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KOL181 | Tom Woods Show: It Is Impossible to Argue Against Libertarianism Without Contradiction

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 181.

I discussed argumentation ethics with Tom Woods on his show today:

Ep. 370 It Is Impossible to Argue Against Libertarianism Without Contradiction

Stephan Kinsella discusses the argumentation ethics of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who argues that only libertarian norms can be argumentatively.
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Tom cleverly chose as the title for the episode a provocative one reminiscent of the bold title of Hoppe’s Liberty article,  “The Ultimate Justification of the Private Property Ethic”  (September 1988).

I’ve discussed it several times in the past in audio and text. See, e.g.:

Update: response by Bob Murphy here: Stephan Kinsella Discusses Argumentation Ethics With Tom Woods. For more: see Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan, Anti-state.com (Sept. 19, 2002) (wayback version) (reply to Bob Murphy and Gene Callahan, Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethic: A CritiqueAnti-state.com (Sept. 19, 2002; wayback version; more recent version at JLS; Block’s rejoinder); debate discussed in this forum).

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  • Jan Masek April 4, 2015, 6:42 pm

    Dr. Kinsella, I love intelectually both you and Dr. Murphy. You two seem to disagree on arg ethics and religion and I am on your side on both. That said, I would like to get more clarity on a couple things.
    There seem to be a few arguments in favor of libertarianism that you all support. Namely: 1) arg ethics 2) best link (i own my body because i have the best link to it by way of having direct control of it) 3) avoidance of conflict of scarce resources.
    You agree with all three. So what is the connection between them? Is one a part of the other, or are they on the same level and just complement each other? Just trying to get a software program level of clarity, so I understand the hierarchy of the arguments.. does it make sense?

    • Stephan Kinsella April 4, 2015, 11:41 pm

      I’m a fan and friend of Murphy too. We just disagree on AE.

      “There seem to be a few arguments in favor of libertarianism that you all support. Namely: 1) arg ethics 2) best link (i own my body because i have the best link to it by way of having direct control of it) 3) avoidance of conflict of scarce resources.
      You agree with all three. So what is the connection between them? Is one a part of the other, or are they on the same level and just complement each other? Just trying to get a software program level of clarity, so I understand the hierarchy of the arguments.. does it make sense?”

      Well, — have you read my New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory article? I try there to summarize a few approaches, including argumentation ethics, my “estoppel” approach, and the other one you mention. As far as connections of the 3 you listed: I’d say arg ethics is the general approach that helps to *show* you *why* it’s impossible to argumentatively justify any socialist ethic. And the reason is: that argumentation is a peculiar type of activity in which the participants necessarily presuppose certain norms, those that underpin the practical and unique activity of discourse itself. These “grundnorms” have to do with peace, cooperation, control of one’s body and scarce means (resources) and the legitimacy thereof, and they can be built on to support libertarian norms but no others, since the others (socialistic norms) all contradict these grundnorms.

      In an argument the participants all agree that cooperation and prosperity is good–they all value it–as well as the very endeavor of trying to find property rules to permit conflict-free use of resources, and this all implies the propriety and value of people adducing universalizeable *reasons* to back up their normative propositions or claims. That is why the search naturally turns to some kind of objective link between a disputable resource and the claimants. There has to be some link–some reason–and it has to be objective, otherwise it could never serve the purpose of argument and the property norms discussed, whcih is to permit conflict-free interaction and use of resources. That is why reasons (universalizable ones) have to be adduced and mere assertions, verbal decrees, and particularizable claims are not permissible in such discourse–they do not serve the very purpose of the interaction.

      So if we are searching for such objective links, and if we are informed by a few other insights and factors–such as the fact that no one can object to the value of goods (means) being able to be used, and therefore first-appropriated, then we have to search for a link that is compatible with first use being legitimate–and also the recognition that each participant claims ownership in himself and thus has no grounds to deny it to others since they are presumably similarly situated–then the links that come out of this are: for the case of bodies, the link is direct control of one’s own body; and for external resources, some kind of claim to be the original appropriator or a contractual transferee from such person. So arg ethics is the framework in which we search for objective links–and then factors 2 and 3 as you labeled them come into play. Something like that.

      • Jan Masek April 5, 2015, 7:00 am

        Makes perfect sense, thank you Dr. Kinsella. I am familiar with your estoppel idea from your teachings and various interviews but I haven’t read this particular article yet. Will do, thanks again.

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