In this small corner of the internet world where I occupy a good portion of my time, there are a handful of topics that remain unsettled within libertarian and Austrian dialogue. Abortion is one; fractional reserve banking is another.
Another discussion has raised its head on occasion – that regarding the validity of intellectual property within a libertarian framework. The latest iteration is the upcoming cage match pitting Robert Wenzel against Stephan Kinsella, replete with all of the drama typically preceding such performances.
I have never found the debate significantly important to me: can one own an idea (in its various manifestations)? While it is to me personally a rather peripheral issue given the other, more clear-cut, governmentally-enabled property rights violations we face daily, it is an important consideration for some in the libertarian community.
There is one aspect in this discussion that I find worth exploring: the means of enforcement.
From the point of view of the pro-IP libertarian: does enforcement require government action? I imagine there are minarchists that might suggest this. Conversely, is the enforcement to be achieved solely by contractual means, as derived by market actors? In this case, a libertarian bordering on anarcho-capitalist would seem to find comfort.
For the anti-IP libertarian: I understand the objection to the minarchist form of enforcement. Is there an objection to the contractual form of enforcement? If so, on what grounds is it suggested that such contracts be deemed invalid? Here I do not speak to the practicality of enforcement, but to the application of libertarian theory.
To me, this question regarding means of enforcement is the only one that matters. I hope to hear Wenzel outline his means of enforcement: via government action or contractual means. If by government, this to me is a losing proposition. If the means are contractual, I hope to hear Kinsella explain what, if anything, he would do about that.