On Andrew Galambos and His Primary Property Ideas
Alvin Lowi, Jr.
e-mail: a l o w i @ e a r t h l i n k . n e t
© 1998-2000 Alvin Lowi – All Rights Reserved
"Primary property" became the centerpiece of an ideological program launched by astrophysicist Andrew J. Galambos in 1961. The avowed purpose of this enterprise was to "build" a free society.1
Galambos claimed a scientific basis for his approach. However, the dearth of written material as well as the ideological context in which the subject was presented has inhibited students of Galambos in their further explorations of the subject and handicapped their attempts to make practical applications of it to their lives. Nevertheless, the concepts he presented were enthusiastically received. He developed considerable excitement among his more than 5000 former students resulting in a loyal following among the majority of them that persists to this day. This outcome is remarkable considering that his disclosures were solely oral and he became mentally impaired more than fifteen years ago. It is a testimonial to his pioneering intellectual leadership if not also to his charisma.
It would be risky enough to explore the particular subject of "primary property" if only because of its obscure and esoteric psychological nature. It is all the more so because Galambos cannot now be consulted in person, his audio-tapes are unavailable for independent study and he left no written disclosures on the subject.
Galambos further complicated the study by embedding the subject in an ideology having moral connotations, which to question may elicit an emotional rather than a rational response. As a result of the very misconceptions Galambos feared would arise regarding the meaning of his ideas on the subject, speculations abound and rhetoric tends to supersede substance in inconclusive arguments.
Collegial explorations of Galambos’ notion of "primary property" as a social phenomenon using scientific method are inhibited. Since scientific method was represented by Galambos to be his first, foremost and most fundamental consideration, it would seem appropriate to try to overcome these inhibitions.
No one alive is authorized to speak for Galambos on technical matters, and there is no text of his available to stand in his defense. Thus, I am left to my own devices to determine how to regard my recollections of his teachings. Therefore, I must take full responsibility for these contents. Hopefully, my observations will be more heuristic than critical, and my skepticism regarding some aspects of Galambos’ approach will not obscure my genuine admiration of the man and his work. I have no doubt that the subject matter of his teachings is as important as he represented, importance measured in terms of the advancement of myself, my fellows and our mutual posterity.2
GALAMBOS AND STATISM
In his original treatment of how human society works, which he presented systematically to the public for the first time in 1961, Andrew Galambos emphasized the workings of a free market economy under limited constitutional government. As the course developed, he discovered that the integrity of "private property" was the central feature of the existence and operation of a humane society in general and markets in particular. This new insight led him to observe that the word "private" was a superfluous adjective in the term "private property," pointing out that property is private else it is not property. He also refined his definition and treatment of property in his discourses as follows:3
· · Property consists of one’s life and all of its non-procreative derivatives.
Galambos chose this abstract definition to suit his theoretical constructions, which eventually, he claimed, dispensed with political arrangements altogether.
A more operational or phenomenological definition tied to observational procedures would have been more in keeping with his avowed interest in making his studies scientific. Such definitions might have been suggested by anthropology. However, he disdained historical practices, preferring ideal abstractions instead. This stance would come to handicap his appreciation for the very humanity that his theories were meant to complement, and it also handicapped the development of his theory of authentic human action in contradistinction to animal behavior.
Galambos’ original supporters was patent attorney Billy Alvin Robbins,
Esquire. Robbins attended the first offering of Course 100 in 1961. A
polished lecturer and a competent engineer, Robbins became the second person
to ever present that course to the public (in the
When Galambos introduced the term "coercion" into his elaborated definition of property, he inadvertently embraced a logical circularity that resulted from his definition of coercion as "an intentional interference with property." Consequently, he relied on "property" to define what was not property in order to define "property." A further complication resulted from having to determine whether an interference with property was "intentional," which is difficult if not impossible to observe. These anomalies were troublesome for some of his more conscientious students when they attempted to apply his concept of property in a scientific manner. They found they could not devise a suitable observational test to establish whether or not a particular claim to property as he defined it was authentic.
As a patent attorney, Robbins was keenly interested in property, particularly the intellectual variety. His concentration was on traditional common law practices that were familiar to him in his profession. Galambos did not trust those traditions to deal adequately with such an important matter. He associated them with the statutory practices that had come to dominate intellectual property protection everywhere in society. He stereotyped patent attorneys like Robbins as agents of the State and not contractual counsel to individual innovators. After all, as a member of the Bar, Robbins was an officer of the court and was under oath to be faithful to the "law of the land," however concocted by the Legislature and interpreted by the Judiciary.
Perhaps because of his European heritage, Galambos did not appreciate that the Anglo-Saxon common law is the generally unwritten and evolving set of rules of jurisprudence that become binding by custom and then only as a result of immemorial usage and universal reception in a community. Thus, the "common law" is a natural phenomenon characterizing volitional human culture. Had Galambos known what Robbins knew, he would have realized that the property violations he abhorred derive primarily from statute law that comes down from the coercive power of the State to preempt the operation of common law among autonomous individuals. Moreover, he would have seen his property principle already at work in society as a feature of the common law phenomenon.
Robbins found an ample non-legal sphere within which his clients could find a measure of protection for their intellectual property. To him, an innovator’s protection would depend primarily on his own behavior and disciplined expressed in a manner that could be recognized and respected by his community of peers.
For Robbins, prudence and competence would be the keys to the integrity of property. Whereas, Galambos adopted a moral approach in which "absolute" integrity of property was to be the sole criterion from which institutional sanctions could be justified.
Robbins conceded determination of ownership to a community consensus. By contrast, Galambos derived his authority from a "higher source." Presumably, that source was nature as revealed by scientific method in the course of development of what he called "Volitional science." Robbins’ and Galambos’ views on property would be reconciled eventually but not in the courses of the Free Enterprise Institute.
By this time, Galambos had developed an aversion to any State involvement in property protection. So he undertook to develop a theoretical approach a priori, which he formally introduced into the curriculum of Course 100 in 1962. Subsequently, he announced that a new course, V-201, entitled "The Nature and Protection of Primary Property" would be offered the following year. In this new course, Galambos would concentrate on "primary property" and would disclose a new theory he had invented for its protection.
While Robbins was presenting Course 100, he attended the first offering of V-201 in 1963 at which time Galambos made a critical and derogatory example of Robbins’ profession, alluding to a conspiracy with the State regarding intellectual property. This faux pas would have been bad enough without mentioning Robbins by name and position on the FEI faculty. Although Galambos was unable to demonstrate how his theory would work out in practice, he easily showed how the typical alliance between the legal profession and the government results in corrupt practices with respect to innovators thereby impugning Robbins integrity in public. Robbins was stunned by this unprovoked attack, but he was able to defend his approach to intellectual property protection based on common law practices, accusing Galambos of throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Galambos summarily dismissed Robbins argument, and he insinuated that Robbins, the attorney, was a party to "immoral" professional practices. Robbins was understandably distressed inasmuch as this adversity was unprovoked and uncalled for even if the State had tainted the practice of patent law.
Galambos’ attack on the patent profession was personally painful to Robbins. And it raised the question as to why he did not also jump on the accountants, corporation lawyers, stock brokers, physicians, engineers and bankers in the class whose professions are not only corrupted by the State but are created by it in many cases. After all, since Galambos taught that there was no such thing as a small infringement of property any more than there could be just a little pregnancy, why single out the patent profession for abuse.
Robbins was not the last to encounter Galambos’ accusations of complicity in "primary property theft." He was just the first and most visible target because he was knowledgeable on the subject and the most likely person in Galambos’ audience to uncover a defect in his new theory. Regardless, this episode was to shape Galambos’ posture in his future expositions and dealings.
Robbins was an authority on common law property practices as well as statute law and his "defense" against Galambos’ attack was very instructive to all those listening. Galambos was unable to listen in the classroom setting so I attempted to mediate this controversy in private based on an appeal to scientific criteria in the belief that such arguments would take precedence in the situation. I was motivated to do this because Robbins was my patent attorney and I considered both he and Galambos to be my colleagues in the quest for learning more about society. However, my efforts were to no avail. Much to my chagrin, I was unable to reconcile the controversy by such civil means. Galambos steadfastly held to a moral (i.e. righteous) as opposed to a scientific (i.e. realistic) position. Robbins had a successful patent law practice, which he was not about to abandon. In the end, Robbins resigned from the faculty of FEI. He also withdrew his patronage of Galambos’ ideological program taking considerable goodwill with him.
TWO VIEWS OF PROPERTY IN IDEAS
Robbins had the credentials for contributing to the theory of primary property and its protection. He had already distinguished himself in this field by obtaining the first patent (not merely a copyright) ever granted by the U.S. Patent Office covering a computer program. Prior to Robbins work, software had not been recognized as an invention. Robbins defended his client’s claims with some ingenuity of his own. He showed that a special-purpose computer is created from a general-purpose computer when a special program or algorithm is installed in it. As a result, his client was the first to be recognized by the public as a software inventor. This insight of Robbins’ would come to have special significance for me in understanding how intellectual property invested in land and natural resources results in creating new forms of property.
Robbins’ approach was most relevant to my efforts to commercialize an invention I was working on at the time. Curiously, Galambos was receptive to some of what I had learned from Robbins. For example, the "proprietary notice," presented to enrollees of Free Enterprise Institute courses for the first time in 1964, was an adaptation of Robbins’ form of an inventor’s disclosure agreement.
Subsequently, Robbins taught a course at UCLA emphasizing the importance of property in contracts and how to treat intellectual property in them.4 His approach was technical rather than ideological or moral. The information proved to be a valuable guide not only to personal behavior but also for understanding the fate of ideas in society here and now. I found the existing common-law institutions emphasized by Robbins to be relevant and practical for safely commercializing my inventions in the world as it is.
On the other hand, Galambos’ abstract social inventions for the protection of "primary property" could be implemented, if at all, only through ideological promotion. Such efforts would have to take precedence over all my other goals in life. Even then, there was substantial doubt that this effort would produce a practical alternative to the common-law methods of intellectual property protection. This dilemma impressed me with the difficulties of inventing social institutions in the abstract and then trying to mold humanity by ideological means to fit them into a synthetic structure. To me, this approach was like putting the cart before the horse in the sense that it implied the existence of a mature technology (the cart) without evidence of a science (the horse).
Galambos was able to cut heroic social conceptions out of whole moral cloth, and he was increasingly intent on trying to reduce them to practice. However, his approach boiled down to a programmatic dedication to synthetic contrivances. His program became inconsistent with the methods of natural science and technology he taught so well and was so well prepared to practice. Consequently, Galambos’ students now find themselves confronting certain dilemmas that can be resolved only by resort to humility and skepticism coupled with further innovation, experimentation and study as originally advocated by Galambos. Curiously, the synthetic approach to which Galambos came to devote his powerful mind raises the same questions encountered with any "public policy," namely, who’s in charge and how did he get his authority?5
As he had taught earlier on, Galambos showed how the scientific method provides the only tools applicable for coping with societal insufficiencies and uncertainties. Any new hypothesis is likely to raise dilemmas in applying it to the real world and had Galambos remained faithful to his original scientific approach, the dilemmas that arose in his ideological program would have been at least rational ones rather than the acrimonious moral issues they subsequently became.
A comparison of Galambos’ and Robbins’ approaches to the subject of "intellectual" or "primary" property is instructive. Galambos, the physicist and social theorist, grudgingly used conventional methods of intellectual property protection while introducing his idealized method through verbal discourse, personal example and exhortation. Although he was reluctant to sanction application by others, he fully expected his mechanistic system would eventually succeed as the method of choice in society on the strength of ideological persuasion based on abstract moral arguments.
Robbins, the engineer and patent attorney, recommended common law practices because they were familiar and already widely practiced evidencing social acceptance of intellectual property based on long-standing practicality rather than moral exhortation or government edict. He expected refinements in the actual practices might well occur along the lines envisioned by Galambos as people became more knowledgeable and appreciative of the practice.
Robbins believed innovators could be adequately served by mastering and refining the evolutionary phenomenological practices with which he was familiar. By contrast, Galambos disdained what he knew of those methods in favor of the revolutionary but untested mechanisms he had invented.
References and Notes
1 Astrophysicist/scholar/teacher/entrepreneur, Andrew J. Galambos (aka Joseph A. Galambos) was a colleague of the author's when both were members of the technical staff of Ramo-Wooldridge, later to become TRW Space Technology Laboratories. This was during the formative period of the aerospace industry when most engineers did not know the difference between an airplane and an artificial earth satellite. There, Galambos, a highly regarded astrophysicist, presented a popular noon-time lecture series to other technical staff members which he called "Astronomy, Astrophysics and Astronautics" (1957-59). Subsequently, he offered similar lecture courses to his students and to the public during a brief tenure as a professor of physics, mathematics and astronomy at Whittier College. This led to his founding The Free Enterprise Institute in Monterey Park, CA, in 1960, through which he developed and presented similar courses subject to tuition including his memorable "Course 100," entitled "Capitalism--The Key to Survival" (preserved on audio tape). The author was first a student and then a lecturer, having taught this course during 1962-64 under the strict supervision of Galambos. As a result, the author developed both an appreciation for and a divergence from Galambos' ideas which readers familiar with this background will surely recognize.
2 Alvin Lowi, Jr.,"A Recollection of My Acquaintanship with Andrew Joseph Galambos," unpublished manuscript available from the author, 2146 Toscanini Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275, December 25, 1995.
3 Andrew J. Galambos, "What is Property?" Thrust for Freedom, Number 2, The Liberal Publishing Co., Inc., Los Angeles, 1963.
4 Billy A. Robbins, Byard G. Nilsson and Robert Berliner, "Patenting and Marketing Ideas," Business Administration Extention Course No. 898, University of California, Los Angeles, Spring Term, 1972.
5 Alvin Lowi, Jr., "Scientific Method--In Search of Legitimate Authority in Society," unpublished manuscript available from the author, December 25, 1996 (revised March 8, 1998). See especially p.55 and following.