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Disinvited From Cato

Here comes a lot of background, just to lead up to a few final paragraphs that get to what I want to say.

As I’ve recounted before,1 I started my legal vocation and libertarian avocation2 around the same time, almost twenty-five years ago, in 1992. That year, I started practicing law, and also published my first scholarly libertarian article.3 In 1994 my wife and I moved from Houston to Philadelphia for a few years, and around that time I started attending Mises Institute and other libertarian conferences. The contacts I was making with various libertarian thinkers and organizations started to increase, partly because of the rise of email and then the Internet around that time. At the time, I would devour everything libertarian-related that I could get my hands onto—The Freeman from FEE; Liberty magazine; Reason magazine; The Free Market, the Journal of Libertarian Studies, and the Review of Austrian Economics from the Mises Institute; Cato Journal; Reason Papers; Objectivity; Jeffrey Friedman’s Critical Review; various other newsletters and journals; and so on. In college I would go to the LSU library and photocopy old Ayn Rand related newsletters. In grad school in London, 1991–92, I found a copy of Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty in the University of London library. It was then out of print and hard to find. So I paid something like 10p a page to photocopy it by hand, vellum bound it, and for years that was my main marked-up copy of that classic text, until the 1998 edition was released by the Mises Institute with an amazing introduction by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.4

Yeah, I was that kind of geek. Copying Ayn Rand newsletters and Rothbard books from college libraries. But I somehow got a normal woman to marry me anyhow.

From the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, I talked with a large number of libertarian thinkers, by email, phone, in person, or even by regular snail mail. As I noted in The Genesis of Estoppel: My Libertarian Rights Theory, in law school I had become fascinated by Hoppe’s “argumentation ethics” defense of libertarian rights. This led to my exploring related material by a number of thinkers, including libertarians like Tibor Machan and Roger Pilon.5 Hoppe had developed his argumentation ethics defense of libertarian rights, in part based on the work of his PhD advisor and mentor, the brilliant and famous (and socialist) German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, and fellow German philosopher Karl-Otto Apel, along with some insights from Rothbard and Mises, plus some original insights, and a libertarian spin, by Hoppe. It was an original and brilliant new spin on libertarian rights theory that Rothbard enthusiastically adopted. Rothbard became the mentor, Hoppe his protege and intellectual colleague from the mid-1980s to Rothbard’s death in 1995. [click to continue…]

  1.  How I Became A LibertarianThe Genesis of Estoppel: My Libertarian Rights TheoryMy Failed Libertarian Speaking Hiatus; Memories of Mises Institute and Other Events, 1988–2015. []
  2. See my post, Career Advice by North, discussing the distinction and interplay between career and calling, vocation and avocation. []
  3.  Estoppel: A New Justification for Individual Rights, published in Reason Papers No. 17 (Fall 1992). []
  4. See Murray N. Rothbard and the Ethics of Liberty, Introduction to Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (New York: New York University Press, 1998) . []
  5.  See links in “Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide”; The Genesis of Estoppel: My Libertarian Rights Theory: namely: Pilon, “A Theory of Rights: Toward Limited Government“; Gewirth, “The Basis and Content of Human Rights“; Pilon, “Ordering Rights Consistently: Or, What We Do and Do Not Have Rights To.”  []
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KOL214 | Johnny Rocket Launch Pad Episode 97

Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 214. www.stephankinsella.com/kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/

I was a guest on the fun and zany libertarian podcast “Johnny Rocket Launch Pad,” Episode 97. They fired questions at me one after another, and I did my best to field them. The sound effects were added later.

From the shownotes page:

What are some things libertarians commonly get wrong? What bad habits do we fall into, with regard to philosophy and law? This week we are joined by the intellectual giant Stephan Kinsella, who brings his experience in law, and philosophy to the table. This episode exposes new ways of looking at old philosophies, and we also go into depth about intellectual property. This is an episode you cannot miss!

You might even become a better libertarian.

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 213. www.stephankinsella.com/kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/

This is a debate between me and one Todd Lewis, hosted by Keith Preston, about self-ownership and the non-aggression principle. Lewis had participated in a decent debate with Walter Block previously, so I agreed to discuss with him, even though he was not clear where he was coming from, what his own position was, or what he hoped to prove by debunking the NAP (whenever someone is opposed to the NAP, I assume they want to justify aggression—I think I’m right). This Lewis character appears to be some kind of “Mennonite” Christian in Ohio, and claims to be a former “fusionist” (some kind of libertarian+conservative) and now some form of Christian conservative who believes in legally punishing homosexuality. I don’t think he was ever really a libertarian, to be honest. He attacks a lot of strawmen, and never really responds to my coherent statement of the libertarian vision. He calls this the “Praise of Folly” “podcast” though it is not a podcast since there is no RSS feed. But I’ll grant, he was far more civil and even intelligent than others I have debated, on topics like anarchy and IP, such as Jan Helfeld and Robert Wenzel, though that’s admittedly a low bar.

For related material see:

Walter Block episode:

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Rothbard Graduate Seminar, 2002

In 2002, I participated as a faculty member for the Rothbard Graduate Seminar (orig. link), a five-day event at the Mises Institute. Walter Block, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Roderick Long, and others were also on the faculty. I presented three lectures over the first three days: “Natural Law and Positive Law,” “Self Defense, Punishment, and Proportionality,” and “The Theory of Contracts.” It was a really great conference. I particular enjoyed Roderick Long’s lectures, for example. Unfortunately, though the conference was videotaped, the recordings were apparently lost or misplaced. In any case, my lecture notes are here and pasted below. Some of the material in my lectures was later (or already) incorporated into articles or posts, such as:

Also, much of this material was later re-presented in my 2011 Mises Academy course on “Libertarian Legal Theory: Property, Conflict, and Society.”

[click to continue…]

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KOL212 | Ask a Libertarian: Anarcho-Capitalism

Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 212. www.stephankinsella.com/kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/

This is my interview, mostly on various anarcho-capitalism issues, by Josh Havins, of the Lafayette County (Mississippi) Libertarian Party: Their episode: “Ask a Libertarian #8 – Stephan Kinsella – Anarcho-Capitalism” (video embedded below).

For related material see:

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Question about the feasibility of anarcho/libertarianism

Email exchange:

Hey Stephan,

(Preface: I think I agree with you “in principle” on things anarchy/libertarian)

Quick question that I’d appreciate an answer to:
Setup: I’ve heard it said that the problem with minarchism is that any State will always turn into a big corrupt State.
The libertarian (read: anarchist) criticism of the state is not that it is big or corrupt. All states are too big and all states are “corrupt.” It’s not as if a small state is okay but a big one is bad. Even minarchists admit this: http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/05/ayn-rand-endorses-big-government/
The explanation is that minarchism requires a certain percentage of the population to maintain a belief and conviction about minarchism (“you now have a Republic… if you can keep it”), and that this is just not possible in reality – at least not for very long – given human nature, which generally leans Leftist/Statist for various reasons.
That’s not my explanation. I think the state does rest on public consent, but this includes all types of states, even the mini-states favored by mini-statists. See http://www.stephankinsella.com/2010/02/swinkels-and-hoppe-on-the-tacit-support-of-the-state/
I don’t think Minarchy is stable at all. Any state that is “small” is going to grow. This is part of its nature. On this see Hoppe. The minarchists may hope and pray that such a dangerous beast that they establish, a minimal state, can be constrained from becoming larger, by a written constitution or by public opinion, but this is foolish. Paper constitutions don’t prevent tyranny, when the state itself can interpret its own limits. And public opinion doens’t matter–the logic of a state is to seize power. The populace, if it thinks a mini-state is justified, has no sound ideological basis to oppose its expansion. They are already confused. The idea that we can finally reach libertopia in the form of a mini-state, if the people finally undersatnd that a state is necessary but only a mini-state, is ridiculous.

[click to continue…]

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David Kelley on the Necessity of Government

From a Facebook post:

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In a classic article in 1974, Objectivist David Kelley set forth a concise argument for the minarchist view of the necessity of government (https://fee.org/articles/the-necessity-of-government/).

In this interview by minarchist Jan Helfeld, Kelley briefly discusses his views on the state — stating basically that we need a state because with multiple defense agencies, there might be war, because there might be disagreement. So, a state is justified, because it is necessary, and it is necessary, because the possibility of disagreement and conflict and war means it is necessary to have one single agency that has the ultimate, final say-so.

Of course, as I pointed out in an anarchy-vs-minarchy debate with Kelley’s colleague at PorcFest last year, which Kelley moderated (http://www.stephankinsella.com/…/kol183-stephan-kinsella-v…/), this would imply we need a one-world government — I’m sure Kelley recognizes this difficulty, which is probably why he asked Thomas to respond to this objection during our debate (of course, Thomas couldn’t answer this objection).

Another problem with this view is that there is no guarantee this minimal state would be *right* in case of a dispute with the smaller agencies it is able to suppress–mere “finality” is not a goal of libertarian justice; there would also need to be a guarantee that the “final” decisions of this one-world state are just, or, at least, more just than what its competitors might have decided. And of course such a guarantee is impossible–especially when this state has monopoly power and no competition….

In any case, at the very end of this video linked below, Kelley also points out that funding for a minimal state is a difficult issue. He notes that Ayn Rand also believed a minimal state was justified and necessary, but since she opposed aggression (what she called “the initiation of force”), and since taxation is obviously aggression–her view was that the state has to be funded voluntarily–i.e., taxation by the minimal state is impermissible.

Kelley says he disagrees with Rand on this — i.e., he seems to be in favor not only of the the minimal state, not only in favor of the state’s right to use violence to outlaw competing defense agencies, and apparently the state’s right to become the sole state in the world (so that it can have the “final say” and prevent war) — but it can also tax its … customers and force them to fund it. (And Helfeld says he agrees with Kelley.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58x4DuLmmRA&app=desktop

h/t Jack Criss

Upate: My previous “debate” with Helfeld on anarchy is here:http://www.stephankinsella.com/…/kol123-debate-with-jan-he…/

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What Sparked Your Interest in Liberty? (FEE.org)

My short reminiscence, “What Sparked Your Interest in Liberty?,” was published last month at FEE.org (April 21, 2016). It augments an earlier piece, “How I Became A Libertarian,” LewRockwell.com (Dec. 18, 2002).1 Some related pieces:

  1. Re-published as “Being a Libertarian” in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarianscompiled by Walter Block; Mises Institute 2010.  []
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