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Ralph Raico, R.I.P.

The great libertarian scholar Ralph Raico died last month (Dec. 13, 2016).1 Ralph and I were friends for the last 20 years. I first met Ralph when I started attending Mises Institute events when I was a young lawyer, in the mid-1990s.2 For many years, he was a fixture at the Mises Institute events I attended. We talked, had lunches, went to dinners together for years. I was at the Mises Institute event in the late 90s, if I recall correctly, that Objectivist George Reisman attended, fresh from his excommunication from the Ayn Rand Institute, where Reisman and Ralph, long-estranged by internecine libertarian squabbles, were reunited and rekindled their friendship. It was a pleasure to see, especially for me, as a former Randian of sorts myself.

In the last few years, Ralph was less mobile, and we would talk on occasion by email, or on the phone. He was supportive of the founding of Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society PFS in 2006, with which I’ve also been involved since its inception, and he was a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute for many years. [click to continue…]

  1. For other tributes to Ralph, see e.g. Jeff Tucker, Ralph Raico’s Liberal Mind and Spirit; Mark Thornton, True Liberalism: A Personal Reflection in Honor of Ralph Raico; Tom Woods show, Ep. 816 Liberty Lost a Great Historian in 2016 .   []
  2. See How I Became A Libertarian, December 18, 2002, LewRockwell.com (published as “Being a Libertarian” in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians (compiled by Walter Block; Mises Institute 2010.) []
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Rothbard, in The Ethics of Liberty, writes of the disastrous consequences of the fallacious Marxian labor theory of value:

“I am convinced, however, that the real motor for social and political change in our time has been a moral indignation arising from the fallacious theory of surplus value: that the capitalists have stolen the rightful property of the workers, and therefore that existing titles to accumulated capital are unjust. Given this hypothesis, the remainder of the impetus for both Marxism and anarchosyndicalism follow quite logically. From an apprehension of what appears to be monstrous injustice flows the call for “expropriation of the expropriators,” and, in both cases, for some form of “reversion” of the ownership and the control of the property to the workers.[23] Their arguments cannot be successfully countered by the maxims of utilitarian economics or philosophy, but only by dealing forthrightly with the moral problem, with the problem of the justice or injustice of various claims to property.”1

Rothbard also quite rightly rejected the idea that property titles are to be overturned if we cannot trace title back to Adam, that is, if there is any taint in the “chain of title”—what Jeff Tucker has referred to as “scrupulosity”.2 As Rothbard wrote in an important addendum to a seminal 1974 paper:

“It might be charged that our theory of justice in property titles is deficient because in the real world most landed (and even other) property has a past history so tangled that it becomes impossible to identify who or what has committed coercion and therefore who the current just owner may be. But the point of the “homestead principle” is that if we don’t know what crimes have been committed in acquiring the property in the past, or if we don’t know the victims or their heirs, then the current owner becomes the legitimate and just owner on homestead grounds. In short, if Jones owns a piece of land at the present time, and we don’t know what crimes were committed to arrive at the current title, then Jones, as the current owner, becomes as fully legitimate a property owner of this land as he does over his own person. Overthrow of existing property title only becomes legitimate if the victims or their heirs can present an authenticated, demonstrable, and specific claim to the property. Failing such conditions, existing landowners possess a fully moral right to their property.”3

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  1. PDF and epub; quote from ch. 9, Property and Criminality, text included in chs. 6-9 excerpt here. []
  2. See Tucker, Scrupulosity and the Condemnation of Every Existing Business, archived comments here; discussed in my post Vulgarism, Left-libertarianism, Taco Bell, and “Power”; see also my posts Is Macy’s Part of the State? A Critique of Left Deviationists and The Walmart Question, or, the Unsupported Assertions of Left-Libertarianism (Apr. 26, 2009) (archived comments). []
  3. Justice and Property Rights: Rothbard on Scarcity, Property, Contracts…, Libertarian Standard (Nov. 19, 2010); see also Mises, Rothbard, and Hoppe on the “Original Sin” in the Distribution of Property Rights. []

KOL216 | Morehouse Interview: Why Intellectual Property Sucks


Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 216. www.stephankinsella.com/kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/

I was a guest recently on Isaac Morehouse’s podcast, “Why Intellectual Property Sucks, with Stephan Kinsella” (Oct. 10, 2016), discussing intellectual property and related issues. Isaac’s description below:

Is intellectual property law the foundation of an innovative society? Or a racket set up to protect entrenched businesses from competition? Stephan Kinsella joins the show this week to break down intellectual property law.

Stephan is a practicing patent attorney, a libertarian writer and speaker, Director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom (C4SIF), and Founding and Executive Editor of Libertarian Papers.

He is one of the clearest and most compelling thinkers on intellectual property law.

We cover the historical context of IP law, the modern day consequences of copyright and patent monopolies, the flaws in common arguments for intellectual property laws, and more. [click to continue…]


KOL215 | Latter-Day Liberty Podcast: Intellectual Property


Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 215. www.stephankinsella.com/kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/
I was a guest recently on the Latter-Day Liberty podcast discussing intellectual property and related issues. Host: Mat Kent.


Ep. 19 Intellectual Property

How could a true libertarian claim to be against intellectual property? Aren’t property rights central to the principles of liberty? Stephan Kinsella joins us to discuss the case against IP and why, as libertarians, we should oppose it.

About the Guest:

Stephan Kinsella is a practicing patent attorney, a libertarian writer and speaker, Director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom (C4SIF), and Founding and Executive Editor of Libertarian Papers.

Guest’s Book:

Against Intellectual Property

Guest’s Links:

Libertarian Papers
Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom

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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.”  []

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.


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:


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.”

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