Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 153.
This is the first of 6 lectures of my 2011 Mises Academy course “The Social Theory of Hoppe.” See also my article “Read Hoppe, Then Nothing Is the Same,” Mises Daily (June 10, 2011). The remaining lectures follow in podcast feed.
The slides for the first lecture of the Social Theory of Hoppe course are provided below, as are the “suggested readings” for the course.
[Update: see also David Gordon, “The Political Economy of Hans Hoppe” (Mises University 2021)]
As general background I suggest:
- Kinsella, “Foreword,” in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (Laissez Faire Books ebook edition, 2013)
- Kinsella, “Afterword,” in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Great Fiction: Property, Economy, Society, and the Politics of Decline (Laissez Faire Books, 2012)
- “Introduction,” with Jörg Guido Hülsmann, in Hülsmann & Kinsella, eds., Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Mises Institute, 2009) (published as “Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe,” Mises Daily, Aug. 7, 2009)
LECTURE 1: PROPERTY FOUNDATIONS
For slides for all six lectures, plus extensive hyperlinked suggested reading material, see this Libertarian Standard post.
SUGGESTED READING MATERIAL
The “suggested readings” for each lecture are appended below. Links, where available, are provided; most of these materials can also be found on stephankinsella.com/publications, c4sif.org/resources, mises.org, hanshoppe.com/publications, or on Wikipedia or by google search.
LECTURE 1: PROPERTY FOUNDATIONS
- Chapters 1 & 2, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism [TSC]
LECTURE 2: TYPES OF SOCIALISM AND THE ORIGIN OF THE STATE
- TSC Chs. 3-6
- De-Socialization in a United Germany
- “Banking, Nation States and International Politics: A Sociological Reconstruction of the Present Economic Order” (ch. 3 of The Economics and Ethics of Private Property [EEPP])
LECTURE 3: LIBERTARIAN RIGHTS AND ARGUMENTATION ETHICS
- Kinsella, “Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide”
- Hoppe: EEPP, chapter 11, “From the Economics of Laissez Faire to the Ethics of Libertarianism,” ch. 12. “The Justice of Economic Efficiency,” and “Appendix: Four Critical Replies”
- Kinsella, “New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory”
- “On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property,” by Hoppe
- “Beyond Is and Ought,” by Murray N. Rothard
- “Hoppephobia,” by Rothbard
- “Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan,” by Stephan Kinsella
- “Argumentation Ethics and The Philosophy of Freedom,” by Frank Van Dun
- “Hülsmann on Argumentation Ethics,” by Kinsella
LECTURE 4: EPISTEMOLOGY, METHODOLOGY AND DUALISM; KNOWLEDGE, CERTAINTY, LOGICAL POSITIVISM
- TSC, Pages 118-144 and 152-155
- Economic Science and the Austrian Method
- Is Research Based on Causal Scientific Principles Possible in the Social Sciences? (ch. 10 of EEPP)
- In Defense of Extreme Rationalism: Thoughts on Donald McCloskey’s The Rhetoric of Economics [ch. 16 of The Great Fiction]
- Chapter 9. “On Praxeology and the Praxeological Foundation of Epistemology”; ch. 14. “Austrian Rationalism in the Age of the Decline of Positivism” (from EEPP)
- On Certainty and Uncertainty, Or: How Rational Can Our Expectations Be? [ch. 14, The Great Fiction]
- The Science of Human Action (lecture)
LECTURE 5: ECONOMIC ISSUES AND APPLICATIONS
- Hoppe on Property Rights in Physical Integrity vs Value
- Hoppe on Liberal Economies and War
- Hoppe: Marx was “Essentially Correct”
- Capitalist Production and The Problem of Monopoly (from TSC)
- Fallacies of the Public Goods Theory & the Production of Security
- Verstehen and the Role of Economics in Forecasting, or: If You’re so Rich, Why Aren’t You Smart?
- “Chicago Diversions” in “The Ethics and Economics of Private Property“
- Kinsella, “Knowledge vs. Calculation”
- The Misesian Case against Keynes
- The Limits of Numerical Probability: Frank H. Knight and Ludwig von Mises and the Frequency of Interpretation
- A Note on Preference and Indifference in Economic Analysis
- Socialism: A Property or Knowledge Problem?
LECTURE 6: POLITICAL ISSUES AND APPLICATIONS; HOPPE Q&A
This is one of the five Mises Academy courses I presented in 2011. The others were:
- “Rethinking Intellectual Property“;
- “Libertarian Legal Theory”;
- “Libertarian Controversies”; and
- “Obama’s Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?”1
I enjoyed teaching all the courses, but my favorite was the Hoppe course. Hoppe has been the biggest intellectual influence of my life, as I detail in “How I Became A Libertarian” (published as “Being a Libertarian” in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians). I agree with Sanchez that “Hans-Hermann Hoppe is the most profound social theorist writing today.” This is one reason I worked with the brilliant Austro-libertarian theorist, Jörg Guido Hülsmann, to produce the festschrift Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Mises Institute, 2009).
The experience of teaching the Mises Academy classes was amazing and gratifying, as I noted in my article “Teaching an Online Mises Academy Course.” This and similar technology and Internet-enabled models are obviously the wave of the educational future. The students received an in-depth, specialized and personalized treatment of topics of interest to them, with tests and teacher and fellow student interaction, for a very reasonable price, and judging by their comments and evaluations, they were very satisfied with the courses and this online model. For example, for the Hoppe course, as noted in A Happy Hoppean Student, student Cam Rea wrote, about the first lecture of the course:
Move over Chuck Norris, Hans-Hermann Hoppe is in town! The introduction to “The Social Theory of Hoppe” was extremely thorough. I, a relative newcomer to the Hoppean idea, was impressed by Stephan Kinsella’s introduction to the theory. Mr. Kinsella hit upon all of those who came before Hoppe, and how each built upon another over the past two centuries. In other words, as Isaac Newton stated, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Hoppe is the result thus far of those who came before him in the ideals of Austrian Economics and libertarian principles. Nevertheless, Hoppe takes it much further as in the Misesian concept of human action and the science of “praxeology”, from which all actions branch in life.
Overall, the class was extremely enjoyable, the questions concrete, and the answer provided by Mr. Kinsella clear and precise. Like many others in the class, I look forward to more. So tune in next Monday at 7pm EDT. Same Hoppe-time, same Hoppe-channel!
“The class (everything) was perfect. Content wasn’t too deep (nor too shallow) – the reviewed material was just brilliant and the “tuning” was great for someone like myself (engineering background – no profound legal/lawyer experience). It provided all the material to really “understand” (instead of “just knowing”) all that was covered which I find always very important in a class.”
“Instruction was very comprehensive and thought provoking. The instructor was fantastic and very knowledgeable and answered every question asked.”
“Learned more than i expected, the professor seemed to really enjoy teaching the class, and the readings provided were excellent. Overall for the cost I was extremely satisfied.”
“Very interesting ideas I was not exposed to. Inexpensive, convenient, good quality.”
“It is a very fascinating topic and I was quite eager to learn about what I.P. is all about. I thought that Professor Kinsella was able to convey complicated issues to us clearly.”
“Professor Kinsella’s enthusiasm and extra links posted showed his true knowledge and interest in the subject. Great to see.”
Thank you so very much for all the excellent work — very few classes have really changed my life dramatically, actually only 3 have, and all 3 were classes I took at the Mises Academy, starting with Rethinking Intellectual Property (PP350) (the other two were EH476 (Bubbles), and PP900 (Private Defense)). …
My purposes for taking the classes are: 1. just for the fun of it, 2. learning & self-education, and 3. to understand what is happening with some degree of clarity so I can eventually start being part of the solution where I live — or at least stop being part of the problem.
The IP class was a total blast — finally (finally) sound reasoning. All the (three) classes I took dramatically changed the way I see the world. I’m still digesting it all, to tell the truth. Very few events in my life have managed to make me feel like I wished I was 15 all over again. Thank you. …
[M]uch respect and admiration for all the great work done by all the members of the whole team.
Students would often give real-time feedback, in comments such as the following at the end of the lectures (these are from the actual IP-lecture chat transcripts):
- “Thank you, great lecture!”
- “Thanks, excellent lecture.”
- “Great job.”
- “Great lecture!”
- “Thank you, Sir. Great lecture!”
- “Thanks for an excellent talk.”
Student reaction to the first lecture of my Libertarian Legal Theory course can be found in Student Comments for First Lecture of Libertarian Legal Theory Course: Not Too Late to Sign Up!:
“The class (everything) was perfect. Content wasn’t too deep (nor too shallow) – the reviewed material was just brilliant and the “tuning” was great for someone like myself (engineering background – no profound legal/lawyer experience). It provided all the material to really “understand” (instead of “just knowing”) all that was covered which I find always very important in a class.”
“Instruction was very comprehensive and thought provoking. The instructor was fantastic and very knowledgeable and answered every question asked.”
“Learned more then i expected, the professor seemed to really enjoy teaching the class, and the readings provided were excellent. Overall for the cost I was extremely satisfied.”
“Very interesting ideas I was not exposed to. Inexpensive, convenient, good quality.”
“It is a very fascinating topic and I was quite eager to learn about what I.P. is all about. I thought that Professor Kinsella was able to convey complicated issues to us clearly.”
“Professor Kinsella’s enthusiasm and extra links posted showed his true knowledge and interest in the subject. Great to see.”
Now, that is very gratifying to a teacher. It’s immediate feedback. And it’s a good example of what I mentioned in “Teaching an Online Mises Academy Course”:
These heartfelt and spontaneous comments reminded me a bit of times past, when students would applaud at the end of a good lecture by a professor. In this sense, and contrary to what you might expect with the coarsening of manners and the increase of informality in typical Internet fora, for some reason the new, high-tech environment created by Mises Academy seems to foster a return to Old World manners and civility — which is very Misesian indeed! Perhaps it is because these students are all 100 percent voluntary, and they want to learn. They are much like students decades ago, who were grateful to get into college — before state subsidies of education and the entitlement mentality set in, turning universities into playgrounds for spoiled children who often skip the classes, paid for 10 percent by parents and 90 percent by the taxpayer.
The Social Theory of Hoppe, Lecture 1: Property Foundations
Mises Academy, July 11, 2011
STEPHAN KINSELLA: We good to go? Hey, okay good. Hey John. Hello everybody. And we have another Houstonian here, so that’s good. Okay, good. I’m glad everybody can hear me fine. Well, welcome to the course. I’m glad everyone could make it. We have a nice turnout, and it should be a lot of fun. Let me just ask. Who here – just type up in the chat session if you know how to use it, if you feel like. Who here has not – who here is taking a Mises Academy course for the first time? Okay. What about second time or people who have taken it multiple times? I know I’ve seen a couple of return faces here.
John, you were in the last course, although I think you audited a lot. Okay, okay, good, good. Well, I’m glad you guys came back. This should be fun. Many of you may know I’m a big Hoppian. And what I will do in this course is give my opinions but try to explain when it’s my opinion and when I think it’s a more objective, kind of received understanding.
But let’s go ahead and get started if everyone can see this slide. I’m going to go to slide two now. And just a brief introduction about me for people who haven’t had a course with me before, I’m an attorney in Houston. I’m a libertarian writer, and I edit a journal called Libertarian Papers. And I’ve been involved with libertarian theory for, like, 25 years now and the Mises Institute for almost that long.
I was originally heavily influenced by Ayn Rand in law school, and then I worked at large law firms for several years, and now I’m a general counsel for a small company. Oh, Dante is another return. I met Dante twice. I met Dante – I met you in Bodrum, Turkey, and in New York, so that’s great. Maybe Danny can help you figure out what to adjust.
Okay, I’m going to slide three now. Maybe I have two slide twos and three. And so my background or my influences would be – I would say is Rothbard and Hoppe and Mises. So that’s where I’m coming from. I’m a heavily Austrian-influenced anarchist attorney and libertarian. So Rothbard, Mises, and Hoppe are where I’m coming from.
Now, let me just go over a quick overview of the course. We have almost 50 students last time I checked. John—do I still value Rand’s philosophy? Yeah, sure. I value a lot of it, although I’m increasingly skeptical over the years of many of her concrete applications of her own basic philosophy. I did talk a lot about this in my last course on libertarian legal theory. I think she misstepped on her value theory and, of course, on minarchist and on intellectual property.
Okay, so anyway, in this course – but actually I think there’s a lot of overlap between Austro-anarchist-Rothbardian-Hoppian ideas and even Misesian ideas and objectivist ideas, although they use a different language, sometimes, different conceptual terminology. I might actually go into that in this course. I have a chart I’ve developed that kind of shows the parallels. But in any case, we have about 50 students from eight different countries, which is a nice diverse group here. I hope the timing is not too bad for a lot of you. I know that it’s late in the morning for Jock Coats over there in Oxford.
So we’re going to have six lectures covering a variety of different aspects of Hoppe’s thought. I will veer from it a little bit to touch on related areas, but mostly it will be about Hoppe’s thought himself. And today – there’s a typo. It say day. Today, we’re going to talk about property foundations because these inform both his cultural and political and economic views.
So I’m going to slide six now. So actually the course for people who haven’t had a course before, you’re free to email me any time at my email address, which is on this page. It might be better to use the course forum if you want other people to get the benefit of answers and have discussion. I don’t think the white board is activated, but if it is, please don’t interfere with it here.
In previous courses, I had office hours scheduled regularly. I don’t think it’s necessarily in every course. Two of the courses I did, I did not do it. I’d be happy to have extra office hours if we need to or if people request it. And I’ve mentioned in the introductory sort of article for the course that Professor Hoppe – we tried to get him to actually be a guest video speaker live, but the time zone difference is too bad because he lives in Turkey. And 6 o’clock at night here is, I don’t know, 4 in the morning there or something like that, so we couldn’t arrange it.
What he consented to was if the students develop written questions and send them to me, I’ll collect them together, send them to Professor Hoppe, and he can provide some answers to any questions that we can’t get developed satisfactorily here. We’ll probably do that in the fifth or sixth lecture to have time to develop the course. So feel free to send me questions for Professor Hoppe if we can’t address them to your satisfaction here.
So the way the course works, we will have two tests. You’re not obligated to take them. Don’t feel pressured at all. If you’d like to, it’s fine. It will be fun and not too hard, but it will test your knowledge of the material we cover in the course. It will be multiple choice. We’ll have a midterm and a final, and we’ll have them weighted a certain way. Now, the way the course works, if you take the test, both tests, you get a certificate of completion. If you don’t take them, then you’re eligible to get a certificate of participation if you’d like.
And the tests – and I’ll review this before the test after the third lecture and after the fifth lecture – or the sixth lecture. They’ll be based upon everything I actually discuss in the lectures, everything in these slides, which sometimes have hyperlinks, and the suggested reading material, which I list on the course page. If there’s optional reading material, I won’t test on that.
Okay, so slide eight – excuse me – that’s an example of what the certificate of completion looks like from the last course I taught. Okay, by the way, if there are any questions – what I intend to do today is I will lecture for about an hour until around 7 p.m. central time, which is my time, so about an hour from now, take a quick break, and then we’ll do Q&A if there’s any Q&A or further lecturing. If I go over or don’t cover everything in these slides today, I’ll just continue next time and adjust the lectures accordingly. So any questions so far about logistics or the course itself? And we have over half the course here. That’s pretty good. Okay, good.
Slide nine. Oh, so the primary readings for this course are the two books that are two of my biggest influences by Hoppe, and they’re both online for free. His primary treatise, which is A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, TSC, and The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, which collects a lot of his more important essays. They’re both free online. By the way, I – so this is the – just a quick background about my influence on Hoppe.
And so today’s lecture, by the way, is chapter one and primarily chapter two of TSC, which we’ll go into a lot of the concepts in there today. I was in law school in 1988 to ’91, and I actually started reading Hoppe in around ’88, so I’ve been studying him closely for about 23 years. I’ve been a friend and associate of his since about ’94, so maybe, say, 16, 17, maybe 18 years now, and I’ve read all of his stuff.
This is the old copy of his TSC. You can see it’s very – it’s actually a bad copy. I mean the ink is falling off. But it’s my dog-eared copy, and it’s got – I’ve got – almost every page has underlining and notes. And anyway, the new version is much nicer actually, but I keep this because I’ve got my notes in it. This is my 1993 and a full copy of his EEPP, which now has a new edition out.
So here’s Professor Hoppe’s Democracy book, which some of you may have, which I will not cover this book in the class because it’s not online. Instead on the immigration stuff, I’ll cover online articles, which are available. This is one of his fantastic works. This is his Economic Science and Austrian Method books, which is a monograph, some notes I have here.
Anyway, it’s available online as well, and a lot of other works I have by Professor Hoppe. There are the old paper ones I got in the early ‘90s or whatever, so that’s just where I’m coming from. So we’re going to study Professor Hoppe in this course, so let me just go quick biographical, historical background. So Professor Hoppe was born in Germany in 1949, and he studied history, sociology, and philosophy at Frankfurt in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
His doctoral dissertation dealt with the praxeological foundations of epistemology. I don’t think he called it praxeology at the time because he had not yet been exposed to Austrian economics. But his central thesis was very Austrian. It was that all cognitive processes, and thus all sciences, are but special forms of human action. And so he believed that it followed that the laws of action were also the basic laws of epistemology.
If this doesn’t make a lot of sense to you now, don’t worry about it. We’ll go into it later in more detail. I’m just kind of giving you an overview now who he is and where he’s coming from. Then he discovered the writing of Mises and then Rothbard, and this opened his eyes and he became a devout Austrian economist. He continued his philosophical studies, and he developed a bunch of new epistemological and methodological insights based on Misesian and Rothbardian insights.
So you could think of it this way. Mises influenced Rothbard who influenced Hoppe. He was influenced by those. Those are my poodles barking, and they’ll stop soon. I apologize for that. So in the ‘80s, Hoppe went to the US on a Heisenberg fellowship, and he studied political philosophy and kept building his knowledge of Austrian economics.
Finally, he befriended Rothbard and became his sort of closest protégé and friend and became a colleague of his at UNLV where they both taught together for many years. Rothbard died in ’95, and at that point, Hoppe became the editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies, which recently ceased publishing. And he was the coeditor of the Review of Austrian Economics and then after that turned into the QJAE, the Quarterly Journal. He was a coeditor of that, so he’s been heavily involved in the libertarian and Austrian movement for a couple decades.
Currently, Hoppe lives in Bodrum, Turkey, and he founded about six years ago the Property and Freedom Society of which I’m a member as well. It has annual meetings in Turkey since 2006, and the reason it’s in Turkey is his wife lives in Turkey and has a nice resort in Bodrum, Turkey, and that’s a convenient place for the annual meetings. So this is all sort of non-substantive background.
Now, as for Hoppe’s influences intellectually, obviously it’s Mises and Rothbard, but his PhD dissertation advisor was a world-famous philosopher named Jürgen Habermas who is an extremely interesting and intelligent and prolific and famous philosopher in Germany, socialist on politics or left – soft socialist like most European thinkers and liberals are. But he was influenced heavily by his methodology, especially his argumentation ethics, and also the work on argumentation ethics by German philosopher Karl-Otto Apel. He’s also heavily influenced by Kant as we’ll see, not the evil Kant of Randian sort of distortion but a reasonable version of Kant. So – but the main influences will be Habermas and especially Mises and especially Rothbard.
So I’ll just go into that a little bit. In terms of Habermas and Apel, they had this theory called argumentation ethics, which is an argument that the nature of human discourse can be used to establish certain normative or ethical truths like the value of democracy. I’m talking about Habermas and Apel, not Hoppe – or certain freedoms and rights, things like this. Now, if you ever try to read a Habermas book, which I have, and it’s a little bit – I’ll grab one here.
This is one of the few English ones: Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. It is – it’s wild stuff. And it’s interesting, but it’s not very – it’s very obscure and dense, and I don’t think it’s very rigorous and not very libertarian, and the stuff that’s in it is not all relevant to political theory or our political theory anyway. But Hoppe extracted from it this core argumentation ethics or the discourse ethics idea, which we’ll talk about in maybe three or four lectures.
But unlike them, unlike Apel and Habermas who used argumentation ethics or discourse ethics to result in sort of soft socialist conclusions like a right to welfare, right to a job, basically the UN charter type stuff, Hoppe combined it with the things he had learned from Mises and Rothbard to make it into a libertarian argument, to come to libertarian conclusions. And I think it’s a powerful argument. It’s been very controversial in libertarian circles, and we’ll go into that as well.
Now, for those of you who are familiar with Rand, you are her Kant demonized over and over again. Hoppe is not a big advocate of Kant, neither was Mises. They both basically took some of his ideas and terminology, and they use it in a very reasonable, rational way and in a realistic way. Mises was a realist. He was not an idealist. He was not a subjectivist in the sense that Randians criticize.
When Rand criticizes people for being subjectivist, she was criticizing what we would probably call a relativist, people who think there are no objective values, no objective proof, we can’t really know anything for sure, which is not the view of Hoppe and Mises or even the view of Kant according to some interpretations. Basically, you can think of Kant as having an American and a European interpretation. The American interpretation is the one Rand criticized. It was more idealist and of course it’s – I would blame Kant himself for being obscure in writing and lending support to these interpretations. And who knows what he really meant? But there are basically two ways to look at what Kant wrote.
So one is the idealist view that we can never know the real world. We have duty ethics. We have to live for duty rather than for ourselves or for our personal interests – excuse me. I have to sneeze in a second. Sorry. So – excuse me. And there is a more European or continental tradition that interprets Kant in a more realist way. And I have a post here if anyone is interested. I won’t test on this. But Barry Smith who is another Austrian-type philosopher, Austrian-influenced philosopher, has written on this.
I have a quote in there from him. There are several books and studies and opinions that there is a realist version of Kant, which Rand would not really have objected to if she had interpreted him that way. In any case, it’s more the Kantian terminology and framework that Hoppe uses but in a realist way as buttressed by the Misesian realist insights. And again, I’m not really going into an in-depth lecture on this today. I’m just setting the ground. We will have a full lecture on the epistemology and the methodology stuff.
Okay, so let’s go to slide 14. So Hoppe was strongly Misesian, and he is one of the most praxeological writers you will read. A lot of Austrian economists appreciate it, but their writing is sort of on applications or other fields. It’s compatible with praxeology, but they don’t really apply it and slim it and extend it like Hoppe does. There are few that do this: Joe Salerno, Hans Hoppe, Jeff Herbener, Guido Hülsmann, Walter Block. But there are other Austrians who don’t really apply, but Hoppe is one of the strongest sheer praxeological writers out there.
So he is strongly Misesian in that sense. Politically, he’s more radical than Mises. Mises was more of a minarchist or classical liberal, although I have a blog post that shows he as arguably an anarchist. I mean he was really close. He was a lot closer to anarchism than, say, Ayn Rand or other classical liberals like, say, Milton Friedman. He was really close to being an anarchist, very radical figure for his time. He was an – like I said before, he’s an epistemological realist like Mises.
Now, what he did was his argumentation ethics, he views that as sort of an extension of praxeology or praxeological-type reasoning to ethics. For those who aren’t familiar with praxeology, I will go to it a little bit later today and in other lectures. But praxeology is the Misesian view of how we understand economics, which they viewed as the science or the logic of human action. So it was almost an a priori science as opposed to a posteriori or empirical science, a priori meaning we have certain basic, core truths that we know to be true for sure or what they say apodictically.
We can know them to be true in the same way that Aristotle, for example – and by the way, this example coming up demonstrates how a lot of these ostensible differences between, say, the Kantian framework and the Aristotelian or classical framework or the natural law framework are really only cosmetic or terminological because Aristotle, of course, demonstrated a lot of fundamental truths, what Ayn Rand would call axioms, by showing that to deny this would involve a contradiction so, for example, the law of non-contradiction, the law of identity, the law of causality.
You can take these things to be true apodictically because to deny it would lead to contradiction. Even Descartes had this with his cogito ergo sum, his I think; therefore, I am, which on the surface seems like you’re saying because I think, I am, but he wasn’t saying that. What he was saying was because I know that I think, therefore, I know that I am.
In other words, even if you’re a total skeptic and you don’t know anything about the world and you think you might be a brain in a vat or you might be being subject to an illusion or having a hallucination or a dream, you know that you are thinking. To deny that is self-contradictory. And to be thinking, you must be something that exists that is thinking.
So all this kind of logic is very traditional and historical-based. Now, so the Kantians call it a priori, and what they meant by that was just before the senses. But they didn’t mean that you could be born from the womb and then know this stuff. They didn’t even mean that it was intuitive. What they meant was that you can know or you can demonstrate that it’s true without having to do an experiment, or to put it another way, you can know that something is true and you can not bother to test it because you know that it’s impossible to disprove it. An example would be the law of supply and demand in economics.
Some of the more positivist or the empiricist-minded economists like Milton Friedman would say that we postulate or hypothesize a law like the law of supply and demand. And then we go test it. We get data points and we see if it fits the curve or whatever. The reason they do that is because – let me take a little detour here. The essential method, the epistemological or methodological method of the Misesian Austrians including Rothbard and Hoppe, although Rothbard used an Aristotelian terminology, is what we call dualism.
By dualism, what they mean is there are two realms of reality or two realms of understanding. One realm is the realm of the natural laws – excuse me – the causal laws, natural sciences like physics and chemistry. Those are to be understood and studied in accordance with the scientific method, that is, the Popperian idea that you hypothesize a law, a causal law like the law of gravity. And then you test it and you see if you can verify it or falsify it. This is the scientific method, although as Hoppe shows and we’ll get into this in another lecture, even that method has certain a priori assumptions about the scientific method itself, for example, about methodology, about evidence, about how we interact with the world.
But on the other hand, there is the teleological realm, that is, the realm of human purpose. So when you study human actions or what he does and you seek to understand it as a fellow human and to understand it in terms of his motivations, his goals, his purposes, his needs, his desires, then you are thinking teleologically. And to understand that realm requires a different set of operative presuppositions and a different methodology.
So, for example, by the nature of human action, we know that when people act, they seek to achieve an end. They use a means to achieve it, and they also have different alternatives if they’re available to them that they choose between. So can see the way that we know just by what human action is, that we can know that humans have choice. They have opportunity costs. Those are the choices that you didn’t choose. They have ends and means, and that there’s causality even because you couldn’t act, that is, to choose a means to achieve an end, unless you believed it could causally achieve the ends. So there’s an implicit belief, a presupposed belief in causality in the universe.
Action is a viewpoint says Jock Coats in the comments here, as Murphy put it in his course. I haven’t heard that before, but that sounds right to me. I mean – and we’ll get into this even later I think in the note today. Mises explicitly says that from the point of view of God, maybe we don’t have free will. Maybe he can predict everything we’re doing. But what that means in my mind, and Hoppe writes about this a little bit, is that you can use human beings as either bodies having behavior and influenced by truly causal influences, or as teleological, goal-driven actors having desires and goals.
So it’s sort of like when you try to diagnose what’s wrong with a car that’s not running anymore. You think a certain functional macro level like the carburetor or the fuel-injector and the gas tank and the internal combustion engine, the cylinders and the steering wheel and the wheels and the chassis and the [indiscernible_00:26:37]. You think in these macro terms because they’re functional and that’s how we understand this. That’s how we made it as humans.
Theoretically, you could have a computer look at the car as a swarm of subatomic particles like quarks, trillions or quadrillions or googol trillions or whatever of these particles interacting solely on the basis of the four laws of physics: the law of gravity and electromagnetism and the strong and the weak nuclear forces and analyze the position of all those particles at a moment in time and their momentum and inertia or whatever and input it into a super computer and crank it out and predict exactly what’s going to happen and try to figure out.
But if you look at a big swarm of quarks, it’s hard to see what the functional problem is, why this car isn’t working. It’s not a car anymore. It’s a swarm of quarks. Anyway, this is my perspective on it. I’m deviating a little bit from Hoppe here. I don’t think it’s incompatible, but I haven’t heard him talk about it like this. But this is, in essence, what we do when we look at other humans as actors instead of as mechanized basically meat robots following pure causal laws and behaving instead of acting.
It’s just a more efficient conceptual way to look at it, but there’s two ways to do it. In any case, we do view ourselves as actors, and when we relate to other people, we look at them as actors, or as Hoppe says, as a person, not a corpus, that is, some actor having personhood rather than a body that’s just a physical meat body.
In any case – so what about Rothbard? Now, Hoppe is strongly Rothbardian. He probably identifies most closely with Rothbard, although his terminology is more Kantian and closer to that of Mises. He talks in more a priori terms. Rothbard tended to put an Aristotelian conceptual or terminological spin on the same basic Kantian ideas. I mean Rothbard was an a priorist, and he did use those terms, but he sometime talked in more natural law language and more the language of Aristotle.
There’s actually an interesting article, which I’ll just throw out there, by Barry Smith about Aristotelian or fallible a priorism. I think it’s in an old issue of the JLS or the Review of Austrian Economics. It’s about fallibilistic a priorism. And the idea there, which Hoppe agrees with, is that, when we say we know something a priori, we don’t mean we’re infallible or omniscient. All we mean is that it’s a different type of knowledge and demonstrated or validated in a different way than empirical knowledge.
What we mean is that we can know some things are true by first establishing a basic axiom, or a priori, proposition or truth by realizing that its denial is self-contradictory and then reasoning validly and deductively from there. On occasion, as Mises said, we introduce explicitly certain contingent empirical ideas, and then that makes your resulting theory less apodictic because the introduced assumption may be wrong, but it makes it more interesting.
So, for example, Rothbard starts out his analysis and so does Hoppe in some of his social theory with the Crusoe society, Robinson Crusoe alone on an island. And you just talk about human action in the context in a world of scarcity or whatever, but there’s no other humans. There’s no society. There’s no interaction. There’s no economy really, and they analyze it based upon that. And Mises or Rothbard will say, well, let’s assume that there’s more than one person. That’s an empirical assumption.
Let’s assume that there’s some interaction and exchange in trade, and let’s even assumed that they have developed money. Now, that’s called catallactics in Austrian economics. That’s – a catallactic economy is one in which there’s a more advanced market economy where there’s money instead of just barter. Now, there can be economies in societies where there’s no barter. There could even be situations where there’s no other people. There’s just one person or even no people. But to have an interesting analysis that we can apply to our world, we have to introduce some assumptions. And so those are done that way, and Rothbard does that as well.
So Rothbard and Hans are – Hoppe are both anarchists, Austrian anarchist libertarians, a lot more radical than Mises was. There are actually some differences. Rothbard was more of an American and a little bit – he had more of what Hans called a soft spot for democracy and actually so did Mises. They both sort of viewed – and it’s imperfect, but they viewed the move in the world, in the early 1900s from basically monarchies to more democracies in Europe and America. They viewed that as progress, so as being closer to some kind of libertarian or classical liberal idea. And that is one’s view of theirs that Hoppe has actually challenged as we’ll see in one of the lectures in this course with his strong criticism of democracy.
Ayn Rand of course had this problem as well, not really democracy so much but this sort of America worship or this founders worship or the Constitution worship, this sort of naïve – well, the view of myself and people like Hans Hoppe that it’s a little bit naïve for libertarians to just assume that the original American founding was an almost libertarian society that the Constitution, although imperfect, was close to what we really need, in other words, viewing the original American situation as a template or an almost ideal achievement of the libertarian goal.
Rand was very much of this view, and there was a little bit of that in Rothbard and Mises of course. And Hans is more radical and rejects that, and I think his non-American perspective helps him to be a little bit more clear-headed about this. And I think nowadays more libertarians, more radical anarchist and Austrian libertarians are moving more and more in that direction of being a lot more cynical and skeptical of this mythical or naïve view that America is really the libertarian country.
And Rothbard, of course, had a lot of that skepticism and cynicism with his hostility towards American imperialism and expansionism and aggression, and his comments that the Soviet Union was a lot less imperialist than the US, a lot less aggressive, etc., which of course angered a lot of the Randians who have this, they hold on strongly to the idea that America is something that you can love as liberal, as a classical liberal or as a libertarian. So that is Hoppe’s sort of connection to his influences, primarily Mises and Rothbard and of course his teacher Habermas.
Now, his important output were a few books in German, which I won’t even try to pronounce because I don’t speak German. These are on epistemology, anarchist theory, things like this. And this his most important work I believe is A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism first published in ’89, and then an important collection of his essays, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, EEPP, which some more articles were added in 2006. However, there are three or four important articles of his, which are not in either of those books, which we will cover in this class.
He also has an important monograph on his epistemology and methodology, which I’ve already shown you, this one here Economic Science and the Austrian Method. And also a very influential work of his that came a little bit late after he already became fairly well-known in libertarian circles on democracy, Democracy: The God that Failed and also a collection of essays, The Myth of National Defense. He’s the editor of this one, but he’s got several good articles in it.
He is very well-known for our purposes in terms of a fairly esoteric, minority political viewpoint intellectual. His work has been published – translated into at least 22 other languages outside of English or originally published in other languages like German or French. So given all this background, given his heavy influence in Misesian and Rothbardian ideas, it shouldn’t be a surprise that basically his work is grounded strongly and very rigorously and tightly in Austrian property concepts, realistic epistemology, and radical and Rothbardian-oriented, anti-statist politics and Austrian economics.
I also find Hoppe’s work to be extremely precise and clear to read, very much like Rothbard’s, maybe even more precise and rigorous than Rothbard’s in some respects, but they’re both very clear and plain thinkers, and they let you know what they’re saying, unlike a lot of our opponents on the left and even unlike Mises to some extent who was quite dense to read.
Like Human Action is quite a challenge to many people, although when you get used to it, you can learn a lot from it. Just a quick break. Does anyone have any requests or questions at this point? Because what I intend to do is speak for another 20-25 minutes on this lecture and then take a quick break. Anyone have any issues or questions at this point? Okay, good. Can you hear me okay? Sound all right? Video quality okay? Okay, good. Ethan, would you turn that other light on in here, the bright light? Just one of those switches.
So Hoppe’s work, which we’ll cover as much of this as we can in a sort of coherent way, has touched on sociology, economics, philosophy, and epistemology, and of course, libertarianism and political theory and also history as well. I don’t think we’ll talk too much on the history here. But let me just touch quickly. I mentioned some of this in the introductory article to this course, which I assume most of you have read already.
But among his contributions, which we’ll discuss in this course, would be his critique of positivism, which I’ve talked about already. When I talked earlier about the dualist perspective of Mises and Rothbard and Hoppe, this is the perspective I’m talking about. And their framework, the scientists like Milton Friedman who attempt to study laws of economics as if they’re causal laws or laws of natural sciences, are making the mistake of monism, monism meaning one thing, in other words, trying to cram two different disparate fields into the same methodological or investigative framework.
There are some synonyms that you’ll hear thrown around that describe this kind of approach: historicism or scientism, scientism meaning an over-worship of the natural sciences. I think basically what happened is the social sciences had been a mess over the last two centuries let’s say. Parts of it had been good, but you have Austrian economics developing, but you have other economics as well, and it’s been a mess. Philosophy has been confused the last two centuries, sociology. Psychology doesn’t seem rigorous to a lot of people.
And so meanwhile we’ve had a lot of successes in the natural sciences, right? We’ve had amazing technological developments based upon physics and chemistry and engineering. And so what happens is physics as the model in chemistry etc. gained the reputation of being true, legitimate, real hard sciences because you can test it, and you get good results. Meanwhile, the social sciences seem to be soft and inclusive and everyone’s debating, and you have three different people who have three different opinions. You don’t know how to choose between them. You can’t really do a test.
So what happened was at least some of the social sciences started aiding or mimicking the methods of the natural sciences, economics being the primary one. I mean Milton Friedman is a notorious example of this. He’s an explicit positivist. Now, in practice you’ll see that they speak out of both sides of their mouth, so Milton Friedman, Chicagoites and coasians and monetarists will say certain things, like they’ll say, well, we know that if you increase the minimum wage it will cause unemployment because we’ve tested it.
But they don’t really believe it because of tests. They believe it because of reasoning very similar to what an Austrian would do. And in fact, if they did a test and found that a minimum wage increase caused unemployment to go down or employment to go up, they would think there’s an anomaly. They would check their data and run the test again. So they really have an a priori approach to things without admitting it, and they don’t admit it because they’re confused and they don’t have a coherent philosophical background because they’ve given up philosophy. They gave it up because they think it’s unscientific.
So this is monism. This is one of the chief enemies of – I don’t mean enemies but intellectual sort of opponents or things that Austrians criticize. And this will run through a lot of the aspects of this course and Hoppe’s and Mises’ thought. So that’s that first bullet point there. Also, as I mentioned earlier, he developed a very unique and radical and groundbreaking in my view and important and controversial – I’m okay [indiscernible_00:41:49] but otherwise I’m okay – anyway, view of libertarian rights called argumentation ethics based upon a combination of Misesian and Rothbardian and even Habermassian insights.
He also has a fascinating comparative analysis of capitalism and socialism, which we’ll start touching on next week, a very provocative and influential criticism of democracy, which we’ll touch on in one lecture, along with his views on natural elites and immigration, which has been one of his most controversial views as a libertarian, also his work on economic methodology and epistemology, which I’ve touched on. And then what I’ll do is, in some political lectures, I’ll talk about some concrete political insights and the reasoning upon Hoppe, and on the economic side some of his economics work and articles and groundbreaking insights like monopoly and the theory of public goods. So this is where we are, and this is what we’re heading towards.
I’ve mentioned already Mises and Rothbard and even Habermas, but what I found interesting was there’s a book edited by Randall Holcombe called The Great Austrian Economists or sometimes called The Sixteen Great Austrian Economists. And the last chapter is the chapter on Rothbard written by Hoppe. It’s the last chapter because Rothbard is sort of the latest in the chain of important Austrian economists covered in that work. And if you’re interested to read through this – oh, I see a comment from Jock here which turned – I didn’t see when you posted it – which turned me into an anarchist.
What was it, Jock, that turned you into an anarchist? I’m curious what that was because I missed the correlation to what I was saying. Anyway, you can type it if you get a chance. Okay, right, fine. You’re talking about a lecture by Hoppe on the impossibility of limited government? Okay, I didn’t remember mentioning it, sorry.
In any case, if you read this essay, which is – it’s very short, and it’s a fascinating essay, he does a really good job of putting the contributions of Rothbard and Mises into perspective, and he’s a very humble guy. But I mean he falls right into this. He’s sort of building upon all this. But he explains, and I’ll just do a little reading here. I won’t read all this. You can read it later if you’d like and read the article itself, but I have some quotes here. But he explains that Rothbard was sort of the latest at the end of this – let me take a break here.
Rick asked, are many of these arguments considered transcendental in that the opposite view undermines intelligibility or contradict themselves? Yeah, that label is often applied to these types of arguments. I don’t really know if it’s necessary as a label to explain how these arguments work, but I have heard that label applied. Excuse me. Let me close my door here real quick.
Okay, back. So Rothbard could be seen as the latest exponent of the rationalist branch of the Austrian school because there are other Austrians who are not really as rationalist like the Hayekian branch, or nowadays the Kirznerians or other – I think Wieser, von Wieser wasn’t quite as much, and there are others earlier on. But basically if you go from Karl Menger, the founder, and go to – I’m going to mangle this word I know, but Eugen Böhm von Bawerk and Ludwig von Mises. These three are the primary rationalists of the school, and Mises sort of perfected and systematized what had been developed before by them, and Rothbard as well was a rationalist and was a critic of social relativism. So you can see this is not the Kantianism that Rand criticized.
So including historicism, which is sort of a variant of positivism, logical positivism I mean, and empiricism and positivism and skepticism. And then as Hoppe writes, there are three things to recognize about Rothbard, and these are important. It’s not about Rothbard, this lecture, but Hoppe is so integrated with Rothbard’s thought it’s important to be aware of this. So number one, like his predecessors, Rothbard defends the view that economic laws not only exist, but their exact – as Menger called them – or aprioristic – as Mises called them – laws. And I’ve already mentioned this already, so basically it’s a type of dualist perspective. Okay, so that is one thing about Rothbard.
Number two, he’s the latest and most comprehensive system builder in economics, in Austrian economics. And that tendency only really exists among the rationalist strain of Austrians. Okay, so as he says here, while they contributed much to its foundation, neither Menger nor Böhm Bawerk accomplished this ultimate intellectual desideratum. This feat was accomplished only by Mises with the publication of his monumental Human Action.
And as he writes, “Today, Human Action by Mises and Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State are the two towering and defining achievements of the Austrian school. And I also believe that we need to include Hoppe’s work as well and that of other more modern Austrians as well like Salerno and Hülsmann. And third, Rothbard is the latest and most systematically political Austrian economist.
So just as rationalism implies the desire for system and completeness, it also implies political activism because we view humans as rational animals and their actions, and the course of human history, are determined by ideas, that is, were not determined. We do have choice, which is another undeniable or a priori assumption when you view people as human actors. That is the perspective that Murphy talked about apparently and the teleological side of this dualistic divide.
So this is the part that made me think of Hoppe when I read it. He wrote about Rothbard. Proceeding systematically, even beyond Mises, Rothbard accomplished—in The Ethics of Liberty—an integration using the concept of private property of value-free Austrian economics and libertarian political philosophy or ethics as two complementary branches of a grand unified social theory, thereby creating a radical Austro-libertarian-philosophical movement.
And I agree completely with this, and Hoppe is the sort of main representative of that and the person who has extended and built on that and even firmed it up in some ways. So basically you can think of the lineage as Menger to Böhm Bawerk to Mises to Rothbard to Hoppe. And of course this is not to slight the earlier thinkers. As Newton said famously, If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. And this is the brilliance of the internet and our modern times is that we can all learn from these amazing insights that we accumulated and now that can spread instantly for free from Mises.org and over the internet.
Now – and I wrote a little bit about this in my post, which I have linked here at the bottom of slide 20. And more about Hoppe’s contributions, I and Guido Hülsmann organized a Festschrift, which is a collection of essays and owner of a distinguished sort of thinker, in 2009 in honor of Hoppe’s 60th birthday – excuse me – called “Property, Freedom, and Society,” and the name was modeled after the name of his Property and Freedom Society. And it’s got a host of wonderful contributions from thinkers all around the world, and you can see the influence of Hoppe’s ideas in that book, and it’s free online as well.
Now – and I think we will end up carrying this into the next lecture, which is fine. I planned to do that to an extent. The best place to start in my view – there’s a lot of disparate aspects to Hoppe’s thought. I mean we could talk for ten minutes each on a lot of concrete areas, but to link them all together, what I plan to do is cover first his fundamental concepts. These will be familiar to a lot of you already because a lot of them are familiar – or implicit or used already by Rothbard and libertarians and Austrians and Mises.
But Hans is very careful about picking out the fundamental ones crisply and carefully defining them, and then actually using them and integrating them into his further reasoning as he builds on them. As I mentioned earlier, some Austrians just kind of touch on praxeology. They don’t really sort of swim in it, as I see it. This is an example of Hoppe developing these things for a purpose. He has a sort of German, precise, machine-gun-like precision in his writing.
Sometimes his sentences are a little long, but if you follow them, they just perfect sense. He actually told me personally when I saw him last time that when he started writing in English it actually improved his writing because it forced him to be more clear, to be clearer because the English language is not as – not the same as the German language in the way that lends itself to long – strung out but logical but just strung-out sentences and combined words and things like that. So in a way I think his English writing, according to what he told me, has improved the presentation and precision of his writing.
So the fundamental concepts that we’ll talk about would be several that are related. The primary ones are action and property. Now, action you could think of as having sort of sub-properties or things that are implied by action, which we’ve talked about already: conflicts, scarcity, choice, cost and profit and ends and means. I should say profit and loss, cost and profit and loss and ends and means and opportunity costs as cause and causality. Those are all implied by the category of action. I’ve already touched on that.
I won’t go to that more now, but we will touch on that again when we revisit the entire epistemological topic in that lecture. For our purposes now, property is the fundamental concept. And then there are other things that flow from that or that are a derivative of that or that depend upon that: contract, aggression, capitalism, socialism, and even how we define the state. This is all very – most of this is contained in chapter two of TSC.
And by the way, in chapter one and two, especially two, Hoppe doesn’t say these things or justify them. He’s just setting the stage for the natural way to categorize and present things, and then later on he tries to justify it. I mean justify. But he’s establishing the natural framework. This is similar, by the way, to what Rothbard does in the Ethics of Liberty.
First, he establishes a natural sort of like natural ownership of a natural situation. Some have criticized Rothbard for saying if you call it natural you’re smuggling in a norm. But I don’t think he does because he’s explicit that he’s not saying it’s self-justified, but he justifies it with other considerations later. It’s sort of the natural way to view the human situation in the way we confront the world.
So let’s briefly talk about action. I’ve already talked about it incidentally. But Hoppe’s concept of action, which is Rothbard’s, is the Misesian concept. It’s the action of – it’s the idea of praxeology, the science of human action. And by the way, Mises sometimes says that economics is only a branch of praxeology. It’s the most developed branch so far. Some people think that you could think of praxeology as the science of human action, and you get sub-branches, economics being one, but there being other ones like the study of war or – I don’t know – maybe ethical things like Hoppe’s argumentation ethics.
But some like – say that economics is virtually identical to praxeology, that it’s really hard to imagine. I think Roderick Long mentions this in his book on Wittgenstein that it’s hard to imagine what would be praxeology that is not economics. Even the study of war is really the study of the consequences of human action. It’s just with certain empirically introduced assumptions like conflict. But even Rothbard in his Power and Market, which is an adjunct to his Man, Economy, and State, and even Mises in Human Action, talk about the effects of state intervention or violence or conflict. So they really do use their economic theories to address it.
Maybe one way to look at it is catallactics is a branch of praxeology or economics which studies the operation of the cooperative, productive market economy, that is, a property-based economy with private property, private ownership of the means of production, and probably there being a money. That’s catallactics. You could also be a barter society or a Crusoe economy with only one person, and you could also study the impact of violent intervention in the market either by criminals, that is, private criminals, or by the state. So the way Mises defined action is to act means to strive after ends, that is, to choose a goal and to resort to means in order to obtain the goal sought.
Now, when I first read this decades ago, this sounded trivial or trite or absurd to me or pointless. But it’s very powerful because it provides a way of looking at the nature of human action, and you can see that it’s very powerful because it shows that we have ends, things that we’re trying to achieve, that we have choice, and that there is causality presupposed, and that we use means which are scarce means. Mises and Menger and Rothbard and Hoppe distinguish between free goods, which they sometimes call general conditions of human action, and scarce means.
Now, a scarce means is something that you can affect and employ to causally achieve your goal like an ax would be the means to achieve your end of chopping a tree down, or a gun would be your means used to shoot a rabbit that you need to eat, etc. So again, as I said, this is a teleological analysis as opposed to the other side of the dualist divide, the causal analysis. But as Hoppe says, next to the concept of action, property is the most basic category in the social sciences.
Now this is – I’m going to read this quote. This is very important for this entire course and in my view for understanding libertarianism and economics and Hoppe and Rothbard and Mises’ thought. As a matter of fact he says, all other concepts to be introduced in this chapter—aggression, contract, capitalism, and social—are definable in terms of property: aggression being aggression against property, contract being a non-aggressive relationship between property owners, socialism being an institutionalized policy of aggression against property, and capitalism being an institutionalized policy of recognition of property and contractualism.
Now, I know that some left libertarians and even some others might disagree with the choice of two of those words, namely, socialism and capitalism. But that is a more semantic dispute. If we just go with this as a definition, we can talk about whether that semantically are the appropriate words, but let’s just focus on substance for now. And you can see that these are all integrated and bound up with the concept of property.
I think what I will do now – it’s at the hour now. Let’s take about a – it’s actually two past the hour now. Let’s take a seven-minute break, come back at nine past the hour, and we’ll resume, and I’ll talk a little bit more and then we’ll see if there’s any questions.
Any questions to this point? I know it’s fairly basic, but I think it’s important to get this sort of systematically down to build on for the rest of the course. Any questions at this point? No? Okay, good.
Okay, so let’s talk about the concept of aggression. So how does Rothbard define it? What does Ayn Rand say, by the way, in Atlas Shrugged? She had Galt say no man may initiate – something like do you hear me? No man may start the initiation of physical violence against someone else, so even Rand had a physicalist definition of aggression. Someone should post that. There is a hilarious – I’m looking at Jock’s funny like here.
John Galt says, who is Hans-Herman Hoppe? There is a funny – it was posted by a friend of mine on Facebook. It’s called Facts About Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and it’s something like Hans Hoppe could be Chuck Norris. I mean just funny. Hans Hoppe eats performative contractions for breakfast, etc. Anyway, so Rothbard defines aggression this way. The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom, and by the way, you can see the Randian language here, an axiom, sort of Randian language.
Anyway, that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This could be called a non-aggression axiom. And by the way, most libertarians now that I’ve noticed, and I try to do this and Walter Block, etc., we call it the non-aggression principle, not the non-aggression axiom because axiom is too – well, it’s used in different ways, and it’s a loaded term. And I don’t think it’s an axiom. I think it’s a principle. It doesn’t self-justify. You have to justify it another way.
Anyway, aggression is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against a person or property of anyone else, or you can say it’s synonymous with invasion, but to invade means to cross the borders of something, to go through something, to go into the property of someone else. You could also say it is the use of someone’s property without their consent.
Okay, I’m not going to read all this. You can look on page 26 for more. It’s basically elaborations on how he defines aggression the standard libertarian way: to invade or to use or to initiate force against a person or property of someone else. But of course, aggression is not primary for libertarians. It is a consequence of a view of property, and the reason is just – here’s a quick example, page 25-27. If I take a watch from you, it’s aggression if it’s yours, but it’s not aggression if it’s mine. So initiation of force sort of has packed into it that idea that it’s really the use of someone’s property without their permission.
I think the reason we say that is we’re thinking of the standard paradigmatic example of a physical fight between two people. So the only property you’re thinking about is the property of the bodies. So there’s a presupposition there that A and B each own their bodies and that the guy who initiates it—that means he starts it. He hits the other guy for no reason.
Now, we’re assuming that he’s not invited to hit him like in a boxing match or in a wrestling match or something like that or friendly wrestling or whatever because that wouldn’t be initiating it or that would be invited. We’re assuming that it’s not consented to, and so the very concept of initiation of force is centered around this idea of two body owners, one of which uses or invades the borders of the other without his consent.
But you can see that that’s based upon the presupposition of property in the body, and the same is true with all other forms of aggression, which I just mentioned, like theft or rape or kidnapping or murder or assault and battery, etc. So again, as Hoppe says here, this is a little bit redundant with the earlier quote. If an action is performed that uninvitedly – now, see, here’s the consent part. If you consent to someone touching your body, it’s not aggression. You consent to it.
This is based on the property idea that the owner of a resource, a scarce good including your body, is the one who gets to consent or not consent to someone using that. So that is why, if you kiss a girl who consents to it, it’s not aggression or assault. But if you kiss a girl who doesn’t consent to it, it’s assault or battery actually. So it’s all dependent upon the permission of the owner. The owner is the one who has the right to consent or not consent. So as Hoppe says, if an action is performed that uninvitedly invades or changes the physical integrity of another person’s body and puts it to a use that is not to his liking, that’s called aggression.
Now, why do we say changes physical integrity of? This all gets down to what Rothbard talks about as the relevant technological unit, that is, how you define the unit and the way in which you own a given resource and the extent to which it extends. As we’ll talk about later, homesteading doesn’t extend forever. You can’t step on a virgin continent and homestead the whole thing. You have to figure out how much you homesteaded, how much you used, and your rights don’t extend to infinity. They only have a certain border, a certain boundary that other people can observe and avoid if they want to avoid this.
So the idea of aggression is if you own property that’s defined, you are the one who gets to decide whether someone else can use it or not. But that means someone else cannot use it without your consent, but to use it means to alter its physical integrity in some way that prevents me from using it because this is where the entire concept of property comes from, from scarcity, from the possibility of conflict, and I’ll get to this in a second.
Okay, so I talked about this already. I’m not going to read this quote again, but basically he’s talking about how property is the most basic concept, and all the other most fundamental concepts are derived from it. So let’s go to slide 28. Here’s where scarcity comes in. To develop the concept of property, it is necessary for goods to be scarce so that conflicts over the use of these goods can possibly arise.
It is the function of property rights to avoid such possible clashes over the use of scarce resources by assigning rights of exclusive ownership. So this is what property is. It’s the assigning of an exclusive ownership right or control right over a scarce resource. So it’s not the normative concept, norms. These are rules that people should follow. A concept designed to make a conflict-free interaction possible by stipulating mutually binding rules of conduct or norms regarding scarce resources.
Let me go to the next page real quick. He has this here. I’ll save this for a second. So you could think of scarce resources, even in the Garden of Eden where there’s superabundance. There’s no – there’s plentifulness of everything. Even your body in a realistic example, even your body and time and your standing room – those are still scarce, and conflict would still be possible. And in fact, as Hoppe argues and as we’ll talk about in the argumentation ethics lecture, human bodies are the prototype and the basis of all property rights and external objects, external resources.
So as Hoppe says, even in a paradise, which we sometimes call the Garden of Eden or sometimes it’s called – this is a German word Hoppe uses. I won’t even – well, I’ll try – Schlaraffenland or something like or the Land of Cockaigne or Cockaigne or something. These are these mythical ideas that means land of super-plenty or superabundance. Even every person’s physical body would still be scarce. You would still need property rules regarding people’s bodies.
You’re not – people are not used to thinking of one’s own body as a scarce good, but imagining the most ideal situation you could ever hope for or the Garden of Eden, it becomes possible to realize that one’s body is the prototype of a scarce good for the use of which property rights, which are rights of exclusive ownership, somehow have to be established in order to avoid clashes. So this is where scarcity plays a key role in what property is.
Okay, now, as I noted before, Hoppe’s original case or his initial case, like in chapter two of TSC, is only descriptive. It’s not normative. He’s just sending out a categorical framework to analyze the human condition. It seems best to start with one’s analysis of the property norm, which would most likely be accepted by the inhabitants of Eden as the natural position. So he’s calling it the natural position. At this stage, we’re not concerned with ethics yet, that is, justifying these norms. So he said he’s going to later argue this. See, he admits it right here. This is how – a really clear and honest thinker will do this.
He says natural doesn’t have moral connotations. It only means that the socio-psychological category used to indicate that this position would probably find the most support in public opinion initially, as a way to describe the human condition. Okay, and what he says is the naturalness of this position is reflected in how we talk about our bodies. It’s almost impossible to avoid using possessives by saying my body, etc. or my actions even.
And also – and I’ve mentioned this before and – even dogs know what theirs is. I mean if one dog is munching food from a bone and another dog approaches him, the first dog starts growling, like back off. This is my property. I mean the concept of property is not hard to see and recognize. It’s very intuitive. All normally functioning humans can recognize it easily. So the question is not one of its naturalness. It’s one of justifying it. So Hans Hoppe concisely defines here – Hoppe concisely defines here what the basic libertarian rule is, the natural position. What is it?
The rule is this. Every person has the exclusive right to own his body within the boundaries of its surface. Every person can then put his body to those uses that he thinks best for his immediate or long-run interest, wellbeing, or satisfaction, as long as he does not interfere with another person’s rights to control the use of his or her respective body. Now, this seems like a sort of retread of the basic libertarian idea of mutual respect for rights. But it’s done in a very precise way that links in scarcity, property, and the fact of human bodies and the fact of conflict.
Slide 32. Okay, now, so let’s get to some of the other concepts, the other – a little bit more subsidiary concepts that are fundamental but derivative and built on contract – sorry, property. So contract is an important one. Now, we will discuss this as well a little bit but not too much. I discuss this a great deal in my Libertarian Legal Theory course where I talked about the Rothbard-Evers title-transfer theory of contract, which I adhere to and which Hoppe does as well.
This is a different view of contract than you will normally hear talked about. Normally people think of contract as you make a promise in a certain way with certain formalities or certain manifest intentionality that is binding. Now, what does that mean? People are not really precise because they’re not lawyers. When they think about this, they say, well, it means you have to do it. Well, what does that mean? It means there’s consequences if you don’t. Well, there’s consequences for lying to your mother too, so you have to really make this more precise.
The Rothbardian view, which he actually started and Evers built on it, and then Rothbard built back on it, and I’ve written a good deal on it, and Hoppe has integrated it in his theory, the idea is that contract is nothing but the assignment of titles to owned scarce resources by the owners, by making some kind of sufficient communication or manifestation of their intent to transfer the ownership. So it’s not a promise to do something. It’s not a binding promise. It is just a way of transferring title to owned things. And this is implied by the right to own, as Hoppe says here. And I’ve got some links here to some more on this if you want to follow it up. Okay, so if you use someone’s property without their permission, we call that aggression.
Now, Hoppe says socialism must be conceptualized as an institutionalized interference with or aggression against private property or private property claims. This is not the standard definition. Let’s forget the leftist complaint, which, to be honest, I reject, that socialism is libertarian or that libertarians should use the word socialism. The word socialism has a connotation now, which refers to certain statist systems, which are clearly un-libertarian. So I’m going to take that as a given for now.
I totally disagree with the idea that we can use the word socialist to mean libertarian. It’s just – it’s been lost and that – well, we never had it and it can’t be reclaimed. More controversial or less defensible would be Hoppe’s turning socialism to essentialism. In other words, the classical libertarian or conservative even definition of socialism would be state or centralized control of the means of production, the factories, the capital, the equipment.
But what Hans does is, as a good Austrian, he recognizes that there’s no clearly human action or praxeological or economic reason to classify scarce means differently, at least from a fundamental level. I mean your body is a scarce resource. Consumer goods are scarce resources. Your car is a scarce resource. Your house is. Factories are. Roads are, whatever. So what he does is he generalizes the concept of socialism when he says what’s the common normative or libertarian problem with standard socialism?
It’s not just that the state controls the means of production. It’s basically an act of institutionalized aggression or violence against private property claims. True. Standard socialism talks about the state invading the property rights of the capitalists. But Hoppe says that, look, it’s a general problem. It’s bad whether the state takes my body or a factory or my money or my property or whatever. So he’s generalizing the common defect of socialism, and that is it’s institutionalized aggression.
So this is how we can think of socialism as institutionalized aggression as contrasted with private criminality, which libertarians also oppose. So we have private criminals and we have public criminals you can think of it. So by this definition, every state is socialist, and every socialism requires a state. It’s the way of describing what the state is and what the state does because they’re both basically institutionalized. That is, there’s a recognized institution or agency that commits its aggression in a concerted fashion. Even a mafia could be socialism except the difference is the mafia is not seen as legitimate while the state is seen as legitimate.
Okay, and capitalism – now, he’s using capitalism is the sort of Randian sense as a synonym for a free market libertarian economy in which private property rights are respected. I mean in the last ten years or so, I have tended to try to not to use capitalism as a synonym partly because so many left libertarians have muddied the waters and fought hard to take this term away. I do understand why the word capitalism is used as a synonym for a free market, and I believe it’s basically the concept of metonymy.
Let me type it here for people who don’t know this word. Metonymy is referring to something indirectly. Like when you say someone drinks, you’re say they’re hitting the bottle. They’re not really hitting the bottle, but the bottle is associated with the liquor inside of it, etc., so that’s metonymy. So in a free market, in an advanced, prosperous, western free-market economy, you tend to have capital accumulated and owned privately.
So that’s one important feature of an advanced economy that would prosper in a free market. So it’s, of course, gotten associated with capital we call capitalism. But again, that’s just semantics. So we can distinguish basically between a society in which there’s an institution which systematically invades private property rights, in particular, capital, and a free market in which there is a widespread recognition of the soundness of property rights, and there’s a free market that arises naturally because of that.
Okay, we’re getting to the end here. I know that we have people in other countries, and what I learned from the last course is that, although I don’t mind staying even another hour if people want me to, it gets to be a problem for people that are up late and they’re planning on going to bed not too much later. So I’m going to cut this short in a couple of minutes, and I’ll take some questions. In fact, I think we’re almost done. So I’ll go five more minutes because I started a little bit later, so let’s cove a couple concepts, and we’ve got this lecture almost completed, and I’ll finish it up next time.
Okay, so homesteading, let’s talk about homesteading. This is a Lockian concept, which is heavily integrated by now into Rothbardian and libertarian ideas and Hoppe ideas. So according to Hoppe, homesteading would be the assignment of ownership based upon the existence of an objective or, as he calls – this is Kantian terminology – intersubjectively ascertainable.
Basically he means objective. An objective link between the owner of the property owned and of calling all property claims that can only invoke purely subjective evidence in their favor aggressive. In other words – by the way, the word mutatis mutandis – I saw this the first time I’ll be honest when I read Hoppe’s book 20 years ago. It just means making the necessary changes to the next argument. Don’t worry about it if you don’t know it.
What he’s saying is that if you make a merely verbal decree or if you make an assertion of ownership that is not backed by any objective link and then you try to enforce that, that’s aggression. So if I say I want this woman’s body because I want it and I commit aggression, that is aggression because I’m just basing it upon my desire or my arbitrary decree that I should have her, whereas if I say I should keep this apple because I am the one who plucked it from the tree. I put it in my bag. I possessed it. I homesteaded it. I have the best claim to this apple because I’m first.
If someone takes it from me, they’re stealing my apple. I have the better claim because I had the apple first, and I have a link to it. That is the basic idea. So what I got from Hoppe is his important contribution is he really focuses on the fundamental nature of what homesteading does, which Locke sort of weaves and dodges, and he’s not real clear on. But Hoppe thinks it’s basically embordering. So the criteria is we have an unowned resource. This is important. It will come up later in the analysis of body rights versus other rights.
We have an unowned scarce resource, and the first person to homestead it emborders it. He does something with it. It puts up visible, objective, determinable borders that other people can see so they can avoid trespassing if they choose to be civilized. This can be done by putting a fence up, a tract of land, building a garden, building a home, taking the apple, putting it in your bag. All of these things are ways of manifesting and showing to others that I am claiming this. I have a connection to it. I am first. I’m before you. Back off. Respect my property.
Okay, we are a little bit past time. What I think I will do is I will stop now, and I will be happy to take questions for a little while if there are any. If not, we’ll pick up next week, and I will post tomorrow. Let me tell you really quickly. We’re going to continue this lecture. Let me go to the last lecture.
So we’ll talk – next time we’ll talk about classifying types of socialism, so if you want to read up on this, read the following three things – well, chapters three through six of TSC and the banking and nation states article, which is in his EEPP book, and also the article I hyperlinked here “De-Socialization in a United Germany.” So that will be the background for next week’s lecture. I stopped at page 34. So any questions, comments, requests, quizzes, a bunch of difficulty, confusions?
Okay, so Jock says he has problems when he talks about self-ownership because they said it implies a split between mind and body. I mean, look, I get this all the time too, and I’ll confess. I’m totally mystified by this complaint by libertarians. I wrote an article about intellectual property for Liberty Magazine, and Leland Yeager, who is a quasi-Austrian, mostly libertarian atheist, wrote this letter just attacking me because he thought that saying we’re self-owners implies that you’re a theist or something because I guess he’s thinking it implies that you believe in a soul versus the body, etc., which I actually don’t.
I’m actually a free thinker like Yeager. I’m just not hostile and hair-trigger like he is. I think it’s a failure to be a dualist. The Misesian idea is that you can view a human as a human actor performing actions, having a personality. Or you could view him causally as just a body, a composition of quarks operating in according with causal laws. So it depends on how you’re looking at. It depends on which realm you’re analyzing, but I think it’s ridiculous to not recognize that there’s a conceptual validity to – for example, the concept of mind.
What I tell some people sometimes and sometimes it works is that if you have a problem with your brain and you have brain surgery, you’re not having mind surgery. You’re having brain surgery. Or if you change your mind, would someone say you’re changing your brain? I mean these are conceptually different things. To admit that they’re conceptually different doesn’t mean that they’re not related. It doesn’t mean that you’re religious even or mystical. For example, if you go jogging, you’re running. Your body is running, but your body is not equivalent to running. It’s a body that is doing running.
The other thing is ask them – if someone dies and there’s a dead body in front of you, does it have a brain, and does it have a mind? And it seems clear to me that it has a brain, but it doesn’t have a mind because the brain is dead. And that makes it clear that the mind is something that flows from or comes from a living brain, but it’s not the same as it. It’s a phenomena of it. You can call it an epi-phenomena. You could call it an activity of it. I don’t care.
I don’t think it matters. I think that the fundamental question is I can identify a resource called my body, and the question is who gets to use it? Who gets to decide who gets to use it? Is it me or someone else? And I agree with you completely. Either I own it or someone else owns it. I think they’re afraid that you’re trying to do an equivocation. You’re trying to sneak in an assumption, some mystical or religious assumption of a soul or something like that, which you’re not at all. So I would just say, look, this has nothing to do with religion. You can have this view whether you’re an atheist or whether you’re religious. Basically, you’re answering the question: who gets to decide who uses my body? Is it me or someone else?
Karl asks, do they think God owns the mind? Well, I actually do think that a lot of religious people do believe that God is the ultimate owner of the universe. And I think that that is not easy to rebut if you believe in God. I mean but it’s sort of irrelevant because the questions that we asked are not what God is right to do. If you’re religious, you’re not going to ask what is God entitled to do because you believe he’s a source of goodness and he can do whatever he wants.
We’re always asking social questions about what can fellow humans do, so even if you’re religious, you can believe that God has some fundamental base ownership of all of us but has granted everyone autonomy. And with respect to you and me, I’m the one who owns my body. That means I get to say who can use my body, not you because God is not you. God is not operating through you, so I don’t think God really is a problem for this one way or the other.
I agree, Jock. I think the anarcho-socialists do this, and you are a good left libertarian who doesn’t fall for a lot of the excesses of the – of some of these guys. So they are just – they hate the concept of property. They believe in this Marxist nonsense about alienation, and they have krankish economic views on value theory in economics, even ownership of land.
One of the best older libertarians was Benjamin Tucker, and he was great on everything except – and he identified four monopolies: IP or patents and land. And even his criticism of land had some good points because he was pointing to the historical way it was tainted by the state’s involvement. But he was a little bit too leftish, or I don’t know if he was Georgist or what, but anyway, tariffs was one, money, tariffs, patents, and land. And he was good on three out of four, and he was half-good on that, but he wasn’t quite where we are I think, modern libertarians.
Dante asked about whether Hoppe has corrected Rand’s ideas on Kant. Well, I – here’s the thing. I think that even Hoppe admits that there are some – Hoppe’s – I’m sorry – Kant’s own wording has given – has led to some people interpreting him in an idealist way. So there’s some justification for criticizing the idealist interpretation of Kant, and there’s some justification for blaming Kant for this, and Hoppe I think admits this. But I think he’s also right that I don’t think we can really know exactly what Kant meant. He’s kind of obscure.
But I don’t think that’s the Randians’ complaint about Kant that he was obscure. In fact, on politics he was pretty libertarian. Kant was actually pretty classical liberal on his conclusions, but yes I do think that he has shown that there is a charitable and reasonable and realistic way to use the a priori, Kantian, Misesian framework, especially as interpreted by Mises to have a realist view of the world, which is perfectly compatible with objectivism.
Hoppe has a comment in one of his – I think it’s in this book, The Economic Science and the Austrian Method where he cites a review by, I think, Bernard Goldberg, or no, some Goldberg of Ayn Rand’s, what he calls, ignorant views of Kant. And I agree with that. I think Rand was brilliant in a lot of ways, but I think she was operating on a lot of assumptions and secondhand reading, and she just took this idealist, subjectivist, relativist version of Kant and just went completely crazy with it. And most of her criticisms of that are right. I think it’s mostly a straw man though. That’s my opinion.
Okay, I’m reading this question by Edward Dehm. Give me a second. Well, okay, so you’re asking about how would categorize voluntary socialist communities like monasteries, etc. Are they capitalist? I don’t know if I’ve read much from him on those kinds of things, but he has talked about the family, and he’s addressed this similar idea that – well, let’s say you have a family.
And the family is – can be looked at in many ways. Like you have a father, a mother, some kids. In a way, they co-own all this property. There’s a monarch at the head, or maybe it’s communistically decided among the older members of the family. And of course it’s sort of an instance of socialism that can work in a very, very small group where the calculation problem that Mises identified doesn’t really get too much out of hand.
Or, as Hoppe says, I believe, and we’ll study this more when we talk about the cultural elites in democracy and immigration issues. I believe his view is that the family unit is based upon private property. In other words, you couldn’t have a family unit or a group like you’re talking about, a monastery, without a background presupposition of private property. So there’s private property. It’s used collectively by a group of people according to a certain contract.
Stephen says – Stephen Davis – well, okay. So Hemang Tanna, I think you’re in India, right? He says Rothbard says you can’t contract yourself into slavery. I actually don’t know if we’ll get to that because that’s not really a big issue Hoppe covers. I covered it in my Libertarian Legal Theory course. But that is a consequence of his contract theory, and I’ve written on that, and if you go to my stephankinsella.com page, I’ve got two or three articles on inalienability, which I discuss in detail Rothbard’s view here. I think his conclusion is right. I think his reasoning is a little bit confused. It actually contradicts his own contract theory.
Stephen Davis says what about other philosophies that apply the term aggression and violence to formulate property definitions? Well, I’m not sure which ones you’re talking about. However, I have heard many times in law school and discussing with non-libertarians. They basically are much fuzzier or squishier with their definition of aggression, so they’ll say like – there’s a concept in the law of economic coercion.
So if you want an iPod really badly and I offer it to you but I say I’m the only supplier, but you have to pay me $700 for it, I’m economically coercing you. Okay, now so they basically extend the idea of coercion. They’re not rigorous about it. They don’t anchor it in terms of property rights. The Hoppian, the Rothbardian would say, look, who owns the property? If they’re not entitled to it, then it’s not coercion or aggression. So I think they use aggression – they basically smear the concept out and extend it to things that are not actually violence and physical aggression, and that’s the problem. So they do do that, and they use that illegitimately to try to justify socialist policies.
Norm Patterson—is the property tax aggressive by Austrian definition or only if it’s overly – if it’s too excessive or rather than contractually agreed upon? Well, yes. By the Austrian – well, I wouldn’t say Austrian. Austrian is really – if you mean Austrian economics, they’re sort of neutral on normative and ethical issues like taxes, although they tend to be, in their private capacity, free-market tax but not all of them. But the Austrian libertarians tend to be radicals and mostly anarchists, and of course all taxes are aggression because it’s theft of property. Now, if it’s contractually agreed on, we wouldn’t call it a tax. It would just be a contractual royalty or whatever you want to call it. I mean if you want to agree to pay someone, then it’s agreed to. It’s not a tax. It’s just an exchange.
Jock, I don’t know what latifundia is.
I think – let me do this now. I’m happy to stay longer, but from this point forward – it’s 48 past – I’m not going to include anything substantive here that will be on the test. So if anyone needs to leave, feel free to leave, but I’ll be happy to talk further in a sort of informal fashion here. ‘Night John.
Marcos Hernandez asks about price gouging. That is correct. Price can never be considered to be price gouging. It’s just a consequence of who owns something. In the law, that’s sometimes called a contract of adhesion or a flypaper contract. The idea is that you imagine there’s a piece of flypaper that’s sticky, and like the fly that’s attracted to the flypaper, people are helpless customers of some company and they have no choice but to agree to this deal because it’s take it or leave it. And under the doctrine of economic coercion that I mentioned, the law will sometimes void these kinds of contracts. Now, a lot of these contracts actually blend into there’s not true meeting of the minds or there’s some kind of other coercion or there’s some kind of quasi-fraud going on. But in theory, in principle, in the edge cases, there should be no such thing as price gouging.
Edward says, is ownership exclusive to one person? Is there any way to conceptualize co-ownership of a resource? Well, I’ll give you my view and Hoppe’s view. Hoppe has written on this only a little bit. He said that even if you have co-ownership, that means each person is the 100% owner of their part.
So if you have two 50% owners of a car, then each one owns half the car. I don’t know if you have to think of it that way. I mean the way I think of it is there’s a blending of contract and property. So if A and B co-own a car, then two the outside world, they are the owners. But between themselves, they have a contract that says which one gets to use it on which days – excuse me – or whatever. In fact, this happens all the time. I had a friend who had a one-third interest in an airplane with a friend, and he got to use it one out of every three weekends. And the other guy got to use it on the other two out of three weekends.
So to the outside world, they’re co-owners, and if they can’t come to an agreement so the outside person doesn’t know who to trust or who to believe, then they have a stalemate and presumably their agreement would give them a way to settle the dispute and to separate their ownership, sell it, split the money, something like that. But co-ownership to my mind is not a special problem at all. And in fact, Hoppe writes in one of his recent articles on my journal, libertarianpapers.org, look in the first article of this year, 2011.
He talks about how there could be easements homesteaded. So you could imagine a village coming up where all the villagers have the right to cross this land, or they cross this land regularly to get to the river or whatever. And eventually someone builds a road and someone builds a building, and they start homesteading it. But they homestead it subject to the easement or the right of use, the right of crossing, the right of way that was already homesteaded by use earlier. So in that case, you would say, well, A owns a tract of land, black acre we can call it, in a house subject to the right of the villagers to cross it on the corner to get to the river. So in that case, they were all co-owners of the land but in different respects, something like that. Anymore questions?
Mr. – is it Mrs. – Tanna – asks about is it natural to lose ownership of a property? Certainly. I think abandonment is specifically contemplated. Abandonment of property is just the reverse of acquiring property by homesteading it. Homesteading requires not really possessing something but possessing it with the manifested intent to own as that owner. That’s to retain title to it. So if you lose that by abandoning it, then you lose ownership. And this is actually why I think this is the right solution to the thing Rothbard talked about, about body inalienability.
We don’t homestead our bodies, so there’s no way to abandon your body. That’s the reason why you can’t sell yourself into slavery. But something you acquire you can, say, un-acquire by just undoing the conditions by which you acquired it. This is my perspective by the way. I think Hoppe agrees with it, but he didn’t write on this. But he and I agree with each other pretty much on everything we’ve written that overlaps or that doesn’t overlap I should say.
So – but I’ll try to be clear in this course if people ask a question about whether it’s Hoppe’s view or whether I think it’s his view. Well, I’ve got a post about mutualists. I think their biggest problem is, number one, their over-reliance on this Marxist idea of – and maybe they don’t all have this – the Marxist idea of value, property value. But in substantive terms, I think their biggest problem is their view that you can lose your property rights if you’re not actually in current possession of property. I would agree that you can presume someone’s abandoned property in certain cases.
But if you leave your house for a year or two and you make it clear you don’t want to abandon it. And even worse is that if you are a distant owner of an apartment building or a factory, then the workers or the tenants can just homestead it. Basically that’s not abandonment. That’s just the idea that you have to be in current possession of property to maintain ownership. And I don’t think that’s a requirement of libertarianism. I think it’s anti-libertarian or un-libertarian because you could – libertarianism would say you could have a contract with the tenants or with your workers by which they are currently using your property on your behalf. So you maintain your ownership that way.
And there is a long blog post I did about that. Just search my website or the Mises blog for my name and something like problems with mutualist ownership or – mutualism and abandonment, something like that. Just search for that and you can find it if you want to search more on this. But I do think there’s a lot of good insight by the mutualists and by the left libertarians.
Marcos Hernandez—what do I think about Thomas Paine’s theory of land that we all have a right to a small percentage of it? Well, that’s Georgism. Owners must pay all others to obtain private ownership. I disagree with that and so does Hans because – so does Hoppe because that is basically the idea that – well, actually, Paine was bad on a lot of things. He wasn’t as good as his reputation. Anyway, that’s basically based upon the idea of the Lockian proviso, the Lockian idea that you can only homestead land so long as you leave enough and is good for yourself – I mean for others.
Now, I will talk in another lecture about this, but Hoppe explicitly denounces the Lockian proviso, as does Rothbard and Anthony de Jasay and most modern libertarians. They reject the Lockian proviso. In other words, they like Locke’s homesteading idea, but they think he was wrong in his proviso, and so do I. I think he was wrong. And I think without that, you cannot get this Georgist idea, and even besides that, the Georgist idea is ridiculous.
It would obviously metastasize and be abused by a state. And to be honest, at a certain point, the land is all homesteaded, and it gets mixed into the economy. And everyone benefits from having an advanced free-market economy, and if someone has got a large land holding and their heirs can’t be productive, they’re going to lose it. So at a certain point in time – it’s sort of a coasian point, but at a certain point in time it doesn’t matter too much.
Tito—how do I respond to accusations of hierarchy in capitalism? I can’t see how hierarchy is bad when it isn’t coercive. Well, I agree with you, and this is why I am skeptical of these thick libertarians, the left libertarians who try too hard to push what they say is the reason you’re libertarian is because you’re against authority and hierarchy. And one example of that is aggression, but we should be, as libertarians, against other forms of hierarchy and oppression as well, like in the workforce, having a boss who tells you what to do.
I mean I think it’s ridiculous. I mean I’m more of a plumb line libertarian. So is Hoppe in this respect. I think that as long as there’s no actual coercion and violence, then anything goes at least politically and legally. Whether it’s immoral or not is a different question. Now, there is truth to the fact that there are some undue market power by some entities because of state intervention in the past and now, and that should be gotten rid of. But basically no, I disagree with that. Sure.
Okay, so Stephen Davis asked a question about the boundaries above and below. I think this is called in political theory and law the ad coelum doctrine, C-O-E-L-U-M doctrine. And I mean I don’t think Hoppe talks about this in particular. What he does in these cases, he basically reverts back to Rothbard’s ideas on the relevant technological unit. So Rothbard’s idea is that there’s a practical aspect – sorry. There’s a practical aspect to this because there’s human interaction, and there’s you’re trying to get the consent of your fellows, and which is a bit about what mutualism talks about.
And so people are going to respect your property rights if you respect theirs, but it’s a way of using property productively in a way that people can recognize as a productive use of property. So Rothbard’s who discussion of the relevant technological unit is what Hoppe would fall back on. He would say you have to have some kind of cooperative determination among civilized people trying to find a way to use property productively and peacefully to determine what the relevant technological unit is. And that would be the extent of it up and down.
If you look at my paper I linked in this lecture called “What Libertarianism Is,” I believe I have a footnote where I link to a blog post about Rothbard’s relevant technological unit. Yeah, it would be determined by common law, by custom, by negotiation, and by the legal system. That is correct. It also applies to this idea of the privatizing the spectrum, the electromagnetic spectrum, radio waves, airwaves where people could broadcast information over the EM spectrum and how that could be privatized by its nature but with the concept of the relevant technological unit being applied to that, but you could research its nature.
I think this is from Jock. Do I think libertarianism success depends upon being able to prove what they’re advocating is self-contradictory or theoretically wrong? Is it hopeless to convince the vast majority that they would be likely better off under a libertarian property order? Well, okay, I see those as – I think we should start cutting it off after this set of questions because others are dropping out now. I think there’s two questions there, Jock. Number one, the second question is more of a tactical question. How do you actually get people to join us? And the first one is more of a logical or an argumentative question.
On the first one, I think in a way your answer is correct. That doesn’t mean we have to use that strategy, but I think that – excuse me – this is compatible with the Hoppian idea of argumentation ethics, which is the idea that there is an is-ought gap. That is, you cannot prove norms are oughts from is statements. You can only prove them by going back to previous ought statements. So that means any discussion you with a civilized person, you’re going to eventually go back to common things you share, common norms that we all agree on.
And then all you can do is say, listen, you’re advocating this socialist policy, but it contradicts your agreement with peacefulness, with property rights that are implicit in your having this conversation with me. So in that sense, yes, I think you’re always showing them a contradiction or an inconsistency. You’re saying, look, you’re not being consistent. You’ve got to choose. You’ve got to either take these civilized norms that we all agree on by having this discussion and by trying to do something we all admit is decent, or you have to take the destruction that’s inherent in what you’re proposing. I mean it’s one or the other. So you’re trying to show people inconsistency.
But as for the practical matter, my personal view is that, as we become wealthier, as we’ve become richer and more educated by the internet spreading things and by examples, people will become gradually aware intuitively of the benefits of freedom. And they’ve become gradually more skeptical of the state, and that’s what’s going to do it. Whether it will or not, I can’t say. I don’t know.
Stephen Davis—it’s hard to break people’s scientific mindset. Maybe we can address that when we get to that lecture, but I find that to be very difficult too. I mean sometimes you can just point to things like – I mean Hoppe has a great comment saying that the Popperian methodology itself is not subject to Popperian methodology. In other words, if you say, to be scientific, everything has to be tested, what about that statement itself? Is that scientific or not? If it is, then how do you test it? And then you have infinite regress. If it’s not, then why do we believe it?
So in other words, you show that even the Popperians rest upon an a priori assumption that is not testable by their mentality. So they have to admit that there’s some realm of truth we can get without that, and I think of course you can point to the things I pointed to already—the law of non-contradiction. You give them some examples of things that everyone knows to be true and that you contradict yourself if you deny them.
Tito Warren—how do I differentiate between the statist quo and actual capitalism for our critics? I define a corporation, wealth, and property for them, and they still stick with declaring it as vile when the system – well, I know what you mean exactly. And what I would – what I tend to do is, number one, you show that the left and the right, the Democrats and the Republicans in the US for example, they basically all favor the same corporatist, quasi-fascist, statist alliance and that they have co-opted what we favor, which is the free market.
And like I said, I don’t use the word capitalist that much anymore. And in fact, I – excuse me – I will readily admit that I am happy to have the state get out of incorporating companies and let’s just have free-market firms cooperate. Now, I personally think they could recreate many of the features of corporations by pure contract and private property. That’s Robert Hessen’s view and that of Randy Barnett – I mean, sorry, Murray Rothbard and Roger Pilon of Cato, but primarily Robert Hessen, which I agree with.
But we don’t have to call them corporations. We don’t have to agree that the state needs to incorporate them, give them privileges, etc. And a consequence of that would be that the state wouldn’t have an excuse to double-tax these corporations anymore either because they don’t have legal personality. Let’s just agree with the critics. We don’t want them to have legal personality. We don’t want them to be separate legal entities.
We don’t want them to have limited liability granted by the state. We don’t want them to have any of these state charters and corporations. Just let it be a totally private mixture. It’s hard though. I mean you basically have to say that the state has co-opted it, and you could point to examples of how corporations claim to be pro-capitalism, but they use these state laws like pro-union legislation, environmentalist legislation, intellectual property patents and copyrights, minimum wage. And they act like they resent these things, but really they’re in favor of it because it helps them to keep small companies and competitors out. So what you can do is point to how the big companies are in bed with the state, and they basically use the state’s policies to protect them from competition from the small companies.
I agree with Jock. I use the word firm as my primary word when I can. All right, everyone is petering out now. Why don’t we sign off for tonight, and we will start over next Monday? I enjoyed it, everybody. You’re a great class. Thanks guys.
- Discussed in my article “Obama’s Patent Reform: Improvement or Continuing Calamity?,” Mises Daily, Sep. 23, 2011; I discussed the AIA in further detail in The American Invents Act and Patent Reform: The Good, the Meh, and the Ugly) (audio and slides). [↩]