Are intangible goods Scarce?
"Intangibles are non-scarce, therefore not property."
The assertion that "Intangibles are non-scarce, therefore not property," is frequently made by the abolish-IP libertarians. Setting the second part of the argument ("therefore not property") this article will examine the relationship between intangibles and scarcity.
|Type||Scarce Analysis||Rivalrous Analysis|
|Authorship/Production||Authorship and production is highly scarce, and must be actively pursued. Production of new intangibles is heavily also reliant scarce inputs, including capital, labor, investments, and time.||Unique intangibles authorship is rivalrous, as it only comes into being as a result of the original author. Any subsequent persons cannot be classified as "authors" but rather merely possess a copy of the authored work. Authorship of non-unique intangibles1, may have several unique instances of authorship2.|
|Non-existent||The greatest scarcity of intangibles is those which have yet to be produced. In instance of non-scarce intangibles it is illogical to pursue production.||Applying the concept of rivalry results to that which doesn't exist and cannot be used results in an illogical statement.|
|Distribution & Sale||Simply the existence, production, or discovery of a specific intangible is insufficient to eliminating scarcity of a specific-intangible. The intangible's distribution relies on scarce resources, such as marketing and delivery-media.||Distribution and sale of intangibles including non-uniques is highly rivalrous. Similar to counterfeit and inflated currencies, each additional instance distributed or sold is rivalrous and lessens the ability to sell or distribute more instances.|
|One Instance||The first instance of an intangible is highly scarce; if destroyed, an intangible may be lost forever.||A single instance of an intangible generally may only be used by a single person. Typically an intangible must be broadcast, copied, or otherwise spread. If a person chooses to delete an intangible, that intangible may quickly become highly rivalrous.3|
|Replication||Replication or duplication of (many) creative works are relatively non-scarce, and as such, this act of replication of intangibles is often not treated as a valuable economic activity.||Replication is generally non rivalrous, which coincidentally may suggest it may inconsequential in the context of ownership as a result.|
Even if scarcity/rivalry were the ultimate-test4, this would not successfully preclude the ownership of intangibles as property.
return to: Intangible Property (Articles) - JC Anarchy Theory
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