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Hoppe’s Review of Rothbard’s Festschrift

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, himself the recent recipient of his own festschrift, Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Jörg Guido Hülsmann & Stephan Kinsella, eds., Mises Institute, 2009), was a contributor to Rothbard’s festschrift, Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard (Walter Block and Llewellyn H.Rockwell, Jr., eds., Mises Institute, 1988). Hoppe chapter, “From the Economics of Laissez Faire to The Ethics of Libertarianism,” reprinted as Chapter 8 of his The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, is a thorough presentation of his “argumentation ethics” defense of libertarian rights.

Hoppe also published an insightful book review of the Rothbard festschrift in the Review of Austrian Economics in 1989. The review presages themes Hoppe would elaborate later, such as his criticism of both Nozick’s and Locke’s “provisos” (pp. 255-57; see my post Down with the Lockean Proviso for discussion of other criticisms by Hoppe of the Lockean proviso); his criticism of Israel Kirzner’s critique of Pareto optimality, views on coordination, and his “notion of utter ignorance” (pp. 257-60); and Leland Yeager’s approach to welfare economics (pp. 260-62). He also pithily summarizes his argumentation ethics approach (elaborated in further detail in his own chapter in the volume) as follows:

by engaging in discussions about welfare criteria that may or may not end up in agreement, and instead result in a mere agreement on the fact of continuing disagreements–as in any intellectual enterprise–an actor invariably demonstrates a specific preference for the first-use-first-own rule of property acquisition as his ultimate welfare criterion: without it no one could independently act and say anything at any time, and no one else could act independently at the same time and agree or disagree independently with whatever had been initially said or proposed. It is the recognition of the homesteading principle which makes intellectual pursuits, i.e., the independent evaluation of propositions and truth claims, possible. And by virtue of engaging in such pursuits, i.e., by virtue of being an “intellectual” one demonstrates the validity of the homesteading principle as the ultimate rational welfare criterion. [emphasis added]

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