The Libertarian Standard » Stephan Kinsella http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Sun, 09 Nov 2014 19:26:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Stephan Kinsella http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com TV-G Second Thoughts on Leoni, Hayek, Legislation, and Economic Calculation http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/05/09/second-thoughts-on-leoni-hayek-legislation-and-economic-calculation/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/05/09/second-thoughts-on-leoni-hayek-legislation-and-economic-calculation/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 19:51:45 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13475 My libertarianism has been fairly consistent over the years, especially since I morphed from Randian minarchist to Rothbardian anarchist around about 1989 or so (my last gasp in the minarchist camp was in a 1989 article; see Then and Now: From Randian Minarchist to Austro-Anarcho-Libertarian). I’ve been a pretty steady Rothbardian-Hoppean-Austrian anarcho-libertarian since then, for about 25 years. I try to develop my views carefully, systematically, precisely, and incrementally, building on, referencing, and integrating with previous things I’ve figured out. Sort of like the Kinsellian/libertarian common law.

On occasion I realize I made a mistake and try to regroup or redress it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of emphasis, like my de-emphasis in recent years of American constitutionalism (see Down with the Fourth of July and On Constitutional Sentimentalism)  and certain changes in emphasis in terminology (I now prefer  the term state to “government,” aggression to “coercion,” and refer to the object of ownership or property rights as a scarce resource rather than as “property,” primarily to avoid the equivocation that statists invariably engage in). I also think I slightly misstepped in my previous criticism of Rothbard on inalienability (see Inalienability and Punishment: A Reply to George Smith), though I stand by my criticism of Rothbard’s IP views and his debtor’s prison comments (I plan to elaborate on this soon). I’m also a little bit more gun-shy about engaging in armchair theorizing now than I was as a young pup.

One area in which I misstepped was in my 1995 JLS article “Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 11 (Summer 1995), a summary version of which appears here: “Legislation and Law in a Free Society,” Mises Daily (Feb. 25, 2010). I stand by most of this article but in one part, I relied too much on the Hayekian “knowledge problem” interpretation of the economic calculation problem, and Leoni’s application of this to legislation. Since that article I became more skeptical of the entire Hayekian “knowledge” paradigm (see Knowledge vs. Calculation, Mises Blog (July 11, 2006)), as I noted in subsequent articles, such as my 1999 QJAE review essay, Knowledge, Calculation, Conflict, and Law (see footnote 5, e.g). Oh, that I had heeded Jeff Herbener’s comments on an earlier manuscript, but I either got these comments too late, or did not fully appreciate them at the time. But now I am skeptical of the idea that the problem with legislation is some kind of knowledge problem that also plagues central economic planning. I too uncritically adopted Leoni’s Hayekian-type analysis in Freedom and the Law, and repeated it in section III.C.2 of my paper. I am also skeptical now of the over-used term “spontaneous” that Hayekians sprinkle throughout their writing; I find it usually adds nothing to the analysis (try removing the word “spontaneous” or “spontaneously” from a sentence when you hear a Hayekian use it, and see if the meaning changes). There are lots of problem with legislation, which I point out in the article  (see also Another Problem with Legislation: James Carter v. the Field Codes), but this knowledge analysis is in my view problematic.

I was reminded of this when I was listening to the Cato podcast below, with comments on Bruno Leoni’s thought, in particular those of Pete Boettke, in which he reiterates the Hayek/Leoni “the problem with legislation is a knowledge problem view” approach that I adopted in the 1995 article, and which I largely reject now.

 

Bruno Leoni at 101

Bruno Leoni at 101

Featuring Roger Pilon, Vice President for Legal Affairs, Cato Institute; Peter Boettke, University Professor of Economics and Philosophy, George Mason University; and Todd J. Zywicki, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law; moderated by Alberto Mingardi, Director General, Istituto Bruno Leoni.

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FreeSpeechMe: The Anti-Censorship Anti-Hijacking Free Software Dot-Bit Plug-in http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/18/freespeechme-the-anti-censorship-anti-hijacking-free-software-dot-bit-plug-in/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/18/freespeechme-the-anti-censorship-anti-hijacking-free-software-dot-bit-plug-in/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 18:20:00 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13333 Lots of interesting developments in the liberty space of late, such as Bitcoin, and other projects like General GovernanceBlueseed, the Honduran Free Cities project, and Jeff Tucker’s imminent Liberty.me (I’m involved in GG and the latter).

An exciting new project I learned about recently is FreeSpeechMe (mirror), a project by libertarian Michael Dean and others.

This is a project to spread and improve Dot-Bit (.bit), “a new top-level domain that, unlike Dot-Com, Dot-Net, Dot-UK, etc., is NOT controlled by any government or corporation.” It only costs about 7 cents to register, using Namecoin (a derivative of BitCoin). To access a .bit domain, a browser plug-in can be used. This was discussed in detail in an discussion by Dean on the Ed and Ethan show the other day

Check out their IndieGoGo campaign; video is below. I just donated half a bitcoin to it.

More information including press release, video, program, and source code: http://www.freespeechme.org/ (mirror).

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Who is a libertarian? http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/26/who-is-a-libertarian/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/26/who-is-a-libertarian/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 16:51:35 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12369 After much thought and debate about this topic over the last 25 or so years, here is my attempt at a lean, concise, precise definition of what a libertarian is:

A libertarian is a person who believes that the invasion of the borders of (trespass against) others’ bodies or owned external scarce resources, i.e. property (with property allocations determined in accordance with Lockean homesteading rules and contractual transfer rules), is unjustified, because they (for whatever reason) prefer or value grundnorms of peace, prosperity, and cooperation and who have enough honesty, consistency, and economic literacy to recognize that the libertarian assignment of property rules is necessary to achieve these grundnorms.

Such a person, if he is consistent, also cannot help but recognize that the state, being an agency of institutionalized aggression, is inherently criminal and illegitimate.

Note what this does not say: It does not say that the libertarian necessarily believes all aggression is immoral, but rather that it is unjustified; it does not imply that rights are a “subset” of morals. It also does not say why the person values peace, prosperity and cooperation and favors it above interpersonal violent conflict. It also does not make the common mistake of interpreting the libertarian-Lockean property allocation rule as requiring one to prove title all the way back to the very first use of the resource; rather, it says that whoever has the best claim to a disputed resource has a property right in it (is its “proper” owner), and that as between any two claimants, the one having an earlier claim (use) of the property has the better claim. This does not require title to be traced back to the beginning of time but only to the earliest time needed to defeat any actual or potential claimants; though it implies that someone who can trace title back to the first appropriation has the best possible claim of all (unless title has been assigned by contract). Note also that although the libertarian rule is the Lockean rule this does not imply Locke’s reasoning in justifying his homesteading rule was correct—in particular it does not imply that Locke was right to say that labor is owned or that labor-ownership is the reason why first possession of a resource is sufficient to establish property rights in the resource.

For more, see my posts and articles below:

Also: Rothbard, Ethics of Liberty, chs. 4-5, 15; Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, chs. 1, 2, and 7.

[SK]

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Peace art and peace music http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/09/peace-art-and-peace-music/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/09/peace-art-and-peace-music/#comments Sat, 09 Feb 2013 18:49:35 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12343 I just came across this wonderful music from Ron Paul fan Tatiana Moroz (iTunes albums).

I’ve blogged previously on peace/liberty-related art: see Justin Gaffrey Peace Art:

DSC_0643I’ve said it before (Peace Art): I love Justin Gaffrey’s paintings, and in particular his peace sign paintings.

DSC_0673

DSC_0659

See also related posts below:

My Favorite Earrings

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on August 19, 2008 11:09 PM

ShawnJohnsonPeaceSymbolAfter winning the gold in the balance beam, Shawn Johnson, the impressive and mature 16-year old from Iowa, was interviewed by Bob Costas. She proudly wore a pair of simple, white “peace” earrings. Good for her! I bet they’ll be for sale soon on her store….

Updates: The interview starts about 8:34 into this video (thanks to Daniel Uffleman). “Proud Iowan” notes here that not only did she wear the peace earrings during the Bob Costas interview, “she flashed a peace sign at the camera after her routine”.

Another LRC’er writes: “She didn’t get all weepy when the national anthem played during the medals ceremony, either. She’s a tough little chica. The whole women’s team was pretty impressive this year, actually.”And one more:

“I was actually going to bug Lew to post something about Johnson’s earrings. As somebody who works with teens her age, there was something that caused me to root for her above others. After seeing those earrings I’m glad I chose her. I might buy my cousin a pair for her 15th birthday although it would probably tick my neocon aunt.

“I confess had it not been for my coworkers constantly bringing them up, I would probably refuse to watch the games believing them to be a tool by elites to promote nationalism. However after watching them, I have a new found respect for the athletes who compete in them regardless of nationality. The games are not bad, but like so many other things, the politicians ruin what should be an amazing spectacle.”

Re: My Favorite Earrings

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on August 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Lew, re Shawn Johnson, her peace earrings, and the Olympics–yes, I quite agree. Everyone is whining about a few special effects that the Chinese used. So what. It’s a good show.

Someone told me that these “peace” earrings are popular among young girls nowadays, with no significance other than a fashion fad to them. Could be. But several things lead me to think Shawn wore them consciously. First, she is no bubblehead: she’s mature and intelligent. Second: she flashed the peace sign after her routine. Third: given the disgraceful censorship of the athletes regarding criticism of things Chinese and political–by both the Chinese and the Americans (”Shawn won’t be able to blog until after the Olympics are over due to the United States Olympic Committee’s rule not allowing athletes to post blogs”)–this may have been her way of protesting–Chinese political crackdowns; Bush-Iraq; Russia-Georgia, etc. Finally, she hawks a large number of necklaces and pendants on her store (and I say GOOD for her–boo to anyone criticizing her for doing this; I say, buy from Shawn!) and could have advertised any one of them by wearing it, but she chose not to display one she is selling, but instead a simple, elegant, visible, crisp-white unadorned peace sign, after she won the gold medal and was being put on international TV. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt for being pro-peace.

Put Your Hands Up In The Air For Peace!
Posted by Stephan Kinsella on April 3, 2009 01:59 AM

Apropos my entry Peace Art, it occurs to me this site’s slogan is “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market”–which can be boiled down to: “pro-peace.” And I have to recommend this wonderful video and song, “Peace,” by the Luminaries, which premiered at the Elevate Film Festival 2008 (see The Peace Project).

Update:
Mike S writes:

Mr. Kinsella,

I stumbled on your blog post and while I was listening to the song you recommended, I remembered one of my favorite songs from P.O.D. called “Tell Me Why.” It’s a true anti-war/peace song and I believe you might be interested.

***

Another reader emailed me:

Mr. Kinsella,

I wanted to thank you for your LRC blog post with the “Peace” music video, as well as suggest another artist who I feel has been extraordinarily dedicated to the message of peace. Michael Franti has actually travelled to Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere in the Middle East and created a documentary called I Know I’m Not Alone on his trip, where he basically travelled all over Iraq, staying with families, playing music on street corners (and even at bars filled with U.S. soldiers, singing a song that goes “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace”), and just talking to people about the human cost of war. He also runs an annual Bay Area music festival called Power to the Peaceful. He has many great songs, but one of my favorites (and apparently his most popular music video on Youtube) is called It’s Time To Go Home [see below]. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Keep fighting the good fight,
Casey Worthington

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Complete Liberty: The Demise of the State and the Rise of Voluntary America, by Wes Bertrand http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/04/complete-liberty-the-demise-of-the-state-and-the-rise-of-voluntary-america-by-wes-bertrand/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/04/complete-liberty-the-demise-of-the-state-and-the-rise-of-voluntary-america-by-wes-bertrand/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 02:03:53 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12331 I recently came across the website and podcast “Complete Liberty,” by Wes Bertrand, also featuring Bertrand’s 2007 book Complete Liberty: The Demise of the State and the Rise of Voluntary America (print; PDF). The podcast has some excellent episodes, including a whole series on IP—episodes 89–99.

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Free European Students for Liberty Webinar with Jeff Tucker TODAY 2PM Eastern Time: “Commerce and the Commons: How Enterprise Will Survive and Thrive the Death of Intellectual Property” http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/29/free-european-students-for-liberty-webinar-with-jeff-tucker-today-2pm-eastern-time-commerce-and-the-commons-how-enterprise-will-survive-and-thrive-the-death-of-intellectual-property/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/29/free-european-students-for-liberty-webinar-with-jeff-tucker-today-2pm-eastern-time-commerce-and-the-commons-how-enterprise-will-survive-and-thrive-the-death-of-intellectual-property/#comments Tue, 29 Jan 2013 13:17:53 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12315 jefftucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeff Tucker of Laissez Faire Books is giving a free Webinar this afternoon: “Commerce and the Commons: How Enterprise Will Survive and Thrive the Death of Intellectual Property“. This event is sponsored by European Students For Liberty, and appears to be open to anyone. Info below:

Tuesday, January 29, at 20:00-21:00 CET/2:00PM-3:00PM EDT

Where? On your Computer!

Speaker:  Jeffrey Tucker

Topic: Commerce and the Commons: How Enterprise Will Survive and Thrive the Death of Intellectual Property

Register here: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/882656282

Intellectual Property Rights have always been a hot topic among libertarians. One of the main arguments in favor is the belief that these rights are essential for entrepreneurship. Businesses wouldn’t be able to innovate without the financial fruits of their intellectual labor. But exactly how essential is intellectual property in this regard? Would an end of these rights mean an end of commerce? Or the reverse? Find out during this upcoming webinar!

Jeffrey Tucker is executive editor of the newly refurbished Laissez Faire Books, a leading publisher of libertarian books, and founder and head of the Laissez Faire Club. He also author of Bourbon for Breakfast (2010), It’s a Jetsons World (2011), and Beautiful Anarchy (2012).

[C4SIF]

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Launching the Kinsella on Liberty Podcast http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/23/launching-the-kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/23/launching-the-kinsella-on-liberty-podcast/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 15:36:36 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12296 Kinsella On Liberty

As many of my readers know, I often lecture and speak and give podcast or radio interviews on various libertarian topics and issues, such as intellectual property (IP), anarcho-libertarians, Austrian law and economic, contract theory, rights and punishment theory, and so on. I also blog and comment regularly on such matters in various blogs (primarily The Libertarian Standard, on general libertarian matters, and C4SIF, on IP-related matters), Facebook, and so on—often posting my take on a given issue in response to a question emailed to me or posted online.

This month I am launching a new podcast, Kinsella on Liberty. I expect to post episodes once or twice a week. The podcast will include new episodes covering  answers to questions emailed to me (feel free to ask me to address any issue of libertarian theory or application) as well as interviews or discussions I conduct with other libertarians. I’ll also include in the feed any new speeches or interviews of mine that appear on other podcasts or fora, as well as older speeches, interviews, and audio versions  of my articles, which  are collected for now on my media page). Audio and slides for several of my Mises Academy courses may also be found on my media page, and will also be included in the podcast feed later this year. Feel free to iTunesSubscribe in iTunes or RSSFollow with RSS, and spread the word to your libertarian friends. I welcome questions for possible coverage in the podcast, as well as any criticism, suggestions for improvement, or other feedback. My general approach to libertarian matters is Austrian, anarchist, and propertarian, influenced heavily by the thought of Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. My writing can be found in articles here and blog posts at The Libertarian Standard and C4SIF, such as:

On IP in particular, which I’ll also cover from time to time in the podcast, see:

[C4SIF; SK; PFS]

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Drop It Like It’s Hoppe (rap) http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/15/drop-it-like-its-hoppe-rap/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/15/drop-it-like-its-hoppe-rap/#comments Tue, 15 Jan 2013 22:19:41 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12288 Evan Isaac, Mark Ovdabeest, and Colin Porter have made a fun aprioristic rap song of Hoppe’s social views, Drop It Like It’s Hoppe (based on Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (lyrics)):

The lyrics are below. Ovdabeest is the same guy who made Black and Yellow: AnCap remix (based on this song):

Last time I (and Hoppe, and others in the Mises crowd) were lampooned like this was in Jason Ditz’s series of short movies: see The Koch Cycle: Anarcho-Pacificist Films Presents…

Drop It Like It’s Hoppe

Published on Jan 15, 2013
Written by Evan Isaac, Mark Ovdabeest, and Colin Porter
Performed by Mark Ovdabeest, as the characters of Stephan Kinsella and Hans Herman Hoppe

Lyrics:

(Chorus)
Empiricists in the crib, ma
Drop it like its Hoppe
Drop it like its Hoppe
Drop it like its Hoppe
When the reds try to get at ya
Park it like its Hoppe
Park it like its Hoppe
Park it like its Hoppe
And if a statist get an attitude
Pop it like its Hoppe
Pop it like its Hoppe
Pop it like its Hoppe
I got Mises on my shelf, a low time preference for wealth
And I roll argumentation ethics for the ownership of self

( Verse 1: Kinsella as Pharell)
I’m a nice dude, an attorney
My kid Ethan, does Montessori
See this IP, it’s not real property
It doesn’t suffer from any sort of scarcity
It’s just privilege to allow a monopoly
That ownership leads to intellectual poverty
An unintended consequence of governmental lobbying
I’m into freedom, go ahead and copy me
Killer with the beat, my wife works on Wall Street
Social order is best achievedwith a ruling natural elite
So don’t try to run up on my ear talking all that Marxist sh*t
I won’t be part of that sh*t
You made it worse, but you didn’t start that sh*t
You should think about it, take a second.
I don’t care what society you think you modeled
Aggress against me, your right to life is estoppled!

(Chorus)

(Verse 2: Hoppe as Snoop)
I’m an Austrian, but ya’ll knew that
And an anarchist, yea I had to do that
I keep the black-and-gold hanging out my backside
But only on the right side, yeah, that’s the cap side
…Ain’t no other way to deduce the way I deduce
I make my case from a priori truths
Two, One, yep, Three
Hans Herman H-O-double-P-E
I do philosophy well, like an ancient Greek
you’re way out of your league son, so to speak
Rights aren’t granted by Allah, Zeus, or Thor
Buddah or Krishna or any of his other forms
that we can argue shows that they’re accepted norms
to which the vast majority of us conform
So let the premise of the state be seen unveiled
Democracy is a god that fizzailed

(Chorus)

They say I’m right wing, Fetishizing race,
But I say it’s all the same to the marketplace,
I’m erudite, I don’t take sh*t,
Tripple H, yeah I’m rolling straight.
On the Vegas scene, stop the libertine,
sh*t that your dealin, cause I’m paleo and mean,
Oh you comin up to me, tryin to be rude,
can’t dig the culture, you get forcibly exclude,
You lose, High IQs,
I know my money, got them golden hues,
To the last cent, now we represent,
let me hear the voice, Sag es auf Deutsch
Moral consistency, same rights better be,
applicable to me, philosophy.
My a priori axioms solve the issue,
It’s Aristotle porn, I hope you brought a tissue

(Chorus)

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Stephan Kinsella, “The (State’s) Corruption of (Private) Law” (PFS 2012) http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/12/stephan-kinsella-the-states-corruption-of-private-law-pfs-2012/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/12/stephan-kinsella-the-states-corruption-of-private-law-pfs-2012/#comments Sat, 12 Jan 2013 20:23:19 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12255 I delivered this speech in September 2012 for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey. The audio of my speech was corrupted due to a technical error, so I re-recorded a version of the speech (available for streaming and download below). For others, see the links in the Program, or the PFS Vimeo channel.

The talk was largely based on two previous papers:

Update: see also Is English Common Law Libertarian?

(Powerpoint; PDF)

[PFS; SK]


  1. Note: I have since changed my mind on the some of the issues regarding the Hayekian “knowledge problem” and Leoni’s work in this regard, as I have noted in subsequent articles, such as the Knowledge, Calculation, Conflict, and Law review above, footnote 5. Oh, that I had heeded Jeff Herbener’s comments on an earlier manuscript, but I either got these comments too late, or did not fully appreciate them at the time. More information on the calculation debate. 

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http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/12/stephan-kinsella-the-states-corruption-of-private-law-pfs-2012/feed/ 0 Bruno Leoni,common law,Hayek,legal theory,legislation,Property and Freedom Society,Roman law I delivered this speech in September 2012 for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey. The audio of my speech was corrupted due to a technical error, so I re-recorded a version of the speech (available for streamin... I delivered this speech in September 2012 for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey. The audio of my speech was corrupted due to a technical error, so I re-recorded a version of the speech (available for streaming and download below). For others, see the links in the Program, or the PFS Vimeo channel. The talk was largely based on two previous papers: “Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 11 (Summer 1995), p. 132. ((Note: I have since changed my mind on the some of the issues regarding the Hayekian “knowledge problem” and Leoni’s work in this regard, as I have noted in subsequent articles, such as the Knowledge, Calculation, Conflict, and Law review above, footnote 5. Oh, that I had heeded Jeff Herbener’s comments on an earlier manuscript, but I either got these comments too late, or did not fully appreciate them at the time. More information on the calculation debate.)) Condensed version: Legislation and Law in a Free Society,” Mises Daily (Feb. 25, 2010) Update: see also Is English Common Law Libertarian? (Powerpoint; PDF) [PFS; SK] Stephan Kinsella clean 50:53 <iframe width="290" height="30" src="http://libertarianstandard.com/?powerpress_embed=12255-podcast&amp;powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Hoppe on Treating Aggressors as Mere “Technical Problems” http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/08/hoppe-on-treating-aggressors-as-mere-technical-problems/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/08/hoppe-on-treating-aggressors-as-mere-technical-problems/#comments Tue, 08 Jan 2013 21:56:31 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12220 I’ve always liked Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s observations regarding how we have to treat aggressors as technical, not ethical, problems. From The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (relevant parts bolded):

while scarcity is a necessary condition for the emergence of the problem of political philosophy, it is not sufficient. For obviously, we could have conflicts regarding the use of scarce resources with, let us say, an elephant or a mosquito, yet we would not consider it possible to resolve these conflicts by means of proposing property norms. In such cases, the avoidance of possible conflicts is merely a technological, not an ethical, problem. For it to become an ethical problem, it is also necessary that the conflicting actors be capable, in principle, of argumentation.

Whether or not persons have any rights and, if so, which ones, can only be decided in the course of argumentation (propositional exchange). Justification—proof, conjecture, refutation—is argumentative justification. Anyone who denied this proposition would become involved in a performative contradiction because his denial would itself constitute an argument. Even an ethical relativist must accept this first proposition, which has been referred to as the a priori of argumentation.

From the undeniable acceptance—the axiomatic status—of this a priori of argumentation, two equally necessary conclusions follow. First, it follows under what circumstances no rational solution to the problem of conflict arising from scarcity exists. Suppose in my earlier scenario of Crusoe and Friday that Friday was not the name of a man but of a gorilla. Obviously, just as Crusoe can run into conflict regarding his body and its standing room with Friday the man, so he might do so with Friday the gorilla. The gorilla might want to occupy the same space that Crusoe occupies. In this case, at least if the gorilla is the sort of entity that we know gorillas to be, there is in fact no rational solution to their conflict. Either the gorilla wins, and devours, crushes, or pushes Crusoe aside (that is the gorilla’s solution to the problem) or Crusoe wins, and kills, beats, chases away, or tames the gorilla (that is Crusoe’s solution). In this situation, one may indeed speak of moral relativism. One may concur with Alasdair MacIntyre, a prominent philosopher of the relativist persuasion, who asks as the title of one of his books, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?—Crusoe’s or the gorilla’s? Depending on whose side one chooses, the answer will be different. However, it is more appropriate to refer to this situation as one in which the question of justice and rationality simply does not arise: as an extra-moral situation. The existence of Friday the gorilla poses for Crusoe merely a technical problem, not a moral one. Crusoe has no other choice but to learn how to manage and control the movements of the gorilla successfully just as he must learn to manage and control the inanimate objects of his environment.

By implication, only if both parties to a conflict are capable of engaging in argumentation with one another can one speak of a moral problem and is the question of whether or not there exists a solution meaningful. Only if Friday, regardless of his physical appearance (i.e., whether he looks like a man or like a gorilla), is capable of argumentation (even if he has shown himself to be so capable only once), can he be deemed rational and does the question whether or not a correct solution to the problem of social order exists make sense. No one can be expected to give an answer to someone who has never raised a question or, more to the point, to someone who has never stated his own relativistic viewpoint in the form of an argument. In that case, this “other” cannot but be regarded and treated like an animal or plant, i.e., as an extra-moral entity. Only if this other entity can in principle pause in his activity, whatever it might be, step back so to speak, and say “yes” or “no” to something one has said, do we owe this entity an answer and, accordingly, can we possibly claim that our answer is the correct one for both parties involved in a conflict.

Likewise, for a human who refuses to engage in rational discourse, who refuses to recognize and respect the basic rights of others, they must also be regarded as technical problems and dealt with as if they are wild beasts. As I noted in Quotes on the Logic of Liberty, this is a common sense ethical truth that many others have observed, such as John Locke and others, as indicated in the quotes below:

“In transgressing the law of Nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity . . . and so he becomes dangerous to mankind; . . . every man . . . by the right he hath to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, or where it is necessary, destroy things noxious to them, and so may bring such evil on any one who hath transgressed that law, as may make him repent of the doing of it . . . .” B6 11: A murderer “hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or a tiger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security.” —John Locke, The Second Treatise on Civil Government B6 8

“With him [an aggressor] we are returned to the first-stage state of nature and may use force against him. In so doing we do not violate his rights or in any other way violate the principle of right, because he has broken the reciprocity required for us to view such a principle [of rights] as binding. In this we find the philosophic grounding for the moral legitimacy of the practice of punishment. Punishment is just that practice which raises the price of violation of the principle of right so as to give us all good reason to accept that principle.” —J. Charles King, A Rationale for Punishment, 4 J. Libertarian Stud. (1980): 154.

“[J]ust as one cannot win a game of chess against an opponent who will not make any moves–and just as one cannot argue mathematically with a person who will not commit himself to any mathematical statements–so moral argument is impossible with a man who will make no moral judgements at all . . . . Such a person is not entering the arena of moral dispute, and therefore it is impossible to contest with himHe is compelled also–and this is important–to abjure the protection of morality for his own interests.” —R.M. Hare, Freedom and Reason (1963): A7 6.6

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.” —Thomas PaineThe Crisis No. V

“When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.” —Herbert Spencer, from Facts and Comments (1902)

“[T]he victim is entitled to respond according to the rule (‘The use of force is permissible’) that the aggressor himself has implicitly laid down.” —John Hospers, “Retribution: The Ethics of Punishment,” in Assessing the Criminal: Restitution, Retribution, and the Legal Process, Randy E. Barnett and John Hagel III, eds. (Cambridge: Ballinger, 1977): p. 191.

“The injury [the penalty] which falls on the criminal is not merely implicitly just–as just, it is eo ipso his implicit will, an embodiment of his freedom, his right; on the contrary, it is also a right established within the criminal himself, i.e., in his objectively embodied will, in his action. The reason for this is that his action is the action of a rational being and this implies that it is something universal and that by doing it the criminal has laid down a law which he has explicitly recognized in his action and under which in consequence he should be brought as under his right.” —G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of Right A7 100 (T.M. Knox trans., 1969) (reprinted in Philosophical Perspectives on Punishment (Gertrude Ezorsky ed., 1972): 107 (Emphasis in last sentence added; brackets in Ezorsky)

“[W]hen someone is punished for having violated others’ rights, it is not the case that the criminal has alienated or otherwise lost his rights; rather, it is the case that the criminal’s choice to live in a rights-violating way is being respected.” —Douglas B. Rasmussen & Douglas J. Den Uyl, Liberty and Nature: An Aristotelian Defense of Liberal Order (1991): 85

“[I]f someone attacks another, that act carries with it, as a matter of the logic of aggression, the implication that from a rational moral standpoint the victim may, and often should retaliate.” —Tibor R. Machan, Individuals and Their Rights (1989): 176

[StephanKinsella.com cross-post]

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