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
Original Version: March 31, 1998
© 1998-2000 Alvin Lowi – All Rights Reserved
PROPERTIES OF IDEAS VERSUS IDEAS AS PROPERTY
Galambos’ concern for the protection of what he called "primary property" was understandable and his arguments compelling. He noted that the ideas comprising this form of property, once disclosed, can never be recovered and that no disclosure, no matter how skillfully rendered, can assure that the ideas expressed will be apprehended accurately and recalled with fidelity. Thus, he was apprehensive of the fate of an innovator and his works in the population at large while at the same time, insistent that the innovator must be secure in his role and position for any human justice to prevail and social progress to occur.
"Primary property," as contemplated by Galambos, consists of ideas, conceptions, theories, hypotheses, premises, principles, assumptions, know-how, esthetic works, verbal works, literary works, musical works, mechanisms, processes, methods, enterprises and other suggestions of causes or order imagined by humans. Other than one’s biological life, land and natural resources, primary property according to Galambos, is the precursor to all the creative works of man. This characterization also makes it clear that every human is an innovator, i.e. a creator of "primary property," at some time or other. It follows then that every man is a vital factor in the creation of his own environment as well as the environment of others.
Articulateness or intelligibility in communication, being what it is, varies widely among individuals. Obviously, the less articulate among us will be disadvantaged in asserting their claims to their innovations, just as the less resourceful and lesser prepared persons in the population will naturally have less access to social benefits--sad but true.
To prescribe the metes and bounds of ideas is a difficult problem even for a skillful writer. That feat is virtually impossible in verbal discourse even for the most eloquent orator. Not only is the communication of ideas challenging, to do so adequately for the purpose establishing them as property in society is more so.
Ideas can be visualized with integrity only in the mind. However, as long as they remain in that abstract domain, they never behave as property in the sense of keeping accounts and making social history. Since we can observe that "property" in some form or other does make creative social history, we are encouraged to believe that property has an intellectual component that is not altogether abstract, where abstract means having an existence apart from the senses.
The kind of "property" Galambos defined as "primary" is wholly intangible, i.e. abstract. It can exist solely in the mind of the beholder. Originally, it is "property" only in the sense that it is A PROPERTY of the human mind, a very obscure and esoteric subject. Such "property" only becomes observable when it produces a tangible manifestation. The manifestation may or may not be true to the original conception and the original conception may have been "learned" or suggested by another such that neither originality nor authenticity can be tested by observation. Thus, "primary property" as contemplated by Galambos is metaphysical and must be so distinguished from other forms of "property." Curiously, "primary property" never loses its metaphysical character even when embodied in tangible works like writings, music or artifacts. It remains a creation of the mind that originated it regardless of any physical or social effects it motivates.
As far as is known, contrary to advocates of mental telepathy, ideas may be propagated among humans only as a result of their tangible expressions. Actually, what propagates is a facsimile of the original idea which, when apprehended and taken to mind by others, becomes their surrogate for the original idea. There are possibly as many such surrogates as there are people but there is only one original. Since such surrogates are the creation of those who hold them to mind, the question arises as to whether such proxies do not in some way become the separate primary property of the beholder. "Independent" conceptions also occur and they may seem identical. Close examination of their tangible manifestations where possible usually reveals distinguishable differences suggesting that true independence is highly unlikely. That it should be so is understandable in terms of the infinite variation in the genetic and memetic makeup of human beings.
Galambos pointed out that primary property is embedded in all other forms of property. This observation raises a serious question for "volitional science," the name he gave to his studies: How can primary property be disembodied from the tangible varieties? Until that question is answered, "primary property," as Galambos contemplated it, is an imponderable from a scientific standpoint. Neither neurology nor psychology can illuminate this subject as yet.
To get around this problem in order to proceed with his approach to social science, which he called "Socionomy," Spencer Heath bundled all the social aspects of "property" into what he called "the subject matter of contracts."6 This may seem like an oversimplification but, among other things, it solves, at least potentially, one critical problem regarding "primary property," namely disclosure. Disclosure would seem to be the first step in realizing the potential social consequences of "primary property." Presumably, this is how land and natural resources can be brought under proprietary administration.
Heath had anticipated Galambos’ "integrity of property" idea by some number of years.7 However, in contrast to Galambos, Heath did not attribute any special moral significance to "property." Thereby, he was able to pursue his scientific quest without distraction from premature or irrelevant moral issues. I would characterize Heath’s approach as anthropological in which common law figures prominently.
INNOVATION AND INNOVATION-TRANSFER
It is instructive to examine the meaning of Galambos’ concept of "primary property" in terms of the fate of an innovator in society. For this purpose, Galambos’ definition of an innovator should be used, namely "one who is a creator of primary property." Galambos himself represents a case in point.
Consider Galambos’ claim that he is the owner of some ideas other people may hold dear in their minds. Can they be sure that the ideas they contemplate are indeed the same as Galambos’ after they had struggled to apprehend them during and after verbal discourse? Obviously, they did not get them by organ transplantation. They got them by putting some intellectual effort of their own into powering their own imaginations whereby they also became creators, if only in a minor way. In other words, they learned them and thereby made them "theirs" in some sense.
The teacher "teaches." The student "learns." In the process, the question arises whether some kind of ownership authority is passed. If the recipients of the information are in doubt as to their proper prerogatives, how can an innocent bystander accredit or discredit the authenticity of a teacher’s claim to exclusivity when there is no way of observing either the subject matter or the industry involved in its creation and transfer.
Galambos explicitly claimed ownership of "his" ideas when he made his disclosures in his classes. He was also careful to inform all within earshot that he was standing on the shoulders of giants and he admonished them to do likewise. In acknowledging his intellectual antecedents, Galambos demonstrated the sort of gratitude he deemed proper and which is practiced to a high degree in academia. His practices also revealed a curiosity of ownership as commonly understood and expressed in the common language. As pointed out by anthropologist Spencer Heath MacCallum, the etymology of the word "own" is the same as for the word "owe." So to own is also to owe in our culture. However, Galambos raised this idea to a higher level of consciousness than any of his predecessors, albeit not without controversy.
But how does Galambos express his ownership after a disclosure? Is he not limited to the attempt to persuade others to behave mentally and otherwise according to his wishes regarding the "transplanted" ideas? To take a coercive approach to having his way would have been anathema. As a result, the acquisition of ownership of ideas by autonomous other persons comes into question unless they would somehow forfeit that aspect of their inheritance and become puppets. I resist the notion that Galambos had this perverse intent and I doubt that anyone who entered into the FEI disclosure agreement or signed the proprietary notice as a condition of hearing the course had any such an intention.8
Indeed, Galambos himself has said that none of his students could understand what was to be expected of him in regard to "primary property" practice prior to his having completed the course in its entirety. Even then, he was not optimistic for a rational outcome. Yet, he bravely offered a tuition refund to any enrollee who had the courage to stand up and say he did not get his time’s-worth from attending all the lectures. Although this rarely happened, Galambos was known to be true to his word.
Perhaps it was Galambos’ pessimism that prevented him from following up on his proprietary notice with contractual negotiations to perfect a coherent "meeting of the minds" with his students whereby the benefits of application and extrapolation would be mutually agreeable. Of course, this would have required that he specify which of his ideas he had reserved for his exclusive use; which were available for exclusive license to others on negotiated terms; and which all signees to the proprietary notice were free to use under an automatic non-exclusive license giving recognition to him on the honorable and subjective value basis that he taught.
Galambos’ exposition of this procedure was eloquent as well as ingenious. He made it seem simple enough to practice by setting forth a system for what he called "primary bookkeeping." However, as it turned out, his approach to the administration of such a procedure was fraught with difficulties, not the least of which was the demand on his limited time and patience, never mind the same on others. For whatever reason, this procedure was never actually reduced to practice in the administration of the Free Enterprise Institute. It was not even practiced by dedicated members of a cadre of believers Galambos referred to as his "moral island." If Galambos himself practiced primary bookkeeping as he preached, evidence of it has not thus far been turned up in his archives, although his estate trustees say they are actively looking for such and anticipate negotiating royalty settlements on his behalf regardless.9
Galambos’ Estate Trustees express the following policy regarding his intellectual estate:9
According to this policy statement, neither disclosure (presumably even a bibliographic reference) nor business application is authorized prior to some indefinite future publication of the transcriptions of his lectures even though business use is said to be encouraged. If this policy is faithful to Galambos’ wishes, it represents a prohibition now and a "Catch 22" later whenever the books are published, if ever. However, the trustees add:
It would seem from this latter statement that Galambos left his trustees with a good deal of discretion as to how they would execute his primary property theories. If so, he kept all discretion to himself, now expressed through his estate charter, and left none for his students. I seriously doubt Galambos intended to establish such a double standard. Thus, if the trustees' understanding of his theories is trustworthy, this dilemma must be attributable to a defect in his theory.
References and Notes
6 Spencer Heath, Citadel, Market and Altar--Emerging Society--Outline of Socionomy, the New Natural Science of Society, The Science of Society Foundation, Baltimore, MD, 1957. (c/o Heather Foundation, P.O.Box 180, Tonopah, NV 89049).
7 Heath set forth the grand alternative to politics in principle in a 1936 pamphlet entitled "Politics versus Proprietorship" (c/o Heather Foundation, P.O.Box 180, Tonopah, NV 89049).
8 I acquired some authority in this matter as a result of my involvement in the initiation of that practice and by contributing to the original draft of that disclosure instrument.
9 Charles W. Hayes, CPA, Co-Trustee of the Andrew J. Galambos and Suzanne J. Galambos Natural Estates Trust, Letter to Alvin Lowi, Jr. dated January 19, 1998.