
- employers had broad discretion in how they treated employees, including subjecting them to sexual harassment,
- citizens could hunt endangered species and bald eagles,
- smokers had broad discretion to pollute the air they shared with non-smokers, and
- humans could own humans.

Times changed; rights changed – even if the people who held those rights didn't like it.

Subjective property rights

Yes, I am getting closer to a subjective theory of property rights, and of morality in general. I haven't figured it out completely yet--maybe anyone here who has a better understanding of the topic can give me some pointers. Some aspects of my still fuzzy position are:

  • Logical explanatory systems are objective. A specific individual's acceptance of them and adherence to them is subjective.
  • The cost of adhering to an ethical system that is at odds with the rest of your neighbors is higher than the cost of adhering to an ethical system accepted by your neighbors.
  • Empirically, morality appears subjective. I have met lots of people who hold various moral positions. If I point out a logical inconsistency in their position, it gives me no immediate protection against their actions. If they decide, of their own volition, that they should modify their position, I gain some protection as a result of their subjective change of attitude.
  • A tactic used by both my friends and foes is to try to use the subjectivity of morals to confuse their opponent, thus allowing them to escape his originally intended action.
  • If you have a gun and convictions you are dangerous. That is why it is so important to me that I have both.

Are market prices

Are market prices subjective? They are the result of subjective preferences, to be sure. But the prices themselves are something different, and are not subjective. If I think that the market price of gold is $100, that does not make the market price of gold $100 - no matter how strong my belief or conviction that it is. This is true even though the market price is indeed the product of the subjective preferences of everybody on the planet.

I think that morality is similar to market prices. Market prices are not subjective, so in the same way, morality is not subjective.

There is, however, something that makes morality even less subjective than market prices, and that is that there is a hard bedrock reality that forces people to have the subjective preferences they do. And that is this: if someone has suicidal preferences, then he is eliminated from the gene pool. This inescapably produces a population which does not have suicidal preferences. And this is a major constraint on preferences. In a society with unconstrained preferences, murder might well become moral. But in actual society made up of actual biological organisms, the constraint against suicidal preferences means that murder will always be immoral. In contrast, the price of gold could very conceivably drop to $1 or 1 penny per ounce - if preferences change. Since gold is not necessary to survival, this is a possible state of affairs.

So that gold is valuable is much more mutable, much less permanent than that murder is wrong. Since gold has been extremely valuable essentially throughout human history should therefore suggest to you that the immorality of murder is, by comparison, for all practical purposes a fixed constant of the universe, like the speed of light.

Analogy

But the prices themselves are something different, and are not subjective.

The historical market price of gold--the record of all transactions that have happened--is objective. Similarly, the history of all consequences to actions is also objective. The fact that, "At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower" can be measured and determined from evidence in the real world. The price that you are willing to accept for an ounce of gold in your hand, prior to the point of agreeing on the transaction, is subjective. So is your motivation to commit a future murder, your prediction of the consequences of that act, and what value you place on those consequences.

There is, however, something that makes morality even less subjective than market prices, and that is that there is a hard bedrock reality that forces people to have the subjective preferences they do.

Making good economic decisions depends on understanding the consequences of your actions. So does making good ethical decisions. If you either do not understand the consequences of your actions, or you don't care about them, you will be less successful at meeting your ends than someone who has a correct understanding and the diligence to act accordingly.

An individual who consistently tries to sell his gold for a price different than the pool of potential buyers is willing to accept will not prosper and will have less resources under his control. Analogously, a society of people that routinely commit violence will not allow members to cooperate, produce, and meet their individual goals.

I'm not sure I understand the difference.

The historical market price

The historical market price of gold--the record of all transactions that have happened--is objective. Similarly, the history of all consequences to actions is also objective. The fact that, "At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower" can be measured and determined from evidence in the real world. The price that you are willing to accept for an ounce of gold in your hand, prior to the point of agreeing on the transaction, is subjective. So is your motivation to commit a future murder, your prediction of the consequences of that act, and what value you place on those consequences.

That is not the distinction I am talking about. You can (if you like) decide to sell the gold you own for $100. But you cannot change the market price of gold - at least, not very much. The market price is the price at which supply meets demand. If you sell your gold then your actions only slightly perturb the supply and demand curves (by changing your own supply and demand). Since you are a tiny little part of the economy, the economy as a whole - the supply and demand curves as a whole - are barely affected by your behavior.

I am not talking about (only) the historical price of gold, but about the current and future prices of gold. You have very limited ability to affect these. What you can affect is your own behavior. You can give all your gold away - affecting your own behavior greatly. But this will not noticeably affect the supply and demand curves for the market as a whole. It will be like trying to change the level of the ocean by pouring your home's tap water into it with a garden hose.

The market price of gold - which you cannot noticeably affect by your actions - is like the morality of randomly killing strangers.

Your decision whether to sell your own gold for lower than the market price - which you can fully determine - is like your decision whether to randomly kill strangers. Your decision whether to randomly kill strangers will not noticeably affect whether it is moral to randomly kill strangers, just as your decision whether to give away your gold will not noticeably affect the market price of gold.

I'm not sure I understand the difference.

If murder permanently becomes moral and normal and it becomes permanently immoral and abnormal and perverse to defend oneself against murder, then a tiny fraction of perverts will (perversely, because they are abnormal) defend themselves against murder. Soon everyone will be dead except for the perverts, and the perverts (the ones who defend themselves against murder) will become the new normal. But this contradicts the assumption (that murder permanently becomes moral and normal). This is a disproof by contradiction.

Now contrast the above with the following scenario.

If gold permanently loses its market value then - well, then that's that. It can happen. There's precedent. Other commodity money has lost its value.

Our biology exerts a much stronger pressure on defense against murder than it does on the price of gold.

Negotiation and punishment

On re-reading your comment, maybe you feel the price of gold is more subjective because two parties are negotiating a price, whereas a murder has more finality.

Perhaps instead of murder, we should consider the crime of extortion. How much money you are willing to pay to keep your business from being destroyed also involves negotiation.

Also, my position derives in part because some of the consequences of committing a crime are enacted in the market. The fact that some people are willing to forgive a criminal and continue to associate with him while others would punish him with a disproportionate amount of force makes the consequences of crime subjective.

Biological pretext and mass

Biological pretext and mass subjective preference as the root of objective morality. Interesting.

By proxy that is also a pretty good argument for natural rights.

And another thing...

But in actual society made up of actual biological organisms, the constraint against suicidal preferences means that murder will always be immoral.

But most people in our society think that murder is moral if it is committed by a ruler! And this is why rulers can kill thousands without feeling the same consequences that you or I would suffer if we fail to renew our driver's license.

I think you have causality

I think you have causality reversed.

Rulers get away with murder because they have the raw power to do so. They get away with murder for the same reason that you and I get away with stepping on ants.

Since rulers get away with murder, people adapt their views. They reconcile themselves to it, they accept it. They do this because not accepting it is futile. If you fail to accept it and you try to do something about that, you become the state's next victim. If you fail to accept it but you do nothing, then you suffer internally from the awareness that something horrible is happening. If, in contrast, you love your ruler, then your ruler may not only let you live, but raise you up above others.

Loving the ruler occurs on a small scale, called Stockholm Syndrome. The explanation I have given for love of the ruler is similar to the evolutionary and psychological explanations of Stockholm Syndrome that you will find in the Wikipedia article.

Here too I suggest comparing morality to market prices. When the economy is centrally planned, there aren't market prices. A centrally planned economy is not a market. It is a violation of the market, or a negation, or a destruction of the market. And similarly, the ability of the ruler to get away with murder is not morality. It is a negation, or a destruction of morality.

Would you both agree that

Would you both agree that the technology used to exploit a resource can determine whether it is treated as "property" or not?

In principle, yes. But I'm not at all sure that we have much in the way of actual examples. My xeroxing example was about enforcement rather than scarcity.

My xeroxing example was

My xeroxing example was about enforcement rather than scarcity.

Agreed. Using xerox technology, the cost of making a copy of a book was higher than with digital technology. The number of individuals making copies rose, and thus did the cost of policing intellectual property rights. This affects whether IP is treated pragmatically as property or commons.

I am not addressing here the issue of whether IP is property according to deontological arguments.

Digression on behalf of the too-damned-lazy

“I’ve been one poor correspondent,
and I’ve been too, too hard to find,
but that doesn’t mean you ain’t been
on my mind....”

My very occasional role here is to emphasize how libertarian ideals fray at the edges. I do this not so much because I disapprove of libertarian ideals more than any other ideals, but because libertarian ideals are sufficiently well defined as to make them interesting to discuss.

This topic is kind of a case in point. I understand the question about how a society uses radio frequencies as a case study in how a society manages commons in general. I would have trotted out the “tragedy of the commons” arguments but for the fact that the arguments were assumed as part of the set-up, making me redundant.

I note that the Nobel Committee recently decided to honor a political scientist for groundbreaking work documenting, as far as I can tell from press reports, how my assumptions about the need for a state to control the commons are overblown. From what I’ve heard, the new laureate does not argue that it’s ok for people to consume as much as they please, but rather that many groups develop the capacity to manage the behavior of their members without resorting to some kind of state-like control mechanism.

That’s the sum total of what I’ve heard. Has anybody got a better read on this – and want to start a new thread to tell the rest of us about it?

True, I could go read her stuff myself, but the mere intellectual joy of discovery has not yet proven to be a sufficient motivator. But then I got to thinking: There are plenty of smart people here who not only get off on that kind of discovery, but would have the satisfaction of using her work to kick me in the butt. THERE’s a rich booty, so to speak.

So how ‘bout it? Who wants to go figure out what she’s said, what her work says about the prospects for living a government-free (or a government-lite) life, and report back?

We now return you to the original topic of this discussion, already in progress....

Yes

Spectrum frequencies are scarce and can cause interference and are able to be homesteaded.

I have no doubt in the absence of the FCC, Common law or UCC based rules would emerge as conflict arise and are solved. Special Technologies such a directed transmission, and spread spectrum broadcast by allowing more signals to be crammed into the same wave space. Also high capacity routers and lines could transfer a practically limitless number of data streams to a user on demand.