Does the Aaron Swartz Case Present a Dilemma for Libertarians?

Does the Aaron Swartz case present a dilemma for libertarians? That’s what Gareth Price argues at the Huffington Post. According to Price, libertarians will be torn between supporting Swartz for wanting to liberate information, and condemning him for stealing.

Price makes two important errors, though: First, he assumes incorrectly that because libertarians are strong supporters of property rights that they are also strong supporters of intellectual property rights.

Second, he seems to believe that the case against Swartz involved accusations of intellectual property infringement, when in fact Swartz was accused primarily of unauthorized access (basically, illegally hacking into MIT’s computers).

Libertarian views of Swartz’s case have overwhelmingly been in favor of the idea that Swartz did nothing wrong. Which makes sense, because from a libertarian perspective, nothing Aaron Swartz did constitutes a crime (i.e. a rights infringement).

The lesson here is: if you’re going to use a young man’s suicide to make a political point, at least make sure your reasoning is sound.

(P.S. There have been many tributes to Swartz published online and elsewhere. Glenn Greenwald’s is probably one of the best.)

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