I need to pose a question today. Many people, including me, believe that in an ideal world it would be best if all transactions and interactions were voluntary, but how does this happen when it is in opposition to basic human nature?

     Before we get sidetracked into another theoretical discussion of morals and ethics, and before we complain yet again about the evils of coercion, allow me to be blunt and ask a very pointed question to each individual reader.

     In your own personal life, today, if someone provides you with something you can use, or which you appreciate, do you reciprocate or do you just take the product of their labor without a word, simply because it was there for the taking?

     If this sounds like a condemnation, it is. Not of the true voluntaryists, but of the ones who only do lip service. The ones who repeatedly climb up on their soapboxes and advocate for free exchange, but who are much more likely to ask for pay for what they do than they are to voluntarily pay for what someone else does.

     On the eve of a much anticipated IP debate, I identify this as the disease behind the IP symptom. Copyrights and trademarks exist for one reason and one reason only: As long as something is available and appears to be free to use, most people will use it without either a second thought or so much as a single word of thanks to the person who worked to originate it.

     Legal IP protections are simply a reaction to this aspect of human nature. They are, at this point in time, the only way to prevent one person form using the labor of another without some restraint. It is frequently claimed that these protections are coercive, by punishing one person for using the creation of another, but instead they are a defense to help ensure that the creator is recognized for the body of work. Without these protections, how many would have been forced to quit creating and divert their energies to a different line to simply feed themselves?

     It is immoral by any measure to expect a person to keep creating art or literature without recompense for their time and effort, or even their sacrifice, yet the call continually goes out that these creations are “public domain,” and should be free to all.

     That would be acceptable if, and only if, all users voluntarily contributed to the creators, but we all know that this does not happen. Do you personally remember the last time you at least thanked the creator of a work you enjoyed? If yes, good. If no, then you are a part of the problem.

     This is about a lot more than IP. This is a disease which will kill voluntaryism as a whole. Until the human tendency to use without recompense is squelched, a voluntary society is unattainable.

     Now, to make this writing more positive, I want to congratulate those readers who live the voluntary ideal. These are the people who will eventually make it work by setting the example for others to follow.

     Everyone else who speaks of voluntaryism and freedom should look to these people, the ones who live the idea, for inspiration, and follow in their footsteps.

     If you appreciate what someone else does, you owe them at least a thank you. If you have something of value to send their way, all the better.

     Lead, follow, or get out of the way.