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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6132/introduction-to-the-ethics-of-liberty/

Introduction to The Ethics of Liberty

January 11, 2007 by

In an age of intellectual hyperspecialization, writes Hans Hoppe, Murray N. Rothbard was a grand system builder. An economist by profession, Rothbard was the creator of a system of social and political philosophy based on economics and ethics as its cornerstones. For centuries, economics and ethics (political philosophy) had diverged from their common origin into seemingly unrelated intellectual enterprises. Economics was a value-free “positive” science, and ethics (if it was a science at all) was a “normative” science. As a result of this separation, the concept of property had increasingly disappeared from both disciplines. FULL ARTICLE


Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 1:44 pm


Yes, I have composed above essay “Normative principles”. Thanks for the compliment but your IQ might be as good as mine, or better. If we are very interested in something we can mobilize our recourses.

“Self-ownership – Does that mean making decisions without coercion or duress?”


“Why the references to ‘man’ where do women fit in the scheme of rights, self-determination, freedom?”

When I use the word “man” I am referring to a human regardless of sex or colour; a person” or alternatively the human race.

Naturally, the human race can survive (and prosper) without pure liberty. We the living is a proof of that, but the condition of human life and prosperity are the principles of pure liberty and it is this condition of human life that we logically want to preserve as we want to preserve life.

It is because of Capitalism (libertarian ethic) that life and prosperity can expand and feed so many people. If you and I were the only people on this planet we might not be able to survive.

You must understand that if we want to be objective we must have an objective premise such as life. We cannot only derive facts from human nature as this does not lead to anything. This value functions also as a purpose i.e. something which we want to preserve.

Naturally, we all value life differently and have different reasons for loving life. Some of us hardly want to live, but still by living the choice have been done.

It is true that some people want the human race to perish and some people might want to have the moon served for breakfast, but there is always a limit and our dimension cannot please everyone every time. If they want to live on this planet they will have to play by its rules and as they go on living they certainly have chosen life and its conditions.

That man cannot survive without property rights is a logical and not an empirical conclusion. Such as the one I have done. I think mine is very similar to Hoppe´s. Naturally, Hoppe is much more professional, sophisticated and knowledgeable than I am, but still mine is similar:


Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Paul Edwards January 16, 2007 at 1:49 pm


“Similarly, how can one prove the right to human life itself to be automatically natural?”

(Interpreting this to ask how do we prove a right to self-ownership and the right to appropriate from nature means of sustenance to maintain human life, i answer in the following way:)

The answer to this question arrives even in the very asking of it. In any attempt to cast doubt on the right to human life, one must presuppose and affirm the very thing he is attempting to dispute. One must not only be alive to put forth that or any other proposition, one must act now and have acted in the past to remain alive. This demonstrates the proposition maker’s presumption of his own right to life and his natural value of his life. For how can he put forth any proposition, presuming the right to put forth such a proposition, without affirming his own right to life? Therefore the denial of the right to human life is a contradiction; hence it is an invalid proposition.

It also demonstrates the proposition maker’s belief in his right as a self-owner; that is as an independent decision making entity capable of asking meaningful questions and requiring a convincing answer based on the force of the logic of it rather than being coerced to agree to an otherwise unconvincing answer.

“If everyone abides by a slave-owning society and everyone knows their place can such a society flourish?”

Perhaps for a short while; until some slave forgets his “place” and speaks out against his situation and acts in accordance with justice and violently resists his “owners”. And then you have conflict. Conflict cannot be rendered avoidable if the ethic with which we live is based on non-universlizable rules such as “I can enslave you, but you cannot enslave me.” Universalizability is the first and most fundamental necessity of a justifiable ethic and of any argumentation seeking truth and a valid justification.

“(Even though it may be repulsive to the outside who believes in individual self-determination for all.) How can we be sure that humans have an automatic right to flourish especially when animals having rights is a much debated issue?”

Again, the answer is implied in the act of posing the question itself. In respect to other animals the answer is this: when animals begin to participate in argumentation regarding their own rights, ask for, and present justifications of their own self-ownership, then they too will naturally posses human-like rights. For in presenting a logical and reasoned argument towards such a justification, they too will be very human-like. Until then, they have no rights; not in the sense that we don’t recognize them, but that they in fact simply do not posses any.

“Slavery was standard practice for aeons, even the Bible has regulations about owning slaves. Just because the thought of slavery makes most people squeamish, do we abide by animal rights law because people hurting and killing animals makes a lot of people squeamish too?”

Slavery of aggressors can be justified in principle. Slavery of non-aggressors cannot be justified (read Kinsella on estoppel). Ownership of animals is justified because animals do not and cannot object or ask for a justification of such a situation. This is a reflection of the nature of things.

I recommend studying Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics for a better elaboration of my points.

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 2:06 pm

I hereby quote from The Ethics of Liberty:

“Thus, while praxeological economic theory is extremely useful for providing data and knowledge for framing economic policy, it cannot be sufficient by itself to enable the economist to make any value pronouncements or to advocate any public policy whatsoever. More specifically, Ludwig von Mises to the contrary notwithstanding, neither praxeological economics nor Mises’s utilitarian liberalism is sufficient to make the case for laissez faire and the free-market economy. To make such a case, one must go beyond economics and utilitarianism to establish an objective ethics which affirms the overriding value of liberty, and morally condemns all forms of statism, from egalitarianism to “the murder of redheads,” as well as such goals as the lust for power and the satisfaction of envy. To make the full case for liberty, one cannot be a methodological slave to every goal that the majority of the public might happen to cherish.”


Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 2:20 pm

The principle of utilitarianism is destructive.

Utilitarianism means that all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Intellectually the principle lets the door stand wide open for the use of physical violence and theft against people which happens to belong to the lesser number. If we grasp a state of things where the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people exists in using physical violence and theft everywhere and in all human situations and places (i.e. in the classroom, shop, street, airport, forest etc) against all those people that happened to belong to the lesser numbers, the human race would quickly perish.

As we have seen, the principle of utilitarianism if followed by all groups of people in all places would lead to human destruction and this, therefore, proves that the principle is destructive. Any crime could be done in the name of utilitarianism such as murder, theft, rape, slavery etc. The lesser number of people would always be at the mercy of the greatest number.

Private groups of people in society are therefore, naturally, not allowed to commit crimes in the name of utilitarianism.

The state has a “legal right” to commit crimes and the state nearly, always does it in the name of utilitarianism.

In the name of utilitarianism Hitler could have justified all the murdering of the Jews that he made. He probably, also, thought that he by doing those crimes achieved the greatest happiness for the greatest number of Germans.

Let us not forget:


Or, alternatively, as Rothbard wrote in his book For a New Liberty:

“Let us consider a stark example: Suppose a society which fervently considers all redheads to be agents of the Devil and therefore to be executed whenever found. Let us further assume that only a small number of redheads exist in any generation-so few as to be statistically insignificant. The utilitarian-libertarian might well reason: “While the murder of isolated redheads is deplorable, the executions are small in number; the vast majority of the public, as non-redheads, achieves enormous psychic satisfaction from the public execution of redheads. The social cost is negligible, the social, psychic benefit to the rest of society is great; therefore, it is right and proper for society to execute the redheads.” The natural-rights libertarian, overwhelmingly concerned as he is for the justice of the act, will react in horror and staunchly and unequivocally oppose the executions as totally unjustified murder and aggression upon nonaggressive persons. The consequence of stopping the murders—depriving the bulk of society of great psychic pleasure—would not influence such a libertarian, the “absolutist” libertarian, in the slightest. Dedicated to justice and to logical consistency, the natural-rights libertarian cheerfully admits to being “doctrinaire,” to being, in short, an unabashed follower of his own doctrines.”


If anything should die, it is the principle of utilitarianism.

The right path to follow is instead:

The Ethics of Liberty:

Hesselberg continues:

“But a social order is not possible unless man is able to conceive what it is, and what its advantages are, and also conceive those norms of conduct which are necessary to its establishment and preservation, namely, respect for another’s person and for his rightful possessions, which is the substance of justice. . . . But justice is the product of reason, not the passions. And justice is the necessary support of the social order; and the social order is necessary to man’s well-being and happiness. If this is so, the norms of justice must control and regulate the passions, and not vice versa.”


Or in other words and in a more rigid form: “that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else”.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Daniel M. Ryan January 16, 2007 at 2:48 pm

adi wrote: “As there are Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometries might there as well be different ethical systems depending on the axioms to which they are based on?”

That’s a good point, adi. Take the labour unions, a group I have brought up in another thread. Their political point of view is a hybrid of Smithianism and Rousseauianism, with the important codicil that laissez-faire, as a principle, is for “idiots” – meaning, that laissez-faire, according to them, is not a sustainable compromise but is a kind of half-time lull peace, which will be broken by “the bosses” to the working person’s disadvantage. This codicil may come from their Rousseauan side.

As Rousseauians, they believe that the moral and the physical can be united; as a result, their ideal man is one who is completely outside the authority system and, for whom, might is equivalent to right. As Smithians, they tend to be skeptical, if not cynical, with respect to authority, and tend to trust in Smithian self-interest as the glue holding the practical world together.

Some of us see a confluence thanks to the Smithian part of their political psyche, but when it comes down to it, libertarianism’s ban on the initiation of physical force, period, is a moral/political premise that is quite alien to them, except for groups that, in their eyes, are presumed to be…

Wade McGriff January 16, 2007 at 2:49 pm

I have to say Bjorn, you are “dominating” the discussion. Also, that quote you included from Rothbard about Mises was quite bitter.

But it only follows…

Whether we are talking about economic phenomenon or ethical phenomenon, we are talking about phenomenon as in the phenomenon of acting beings, those who seek ends in order to relieve uneasiness, or achieve satisfaction.

We cannot be value-free when evaluating “ends” but only “means”, and praxeology is the science of “means”.

So the question becomes, are there “means” in regard to ethical phenomenon or are there just “ends”?

If praxeology tells us what must be the case in regard to economic phenomenon, can it also tell us what must be the case in regard to ethical phenomenon?

Is it necessarily “impossible” to carry out any kind of praxeological analysis of ethics as Rothbard claims? Are there not “ethical means” to an “end”?

Is it “impossible” that Rothbard was too short on certitude in regard to praxeology in the Ethics of Liberty?

To ignore such questions would be ill-conceived in any kind of scientific discussion about ethics.

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Wade McGriff

As hoppe stated:

”Yet the argument establishing the ultimate justification of private property is different from the one typically offered by natural rights tradition. Rather than this tradition, it is Mises, and his idea of praxeology and praxeological proofs, who provides the model”.

In other words, Hoppe has used praxeology to justify an objective ethic.


Björn Lundahl

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Wade McGriff

I think that Rothbard meant that praxeological economic theory can not be used as a guide to make any value judgements. He did not say anything about using praxeology as a tool for discovering true ethical propositions. He, probably, did not think of this possibility? Just a guess. It seems that Hoppe is the inventor.

Björn Lundahl

Wade McGriff January 16, 2007 at 4:59 pm


I respect Hoppe’s efforts to praxeologically formalize the concept of private property.

However, Praxeology is not suited to justify objective ethic, if that’s what he was trying to do, according to you that is.

In other words, Hoppe has used praxeology to justify an objective ethic

Praxeology and objective ethics are exactly opposite. My definition of objective ethics being a science of ends, if there ever could be such a science.

The core of my comments have to do with Rothbard’s divergence from Misean Methodology and his claim that praxeology could never be used to discover anything about ethics. And that you quoted from him yourself. Did you not?

You can call me Wade

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 5:27 pm

“Even if we make property an absolute, taxation can still be legit. Take the example of a housing covenant. In such a covenant, the owner of property agrees to maintain the property in according to certain standards or he must sell his property and leave the housing complex. If one day an owner decides he no longer likes the covenant, he can’t just ignore it. He must comply or leave.
In a nation, a person’s willingness to continue living there can be seen as implicit acceptance of the tax covenant, which is just another term for law. If a citizen doesn’t agree with the covenant, he can’t just ignore it. No one prevents him from selling and moving to another country, and no one is taking his property without compensation. The fact that when an American turns 18 he doesn’t have to physically sign a contract stating that he agrees to abide by the covenant doesn’t mean anything. One of the purposes of education, whether at home, in a private school, or a public school, is to instruct young people in the customs, covenants and laws of the nation that they will be expected to obey. By the age of 18, every American citizen should be fully aware of the laws. If he doesn’t agree with them, he has every right to leave, but no right to ignore the laws.”

The following will give a satisfactory answer to above statement:

The Ethics of Liberty:

“If the State may be said to properly own its territory, then it is proper for it to make rules for anyone who presumes to live in that area. It can legitimately seize or control private property because there is no private property in its area, because it really owns the entire land surface. So long as the State permits its subjects to leave its territory, then, it can be said to act as does any other owner who sets down rules for people living on his property. (This seems to be the only justification for the crude slogan, “America, love it or leave it!,” as well as the enormous emphasis generally placed on an individual’s right to emigrate from a country.) In short, this theory makes the State, as well as the King in the Middle Ages, a feudal overlord, who at least theoretically owned all the land in his domain. The fact that new and unowned resources—whether virgin land or lakes—are invariably claimed as owned by the State (its “public domain”) is an expression of this implicit theory.

But our homesteading theory, outlined above, suffices to demolish any such pretensions by the State apparatus. For by what earthly right do the criminals of the State lay claim to the ownership of its land area? It is bad enough that they have seized control of ultimate decision-making for that area; what criterion can possibly give them the rightful ownership of the entire territory?”


For a New Liberty:

“-and reveals a lack of sensitivity to human or property rights. Friedman’s statement, in fact, is of a piece with the typically conservative, “If you don’t like it here, leave,” a statement that implies that the government rightly owns the entire land area of “here,” and that anyone who objects to its rule must therefore leave the area.”


Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Peter January 16, 2007 at 7:35 pm

There are of course those would be glad to see whole humanity wiped out and only plants and animals in its place.

There are people who appear to prefer that, but since they don’t, in fact, wipe themselves out, they’re just hypocrites, saying they prefer to wipe out humans (of course, they rarely actually say that in so many words), but showing by their actions that they don’t really prefer that!

[PS: how come I can post in this thread? When I try to post in the "should we serve god?" thread, it keeps telling me I have to put the security code on the bottom - which I already have. If I put the wrong code, I get a different message!]

Peter January 16, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Slavery of non-aggressors cannot be justified

Unless they want to be slaves, of course.

Peter January 16, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Is it necessarily “impossible” to carry out any kind of praxeological analysis of ethics as Rothbard claims?

Rothbard doesn’t claim that at all. I assume you’re referring to this: it cannot be sufficient by itself to enable the economist to make any value pronouncements or to advocate any public policy whatsoever. “It cannot be sufficient by itself” is not the same as “it is impossible to relate”. As you say, ethics includes ends, and praxeology is the science of means. Rothbard apparently couldn’t see how to get from means to ends – how to make praxeology make value judgements – though he hinted at the same solution Hoppe eventually came up with. Hoppe did that.

averros January 16, 2007 at 9:13 pm

RogerM -

> The USSR had virtually none, but people manages
> to survive. The natural law concept of property
> is that it is necessary for man to flourish, not
> that it’s necessary for life.

Heh. People managed to survive precisely because there was a huge, officially illegal but generally tolerated, underground market in food staples, some clothes and services.

I remember pretty well visiting marketplace (similar to “farmer’s markets” in US, though a lot dirtier) to get some food – nearly every day. Everyone went to those marketplaces; it was either paying high prices for the privately produced food staples, or risking malnuorishment.

And there was the whole system of informal trading relationships – the “blat” – of providing each other with favours and access to scarce goods. A large portion of Soviet economy was simple barter. There was a recognized (and highly regarded) profession of “snabzhenets” (“provider”) – specialists in barter exchanges at the idustrial level. It was well understood that without such dealing the industry would simply stop.

There even were entire private manufacturing shops run by entrepreneurs (“tsekhoviki”) – though these were occasionally arrested and prisoned. They did manage to supply significant quantities of clothes and shoes.

The socialism did erode people’s notions of property rights, to the point of nearly universal petty thievery – but generally Soviet people were pilfering government property, not personal belongings.

The market grows in the most unhospitable places – and keeps people fed and engines rolling. Even if it “officially” does not exist.

ktibuk January 17, 2007 at 5:59 am


Mises and his praxeological analysis of economics had no ethics, value judgements in them. You surely know this.

He started with one question.

“What is your end”.

After he heard it he started his analysis from undeniable axioms, used logic and told you if you can reach that goal with “what means”.

The problem is he supposed the ends sought by everyone was a whealier, longer and happier life for human beings.

But what if I say that my end is “only equality among human beings”. I don’t care about wealth, happiness, longer life etc.

Then my means of coercion, force etc can not be declared “wrong means” by praxeological analysis.

Simply you can start with the same axioms, use the same logic and can say coercion is the only means to achieve those ends.

I will give you a simple logical argument.

Human beings are unequal by inherent reasons. Each human is unique. And you can not equalise humans on the upper level. But using coercion you can equalise them on the lower level. So if you want equality among humans at the end you must use coercion.

Björn Lundahl January 17, 2007 at 6:03 am

“If we grasp a state of things where nobody owns anything, the human race will quickly perish.”

Naturally, this nobody includes the government.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 17, 2007 at 6:15 am

Mark Humphrey “But Rothbard’s axiom cannot persuade dedicated altruists, such as Islamic suicide bombers, who imagine that they sacrifice their lives for some Great Cause, and that such sacrifice is virtuous.”

Björn Do you think that it might have persuaded Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and characters like that?

It is a pity that those Islamic suicide bombers (from Al Qaeda) did not read those books that Ayn Rand wrote before hitting the North and South towers.

I thank you for a very persuading comment. It is very sad, though, that Rothbard missed it.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

ktibuk January 17, 2007 at 9:12 am

“”If we grasp a state of things where nobody owns anything, the human race will quickly perish.”

Naturally, this nobody includes the government.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden”

This is not quite so.

“Nobody” is theoritical. Government is not a nobody.

What rothbard is saying there is you can not abolish property. When government owns everything there is still property but no private property.

He presents three possible alternatives.

One is private property, which is universally applicable.

The other no property, which is impossible practically.

And another is slavery, which is not universally applicable hence not defendable.

The case with the government is the alternative of slavery. Total or by a percentage.

Right now everyone is a slave in this world since everyone lives under a state. Percentage differs.

Björn Lundahl January 17, 2007 at 10:57 am


Please do not interfere; I was referring to my above essay “Normative principles”.

I will post it again:

“If we grasp a state of things where nobody owns anything, the human race will quickly perish.”

Naturally, this definition of mine includes the government, in other words, when I defined in my above essay “Normative principles” that nobody owns anything, I meant a state of things where no one in society, not even the state owned anything.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Paul Edwards January 17, 2007 at 3:39 pm

– Slavery of non-aggressors cannot be justified

“Unless they want to be slaves, of course.”

Yes. Until they no longer want to be slaves as well, of course. And because of the need for it to remain voluntary, the term slave in this context seems contradictory. But I guess it’s no big deal.

David White January 17, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Paul Edwards:

But of course what you are really striking at the heart of is constitutionalism — i.e., of being born into a “contract” to which you were not a party and, to the extent that you didn’t like its terms, would have the moral right to break whenever you see fit.

That you, alone, might not fare very well under such circumstances — i.e., you would become an enemy of state — is not the point as the recognition of everyone’s right to break such a “contract” would be sufficient to assure that you wouldn’t be the only one to do so, altering the “constitution” of things accordingly.

Wade McGriff January 17, 2007 at 10:04 pm


Rothbard apparently couldn’t see how to get from means to ends – how to make praxeology make value judgements – though he hinted at the same solution Hoppe eventually came up with. Hoppe did that.

Praxeology is not intended to “make value judgements”. To clarify, the reason praxeology is the “science of means” is exactly because Mises intended for praxeology to be “value-free”. Once we start trying to use praxeology to determine what “ends” to aim at, it is not praxeology anymore.

The fallacy of including value judgments in social scientific analysis was a focus of great emphasis in many of Mises’ works. If I told you that “You should not adopt coercion because it is wrong because it is harmful in regard to others and their property”, then I would not be using praxeology. However, if I told you that “If you adopt coercion as a course of action, you cannot achieve what you are aspiring to achieve”, and proceed to tell you that you will remain dissatisfied by adopting this method of action, then I would be using praxeological analysis. The reason being that I am only refering to what must be the case for the coercer, not anyone else.

Essentially, Rothbard tells us that coercion is wrong because it is an invasion, aggression, etc. on someone elses “property”. What praxeology can tell us is that the person actually coercing, the coercer, cannot achieve his aspirations, and will never relieve any of his uneasiness, dissatisfaction, etc.

So the difference is readily clear, objective ethics tells us that coercion is wrong because it harms others, while praxeology tells us that if we adopt coercion, we will remain uneasy and dissatisfied, which could be considered harmful to OURSELVES.

More importantly, if the coercer is aspiring to achieve a particular circumstance of reality he believes different than the current one, if this is the case, then praxeology can tell us what must be the case when he adopts coercion as a course of action, however, it will not tell us what the coercer should do after that, praxeology is mute on the subject of aspirations.

Wade McGriff January 17, 2007 at 10:09 pm

I apologize Ktibuck, it was Peter I was replying to, not you. Didn’t mean to mix you guys up.


Wade McGriff January 17, 2007 at 10:36 pm


The problem is he supposed the ends sought by everyone was a whealier, longer and happier life for human beings.

But what if I say that my end is “only equality among human beings”. I don’t care about wealth, happiness, longer life etc.

Then my means of coercion, force etc can not be declared “wrong means” by praxeological analysis.

You are right about praxeology, it does not concern praxeology whether or not coercion is deemed coercion wrong or right. What would concern the praxeologist in regard to coercion is harm to the person adopting it as a course of action. Because once the praxeologist revealed that it is harmful to coerce, those who considered it, would have knowledge they didn’t have before. That new knowledge being, one can never achieve his aspirations by adopting coercion as a course of action.

Regarding your comments about Mises. I am no historian, and do not know what Mises’ personal beliefs were.

As Mises said in Human Action, historians don’t report the facts, they distort them.

Peter January 17, 2007 at 10:52 pm

What praxeology can tell us is that the person actually coercing, the coercer, cannot achieve his aspirations, and will never relieve any of his uneasiness, dissatisfaction, etc

If praxeology tells you that, praxeology is (obviously) wrong. (Of course, it doesn’t actually tell you anything of the sort!)

Björn Lundahl January 18, 2007 at 4:24 pm

“Count me as one unconvinced emotivist/egoist”

This message of relativism is surely also the following:

“Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Mao, Pol Pot and all the “criminals” in history, they did not really do anything wrong. I might feel that they did but that is only what I feel. What they felt counts too! Their “bad actions” were not really destructive because they did not undermine mankind and in this objective sense were totally okay.

Criminals all over the world unite! You are a suppressed lot. You have the right to kill, “steal”, rape and to do so called criminal acts. If you blow up the whole world it is objectively and therefore totally okay.”

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 18, 2007 at 5:50 pm

“There are of course those would be glad to see whole humanity wiped out and only plants and animals in its place.”

Do not forget that “wanting the humanity wiped out” is not an axiomatic value as only a few people wants that. The premise, in other words, is subjective.


As it is true that some people wants the human race to perish and some people might also want to have the moon served for breakfast, but there is always a limit, and our dimension cannot please everyone every time. If they want to live on this planet, they will have to play by its rules that preserve its existence and as they go on living they certainly have chosen life and its conditions.

“Similarity of ethical views held by a large group of people is just a sign of intersubjectivity of those views, not necessarily about objective existence of those views.”

That might be so, but it is not the “views” of the many that by itself justifies anything. “The many” can also do a lot of bad things. For example, large groups of people murdered the Jews in Germany and caused the great depression in the U.S.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl March 15, 2007 at 2:48 pm

I will post this again since I do believe that my comment regarding none existence of any property rights is here presented more clearly and logically than in my above post.

Life and self-ownership

Mark Humphrey “I don’t want to precipitate trench warfare with devoted Rothbardians, but I strongly suspect that Rothbard owed his insight about “life as the standard of moral value” to Ayn Rand. I can’t prove this, of course. Sadly, in “The Ethics of Liberty”, (published in the early Eighties) Rothbard chose to, in a sense, blacklist Rand by claiming that NO ONE, other than himself, in the libertarian movement was working to develope a system of rationally defensible ethics. (Maybe Rothbard meant “at the moment I am writing this statement”.)”

Björn That life is an axiomatic value and functions “as the standard of moral value” in an ethical system, Rothbard could, alternatively for example, have gotten this insight from Mises himself through analyzing his statement in his book, “Human Action”, page 11:

“We may say that action is the manifestation of a man’s will.”


I am not saying that Rothbard did get his insight from Mises; I am only saying that it was possible. Surely, many other possibilities exist which we do not know anything about.

Mark Humphrey “It has been awhile since I’ve read Hoppe, and Rothbard; but I suspect Hoppe’s reasoning goes: either we all own ourselves, or everyone owns everyone else. Since the first proposition is clearly more defensible than the latter absurd proposition, one can affirm self ownership as valid. But if this is the argument, it fails. For that argument assumes that which it sets out to prove, namely that an ethical concept, “ownership”, exists. But on this basis, ownership remains unproven, so that one could just as well assert: “no one owns anything, and anything goes.””

Björn Self-ownership is a natural fact, since a man in his very nature controls his own mind and body (natural disposition), that is, he is a natural self-owner of his own will and person (having a free will) and if this was not true, neither could he effectively control any property and, therefore, not own it. In other words; “nothing could control and own something”.

Naturally, praxeology the science of human action, by itself logically confirms the natural fact of self-ownership, since praxeology is based upon “the acting man consciously intending to improve his own satisfaction” and I quote from answers.com:

“From praxeology Mises derived the idea that every conscious action is intended to improve a person’s satisfaction. He was careful to stress that praxeology is not concerned with the individual’s definition of end satisfaction, just the way he sought that satisfaction. The way in which a person will increase his satisfaction is by removing a source of dissatisfaction. As the future is uncertain so every action is speculative.

An acting man is defined as one capable of logical thought — to be otherwise would be to make one a mere creature who simply reacts to stimuli by instinct. Similarly an acting man must have a source of dissatisfaction which he believes capable of removing, otherwise he cannot act.
Another conclusion that Mises reached was that decisions are made on an ordinal basis. That is, it is impossible to carry out more than one action at once, the conscious mind being only capable of one decision at a time — even if those decisions can be made in rapid order. Thus man will act to remove the most pressing source of dissatisfaction first and then move to the next most pressing source of dissatisfaction.

As a person satisfies his first most important goal and after that his second most important goal then his second most important goal is always less important than his first most important goal. Thus, for every further goal reached, his satisfaction, or utility, is lessened from the preceding goal. This is the rule of diminishing marginal utility.

In human society many actions will be trading activities where one person regards a possession of another person as more desirable than one of his own possessions, and the other person has a similar higher regard for his colleague’s possession than he does for his own. This subject of praxeology is known as catallactics, and is the more commonly accepted realm of economics.”



The Ethics of Liberty, page 45:


“[1]Professor George Mavrodes, of the department of philosophy of the University of Michigan, objects that there is another logical alternative: namely, “that no one owns anybody, either himself or anyone else, nor any share of anybody.” However, since ownership signifies range of control, this would mean that no one would be able to do anything, and the human race would quickly vanish.”


Or in my own words:

Why must anybody own anything?

In accordance with our objective test to find out if something is a condition for something else, we grasp a state of things where the following principle is none existent anywhere and at all:

“The existence of property rights”:

In a world without any property rights nobody would be able to do anything, since nobody has the right to control anything. Not even themselves (see below about property rights in your own person).

This question is not only a contradiction it is also silly. You ask a question which means that you control yourselves (natural disposition), that is owning yourself (see below the excellent writing of Hans-Hermann Hoppe). The other contradiction is that if nobody would own anything, nobody would be able to hinder anyone to own anything either since they would otherwise have an invalid control (having the disposition to) of everyone else, that is having an invalid ownership to everybody else (see below about valid property rights in your own person).

Ownership itself is, therefore, an objective condition for the preservation of human life.

Please read some of Hans-Hermann Hoppe´s excellent writing from the book “The Ethics and Economics of Private Property”:


And to:



Björn Lundahl

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