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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

{ 78 comments }

Daniel M. Ryan January 11, 2007 at 5:29 pm

What I found interesting in Prof. Hoppe’s discussion of Rawls is his disclosure that Rawls reverse-engineered from a conclusion. It invites the use of the contrapositive: if you don’t like Rawls’ vision, then don’t act in a manner consistent with the action premises of Rawls’ disembodied wraiths. In other words, don’t forget that you are here as of now.

Sam January 11, 2007 at 8:27 pm

Undoubtedly here I have to ask what is meant by the term:

1. Scarcity?

2. Private property rights?

I get the feeling these terms used here are not quite the same as the simple dictionary definition.

Peter January 11, 2007 at 9:07 pm

“Scarcity” means that the use of an item by one person precludes the use by another. “Private property rights” are the concept that arises from the self-evident fact of human action combined with the recognition of the empirical fact of scarcity: i.e., that some specific, objectively identifiable person (the “owner”) have exclusive control over particular uses of scarce items/goods, necessary to avoid conflict between other would-be users.

Adam Knott January 11, 2007 at 9:53 pm

Professor Rothbard was a prolific contributor to libertarian scholarship, and one of the most influential libertarians of the twentieth century. To the extent professor Rothbard was instrumental in the very creation of the Mises Institute, this fact alone would serve to qualify his contribution to the libertarian movement as perhaps materially unsurpassed. It is also obvious that he was loved dearly by those important libertarian leaders today who essentially consider themselves intellectual Rothbardians.

A balanced appraisal of professor Rothbard’s contributions to libertarian scholarship—not from a mainstream point of view—but rather from what could be considered a “Misean” point of view, might also highlight some of the extremely important ways in which professor Rothbard’s theoretical work departed from the scientific methodology of professor Mises. It was in his Ethics of Liberty, that professor Rothbard essentially disavowed Misean praxeology as a legitimate method and approach to the subject of ethics. (preface, pg. xlvii) And since Rothbard’s Ethics, and largely because of it, libertarian and Austrian social theory has turned away from important lessons Mises had tried to instill about social science and social science methodology. Largely because of the influence of The Ethics of Liberty, libertarian social science did not attempt a deductive science of ethics as a science of “means”, as professor Mises had successfully done in regard to economics. Though professor Mises repeated again and again, that economics was only the best elaborated part of the deductive science of human action (praxeology), thus clearly laying out his vision of a future deductive treatment of other realms of human action (such as ethics), it was largely due to the influence of professor Rothbard that this program was abandoned in Austrian social theory. Even today, due to professor Rothbard’s enduring mark, influential Austrian-libertarians urge others to ignore the first two hundred pages of Human Action, where professor Mises lays out his breathtaking vision of praxeology, as the deductive science of all human action.

Largely absent from The Ethics of Liberty are any discussion or mention of “ends and means”, or of “formal relations”, social-scientific terms that were present in his Man, Economy & State, when it seems that professor Rothbard was more of a student of professor Mises. Praxeology, as students of Austrian economics will know, is the science of means. In regard to economics, praxeology demonstrates with “apodictic certainty” the necessary effects to specific economic means utilized, such as tariffs, wage controls, and monetary intervention. It didn’t occur to professor Rothbard, that social phenomena such as “coercion” or “deceit” (force and dishonesty) are also “means”. And so he never inquired whether therefore, a deductive science of ethical “means” may also be possible. Professor Rothbard believed that economics and praxeology were largely synonymous, and did not at all believe in the idea of praxeology, as the deductive science of all human action. Proof of this, is that in The Ethics of Liberty, he clearly indicates that the science of natural law, and not praxeology, is to provide the underlying “cause and effect” connections with regard to ethical phenomena, which then are to serve as a guidepost to shaping what ever positive, man-made laws are in existence.

As one who was largely averse to professor Mises’s conception of praxeology, professor Rothbard, in not following or extending Mises’s own deductive, analytical program, did not realize that “scarcity”, akin to the phenomenon of marginal utility, is a formal conception of praxeology. That is, in attempting to attain or acquire any good or state of affairs, the individual actor demonstrates (within the reality of his own action) that such a good or state is “scarce”—for himself. The scarcity is demonstrated, because the actor, in trying to get “more” of something, thus reveals that his current “supply” is not enough. Air itself is not scarce or abundant in the praxeological-formal sense. The individual actor demonstrates to himself that air is “scarce”, by attempting to attain it (such as before a trip up Mt. Everest). Thus, professor Rothbard, and his followers came to see scarcity as a feature of physical reality, and not as a formal concept of social science, since they had largely given up the program of Misean praxeology.

Following from this, Austrian non-economic social theory tries to apply the concept of scarcity to non-economic social phenomena, not realizing that the two most important ethical phenomena of coercion and deceit, are not accurately describable in terms of scarcity. When one person lies to another, it strains credibility to claim that the concept of scarcity plays a central role in the lie. Yet, dishonesty is a recurring human social phenomenon. It is in fact an ethical phenomenon, the kind that ethical social science is supposed to teach us about.

When professor Hoppe writes that the fundamental question of ethics is—what I am here and now rightfully allowed to do and what not—this may be true. But if this is so, then this question is the political question of ethics, and not the scientific question of ethics.

Economics, as social science, attempts to provide a consistent, non-contradictory explanation of what we may call recurring economic phenomenon. Chief among those of course, is the Austrian explanation of the business cycle. But the important lessons of economics address recurring economic phenomenon, and Austrians claim that their explanations of the causes of (the recurring phenomena of) depressions, recessions, unemployment, shortages, etc.. are the scientifically correct ones.

Similarly with ethics. The primary recurring ethical phenomena, especially the ones responsible for the continued suppression of human liberty, are force and dishonesty. Those are the two ethical phenomena responsible for the fact that libertarian society does not exist. They are “recurring” “non-economic” (i.e., “ethical”) phenomena, that the science of ethics provides a consistent, non-contradictory explanation of. Praxeology as deductive social science, instructs on the hidden, non-intended effects of the use of such ethical “means”, in precisely the same way praxeology instructs on the hidden, non-intended utilization of specific economic means. Thus, from a praxeological and social-scientific point of view, the fundamental question of ethics, is whether or not there are apodictically certain consequences to the adoption of specific ethical means such as force and dishonesty, such that the individuals utilizing such means, may act differently if they knew of the certainty of such consequences. This is a different question than the political question as to what any particular individual is allowed to do in any particular circumstance. Contemporary unfamiliarity with this distinction is partially due to professor Rothbard’s having chosen to pursue ethics as an objective science, and not as a logical-deductive science; as a science of “ends” rather than one of “means”.

Professor Hoppe is certainly in a position to characterize Rothbard’s contribution as a political philosopher as essentially a preserver and defender of old, inherited truths. However, this is certainly not an accurate characterization of the chief contribution of Ludwig von Mises. Professor Mises, was the one who glimpsed the vision of a deductive science of all human action. A science of the logic of all human, purposive behavior, whether economic, ethical, or psychological. As such, he was singular and unique in twentieth century, and perhaps world, history. No other social thinker realized that by approaching human action from the standpoint of the “means” adopted for the ends sought, an entire logical-deductive scheme could eventually be constructed, which would eventually benefit mankind by showing the hitherto unintended, but logically necessary consequences to all forms of human action, not just those having to do with exchange ratios (prices) and scarcity.

Professor Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty is one of the most important books in libertarian social thought, not only because of its influence on contemporary Austrian and libertarian thought, but also because it was the most important book turning Austrian and libertarian social thought away from Misean praxeology, and toward an objective-realist approach to ethical phenomena. Whether or not the objective-realist approach to ethics is preferred over the praxeological-subjective approach is a decision for each individual Austrian and libertarian scholar. But it is a fact that the predominance of the objective-realist approach, and the neglect of the praxeological-subjective approach toward ethics, is due in large part to the influence of professor Rothbard and the Ethics of Liberty.

Sam January 11, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Actually I would have guessed that economically scarcity means that which is few in existence relative to the number of people who want it. Hence such people are going to put a high value on such a desirable, yet rare, substance. Private property rights, on the other hand, I would guessed mean owning, in particular, land and buildings from which production of goods and services are created. (I think yous know another term that this definition but I’ll refrain from using it.) And, of course, private property rights also give a benchmark against which theft and fraud can be measured (my stuff versus your stuff).

But I can’t help think what the big deal with some complaints some have against Monarchies. If a Monarch was considered simply a large private land owner who proceded to rent some space out to anyone wanted to farm it and if a rentee failed to keep up with payments then the Monarch could boot the farmer out of the land then isn’t that perfectly compatible with free-market thinking?

Peter January 12, 2007 at 12:17 am

Adam Knott: what the heck are you talking about? Rothbard didn’t “abandon” anything, and nobody ever told anybody to “ignore the first 200 pages of Human Action”. Rest of your nonsense ignored.

Sam: Actually I would have guessed that economically scarcity means that which is few in existence relative to the number of people who want it.

Depending on what you mean by “few”, that’s a corollary of the definition I gave. (Scarcity doesn’t imply extreme rarity)

But I can’t help think what the big deal with some complaints some have against Monarchies. If a Monarch was considered simply a large private land owner

“Considered” by whom? The question is, is this “monarch” the (legitimate) owner of the land in question? If so, then yes, of course, that’s perfectly compatible with “free-market thinking”. The problem is that it’s never the case – how could the monarch come to be the legitimate owner of country-sized areas of land. (Sealand being the one exception I can think of, but most people don’t recognize it)

Roy W. Wright January 12, 2007 at 3:45 am

Despite actually being a country, I wouldn’t call Sealand “country-sized.” :)

As to Adam Knott’s comments on Rothbard’s departure from Mises, I have always had the same feeling when reading about Rothbard’s works. Unfortunately my familiarity with Rothbard’s actual writings is still limited (I’ve been focusing on Mises’ work and what I’ve heard from Rothbard makes me wary of him), but I will be looking into Mr. Knott’s essays with some interest.

Peter January 12, 2007 at 4:30 am

If nothing else, you’d think that if he’d departed from Mises, Mises might have noticed!

Peter January 12, 2007 at 4:53 am
alepuzio January 12, 2007 at 6:06 am

I read this book and I think that this’s the most important book of libertarian thinking in Italian language.
I have understood very well that’s the libertarism and the State’s place in the society and history: the very surprise is the call to ius naturalis because in Italy it’s still strong the juridic positivism (with Bobbio and other).

PS excuse me for my English :)

RogerM January 12, 2007 at 9:41 am

“All elements and principles — every concept, analytical tool, and logical procedure — of Rothbard’s private-property ethic are admittedly old and familiar.”

It seems odd to me that Hoppe would claim this for Rothbard when I can’t find any of the late Scholastics or Protestant natural law writers who denied the right of a state to collect taxes and maintain a monopoly over the use of force for national defense and punishing crime. Rothbard’s assertion of absoluteness for property is novel and departs significantly from that tradition he claims to derive his principles from.

alepuzio January 12, 2007 at 9:58 am

It’s true and Rothard was very conscient of this him depart. In the first chapter he writes that the most great limit of Scholastics and Greek-Roman philosophers was that they thinked that the “Supreme Good” (i.e. Seneca) was the State without to understand or investigate the behaviour of State to citizen.

Björn Lundahl January 12, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Great thinkers can see through customs and traditions. This is also the very essence with a natural law.

The definition of natural law is as Rothbard pointed out in The Ethics of Liberty:

“NATURAL law is discovered by reason from “the basic inclinations of human nature . . . absolute, immutable, and of universal validity for all times and places.”

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/three.asp

Answers.com:

“A law or body of laws that derives from nature and is believed to be binding upon human actions apart from or in conjunction with laws established by human authority.”

“natural law, theory that some laws are basic and fundamental to human nature and are discoverable by human reason without reference to specific legislative enactments or judicial decisions.”

“Natural Law

The unwritten body of universal moral principles that underlie the ethical and legal norms by which human conduct is sometimes evaluated and governed.”

“Natural law

The doctrine that human affairs should be governed by ethical principles that are part of the very nature of things and that can be understood by reason.”

“Natural law has one meaning:

A rule or body of rules of conduct inherent in human nature and essential to or binding upon human society.”

“Natural law (Latin jus naturale) is law that exists independently of the positive law of a given political order, society or nation-state.”

http://www.answers.com/natural+law?gwp=11&ver=2.0.1.458&method=3

Murray Rothbard was, of course, one of those great thinkers. The Ethics of Liberty is one of his great masterpieces.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

M- January 12, 2007 at 7:28 pm

In Defence of Nozick

Professor Hoppe’s article was a truly interesting and illuminating reading, and a most informative assessment of Rothbard’s contribution to political philosophy. Still, without wanting to criticise the author of an otherwise extremely enlightening paper, allow me to disagree with his rather cavalier deprecation of Anarchy, State and Utopia and, more generally, of Robert Nozick’s methodological approach to philosophical inquiry. I don’t mean to contest to any extend the value of Rothbard’s important contribution to the field or of his systematic defence of anarcho-capitalism. However, Hoppe’s treatment and analysis of the allegedly opposite reception of both authors by the academia and of the respective merits of their writings strikes me as rather unfair to Nozick.

First, I have some difficulties in figuring out why anyone would reproach to Nozick’s book to be deliberately kind towards its opponents or to constitute an attempt at reconciling the (notoriously left-leaning) contemporary academic establishment with unpopular libertarian ideas by watering them down. Anarchy is, probably, one of the most radical treatise in political philosophy to date, not only for its definitely unorthodox message but also (precisely) for its un-coercive approach to philosophy. Besides, far from being mild or reconciliatory, the book is truly revolutionary and as such was fiercely decried by philosophers from all persuasions (and now even by libertarians themselves, or so it seems); actually, attacked is the proper word.

Secondly, both the book’s popular success and its recognition as the most persuasive defence of libertarianism in academic circles is easily explained by its audacity, sophistication, strict commitment to logical analysis (here, let me refuse most strongly to go along with Hoppe’s criticism), unwillingness to dodge difficult questions, richness and style. It’s not only a thoroughly pondered and inspiring book; it is extremely provocative, thought-provoking, well written and even great fun to read (contrasting in this the rather dull and indigestible A Theory of Justice of John Rawls). IMHO, it provides the most interesting and creative attempt at reconciling (any form of) state (or quasi-state) power with anarchist principles and respect for individual rights. Also, it never ignores possible challenges or dismisses the merits of competing claims without taking them seriously on board, but underlines the ultimate corollaries of any stance we are ready to embrace.

Thirdly, far from being an evidence of his lack of commitment to the positions he defends, Nozick’s methodology is actually a serious proof of his dedication to freedom. Shouldn’t libertarians (who are essentially opposed to any from of coercion) aim at a non-coercive approach to philosophy? Taking libertarianism seriously, on its own terms, implies leaving every individual to make her own choices for herself, including on matters of ideas and philosophy. As a committed anarchist, I can only respect someone for writing in a way that allows me to think further (on my own and for myself), and for raising a multitude of questions at every step down the road, instead of feeding me with irrefutable ready made answers to any conceivable interrogation.

This is actually one of the chief merits of Nozick’s books. He tackles so many philosophical issues, rigorously questioning all imaginable assumptions, that he makes you contemplate any view you might possibly entertain on any given topic in a different light, picture the consequences of any standpoint you hold, and reflect on new problems you would not even consider in the first place. Apart from being a more consistently libertarian approach to the discipline, this makes for proper philosophy in the Socratic sense of the term, i.e. making people examine their life, the manner in which they live it and the way they think it over. It might also explain why Nozick never even bothered to answer any of the innumerable critics of his work.

Finally, Nozick’s much publicised departure from libertarianism has been widely exaggerated (see, in this respect, for his own account of it, his last interview by Juan Sanchez at http://www.lfb.com/index.php?action=help&helpfile=nozickinterview.html). The differing opinions put forward in The Examined Life might be explained by the book’s avowed endeavour to draw a philosophical portrait, and expose the views and interrogations of a fictive persona (maybe those of the future reader to whom they are addressed? – not unlike a reflection in a mirror). So, they probably shouldn’t be interpreted as an abjuration of the positions defended in Anarchy. Contrastingly, the ethics’ part of Invariances, the last book Nozick wrote, is distinctively and uncompromisingly libertarian (as much so as Anarchy is).

T.G.G.P January 12, 2007 at 9:42 pm

Rothbardians often decry less radical libertarians for not smashing the state or whatnot. Well, what has Rothbard actually accomplished? Not much, it seems to me. He’s got some fans who haven’t smashed the state either, but I doubt anyone became a Rothbardian who wasn’t already a libertarian. There’s no misunderstood math genius who has some incredible proof that everyone just ignores, but that is essentially the role Hoppe wants to cast Rothbard into. Get real.

Peter January 12, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Nobody has any great emotional investment in mathematical results (except, perhaps, the person who came up with them), so there’s no motivation to ignore better results. Not so with politics and economics and religion.

Daniel M. Ryan January 13, 2007 at 1:29 am

Actually, the dichotomy of “I’m ecstatic/everyone else yawns” does incline such a proof to be ignored for a long time, unless a less rarefied use can be seen for it. A lack of any great emotional investment allows for the possibility of no-one seeing any benefit in a proof, too. Mathematicians are, after all, human; if an “incredible proof” is produced for which there is no demand, then it will be ignored for a long time, even if it’s completely correct, which it might not be.

Björn Lundahl January 13, 2007 at 8:29 am

I do believe that theories and facts influence our political views.

I for instance, when I was about 18-19 years old, thought that strong unions were needed to support high wages because otherwise workers would be very poor. I did not like the unions but I just could not tolerate low wages when it was no need for them. I also thought that high wages supported by unions would keep up aggregate demand in times during recessions. In the “interest of society and of my fellow citizens”, it morally and emotionally obliged me to accept the existence of unions. I accepted the unions despite the fact that in Sweden they are connected and involved with the Social Democratic party.

I believed as well, that a large public sector and deficit spending were necessary to combat recessions. Otherwise the depressing 30s would be back again.

To put it in another way:

My love for pure liberty might have been in my heart in my early years, but to accept poverty, depressions and therefore also injustice, just for the sake to uphold this value was too much for me to swallow and the price was too high to bear. I just could not “push the button” for pure liberty and close my eyes to ignore the rest which I have been taught to believe to be true. I was morally obliged to compromise and to analyze my personal subjective trade offs.

Well then, apart from accepting strong unions and a large public sector, I supported a free market. Not so much room left for a free market, though, but still a great difference between my own views and that, for example, of Kenneth Galbraith’s. Politically, I was a conservative.

It was not until I read Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman that my political views gradually changed. Actually, this gradual change also started when I was 19.

So, now there existed a rationale to not accept strong unions and deficit spending and that was Monetarism.

A few years later I read For a New Liberty and The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray Rothbard. Gradually the seeds of those books through the years influenced my political views. If you think something is good, logically true and interesting, you often want to find out more about it, so I read Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises and Man, Economy, and State, by Murray Rothbard, as well.

We all support different and several political values. I support Libertarianism because of liberty, justice and prosperity. Libertarian ethics and Austrian Economics are extremely important rationales to justify such a consistent support.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

T.G.G.P January 13, 2007 at 1:17 pm

I would say that all mathematicians have a great emotional investment in proofs even though society at large does not. This is relevant because Hoppe portrays Nozick as catering to academia, while Rothbard is ignored by them but successful with the practical layman. In math, once something is proven, it stays proven. Math is useful, so it is perilous to ignore it. The same is not the case with philosophy.

Wade McGriff January 13, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Very good point, Adam. First, why would Rothbard, obviously one the most passionate students of Mises, diverge from Mises’ revolutionary methodological approach, praxeology, the science of means? Secondly, why is this divergence never acknowledged by any influential austrian/libertarians? Those here at the Mises Institute know more about Rothbard than I will ever know.

In the introduction to Man, Economy, and State by Joseph Stromberg, Stromberg includes letters Rothbard wrote to various people from 1949 up to it being published in 1962. By reading the excerpts from these letters, the shift from praxeology to an objectivist-realist approach is readily clear. Rothbard laid out the beginnings of his new approach foreshadowing something like the Ethics of Liberty, whereby Mises’ praxeology is completely divorced from ethics.

From a series of progress reports submitted to the Volker Fund in 1952 Rothbard wrote:

“I have come to believe that there can be a science of rational ethics based on human nature and what is good for human nature. This revision of concepts has already resulted in rewriting this appendix. How far this will result in revision is impossible to state at the present time; certainly the general body of praxeological analysis will remain untouched.”

It would seem after an introduction which clearly revealed Rothbard’s beliefs at the time, that an introduction to the Ethics of Liberty might address the issue of Rothbard’s departure from the Misean Methodology even more so, maybe with some letters also.

The core of the Ethics of Liberty is based upon Rothbard’s theories on property rights and their derivation from his axiom “man acts”. In my opinion, Rothbard’s approach never tells us what must be the case in regard to ethical phenomenon, but, rather, what should be the case. This is obviously acknowledged by both Rothbard and his followers, but that doesn’t change that which is necessary.

In order for us as acting beings, to understand ethical phenomenon and what is harmful to us in regard to ethical phenomenon, we will not get there by stating what should be the case, but discovering what is. So the question comes down to whether or not this can be discovered, and just because Rothbard ruled it out, does not mean we all have to rule it out.

Is coercion not a means, just as harmful economics laws such as minimum wage and policies of monetary inflation are means? Just as Mises pointed out to the world that these means can’t achieve certain ends, can we not point out why means such as coercion can’t achieve certain ends?

This is obviously an important question for the science of human action, but not any question that positive ethics will ever have to answer.

Björn Lundahl January 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm

If we were going to discover objective ethical norms with the use of reason, it would be a quite funny thing if we started to analyze the basic inclinations of the nature of ants, grasshoppers, plants, giraffes, elephants etc. As this would not be a successful inquiry, the nature of man must at least be implicitly assumed to exist and, therefore, to be studied in such an examination.

Ethical norms and rights are also, only, related to the species man. The proof of this is that “if man did not exist nor would any ethical norms and rights persist”.

In other words, ethical norms and rights by themselves, reveals the existence of a nature of man.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

David White January 13, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Bjorn,

Wonderfuly put, as this nature manifests itself over time, in the reasonableness of the social process. As E. O. Wilson put it:

“Ethical precepts are very unlikely to be ethereal messages awaiting revelation, or independent truths vibrating in a nonmaterial dimension of the mind. They are more likely to be products of the brain and the culture. From the consilient perspective, they are no more than principles of the social contract hardened into rules and dictates — the behavioral codes that members of a society fervently wish others to follow and are themselves willing to accept for the common good. Precepts are the extreme on a scale of agreements that range from the casual assent, to public sentiment, to law, to that part of the canon considered sacred and unalterable. … Among traits with documented heritability, those closest to moral aptitude are empathy with the distress of others and certain processes of attachment between infants and their caregivers. To the heritability of moral aptitude add the abundant evidence of history that cooperative individuals generally survive longer and leave more offspring. Following that reasoning, in the course of evolutionary history genes predisposing people toward cooperative behavior would have come to predominate in the human population as a whole. Such a process repeated through thousands of generations inevitably gave rise to moral sentiments.” — The Biological Basis of Morality

Björn Lundahl January 13, 2007 at 6:10 pm

David White

Very interesting!

Björn Lundahl

Björn Lundahl January 14, 2007 at 5:04 am

Life and self-ownership

Mark Humphrey

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.”

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap1sec1.asp

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.”

http://www.answers.com/Praxeology?gwp=11&ver=2.0.1.458&method=3

Further:

The Ethics of Liberty, page 45:

Footnote:

“[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.”

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/eight.asp

Or in my own words from the essay “Normative principles”:

“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:

“Everybody owns themselves and their Justly owned 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.”

http://normativeprinciples.blogspot.com/2006/12/normative-principles-pure-free-market_10.html

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 14, 2007 at 5:13 am

An Animated Introduction to the Philosophy of Liberty:

http://www.isil.org/resources/introduction.html

The animation in full-sized window:

http://www.isil.org/resources/introduction.swf

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 14, 2007 at 5:14 am

If we were going to discover objective ethical norms with the use of reason, it would be a quite funny thing if we started to analyze the basic inclinations of the nature of ants, grasshoppers, plants, giraffes, elephants etc. As this would not be a successful inquiry, the nature of man must at least be implicitly assumed to exist and, therefore, to be studied in such an examination.

Ethical norms and rights are also, only, related to the species man. The proof of this is that “if man did not exist nor would any ethical norms and rights persist”.

In other words, ethical norms and rights by themselves, reveals the existence of a nature of man.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Michael A. Clem January 14, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Interesting comments, one and all. Looking for Rothbard’s divergence from Mises will be a helpful guidepost in studying his works. But it also brings up an important point. Mises, Rothbard, and yes, even Rand, had good things to say (and bad things to say). Instead of assuming that one or the other must be right and the others wrong, can we not try to synthesize their comments and organize/enhance their strengths while dismissing or correcting their weaknesses?In short, a systematic clean-up and re-organization?
I would agree that Nozick’s book is full of merit, specifically for responding to Rawls, and less specifically for enhancing the importance of ethical means (“side-constraints”) towards reaching ethical goals. And also, even though he argued for a minimal state in the second half of the book, he argued from a foundational base of anarchism (anarchism as the default condition), which made anarchism seem much more viable and likely than most people who view some sort of state as a default condition.
I would also object that being “forced” to a conclusion is hardly coercion in any libertarian sense, however, more people may more readily embrace an idea if a softer approach is used, and then they will be more amenable to logical argumentation to support the idea. Robert Paul Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism is great for dealing with forms of democracy, but terrible at actually arguing for anarchism, because it’s clear that he doesn’t really believe in it (as well as that his understanding of economics seems rather weak and undermines his argument).

Wild Pegasus January 14, 2007 at 4:40 pm

EOL wasn’t ignored because its description of anarchy scared the philsophical establishment. EOL was ignored because it’s a laughably bad work of philosophy.

Rothbard spends most of EOL talking about applying private property absolutism to various questions, to the point where the book quickly becomes both predictable and absurd. What Rothbard never does is lay out a good reason why private property absolutism is correct. The interesting question is not “How do I apply private property absolutism?” but “Why should I apply private property absolutism?” Since EOL doesn’t even attempt to answer that question, the philosophical world was right to ignore it.

- Josh

Björn Lundahl January 14, 2007 at 5:13 pm

The Austrian Economics Newsletter

Austrians and the Private-Property Society

An Interview with Hans-Hermann Hoppe

AEN: In applying this a priori approach to ethics, were you attempting to supplant natural rights.

HOPPE: No, not at all. I was attempting to make the first two chapters of Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty stronger than they were*. That in turn would provide more weight to everything that followed. I had some dissatisfaction with rigor with which the initial ethical assumptions of libertarian political theory had been arrived at. Intuitively, they seemed plausible. But I could see that a slightly different approach might be stronger. Murray never considered my revisions to be a threat. His only concern was: does this ultimately make the case? Ultimately, he agreed that it did.

http://mises.org/journals/aen/aen198.asp

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

http://mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf

And to:

http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/econ-ethics-10.pdf

*Now I know Hoppe’s motive, before I guessed it. He has confirmed my speculation. Hoppe is really something!

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

averros January 14, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Wild Pegasus – you must have flunked math in your school years. It is so boring and predictable, and above of all it is so ABSOLUTIST!

Just in case you missed learning basics of logic, I have to remind that well-formed statements are either true or not (if they or their negations can be logically derived at all from the axioms given). There is no “non-absolutist” middle; not if you use the premier tool of reason: logic.

Rothbard’s achievement is that he brought the precision of logic to bear on ethics. In doing so he established the number of statements which can be attacked ONLY by demonstrating specific errors in the logic used in derivation of these statements (which is going to be hard, in my informed opinion) or by challenging his axiomatics (i.e. facts from the real world which are used as statements needing no logical proof).

Attacking his work on the grounds of being absolutist is merely an admission of inability to think straight.

Wild Pegasus January 14, 2007 at 7:04 pm

In a treatise about private property absolutism, I expect the proponent to establish why private property absolutism is correct. Rothbard didn’t. The rest is a collection of absurd-beyond-parody footnotes.

I have nothing against private property absolutism as a philosophy, but if you’re going to write a treatist about applying it, you should start with why it should be applied.

- Josh, math minor

Björn Lundahl January 14, 2007 at 7:31 pm

I forgot to mention that above two links that I have posted will lead to PDF files written by Hans-Hermann Hoppe and that they logically proves a libertarian ethic.

I do think that it is possible to argue that The Ethics of Liberty provides a lot of logical evidence but could have provided more. Hans-Hermann Hoppe has, in that case, filled the gap.

It is also possible to argue that The Ethics of Liberty provides enough evidence by itself. It is a matter of where to draw the line.

We must not forget that it is the logical validity of the arguments that counts.

We cannot ask, for example, economists if 100% gold reserve money standard is a good thing or if the book Human Action is a good economics book. We cannot find the truth by doing that. It is always and only, the logical validity of the arguments that possibly can give us the answer and nothing else. Anything else is only a naive way of looking at it.

Just in case, I will post above mentioned links again:

The Ethics and Economics of Private Property:

http://mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf

ON THE ULTIMATE JUSTIFICATION OF THE ETHICS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY:

http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/econ-ethics-10.pdf

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

averros January 15, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Wild Pegasus –

looks like you didn’t understand what I said.

You can attack logical statement only by showing the specific error in its derivation.

Just waving hands and running around saying “I’m not convinced” is the same as saying “I do not understand”. If you understand an argument and see that it is false then you can provide specific reason *why* it is false.

If you can’t, then you cannot claim that the statements derived withing these arguments are false. Even if wish that very very hard.

And, no, for any scientific theory (including Rothbard’s theory of natural law) there is no need to explain why the theory should be applied. In science, theories do not describe how things should be, they describe how things are.

You can always choose to ignore any theory and try to do things differently than advised by that theory to achieve the results you want (i.e. you can always ignore the theory of gravitation – the theory itself does not say that you ought to use it) – but then you shouldn’t be surprised that results do not match your expectations.

If you ignore gravitation in such way you run a chance of breaking your neck. If you ignore Rothbardian ethics, you shouldn’t be surprised to see other people regarding you as an apologet of thievery and slavery. Or simply as a person with insufficient mental capacity to understand why it is so.

RogerM January 15, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Bjorn:”We must not forget that it is the logical validity of the arguments that counts.”

Averros:”You can attack logical statement only by showing the specific error in its derivation.”

Lot’s of opposing philosophies can have internal consistency and not commit logical fallacies. Marxism does that quite well. Where Marx is wrong is in his beginning assumptions.

Rothbard’s derives the necessity of property from the idea of self-ownership, but not that it’s an absolute right and not that it’s the only right that we should derive from self-ownership. The right to life is one right that real natural law has held as higher than property, that is until Rothbard’s novel interpretatiion. So how does Rothbard, or how would you guys, offer proof that Rothbard’s assumption of the absoluteness of property rights is a valid assumption? (Wild Pegasus doesn’t need me to interpret his posts, but I think that’s what he’s getting at?)

San January 15, 2007 at 11:25 pm

Can anyone be sure that one system is automatically better than another system? Of course, whilst there are blatantly crap ones (yes it’d take a starry-eyed wishful thinker to believe that Communism is salvageable), are other systems OK provided everyone abides by the system? In other words, it doesn’t matter whether folks drive on the left side of the road or the right side? We’re fine as long as we all agree to one side and stick with it?

Similarly, how can one prove the right to human life itself to be automatically natural? If everyone abides by a slave-owning society and everyone knows their place can such a society flourish? (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? 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?

Interestingly, if the statistic that there’s about one chook to every person then that means there’s some 6 billion chooks in the world. That, by rights, means that nowadays there are more chooks now then there were Passenger Pigeons at their height. Since chooks derive their value by being put to work and become populous whereas the Passenger Pigeon was free but hunted into extinction, does this mean that individual freedom may be overrated?

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 2:37 am

If we want to logical prove anything we must have an axiomatic premise*, the starting point in other words, must be axiomatic. A real, true and scientific natural law is based upon this. Life is such a premise and self-ownership too. If we choose life or self-ownership as a starting point does not matter as both are axiomatic premises.

Without self-ownership, no debate could be made as we would not own ourselves and would not have the right to debate. But we are debating and this presupposes self-ownership. I want to add, that man and human life would not exist without any self-ownership; since any action would not be allowed.

Without self-ownership, property rights does not exist either.

A quote from Hoppe´s book The Ethics and Economics of Private Property:

“Furthermore, it would be equally impossible to engage in argumentation and rely on the propositional force of one’s arguments if one were not allowed to own (exclusively control) other scarce means (besides one’s body and its standing room). If one did not have such a right, then we would all immediately perish and the problem of
justifying rules – as well as any other human problem – would simply not exist. Hence, by virtue of the fact of being alive property rights to other things must be presupposed as valid, too. No one who is alive can possibly argue otherwise.”

http://mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf

In other words, self-ownership and property rights are the very condition for life just as, for example, oxygen is.

By being alive we cannot argue against the existence of oxygen.

Analogically, by being alive, we cannot argue against self-ownership and property rights.

As I have mentioned we could alternatively choose life as a starting point and the conclusion would be the same. Without property rights, human life would not exist (as Hoppe also above has mentioned). By being alive we can not argue against life and therefore not either property rights.

*Answers.com:

prem•ise (prÄ•m’Ä­s)

n. also prem•iss (prÄ•m’Ä­s)

1. A proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.
2. Logic.

a. One of the propositions in a deductive argument.
b. Either the major or the minor proposition of a syllogism, from which the conclusion is drawn.

http://www.answers.com/premise

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 3:00 am

I also want to mention the following:

From the axiomatic premises “life or self-ownership”, property rights are the only rights which logically can be derived from those starting points.

As I have said “life or self-ownership” cannot exist without property rights.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 3:18 am

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

If you think life is unnatural, do not choose life, but you are obviously alive so what is your point?

Animals do not logically have any rights. I have posted this twice. It is a rational proof and I will post it again:

If we were going to discover objective ethical norms with the use of reason, it would be a quite funny thing if we started to analyze the basic inclinations of the nature of ants, grasshoppers, plants, giraffes, elephants etc. As this would not be a successful inquiry, the nature of man must at least be implicitly assumed to exist and, therefore, to be studied in such an examination.
Ethical norms and rights are also, only, related to the species man. The proof of this is that “if man did not exist nor would any ethical norms and rights persist”.

In other words, ethical norms and rights by themselves, reveals the existence of a nature of man.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Sam January 16, 2007 at 4:53 am

To Björn Lundahl:

Is it me or did you to say that we need self-ownership and property right to live at all? Animals and plants, I doubt, would be credited to having any higher notion of self-ownership or property right and yet survive and procreate. Simiarly, you gave a defition of ‘premise’ but the word that is more dubious is ‘axiom’. Axiom seems to imply you already know the conclusion and you proceed to try to prove what you already believe to be true. In science folks would complain that then nothing has been proven as you are engaging in a circular style of reasoning. I guess I’d have to ask what are your definitions of ‘self-ownership’ and ‘property rights’ are. Especially when I have to wonder how the word ‘natural’ is used as well. The fact that there are few society that would come close to be declared ‘free’ or ‘Libertarian’ means that such premises would not be natural as they did not happen automatically but rather people had to make a conscious choice to go against the norms of other societies and do something different.

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 5:46 am

Life as a value is an axiomatic value that no one in a debate logically can deny as this value is the very condition for the debate and the participators existence.

I quote from the book “The Ethics of Liberty”, written by Murray Rothbard, page 29:

“It may well be asked why life should be an objective ultimate value, why man should opt for life (in duration and quality). In reply; we may note that a proposition rises to the status of an axiom when he who denies it may be shown to be using it in the very course of the supposed refutation. Now, any person participating in any sort of discussion, including one on values, is, by virtue of so participating, alive and affirming life. For if he were really opposed to life, he would have no business in such a discussion, indeed he would have no business continuing to be alive. Hence, the supposed opponent of life is really affirming it in the very process of his discussion, and hence the preservation and furtherance of one’s life takes on the stature of an incontestable axiom”.

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/six.asp

This is also confirmed with Ludwig von Mises statement in his book, “Human Action”, page 11:

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

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap1sec1.asp

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Björn Lundahl January 16, 2007 at 6:07 am

Normative principles

A pure free market is based upon the axiomatic principle “that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else”.
This is the very principle which the courts and the legal system should follow.

How do we know that this principle is an axiomatic principle?

I quote from the book “For a New Liberty”, written by Murray Rothbard, page 45:

“THE CENTRAL THRUST of libertarian thought, then, is to oppose any and all aggression against the property rights of individuals in their own persons and in the material objects they have voluntarily acquired. While individual and gangs of criminals are of course opposed, there is nothing unique here to the libertarian creed, since almost all persons and schools of thought oppose the exercise of random violence against persons and property”.

http://mises.org/rothbard/newliberty3.asp

So, generally, all persons and schools of thought oppose the exercise of random violence against persons and property.

Above statement is an answer why the principle is an axiomatic one. But this is not the only reason. There are rational ones as well.

Life as a value is an axiomatic value that no one in a debate logically can deny as this value is the very condition for the debate and the participators existence.

I quote from the book “The Ethics of Liberty”, written by Murray Rothbard, page 29:

“It may well be asked why life should be an objective ultimate value, why man should opt for life (in duration and quality). In reply; we may note that a proposition rises to the status of an axiom when he who denies it may be shown to be using it in the very course of the supposed refutation. Now, any person participating in any sort of discussion, including one on values, is, by virtue of so participating, alive and affirming life. For if he were really opposed to life, he would have no business in such a discussion, indeed he would have no business continuing to be alive. Hence, the supposed opponent of life is really affirming it in the very process of his discussion, and hence the preservation and furtherance of one’s life takes on the stature of an incontestable axiom”.
http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/six.asp

This is also confirmed with Ludwig von Mises statement in his book, “Human Action”, page 11:

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

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap1sec1.asp

Which principles are an objective condition for preserving the human race and human life?

To objective examine if something is a condition for something else, we have to mentally grasp a state of things, where the supposed condition doesn’t exist anywhere and at all.

For example, if we suppose that the existence of oxygen is a condition for the preservation of the human race, we grasp a state of things, where oxygen doesn’t exist anywhere on earth. If we would let some oxygen exist somewhere on earth, then we couldn’t make a valid conclusion. We wouldn’t know if oxygen were a condition for preserving human life. To make a valid conclusion we have to grasp where oxygen doesn’t exist anywhere and at all. Under this condition we can, naturally, conclude that no human life would exist. We can, because of this reason conclude that oxygen is a condition for the preservation of the human race. We can also conclude that when we objectively examined as we just did, if oxygen was a condition for preserving human life, we would be bound to take under consideration the whole reality and not only some parts of it. We wouldn’t let oxygen exist somewhere on earth, because if we had done so, we wouldn’t have grasped the effects, under consideration, to the whole situation (the whole reality), and our conclusion would therefore have been invalid.

We can only make one choice, either we take under consideration some parts of reality or we take under consideration the whole reality. Reason and logic tell us that if we take under consideration the whole reality, this will reflect the truth, because we can’t consider anything more absolute and perfect. This procedure is an axiomatic procedure.

Is “the principle of physical violence” a condition for the preservation of the human race?

To examine this principle under consideration of what has already been said about the procedure of finding out conditions, we have to grasp a state of things where the principle of none physical violence doesn’t exist anywhere and at all. If we let some people live by the principle of none violence, a procedure which we have just discarded, then we wouldn’t make a valid conclusion. Logically we are bound to let all people live by the principle of physical violence. Because of this fact the human race and life would immediately exterminate.

We can therefore conclude “that the principle of physical violence” is a condition for the preservation of human extermination and that “the principle of none physical violence” is the condition for human preservation.

We can also conclude, that human life wouldn’t exist, if the principle of “not to have the right to use threat of physical violence” didn’t exist.

If we grasp a state of things where this principle doesn’t exist, anywhere and at all, everyone would be threatening everyone else. Nobody would be able to live and fulfil their needs and dreams. Action to preserve ones life would be an impossible mission.

Not anybody would dare to act because if this anybody did, someone would always be threatening this anybody. A perfect static situation would occur and the human race would immediately exterminate.

Our conclusion will therefore be that “the principle of threat of physical violence” is a condition for the human extermination, and “the principle of none threat of physical violence”, is a condition for the preservation of human life.

As life is an axiomatic value which we want to preserve, it is also logically true that we axiomatically want to preserve the principle which is a condition for life, namely “the principle of none physical violence (including not to have the right to use threat of physical violence)”.

Let us now examine if “the right to steal” is a condition of the preservation of human life.

If we want to define what objective theft is, we will have to define property rights, based on an axiomatic Justice.

If we consider what has already been said in this document, we can also understand that an axiomatic Justice is those principles which are a condition for the preservation of the human race. Unjust are those principles which are a condition for the preservation of the human extermination.

Just property rights are, therefore, those property rights which are conditions for the preservation human life. Unjust are those property rights which are conditions for the preservation of human extermination.

In order to survive, man cannot live alone in an environment which is free from physical violence. To survive and prosper man has to use his reason and energy to transform nature into useful things. Man lives and prospers because he is a creative animal.

We can therefore conclude that creation in itself is a condition for the preservation of the human race.

We can therefore conclude that Just property rights are those rights which preserve man’s creative efforts.

In order to define these property rights we will have to grasp a state of things when man, for the first time, enters this world of ours. This because we want to define original property rights based on Justice. In order to define property rights based on Justice, we don’t want either to be deluded by existing potential unjust property rights. Only, in a state of things where no man, yet, has owned anything, we don’t take the risk of being deluded.

When the first man, for example, broke a branch and made himself a bow, the title of property of this creation was also his. Why does the title of the property (the bow) belong to this man? Because man is a purposeful agent and if man doesn’t own his original creation and the results of his actions, he won’t act.

Let us examine if the last statement is objective and true.

We examine and grasp a state of things, in accordance with the mentioned procedure to examine objectively if something is a condition for something else, through not letting the examined principle be existent anywhere at all.

We grasp a state of things where the following principle is none existent anywhere at all: “the originators right to the objects which he through action, has created”. Everyone would be stealing anyone’s creation and the human race would immediately exterminate.

This proves that man is a purposeful agent and when his motivation exterminates, he stops acting at once.

This is also the objective reason why theft is a condition for the preservation of human extermination, and that the principle of none theft, the originators creation in accordance with the above reasoning, is the condition for the preservation of human life.

Let us now define Justly owned property rights to land.

Man doesn’t create land but he acts and creates on, in and out of land.

Also here we examine a state of things when man for the first time, enters this world. When, then, the first man enters the untouched land, and creates by action on or in or out of land, then this part of the land which he has now touched, belongs to him. Why the first man? If the first man doesn’t have the property right to this part of the land, nor does individual number two, three, four, five etc have the right to the land, and while they are waiting for the last man who hasn’t yet entered this world, man will quickly perish.

If we grasp a state of things, where the following principle is none existent anywhere and at all (this objective test is, of course, in line with our reasoning about such a procedure for finding out a condition for something else):

“When someone creates by action on or out of land, then this part which he has now touched belongs to him”.

This would mean that everyone would be stealing anyone’s Justly owned land, that is as soon as someone starts creating by action on or in or out of land, someone else would have the right to the land in question and the human race would immediately exterminate.

We can conclude that the condition for the extermination of the human race is to preserve the principle “the right to steal the land which the first man has touched and created on or in or out”. Our conclusion will also therefore only be that the condition for the preservation of the human race is that no man ever should have such a right.

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:

“Everybody owns themselves and their Justly owned 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.

Now, then, we haven’t ended our definition of Justly owned property rights until we have analyzed the right to make contracts. We will have to examine the right to make contracts, because, sooner or later the owners of Justly owned property will trade with each other. Sooner or later disputes will occur among the trading partners and then, we will have to know, the rights the trading partners have to the property and which the dispute among them is all about.

Some economist argues that the Justification for the right to make contracts is that the right promotes economic prosperity.

It is true that most of us want economic prosperity, but this is not an axiomatic Justification for the right o make contracts. “Economic prosperity” is not an axiomatic value. As we want to be objective, this argument is not good enough.

Some individuals argue that trading partners have an “agreement” and this is the reason why contracts should be legally binding. Why should such an agreement be legally binding if one of the partners wants to change his mind? Why shouldn’t we respect such a change of man’s will? Why should an earlier manifestation of a man’s will be considered proper and Just and a later manifestation of a changed will be regarded as improper and unjust? Where is the objective Justification? Where is the logical point of view? To argue that the trading partners “knew what they got into and that is why “agreements” should be legally binding”, is, of course, nonsense. It only proves that agreements are artificial constructions which haven’t anything to do with axiomatic principles founded in the nature of things.

The Justification for binding contracts is not that they are “agreements or for that reason are contracts”, but for the reason that we can derive, because of them, Justly owned property titles. “The right to make contracts” is not a right in itself which can objectively be defended as such, but is an expression which symbolizes the interpretations to derive Justly owned property rights and if theft has been done or not.
This is the title transfer theory of contracts, see also Murray Rothbard´s excellent book “The Ethics of Liberty”, chapter 19:

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/nineteen.asp

On what base can this interpretation be related to contracts and Justly owned property titles? This we can conclude because of the reason that contracts only confirm exchange of original Just titles to property (in accordance with above definitions of original Just titles to property), that is the transferring of Just property titles between the trading partners.

The reason that a property title will be transferred from one person to another is that the original property owner has renounced his Justly owned property title to be transferred to another person, and we can only, because of this, make the interpretation that the property title has been transferred. In other words, it is the renunciation of the Justly owned property title in itself, which is the very cause to the ending of the original property owner’s title to the property and the transferring of the title to the new owner, which the original property owner has renounced his property title to.

Logic and reason tells us what has been renounced and transferred, in fact, also is renounced and transferred. For what has been done cannot be undone.

Logically a man cannot renounce his right to self-ownership, 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 he will still be so even if he has “tried” o renounce his natural self-ownership to another person. He cannot renounce something which is a biological and physical fact of his very own life and which will never, as long as he lives, leave him.

In other words, we cannot interpret with the help of reason that the supposed slave’s natural self-ownership has been transferred to another person which the supposed slave has tried to renounce his self-ownership to.

We can therefore conclude that this fact of natural self-ownership, always, logically, neutralizes every attempt to renounce it.

Another logical confirmation of this fact is that when we in this document concluded that none physical violence and none theft preserves human life, we wouldn’t make such a conclusion if we didn’t control our minds and bodies. We wouldn’t be able to make such a conclusion, since we wouldn’t control ourselves and either would life exist, in a state of things, when everyone had the legal right to fully use his self-ownership, that is, in other words, in a state of things where physical violence and theft is none existent at all.

In regard to what has now been said we can conclude that it is objectively true that every man is a Just property owner in his own right. Because of this, slave contracts should not be legally binding, as their existence is only a” legalization” of physical violence. If we would neglect this fact, we would violate the principle of self-ownership and be using physical violence and also, because of this, violating the condition for the preservation of human life.

It is true that the possibility to make contracts and to trade is the very foundation for specialization and spurs creative processes which accounts for a very large part of man’s creative efforts. To “legally” hinder the enforcement of contracts and therefore also trade, would not only mean extreme poverty, but also death to most individuals on earth.

The enforcement of contracts, in accordance with our definition, we can conclude, is the condition for preserving these creative processes among individuals. Other definitions of contracts, which are only some sorts of agreements, (really, only different grades of slave contracts) should not, as have been pointed out, be legally binding. These illegitimate contracts include only those destructive seeds that violates the condition for the preservation of the human race, namely the “principle of none physical violence and none theft”, and because of this fact alone, they don’t include those productive processes which account for a very large part of man’s creative efforts.

We have now ended our definition of Justly owned property rights.

We have established that human life is preserved by the condition “that no man shall have the right to use physical violence and theft”.

Our conclusion will therefore be that the principle “that no man shall have the right to use physical violence and theft” is synonymous with our definition “that no man shall have the right to violate the rightful ownership in person and property”.

We can establish that the absolute and perfect condition for the human extermination is the none existence of the principle “that no man shall have the right to violate the rightful ownership in person and property”, and we can also conclude that the absolute and perfect condition to preserve the human race is the none existence of any violations.

Isolated violations of the principle are therefore absolutely perfect, destructive actions which undermine the condition and the preservation of the human race, since the very existence of these destructive actions deviate from the absolutely perfect condition for the preservation of the human race.

As life is an axiomatic value which we want to preserve, it is also logically true that we axiomatically want to preserve the principle which is a condition for life, namely “that no man shall have the right to use physical violence and theft” or in other words,” that no man shall have the right to violate the rightful ownership in person and property”.

Alternatively, an axiomatic end (human life) is preserved by an axiomatic mean (“that no man shall have the right to use physical violence and theft”).

As we cannot, logically, deny life, as long as we chose living, we cannot either, logically, deny its axiomatic condition i.e. its axiomatic mean.

If we take under consideration what has been concluded in this document, we can also conclude that another meaning of the principle of none violations, is that the principle also brings an absolutely perfect opportunity for the survival of human life. This means that the principle brings a totally perfect opportunity for the survival of all human beings.

As it is true that the principle is a totally perfect condition and a totally perfect preservation of human life, it also logically follows that the principle brings a totally perfect opportunity for the survival of all human beings.

This can also be proved by the fact that everyone’s violation of the principle (total physical violence and theft) brings an absolutely perfect impossibility for the survival of any human beings.

In the “philosophical debate” Liberty, as all values, is seen as a subjective value. This opinion may seem as a confirmation of the reality. There are vast political values. Liberty seems to be only one of these subjective values. But it is a superficial believes.

The reason for this is that we have established that everyone’s violation of the principle brings an absolutely perfect impossibility for the survival of any human beings. This means that we all would be, by objective means coerced to die that is objectively coerced to not “value and wanting to preserve our own lives”.

Isolated violations of the principle are totally destructive because they totally undermine by objective coercion our possibilities and opportunities to “value and wanting to preserve our own lives”.

Ethical conclusions in this document, I believe, are in agreement with some ethical conclusions that the giant Hans-Hermann Hoppe has done.
Please read some of his excellent writing from the book “The Ethics and Economics of Private Property”:

http://mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf

And to:

ON THE ULTIMATE JUSTIFICATION OF THE ETHICS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY:

http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/econ-ethics-10.pdf

Principles derived from the ethics concluded in this document, are exposed in the masterpiece that I have already mentioned and that is “The Ethics of Liberty” written by Murray Rothbard, please read his book:

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp

Remarks:

“All human beings act by virtue of their existence and their nature as human beings. We could not conceive of human beings who do not act purposefully, who have no ends in view that they desire and attempt to attain. Things that did not act, that did not behave purposefully, would no longer be classified as human.”

Murray Rothbard, “Fundamentals of human action” (praxeology)

An axiomatic Justice

In the political debate all political parties proposes some different ends (values or goals).

These ends or, alternatively, values are subjective such as “building more motorways”, “women’s liberation”, “social equality”, “social security”, “prosperity”, “making America great again”, “combating inflation”, “joining the EU” etc.

To accomplish those goals there are also debates on how to achieve them (debates about the means). The means are almost always subjective i.e. the ends can be achieved in different ways.

To realize an axiomatic Justice I have chosen, in my above essay “Normative principles”, life as a value as an end by itself.

I have also shown that this end “life as a value” or alternatively, human life, is preserved objectively by the mean “that no man shall have the right to use physical violence and theft”.

As this objective mean preserves an axiomatic value and as this mean is derived from an axiomatic value, the whole system is an axiomatic system.

The final result is: “an axiomatic end is preserved by an axiomatic mean”.

As we cannot, logically, deny life, as long as we chose living, we cannot either, logically deny its axiomatic condition i.e. its axiomatic mean.

Björn Lundahl
Göteborg, Sweden

Sam January 16, 2007 at 7:00 am

Er, um, eck. Can I vile and rude in asking Björn Lundahl was that very large last post a copy and paste from Libertarian Canon? Or you have the gift of composing large essays and if English is your second language you must have a very high IQ! (your IQ would have to be twice mine)

Well here’s my two cents about my definition of certain terms (as a help to see if I’m working from a different base here or something):

1. Self-ownership – Does that mean making decisions without coercion or duress?

2. Property rights – Since the term property ownership has had a long legal tradition it could be shown that in the Western patriarchal societies women have had no right to claim personal ownership until the 1900s. Actually I thought the definition of property is indeed a legal term for ownership of important items such as land, buildings, factories, etc.

3. Natural xxxx – Anything I’d regard as ‘natural’ is that which happens/happened of its own course without interference. If someone is regarded as naturally strong that means that person has great strength thanks to the dumb luck of birth. On the other hand, if someone became strong through hard work and dedication then that strength might be termed ‘earned’.

Some others concerns:

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

2. You also keep talking of bi-polar absolute values: if we don’t follow the Liberation path we’ll all die in no time. Yet it’s hard to prove that much of human history has been Libertarian. People like assembling in tribes in which niceness is best observed if the tribe is to survive. However tribes are quite happy to conflict with other tribes over land and resources. The demise of one tribe (or the subjugation therof) benefits the winning tribe with more resources to enrich and enlarge themselves. Quite frankly the whole of human history has been one of tribal conflicts. The fact U.S. Libertarians consistently ignore the previous existence of Native American tribes when talking of their property rights begs questions. Similarly, to be even more morbid, is the question that when too many people seem to get together, conflict seems to spontaneously break out? Is war an antitode to overpopulation? That if we were all peaceful then we’d quickly overrun our food and water supply and die off? (Actually many have commented that the population explosion starting around 1850 was due to the disappearance of infectious fatal diseases of yesteryears and actually diseases culled far more human beings than war)

To conclude my long-winded claptrap I’d say Libertarianism is a personal philosophy of invidualistic socio/economic freedom based on the notion of the rugged individual. And it’d be nice if everyone followed it, of course. But then there’s the problem of if people kept breaking rank from time-to-time and returned to assembling into tribes and started conflicts with other tribes then Libertarianism becomes another snuffed -ism.

ktibuk January 16, 2007 at 7:10 am

“It was in his Ethics of Liberty, that professor Rothbard essentially disavowed Misean praxeology as a legitimate method and approach to the subject of ethics.”

Of course he did because it is impossible to use praxeological analysis regarding ethics.

The reason is ethics must come first. There has to be some kind of ethics before you can actually start a praxeolgical analysis. Praxeology needs ends, and ethics, whether based on natural objective law, religion or personal whim is the thing that gives you ends.

Also I believe Rand influenced Rothbard a lot. I believe the difference between Rand and Rothbard is actually Mises and his logical rigour.

Although Rand in theory held logic very high, she wasnt as good as Rothbard in applying it.

Rothbard was an economist that used logic before he got into ethics. He was more trained or fit for it one might say. And I believe he owed that to Mises.

Logic is the basis of every actual action on this earth but it gets harder to apply when causal relations get longer down the line, and more complex.

I actually think it would be wonderful if Rand and Rothbard had’nt parted ways so early.

David White January 16, 2007 at 7:14 am

Sam, you’re confusing libertarianism with Randianism, as the latter is where you’ll find the “rugged individual.” Libertarianism, on the other hand, is entirely about the individual in relation to society, with the understanding that

“Society is concerted action, cooperation…the outcome of conscious and purposeful behavior. … Individual man is born into a socially organized environment. In this sense alone we may accept the saying that society is — logically and historically — antecedent to the individual. In every other sense this dictum is either empty or nonsensical. The individual lives and acts within society. But society is nothing but the combination of individuals for cooperative effort.” — Human Action

If you did your homework, Sam, this site would be spared your “long-winded claptrap.”

Sam January 16, 2007 at 8:03 am

That definition of society sounds pretty much one of intra-tribal cooperation. As I said before intra-tribal relations tend to be cooperative and any non-niceities tend to be punished. But, come on, we know that inter-tribal relation tend to be one of conflict. The fact is that a great many Westerners, including myself, live in the New World. Hence how many people have benefitted from the ousting of tribes in North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, etc. These continents nowadays are now home to hundreds of millions of people. Whereas the ‘old’ New World only held tens of millions before. This would a example (a cringe one perhaps) that sometimes rather assertive behaviour gets results.

David White January 16, 2007 at 8:19 am

Sam, there is nothing “intra-tribal” about Mises’ understanding of society, nor is libertarianism thus limited in scope. On the contrary, the non-aggression principle is abided by as a matter of course in society today, as countless millions of people go about their business with no thought of aggressing against their fellow citizens.

A small percentage do, of course, but this is nothing in comparison to the daily aggression that is the state, in what amounts to a cold war of intervention in every aspect of society.

And notwithstanding your belief that this same entity is necessary to preserve order, the fact is that, as Proudhon said, “Liberty is the Mother, Not the Daughter” of the only kind of order that matters: the creative order that society is alone capable of generating.

RogerM January 16, 2007 at 9:43 am

Bjorn:”In other words, self-ownership and property rights are the very condition for life just as, for example, oxygen is.”

Varying degrees of property rights have existed throughout history. Real property rights didn’t begin until the Dutch Republic. Native Americans had very few property rights. 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.

“From the axiomatic premises “life or self-ownership”, property rights are the only rights which logically can be derived from those starting points.”

That’s simply not true. The right to life and the necessities for sustaining it surely follows from self-ownership. Rothbard claims to follow the in the tradition of natural law, but completely ignores the right to life, while traditional natural law placed far more emphasis on it than on property. In fact, property doesn’t follow from self-ownership as much as it does from scarcity.

I may have missed it because your posts are very long, but I didn’t see a response to how Rothbard defended focusing on property to the exclusion of the right to life, or why he made property absolute so that states can’t tax citizens.

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.

Daniel M. Ryan January 16, 2007 at 11:54 am

David White wrote: ‘Sam, you’re confusing libertarianism with Randianism, as the latter is where you’ll find the “rugged individual.”‘

I’m beginning to wonder whether either have them. The stereotype of the ‘rugged individualist’ has a match in the archetype of the ‘tough hombre’; the young Clint Eastwood played an Anglicized version of that character in the spaghetti westerns. People such as that are neither Objectivist nor Austrian; they tend to be deeply Christian – in the case of the tough hombre, very pious Roman Catholic.

If you’re interested, an old Malcolm Macdowell movie, O Lucky Man! (1973), made fun of “Atlas Shruggers” for being soft (as well as gullible.)

Wade McGriff January 16, 2007 at 11:57 am

Ktibuk said:

it is impossible to use praxeological analysis regarding ethics.

Ktibuk,

I don’t mean to be redundant, but…..

Is coercion not a “means”, just as harmful minimum wage laws and policies of monetary inflation are “means”?

Just as Mises pointed out to the world that these “means” can’t achieve the “ends” sought, can we not point out why “means” such as coercion can’t achieve the “ends” sought?

I wouldn’t be so quick to rule praxeology in regard to ethics, impossible. Before it can be ruled out, these kinds of questions must be considered.

adi January 16, 2007 at 1:01 pm

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?

For me natural law exists only in Hayekian sense: it’s framework which ensures survival of humanity. There are of course those would be glad to see whole humanity wiped out and only plants and animals in its place. All these are based on value judgements which are different amongst different people. 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.

As an economist I at least imagine that I do value free science which not need to have a ethical foundation. Economics is just about choices made by people and their consequences.

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