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…]
- How I Became A Libertarian; The Genesis of Estoppel: My Libertarian Rights Theory; My Failed Libertarian Speaking Hiatus; Memories of Mises Institute and Other Events, 1988–2015. [↩]
- See my post, Career Advice by North, discussing the distinction and interplay between career and calling, vocation and avocation. [↩]
- Estoppel: A New Justification for Individual Rights, published in Reason Papers No. 17 (Fall 1992). [↩]
- 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) . [↩]
- 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.” [↩]