≡ Menu

Read Hoppe, Then Nothing Is the Same

My article, “Read Hoppe, Then Nothing Is the Same,” discussing my upcoming Mises Academy course, “The Social Theory of Hoppe” (Mondays, July 11-Aug. 21, 2011) was published on Mises Daily last Friday, June 10 2011. The article has also been translated into Spanish: Tras leer a Hoppe, nada es lo mismo. Archived comments below. The course is on my site beginning with KOL153 | “The Social Theory of Hoppe: Lecture 1: Property Foundations” (Mises Academy, 2011).

From the Mises Blog; archived comments below.

Read Hoppe, Then Nothing Is the Same

06/10/2011 Stephan Kinsella

Austrolibertarianism begins with Murray Rothbard. His mentor Ludwig von Mises systematized Austrian economics and put it on a modern, rigorous foundation. Rothbard built on, and extended, this Misesian-praxeological Austrian framework, and he integrated it with his own radical anarchocapitalism to produce the superstructure of modern Austrolibertarian thought.

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who studied under and worked with Rothbard from the 1980s until Rothbard’s untimely death in 1995, was Rothbard’s greatest student. After Rothbard’s death, Hoppe became the editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies, a coeditor of the Review of Austrian Economics, and then a coeditor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. His important books include A Theory of Socialism and CapitalismThe Economics and Ethics of Private PropertyDemocracy: The God that Failed, and The Myth of National Defense.

Combining Misesian praxeology with Rothbardian insights, Hoppe has developed a magnificent, integrated edifice of rational thought. This edifice includes work on sociology, economics, philosophy and epistemology, libertarianism and political philosophy, and history. Hoppe is now the world’s leading Austrolibertarian social theorist.

It is no surprise, then, that Professor Hoppe’s writing has inspired scholars all over the world to follow in his footsteps and to provide a scientific foundation for individual freedom and a free society (his works have been translated into at least 22 languages). His influence was extended when he founded the international Property and Freedom Society (PFS) in 2006 as a more radical alternative to the now-watered-down Mont Pèlerin Society.

The video below is a good demonstration of the power of Hoppe’s ideas. This is a talk Professor Hoppe gave in April 2011 at the Second Austrian School Conference, Mises Institute Brasil, in Porto Alegre, entitled “State or Private Law Society?”1 It’s a truly masterful presentation of the Austrolibertarian defense of what Hoppe calls the “private-law society.” For example, Hoppe here brilliantly and succinctly argues that there is but one correct answer to the problem of social order: the libertarian-Lockean rule (starting at 7:30 in Part 1; see also Parts 2345). He explains why the only answer to the question of who owns your body is you — who else would own it? All other competing rules are either incoherent, contradictory, or obviously unfair. And furthermore, when you appropriate an unowned resource, no one else can have a better claim to it than you, the person who had it first.

Fernando Chiocca, of Mises Brasil, told me that the audience was riveted and loved it; he got standing ovations,

and one reaction in particular was pretty interesting. We have only a couple of Austrian professors in Brasil, and one of them wasn’t acquainted with Hoppe’s work. (He is what we used to call “old-school Austrian,” whose ideas were shaped in the era before the modern Mises Institute website, and mainly influenced by Hayek.) In a matter of seconds after Hoppe’s speech, he was in our bookstore buying all Hoppe’s books that we had for sale, requesting autographs from Dr. Hoppe, repeating how marvelous Hoppe was, and declaring to everyone his instantaneous conversion to “Hoppeanism.”

I am reminded here of what Lew Rockwell wrote of Hoppe in the festschrift written in Hoppe’s honor (Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe):

This same Hoppean effect — that sense of having been profoundly enlightened by a completely new way of understanding something — has happened many times over the years. He has made contributions to ethics, to international political economy, to the theory of the origin of the state, to comparative systems, to culture and its economic relation, to anthropology and the theory and practice of war. Even on a subject that everyone thinks about but no one really seems to understand — the system of democracy — he clarified matters in a way that helps you see the functioning of the world in a completely new light. There aren’t that many thinkers who have this kind of effect. Mises was one. Rothbard is another. Hoppe certainly fits in that line. He is the kind of thinker who reminds you that ideas are real things that shape how we understand the world around us. …

Often times when you first hear a point he makes, you resist it. I recall when he spoke at a conference we held on American history, and gave a paper on the US Constitution. You might not think that a German economist could add anything to our knowledge on this topic. He argued that it represented a vast increase in government power and that this was its true purpose. It created a powerful central government, with the cover of liberty as an excuse. He used it as a case in point, and went further to argue that all constitutions are of the same type. In the name of limiting government — which they purportedly do — they invariably appear in times of history when the elites are regrouping to emerge from what they consider to be near anarchy. The Constitution, then, represents the assertion of power.

When he finished, you could hear a pin drop. I’m not sure that anyone was instantly persuaded. He had challenged everything we thought we knew about ourselves. The applause was polite, but not enthusiastic. Yet his points stuck. Over time, I think all of us there travelled some intellectual distance. The Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, which Rothbard had variously described as near anarchist in effect. Who were these guys who cobbled together this Constitution? They were the leftovers from the war: military leaders, financiers, and other mucky mucks — a very different crew from the people who signed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was out of the country when the Constitution was passed. And what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite, just as Hoppe said. It created a new and more powerful government that not only failed to restrain itself (what government has ever done that?), but grew and grew into the monstrosity we have today. It required a wholesale rethinking of the history, but what Hoppe had said that shocked everyone turns out to be precisely right — and this is only one example among many.

If you are interested in the ideas of Mises and Rothbard, it is essential to study the work of Professor Hoppe. Starting on July 11, I will be teaching a six-week online Mises Academy course to present and discuss Professor Hoppe’s most important ideas and theories, including his brilliant critique of positivist methodology as applied to the social sciences, his groundbreaking “argumentation-ethics” praxeological approach to political philosophy,2 his encompassing comparative analysis of socialism and capitalism, his profound critique of democracy, and a host of other insights and contributions to areas such as monopoly theory, the theory of public goods, the sociology of taxation, the private production of security, the nature of property and scarcity, immigration, economic methodology and epistemology, and the evolution of monetary institutions and their impact on international relations.

I decided to teach this course for a few reasons. First, as noted above, there was a need for this course because of the growing interest in Hoppe’s ideas and the increasing number of younger or newer Austrolibertarians just beginning to absorb the thought of the masters. Second, while I did not enjoy teaching mainstream law when I served as an adjunct law professor at a local law school a few years back, I have greatly enjoyed and benefitted from the three online Mises Academy courses I’ve taught so far (Rethinking Intellectual Property twice, and Libertarian Legal Theory once). And based on student feedback, the students have enjoyed the Mises Academy format in general and my courses in particular (see, e.g., the comments I noted in my articles “Teaching an Online Mises Academy Course,” “Introduction to Libertarian Legal Theory,” and “Rethinking IP”).

Third, aside from Hoppe himself, I felt uniquely qualified to present this overview of Hoppe’s work. I’ve been a close associate and (informal) student of Professor Hoppe since 1994 — I served as book-review editor of the JLS for five years under Hoppe’s editorship, I founded and edit Libertarian Papers, the successor journal to the JLS (Professor Hoppe serves on its editorial board); and, with Guido Hülsmann, I was editor of the festschrift in Hoppe’s honor, Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I have also built on Hoppe’s work in my own libertarian theorizing (e.g., Against Intellectual Property, “Punishment and Proportionality: The Estoppel Approach,”Download PDF “A Libertarian Theory of Contract: Title Transfer, Binding Promises, and Inalienability”Download PDF).

When I proposed this course to Professor Hoppe, though he was humble in reaction, he fully endorsed the idea. He has graciously offered to provide a written response to submitted questions near the end of the course.

The reading material will consist primarily of A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism and The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (both free online in ePub and PDF formats), several other selected articles by Professor Hoppe, and articles by others commenting on Hoppe’s thought (such as my own “Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide,” “New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory,”Download PDF and “Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan”), which are also available for free online.

This will be a fun and intellectually stimulating course. I am looking forward to it.

Archived comments:

Comments (19)

0

Drigan's avatar

Drigan· 16 weeks ago

I’m always a bit hesitant to read articles by Kinsella because of the inevitable pontification on intellectual property. (I’m not quite sure where I stand on IP, but repeatedly hammering that anti-IP is the only way to be for a libertarian has made me a bit more resistant to it.) I was pleasantly surprised by this article; now make a few substantive articles about something other than IP and I might be a bit more receptive to the IP-related message.

12 replies · active 16 weeks ago

+5

Inquisitor's avatar

Inquisitor· 16 weeks ago

It’s not like Kinsella doesn’t back his position up with argument, and it’s not exactly a question of liking vanilla vs chocolate.

Hi, thanks for the comment. Let me say a few things in response. First, IP was never my strongest interest. It always was, and remains, other things like rights theory, Austrian economics, epistemology, and various applications of libertarianism. (If you check out my publications you’ll see that IP is only one subset of things I am interested in. http://www.stephankinsella.com/publications/)

The IP issue nagged at me as one among many little things, but I started to turn my attention to it in the early 90s when I started practicing patent law and thus thought more about it, and gradually saw the increasing importance of developing a solid view on this issue, and because of others increasingly urging me to write about it. Initially I sought a way to justify IP, b/c I thought it must be valid (Rand favored it-but Rand’s argument for it was obviously shaky).

As I have explained, I was by no means the first on the IP issue, see http://blog.mises.org/16319/the-origins-of-libert… . But I wrote a fairly systematic piece, and one more informed by knowledge of the actual law than some preceding ones because I was actually practicing law in that field. A few years later the Internet continued to grow in importance, and the IP issue could no longer be ignored by most people so my and others’ anti-IP ideas spread among libertarians because of the growing importance of this issue. At first I resisted being Mr. IP b/c as I said it’s not my favorite issue–to practice, or to write about. But I kept seeing a need to write and to be hones in the last few years there aer so many growing IP abuses and outrages that I have to comment on them. And to be honest I think the case against IP, once one really looks closely at it, is pretty clear, so it is pretty obvious to most thoughtful and principled (and Austrian-informed) libertarians. And I do think it’s probably now in the top 6 or so worst statist threats to liberty. So it’s not a trivial issue. see http://c4sif.org/2011/06/masnick-on-the-horrible-… . And we are one of the only groups actively opposing IP, from a principled and PRO-private property perspective, and the time is right to do this, so we must.

BTW Hoppe is against IP too. http://c4sif.org/2010/12/hoppe-on-intellectual-pr…. The Hoppe course will touch on IP but only a bit.

So, I hope you see why I write about IP as much as I do.

-3

Drigan's avatar

Drigan· 16 weeks ago

I agree, it is certainly an important issue, and you’ve made a lot of progress towards solving the problem from a libertarian perspective. The problem that I have is that I’m not quite convinced that a complete free-for-all is a just and ideal situation. Certainly people need to find a way to market their own ideas to make money off of them, but it’s too easy to think of circumstances where it benefits big business at the expense of the inventor.

From what I’ve heard, the guy that invented the calculator was from around here, and he paid Texas Instrument to manufacture it for him, but didn’t get IP protection for his ideas. TI snubbed him and became the TI we all know. I’m not quite sure what stops that story from being repeated in a truly libertarian society. I know the guy should have been more cautious with who he trusted and gotten everything in writing, but at some point, you have to trust *someone* to develop your ideas, or ask if they think it would work. My sense of justice tells me that TI did something criminal, but what law did they break in a libertarian society? They haven’t been physically aggressive.

I guess that’s my biggest problem with IP from a libertarian perspective . . . it doesn’t quite seem to satisfy my sense of justice.

Having questions is not an argument. Being uncertain, being confused, is not an argument.

Not clear what you mean by “free for all,” but it seems wanging this phrase out there as you did, is not an argument either.

-6

Drigan's avatar

Drigan· 16 weeks ago

Seriously?!? This is another reason I don’t like reading your stuff; in your comments you make almost no effort to understand what people are trying to say. I realize you’re a lawyer and therefore naturally combative about words, but you need to put that aside if you’re going to engage people and not push them away. I was showing that lack of IP can lead to instances that the average person instinctively feels are unjust. If you can show that this isn’t really the case, then I don’t have any further conscientious objections to your theory. I’m not willing to accept it without further consideration, but I think over the course of a few weeks I could become comfortable that I won’t find any more major objections.

“Free for all” in this instance means that a person can use information no matter how it is obtained.

I guess my big problem is when a company could undermine someone who has a great idea and is requesting their help to develop it. Presumably, there’s an implied contract to not develop the idea without crediting and compensating the inventor. But how do you make that contract explicit? Sign something that says “The stuff (which we don’t yet know what ‘stuff’ means, yet) we’re about to talk about will not be used for the next year without the expressed consent of X.”?? X could then claim that he talked about *anything.* Have a 2 part contract that if they sign the first part, they are obligated to explain the idea in a second part after having heard the idea?

Seriously?!? This is another reason I don’t like reading your stuff; in your comments you make almost no effort to understand what people are trying to say.

I do understand and did make an effort, and I was not impolite or incivil at all.

I am pointing out to you that use of fuzzy words is why your ideas are not making sense. It lead to equivocation and/or sloppy reasoning.

I realize you’re a lawyer and therefore naturally combative about words, but you need to put that aside if you’re going to engage people and not push them away.

I was not combative.

I was showing that lack of IP can lead to instances that the average person instinctively feels are unjust.

I don’t think you were showing it, but it was not a bad effort. The reason people thinks these cases are unjust is a combination of acquiescence in the status quo and susceptibility to statist propaganda, compounded by economic and political illiteracy.

“Free for all” in this instance means that a person can use information no matter how it is obtained.

Of course, socialists deride the free market as a free for all. As a free market proponent, I don’t take “free for all” as a critique, but as a compliment.

I guess my big problem is when a company could undermine someone who has a great idea and is requesting their help to develop it. Presumably, there’s an implied contract to not develop the idea without crediting and compensating the inventor. But how do you make that contract explicit? Sign something that says “The stuff (which we don’t yet know what ‘stuff’ means, yet) we’re about to talk about will not be used for the next year without the expressed consent of X.”?? X could then claim that he talked about *anything.* Have a 2 part contract that if they sign the first part, they are obligated to explain the idea in a second part after having heard the idea?

Reasonable questions but these are the questions an entrepreneur would ask. The fact that you have questions, as I said before, is not an argument for IP.

-8

Gene Callahan's avatar

Gene Callahan· 16 weeks ago

“I am pointing out to you that use of fuzzy words is why your ideas are not making sense. It lead to equivocation and/or sloppy reasoning. ”

It’s only sloppy thinkers like Socrates who sit and puzzle over things. Decisive thinkers like Lenin are always clear on what must be done!

0

Drigan's avatar

Drigan· 16 weeks ago

<quote>
I do understand and did make an effort, and I was not impolite or incivil at all.
</quote>True, but your answer was also not at all helpful; it amounted to “you don’t ask good questions so I’m not answering.” I’m not trying to shoot holes in the free market of ideas, I’m trying to convince myself that it’s the best of all possible ways. In physical property, possession and ownership are fairly obvious, and I’m quite comfortable with the free market in this realm. Like it or not, ideas don’t belong to this realm. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not convinced the same rules apply.

My dominant tendency is certainly not socialistic, but you may have a valid point about my ideas being colored by mainstream perspectives.

I am definitely not pro-IP. You’re right, my questions are not meant to be arguments for IP. My questions are exactly that: questions. I want to hear a satisfying answer from any perspective, but particularly yours because I think it has the greatest chance of providing satisfying answers. (Do you have a better name than “anti-IP” for your perspective? Personally I like “Intellectual Freedom” . . . “I.F.”) I have more objections to other perspectives, but this is the only major one that I have to IF. Of course, I reserve the right to object in the future, but I think this is the greatest hurdle remaining before I could embrace IF.

+2

Drigan's avatar

Drigan· 16 weeks ago

The system mises.org is using to avoid trolling is horrible: my reply to you is awaiting moderator approval. (Aren’t you a moderator?) I then nullified the -1 someone gave me to see if that would unlock my commenting, and it does. At the very least it should take into account the *average* rating for a user, not the *sum* rating, and negative should not be sufficient reason to require moderation, rather you should have a *highly* negative average rating. (Currently that might mean a rating of -10 on average.) Feel free to delete this comment, but at least recognize that mises.org is effectively silencing dissenting opinion, which seems to be against everything the site stands for.
Drigan is definitely right here -1 is a crazy standard to put something into moderator queue from a regular poster.
+2

Eric's avatar

Eric· 16 weeks ago

Drigan:

The best way to see the damage caused by IP law is to look at industry that does not have IP law or look at an industry that began without IP law and then what happened when IP law was instituted.

The Fashion/clothing industry does not use IP law to “own” a new style or design of clothing. There is a TED video on this which I think best presents the case.

The software industry began without patent protection. It had enourmous progress in its early years, despite (or because of) the lack of patent protection. Once patents were allowed, and the government patent office was in charge, we began to see absurdities such as “one -click” buying.

Today large companies, which can afford the patent process, patent every conceivable idea and use this to deter competition. Open source groups are fighting back by creating their own war chest of patents – to fight off the large companies that patent such trivial ideas as license key tests which inform the user they can buy a license if the software detects that they’ve moved their program to another computer. That one might cost Microsoft half a billion. Once you get into the courts there’s no telling what you will get.

0

Drigan's avatar

Drigan· 16 weeks ago

Yes, I agree that IP has hurt the IT industry. I really don’t have any defenses of IP; I think it’s *probably* always bad . . . but until I hear an explanation about my remaining objection to intellectual freedom, I can’t embrace it.

Somewhat off topic, but also related to censorship, and very annoying to me:
Since when have we had censorship on this site? I get a -1 on one of my dozens of posts and now my replies to Kinsella need to be approved by an admin? That system needs to change. I’m clearly not just trolling. Maybe if I had -5 on average for my postings.

0

Sonny Ortega's avatar

Sonny Ortega· 16 weeks ago

I have a comment on the Hoppe’s speech at Mises Brasil. Hoppe says that the rules that he specified (self-ownership and aquiring property though homesteading or voluntary exchange) are the only rules we can use to avoid conflicts, while other sets of rules make conflicts permanent.

Now, Hoppe’s rules only effect in avoiding conflicts if everyone follows them. This is something he implicitly admits; he says that if these rules are universally respected, then there cease to be conflicts. Of course, if these rules are not respected by everyone, the conflicts still exist; if I don’t respect someone’s homestead and want to use a good he homesteaded, a conflict emerges that needs to be settled.

But this of course applies to every imaginable consistent set of rules. If they are respected by everyone, conflicts are avoided, if they’re not, conflicts arise. If the rules are, e.g., that every resource will be allocated by decision of a democratic council, or that I own a homesteaded resource for a week and then I have to pass it on to the first person I meet, or that I can’t lift my left hand unless someone orders me to, so that my self-ownership excludes the right to lift my left hand—then, if these rules are universally respected and followed, conflicts cease to exist.

I can see that Hoppe’s set of rules is the most efficient for prosperity, I just don’t agree with the notion that it’s the only set of rules that we can use to avoid conflicts. Although I’m aware that this is purely academical point and has no practical consequences to the theory, I’d like to have the theory put nice and clear. Is this maybe analysed more in depth in one of Hoppe’s books?

1 reply · active 16 weeks ago

-7

Gene Callahan's avatar

Gene Callahan· 16 weeks ago

“But this of course applies to every imaginable consistent set of rules.”

Very good, Sonny. You’ve seen through the verbal mist about private property being “voluntary” and states being “coercive.” All sets of rules are “purely voluntary” to everyone who follows them voluntarily, and they are all coercive to those who don’t.

-12

Veritas's avatar

Veritas· 16 weeks ago

Hoppe is working together with german neo nazis and holocaust-deniers. enough said. those guys arent the ones youre supposed to support.

liberalism and totalitarism just dont fit together. Hoppe does not understand this. he welcomes every party that hates the state. in his logic, the enemies of his enemy must be his friend.

3 replies · active less than 1 minute ago

+2

integral's avatar

integral· 16 weeks ago

I’d believe you, but I see no reason to trust a self-confessed unrepentant pedophile.
+6

Rick's avatar

Rick· 16 weeks ago

“Hoppe is working together with german neo nazis and holocaust-deniers”? Idiot. Typical baseless, dumb-ass slander.
+1

Dan's avatar

Dan· 16 weeks ago

LOL. Your poor grammar and confused statements illustrate you babble for what it is. Find somewhere else to troll.
Share
{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Thom Brogan June 14, 2011, 10:07 am

    Hi Attorney Kinsella!

    If you were to recommend a Hoppe book to a layperson as a starting point for Hoppe’s ideas, which would it be?

    Thanks!

  • Stephan Kinsella June 14, 2011, 10:49 am

    TSC, but it’s pretty advanced. When I write my 100 page “Hoppe: A Very Short Introduction,” I’ll point you to that. 🙂

  • Thom Brogan June 14, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Thanks much! Once I finish America’s Great Depression, I’ll smash my brain on A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism.

    Ever notice that, if you remove just one letter from Hoppe’s last name and put the remaining letters on a pro-statist bumpersticker, you’ll quickly find someone to avoid? 😀

  • Thom Brogan August 3, 2011, 6:05 am

    Thanks, Stephan!

    Read Hoppe’s A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism and loved it!

    At first, I was thinking “Well the title’s not as sexy as Democracy: The God That Failed, so maybe that one’s just for the cool kids,” but then reading example after example of his argumentation ethics and his destruction of Popper’s rational empiricism as both a method and as a pee-poor defense of social engineering and I was like “zOMG! Han-Hermann rules!” And then my wife asked me to stop talking like a youngster, but I still loved the book. Thanks for the recommendation!

Leave a Reply

© 2012-2022 StephanKinsella.com CC0 To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to material on this Site, unless indicated otherwise. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.

-- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

%d bloggers like this: