The use of the word “property” is just a Propaganda Ploy

Stephan Kinsella said…
Great post. At least the founders, as you have helped to demonstrate, themselves regarded patent and copyright as a special legal privilege, not as a natural right. So they kept the distinction straight. Modern IP advocates have not. In fact use of the word “property” is just a propaganda ploy, as observed by Fritz Machlup and Edith Penrose in two seminal studies:

“Those who started using the word property in connection with inventions had a very definite purpose in mind: they wanted to substitute a word with a respectable connotation, “property”, for a word that had an unpleasant ring, “privilege”.

[Fritz Machlup & Edith Penrose, “The Patent Controversy in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Economic History 10 (1950), p. 1, 16]

While some economists before 1873 were anxious to deny that patents conferred “monopolies”–and, indeed, had talked of “property in inventions” chiefly in order to avoid using the unpopular word “monopoly”–most of this squeamishness has disappeared. But most writers want to make it understood that these are not “odious” monopolies but rather “social monopolies”, “general welfare monopolies”, or “socially earned” monopolies. Most writers also point out with great emphasis that the monopoly grant is limited and conditional.

[Fritz Machlup, U.S. Senate Subcommittee On Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights, An Economic Review of the Patent System, 85th Cong., 2nd Session, 1958, Study No. 15]”
July 15, 2011 5:56 AM

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