[p2p-research] Artificial Scarcity Is Subject To Massive Deflation | Techdirt

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Fri Nov 6 01:42:11 CET 2009

Ryan Lanham wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 5:58 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
> pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
>>  The way I thought this would work has been tied to technology
>>> acceleration.
>>> I've always wondered...what happens when you build the best possible
>>> diesel
>>> locomotive and then start finding ways to make it cheaper and cheaper.  In
>>> a
>>> sense, the IP can go on for a while, but the relative value of the IP is
>>> the
>>> question.  The marginal value (utility) of IP is clearly falling as
>>> technology accelerates.
>> Value to whom? Maybe not to the user? Maybe only to the rent seeker?
>> If there was a basic income, would so many people be driven to rent
>> seeking?
> Maybe this is the crux.  In classical economic terms, abundance theorists
> are suggesting a much harsher definition (and presumably a strong sanction
> against) rent seeking.
> In capitalism, rent seeking is often prohibited but often allowed.  Post
> abundance people seem to want to either make it irrelevant (weak abundance
> theorists) or make it proscribed (strong abundance theorists).
> Rent seeking is not profit seeking, of course.

"In economics, rent seeking occurs when an individual, organization or firm 
seeks to earn income by capturing economic rent through manipulation or 
exploitation of the economic environment, rather than by earning profits 
through economic transactions and the production of added wealth. Most 
studies of rent seeking focus on efforts to capture special monopoly 
privileges, such as government regulation of free enterprise competition, 
though the term itself is derived from the far older and more established 
practice of appropriating a portion of production by gaining ownership or 
control of land.  .... The term rent seeking itself is derived from the far 
older and more established practice of appropriating a portion of production 
by gaining ownership or control of land. Rent seeking generally implies the 
extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any 
contribution to productivity, such as by gaining control of land and other 
pre-existing natural resources, or by imposing burdensome regulations or 
other government decisions that may affect consumers or businesses. While 
there may be few people in modern industrialized countries who do not gain 
something, directly or indirectly, through some form or another of rent 
seeking, rent seeking in the aggregate can impose substantial losses on 
society. ..."

So yes, it sounds pretty awful.

Maybe another way to look at this is that some who advocate a basic income 
or other form of social support to everyone may be trying to distribute all 
rents equally to all people, assuming rents made sense? :-)

That is, if one person is making money from renting land so someone else can 
put solar panels on it, then why should the rent money just go to one person 
who currently has their name on a piece of paper in a dusty box in some 
department of records somewhere as "owner" of the land?

Part of this is questioning the legitimacy of ownership of the fruits of the 
commons. The history of most land ownership, for example, usually rests on 
some arbitrary aspect like who moved there first, or who had the strongest 
military hundreds of years ago, who was buddies with some king once upon a 
time, or something like that. There may be a chain of transactions since 
then, but the origins are generally pretty shaky.

In the USA at least, the purchaser of stolen property has to return the 
property. In fact, it may even be a crime to knowingly receive the property:
"Receiving stolen goods is generally buying or acquiring the possession of 
property knowing (or believing in some jurisdictions) that it had been 
obtained through theft, embezzlement, larceny, or extortion by someone else. 
The crime is separate from the crime of stealing the property. To be 
convicted, the receiver must know the goods were stolen at the time he 
receives them and had the intent to aid the thief. Paying for the goods or 
intending to collect the reward for returning them are not defenses. 
Depending on the value of the property received, receiving-stolen-property 
is either a misdemeanor or a felony. There are numerous federal laws that 
make it a federal crime to receive stolen property (e.g., vehicles, 
securities) if the property received was or had been in interstate commerce."

For example, the literal bedrock of US capitalism, Manhattan Island, was 
reportedly in some accounts purchased from natives who lived on Long Island 
and thought the whole thing of selling a neighboring tribe's land was a big 
"When I was in high school, a history class published a research project in 
which they convincingly proved that Peter Minuit had purchased Manhattan 
from the Canarsie Indians. Since they did not live on Manhattan Island, it 
is unlikely that they had any ownership claim in the first place. "

And even when things were "sold" by the people who lived there, natives 
usually thought they were giving up some hunting rights, but Europeans 
thought they were buying the land, which makes the transaction illegitimate.

Also, it is not clear what aspects of Native American law would even make it 
legal for a few leaders to sell the entire land of a free Native People. 
Consider the recent succession of a large chunk of the USA that was not 
reported by the US press two years ago.
"Lakota Sioux Secede From US, Declare Independence"

The US government and others were quick to say that a few tribal elders 
could not speak for all the Lakota people and so nothing was going on. How 
can that be true if all the current US land claims are based on what a few 
tribal elders were supposed to have said centuries ago?

It's a double standard.

So, basically, what is the legal status then of all land ownership in 
Manhattan? Or for that matter most or all of the USA? It is all stolen or 
otherwise likely has in illegitimate title.

How can legitimate rents be collected on stolen or illegitimately acquired 

It requires a powerful mythological smokescreen to get people to believe that:
   "The Mythology of Wealth"
Along with ideas about politics, economic theory, political strategy and 
other related stuff, you will find at this site a sprinkling of something 
few people associate with political organizing. I refer to a healthy dose of 
cultural anthropology. Indeed, one message of this site is that whatever you 
understand about taxes, trade policy, wages and general social conditions, 
you can’t win the political struggle without also understanding things like 
culture, symbolism and myth. ...
   All of the “laws, ordinances, customs and usages” that regulate control 
over resources and relationships between people – including their business 
relationships – are nothing more than a set of rules invented by the 
imagination of some human being – frequently one who has been dead since the 
middle ages. Those rights are frequently exchanged for – get this – printed 
pieces of paper with pictures of dead people on them. Where is the value of 
those pieces of paper? The answer is in your mind, in the mind of the person 
you are “bargaining” with – and nowhere else. It’s all a big game. It is our 
mythology, and it is no more real than belief in Zeus, Hera and Aphrodite.

--Paul Fernhout

More information about the p2presearch mailing list