It is on the edge of Fall 2012, and I realized today that it is about twenty years since the publication of my first scholarly article, Estoppel: A New Justification for Individual Rights. It was published in Reason Papers No. 17 (Fall 1992), a journal established and then edited by my friend Tibor Machan. In How I Became A Libertarian, I explain how it came about:
By 1988 I was in law school, and becoming a more well rounded libertarian, having read by this time Rothbard, Mises, Bastiat, the Tannehills, and a non-trivial portion of the books offered in the Laissez-Faire Books catalog. In that year there were two significant events in my life, from a libertarian perspective. One was Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s controversial and provocative article in Liberty, “The Ultimate Justification of the Private Property Ethic” (related articles linked here). In this article Hoppe sets forth his “argumentation ethics,” which holds that the libertarian private property ethic is implied in the very activity of argumentation—because those engaged in argumentation already presuppose the value of conflict-avoidance and the ability to control property and thus, those arguing in favor of socialism contradict themselves.
The second thing was that I encountered the legal principle of “estoppel” in my contracts class. This is the ubiquitous legal principle that precludes someone from asserting a legal claim or position that is inconsistent with earlier statements or behavior. I remember sitting in contracts class, as Professor Morris lectured on this topic, thinking “Eureka!” to myself, as I began to see that the concept of estoppel meshed perfectly with libertarian logic (and also with Hoppe’s argumentation ethics). The libertarian non-aggression principle holds that force may only be used in response to (initiated) force. There is a nice symmetry here. One may use force, if and only if it is response to initiated force (aggression). [Keep reading…]
My friend Paul Vahur has just announced the formation of the Mises Institute Estonia. As their introductory notes explains:
We are glad to announce about the creation of Mises Institute Estonia (in Estonian: Misese Instituut). The founders were 10 members of Mises Circle Tallinn which was created in 2009. Mises Institute Estonia is politically independent and funded only by private donations.The purpose of the Institute is to promote and advance in Estonia the theories of Austrian School of Economics and classical liberal and libertarian political theories. To achieve these goals, the Institute will regularly publish articles on its website Mises.ee, it will also hold conferences, educational courses and lectures. The Institute publishes books in Estonian popularizing economic science and libertarian political theory.
The Institue will be headed by Paul Vahur. The members of supervisory board are Risto Sverdlik, Urmas Järve and Paul Keres.
Mises Institute Estonia is named after Ludwig von Mises, a renowned Austrian economist whose biggest contribution was to explain the cause of economic crises and why state’s economic intervention is doomed to failure. First Mises Institute was founded in 1982 in USA. Thanks to their great success many other Mises Institutes have been founded in recent years in other countries such as Poland, Brazil, Sweden and Canada.
It is heartening to see the growing ranks of counterparts to the US Mises Institute or others similar or related to or inspired by same, such as the Cobden Centre in the UK and others, to help spread the message of private property, individual liberty and Austrian economics.
Anthony Gregory has a great post up on TLS today, Should We Celebrate the American Revolution?, which exposes many myths about the “libertarian” nature of Independence Day and the Revolutionary War. (See also Jeff Tucker and Doug French’s column today, The Birth of Sedition.) I previously expressed skepticism of Constitution Day (Black Armbands for “Constitution Day”). Likewise, it’s problematic “Independence Day” is upheld as some sort of libertarian event.
Doing some random wikipedia searching about the Statue of “Liberty,” I came across a great quote, from 1886, by an African American newspaper, scoffing at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty (official name: Liberty Enlightening the World) and at the idea that America was a some free country and beacon of liberty. These thoughts express basically how I feel about the 4th of July, celebrations of the Constitution, American “independence,” and America’s “birthday” (note: by calling July 4–the date the US government may be said to have emerged–the country’s birthday, a subtle equation is made between country and state; which is why today yahoos say you are “unpatriotic” or “you hate your country” if you don’t “respect the flag” or don’t send your kids off to the military meat grinder to fight in its savage wars, etc.):
Shortly after the dedication, the Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue’s torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation “in reality”:
“Liberty enlightening the world,” indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the “liberty” of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the “liberty” of this country “enlightening the world,” or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.
They had a good point. I’m so sick of libertarians upholding America or its Founding slaveholding “Fathers” or the Declaration or the abominable Constitution (the word is rightly used as a swear word in L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach or Gallatin Divergence, as I recall, as in “Constitution! I just hit my thumb with a hammer!”). Today will see countless American yahoos, the products of government schools, cheering on our “freedom” by singing Lee Greenwood songs and crying when they put their hands over their hearts to worship Old Glory, in violation of the First Commandment.
All these state-sanctioned state-worshiping “patriotic” holidays only serve to equate country with state and to glorify the state and its statism1 and wars. I’ll watch fireworks with my kid tonight, but tell him to enjoy the lights and chemical reactions, not what the state wants it to signify.