“Let us consider a hypothetical example of the failure of the utilitarian defense of private property. Suppose that somehow government becomes persuaded of the necessity to yield to a clamor for a free-market, laissez-faire society. Before dissolving itself, however, it redistributes property titles, granting the ownership of the entire territory of New York to the Rockefeller family, of Massachusetts to the Kennedy family, etc. It then dissolves, ending taxation and all other forms of government intervention in the economy. However, while taxation has been abolished, the Rockefeller, Kennedy, etc., families proceed to dictate to all the residents in what is now “their” territory, exacting what are now called “rents” over all the inhabitants.
It seems clear that our utilitarians could have no intellectual armor with which to challenge this new dispensation; indeed, they would have to endorse the Rockefeller, Kennedy, etc., holdings as “private property” equally deserving of support as the ordinary property titles which they had endorsed only a few months previously. All this because the utilitarians have no theory of justice in property beyond endorsement of whatever status quo happens to exist.”
“…Naturally, Rothbard’s anarchism appeared threatening to all statists, and his right-wing—that is, private-property—anarchism in particular could not but offend socialists of all stripes. However, his anarchistic conclusions were not sufficient to explain the neglect of The Ethics of Liberty by academia. Rothbard’s first handicap was compounded by an even weightier one. Not only had he come to unorthodox conclusions, worse, he had reached them by pre-modern intellectual means. Instead of suggesting, hypothesizing, pondering, or puzzling, Rothbard had offered axiomatic arguments and proofs. In the age of democratic egalitarianism and ethical relativism, this constituted the ultimate academic sin: intellectual absolutism, extremism, and intolerance.
The importance of this second methodological factor can be illustrated by contrasting the reception accorded to Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty on the one hand and Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia and on the other. Nozick’s book appeared in 1974, three years after the publication of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. Almost overnight Nozick was internationally famous, and to this day, in the field of political philosophy Anarchy, State, and Utopia ranks probably second only to Rawls’s book in terms of academic recognition. Yet, while Rawls was a socialist, Nozick was a libertarian. In fact, Nozick was heavily influenced by Rothbard. He had read Rothbard’s earlier Man, Economy, and State, Power and Market, and For A New Liberty, and in the acknowledgments to his book he noted that “it was a long conversation about six years ago with Murray Rothbard that stimulated my interest in individualist anarchist theory.” To be sure, the conclusions arrived at by Nozick were less radical than those proposed by Rothbard. Rather than reaching anarchistic conclusions, Nozick’s
main conclusions about the state are that the minimal state, limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on, is justified; that any more extensive state will violate persons’ rights not to be forced to do certain things, and is unjustified; and that the minimal state is inspiring as well as right.
Nonetheless, in claiming “that the state may not use its coercive apparatus for the purpose of getting some citizens to aid others, or in order to prohibit activities to people for their own good or protection”, even Nozick’s conclusions placed him far outside the political-philosophical mainstream. Why, then, in distinct contrast to the long-lasting neglect of Rothbard’s libertarian the Ethics of Liberty, the stupendous academic success of libertarian Anarchy, State, and Utopia? The answer is method and style.
Rothbard was above all a systematic thinker. He set out from the most elementary human situation and problem—Crusoe-ethics—and then proceeded painstakingly, justifying and proving each step and argument along the way to increasingly more complex and complicated situations and problems. Moreover, his prose was characterized by unrivaled clarity. In distinct contrast, Nozick was a modern unsystematic, associationist, or even impressionistic thinker, and his prose was difficult and unclear. Nozick was explicit about his own method. His writing, he stated, was
in the mode of much contemporary philosophical work in epistemology and metaphysics: there are elaborate arguments, claims rebutted by unlikely counterexamples, surprising theses, puzzles, abstract structural conditions, challenges to find another theory which fits a specified range of cases, startling conclusions, and so on… . One view about how to write a philosophy book holds that an author should think through all of the details of the view he presents, and its problems, polishing and refining his view to present to the world a finished, complete, and elegant whole. This is not my view. At any rate, I believe that there also is a place and a function in our ongoing intellectual life for a less complete work, containing unfinished presentations, conjectures, open questions and problems, leads, side connections, as well as a main line of argument. There is room for words on subjects other than last words.
Methodologically then, Nozick and Rothbard were poles apart. But why would Nozick’s unsystematic ethical “explorations” find so much more resonance in academia than Rothbard’s systematic ethical treatise, especially when their conclusions appeared to be largely congruent? Nozick touched upon the answer when he expressed the hope that his method “makes for intellectual interest and excitement.” But this was at best half of the answer, for The Ethics of Liberty, too, was an eminently interesting and exciting book, full of examples, cases, and scenarios from the full range of everyday experiences to extreme—life-boat—situations, spiced with many surprising conclusions, and above all solutions instead of merely suggestions to problems and puzzles.
Nozick’s method rather made for interest and excitement of a particular kind. Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty consisted essentially of one successively and systematically drawn out and elaborated argument, and thus required the long sustained attention of its reader. However, a reader of Rothbard’s book could possibly get so excited that he would not want to put it down until he had finished it. The excitement caused by Anarchy, State, and Utopia was of a very different kind. The book was a series of dozens of disparate or loosely jointed arguments, conjectures, puzzles, counterexamples, experiments, paradoxes, surprising turns, startling twists, intellectual flashes, and razzle-dazzle, and thus required only short and intermittent attention of its reader. At the same time, few if any readers of book likely will have felt the urge to read it straight through. Instead, reading Nozick was characteristically done unsystematically and intermittently, in bits and pieces. The excitement stirred by Nozick was intense, short, and fleeting; and the success of Anarchy, State, and Utopia was due to the fact that at all times, and especially under democratic conditions, there are far more high time-preference intellectuals—intellectual thrill seekers—than patient and disciplined thinkers.
Despite his politically incorrect conclusions, Nozick’s libertarianism was deemed respectable by the academic masses and elicited countless comments and replies, because it was methodologically non-committal; that is, Nozick did not claim that his libertarian conclusions proved anything. Even though one would think that ethics is—and must be—an eminently practical intellectual subject, Nozick did not claim that his ethical “explorations” had any practical implications. They were meant to be nothing more than fascinating, entertaining, or suggestive intellectual play. As such, libertarianism posed no threat to the predominantly social-democratic intellectual class. On account of his unsystematic method—his philosophical pluralism—Nozick was “tolerant” vis-à-vis the intellectual establishment (his anti-establishment conclusions notwithstanding).
He did not insist that his libertarian conclusions were correct and, for instance, socialist conclusions were false and accordingly demand their instant practical implementation (that is, the immediate abolition of the democratic welfare state, including all of public tax-funded education and research). Rather, libertarianism was, and claimed to be, no more than just an interesting thought. He did not mean to do any real harm to the ideas of his socialist opponents. He only wanted to throw an interesting idea into the democratic open-ended intellectual debate, while everything real, tangible, and physical could remain unchanged and everyone could go on with his life and thoughts as before.”
[W]e might put the case this way: liberals are supposed to be in favor of any voluntary actions performed, as the famous cliché goes, by “two consenting adults.” Yet it is peculiar that while liberals are in favor of any sexual activity engaged in by two consenting adults, when these consenting adults engage in trade or exchange, the liberals step in to harass, cripple, restrict, or prohibit that trade. And yet both the consenting sexual activity and the trade are similar expressions of liberty in action. Both should be favored by any consistent libertarian. But the government, especially a liberal government, habitually steps in to regulate and restrict such trade.
It is very much as [though] I were about to exchange two Hank Aarons for one Willie Mays, and the government, or some other third party, should step in and say: “No, you can’t do that; that’s evil; it’s against the common good. We hereby outlaw this proposed exchange; any exchange of such baseball cards must be one for one, or three for two”—or whatever other terms the government, in its wisdom and greatness, arbitrarily wishes to impose. By what right do they do this? The libertarian claims by no right whatsoever.
“Here again is a profound lesson for us today. Too many libertarians have absorbed the negative and elitist conservative worldview to the effect that our enemy today is the poor, who are robbing the rich; the blacks, who are robbing the whites; or the masses, who are robbing heroes and businessmen.
In fact, it is the state that is robbing all classes, rich and poor, black and white, worker and businessman alike; it is the state that is ripping us all off; it is the state that is the common enemy of mankind.
And who is the state? It is any group who manages to seize control of the state’s coercive machinery of theft and privilege. Of course these ruling groups have differed in composition through history, from kings and nobles to privileged merchants to Communist parties to the Trilateral Commission. But whoever they are, they can only be a small minority of the population, ruling and robbing the rest of us for their power and wealth. And since they are a small minority, the state rulers can only be kept in power by deluding us about the wisdom or necessity of their rule.
Hence, it is our major task to oppose and desanctify their entrenched rule, in the same spirit that the first libertarian revolutionaries opposed and desanctified their rulers two hundred years ago. We must strip the mystical veil of sanctity from our rulers just as Tom Paine stripped the sanctity from King George III. And in this task we libertarians are not the spokesmen for any ethnic or economic class; we are the spokesmen for all classes, for all of the public; we strive to see all of these groups united, hand-in-hand, in opposition to the plundering and privileged minority that constitutes the rulers of the state.”
“Since considerations such as these are irrelevant in order to judge the validity of a mathematical proof, for instance, so are they beside the point here. In the same way as the validity of a mathematical proof is not restricted to the moment of proving it, so is the validity of the libertarian property theory not limited to instances of argumentation. If correct, the argument demonstrates its universal justification. (Of all utilitarian critics only Steele takes up the challenge that I had posed for them: that the assignment of property rights cannot be dependent on any later outcome because in this case no one could ever know before the outcome what he was or was not justified to do; and that in advocating a consequentialist position utilitarianism is [strictly speaking] no ethic at all if it fails to answer the all decisive question “what am I justified to do now?” Steele solves this problem in the same way as he proceeds throughout his comment: by misunderstanding what it is.
He misconceives my argument as subject to empirical testing and misrepresents it as claiming to show that “I favor a libertarian ethic” follows from “I am saying something,” while in fact it claims that entirely independent of whatever people happen to favor or utter “the libertarian ethic can be given an ultimate propositional justification” follows from “I claim such and such to be valid, i.e., capable of propositional justification.” His response to the consequentialist problem is yet another stroke of genius: No, says Steele, consequentialism must not involve a praxeologically absurd waiting-for-the-outcome ethic. His example: Certain rules are advocated first, then implemented, and later adjusted depending on outcomes. While this is indeed an example of consequentialism, I fail to see how it should provide an answer to “what are we justified in doing now?” and so escape the absurdities of a waiting- for-the-outcome ethic.
The starting point is unjustified [Which rules? Not only the outcome depends on this!]; and the consequentialist procedure is unjustified, too. [Why not adopt rules and stick to them regardless of the outcome?] Steele’s answer to the question “what am I justified in doing?” is “that depends on whatever rules you start out with, then on the outcome of whatever this leads to, and finally on whether or not you care about such an outcome.” Whatever this is, it is no ethic.”
not, as the mentioned critics seem to think, a proof that means to
show the impossibility of certain empirical events so that it could be refuted by empirical evidence. Instead, it is a proof that it is impossible to justify nonlibertarian property principles propositionally without falling into contradictions. Whatever such a thing is worth (and I’ll come to this shortly), it should be clear that empirical evidence has absolutely no bearing on it. So what if there is slavery, the gulag, taxation? The proof concerns the issue that claiming such institutions can be justified involves a performative contradiction. It is purely intellectual in nature, like logical, mathematical,or praxeological proofs. Its validity, like theirs, can be established independent of any contingent experiences. Nor is its validity in any way affected, as several critics—most notoriously Waters—seem to think, by whether or not people like, favor, understand, or come to a consensus regarding it, or whether or not they are actually engaged in argumentation.
“…Hence, a strategy for liberty must not include any means which undercut or contradict the end itself—as gradualism-in-theory clearly does. Are we then saying that “the end justifies the means”? This is a common, but totally fallacious, charge often directed toward any group that advocates fundamental or radical social change. For what else but an end could possibly justify any means? The very concept of “means” implies that this action is merely an instrument toward arriving at an end. If someone is hungry, and eats a sandwich to alleviate his hunger, the act of eating a sandwich is merely a means to an end; its sole justification arises from its use as an end by the consumer. Why else eat the sandwich, or, further down the line, purchase it or its ingredients? Far from being a sinister doctrine, that the end justifies the means is a simple philosophic truth, implicit in the very relationship of “means” and “ends.”
What then, do the critics of the “end justifies the means” truly mean when they say that “bad means” can or will lead to “bad ends”? What they are really saying is that the means in question will violate other ends which the critics deem to be more important or more valuable than the goal of the group being criticized. Thus, suppose that Communists hold that murder is justified if it leads to a dictatorship by the vanguard party of the proletariat. The critics of such murder (or of such advocacy of murder) are really asserting, not that the “ends do not justify the means,” but rather that murder violates a more valuable end (to say the least), namely, the end of “not committing murder,” or nonaggression against persons. And, of course, from the libertarian point of view, the critics would be correct.
Hence, the libertarian goal, the victory of liberty, justifies the speediest possible means towards reaching the goal, but those means cannot be such as to contradict, and thereby undercut, the goal itself. We have already seen that gradualism-in-theory is such a contradictory means. Another contradictory means would be to commit aggression (e.g., murder or theft) against persons or just property in order to reach the libertarian goal of nonaggression. But this too would be a self-defeating and impermissible means to pursue. For the employment of such aggression would directly violate the goal of nonaggression itself.”
“In the pleasant but illusory world of “national product statistics,” government expenditures on goods and services constitute an addition to the nation’s product. Actually, since government’s revenue, in contrast to all other institutions, is coerced from the taxpayers rather than paid voluntarily, it is far more realistic to regard all government expenditures as a depredation upon, rather than an addition to, the national product.
In fact, either government expenditures or receipts, whichever is the higher, may be regarded as the burden on private national product, and subtraction of the former figure from Gross Private Product (GPP) will yield an estimate of the private product left in private hands. The ratio of government depredation (government expenditures or receipts, whichever is the higher) over Gross Private Product yields the approximate percentage of government depredation of the private product of the economy. 
In a depression, it is particularly important that the government’s fiscal burden on the economy be reduced. In the first place, it is especially important at such a time to free the economy from the heavy load of government’s acquiring resources, and second, a lowering of the burden will tend to shift total spending so as to increase investment and lower consumption, thus providing a double impetus toward curing a depression.”
Hotelier leaves home for a week so it can be decorated… then 15 [mutualists] move in
In the middle of completely refurbishing his five-bedroom house, Connan Gupta felt he deserved a week off.
It is a decision he is now regretting because 15 squatters took advantage of his short absence to occupy the £700,000 property.
The jobless Italians changed the locks and have taken up residence along with their three dogs and two cats.
They claim the fact they cannot afford to rent gives them the right to take over the Victorian property in Camberwell, South-East London.
Police are powerless to intervene because squatting is a civil rather than criminal offence.
Mr Gupta, a 40-year-old hotelier, has been forced to seek alternative accommodation and instruct a solicitor to have the intruders evicted.
He left the house on October 10 for his week off and returned on Monday to find he couldn’t open the door. A squatter’s rights notice was posted in a window.
‘This is just ridiculous,’ he said. ‘Everything’s in there. All my worldly possessions, clothes, valuables, and medication I need for a skin condition. It is hellish. I always triple-lock the house and when I went away I made sure everything was locked.
‘It is really scary that you can go on holiday and come back and your house has been taken. I’m profoundly shocked that this can happen.
‘I tried to open the door and found the locks had been changed. Then I saw the note, and banged on the door saying I was the owner and a voice inside said “Just go away”.
‘I just have to sit here and wait. It’s as if the squatters have more rights than I do.’
“In explicitly understanding knowledge as displayed in argumentation as a peculiar category of action, it becomes clear immediately why the perennial rationalist claim that the laws of logic—beginning here with the most fundamental ones, i.e., of propositional logic and of Junctors (“and,” “or,” “if-then,” “not”) and Quantors (“there is,” “all,” “some”)—are a priori true propositions about reality and not mere verbal stipulations regarding the transformation rules of arbitrarily chosen signs, as empiricist-formalists would have it, is indeed correct. They are as much laws of thinking as of reality; because they are laws that have their ultimate foundation in action and could not be undone by any actor. In each and every action, an actor identifies some specific situation and categorizes it one way rather than another in order to be able to make a choice. It is this which ultimately explains the structure of even the most elementary propositions (like “Socrates is a man”) consisting of a proper name or some identifying expression for the naming or identifying of something, and a predicate to assert or deny some specific property of the named or identified object; and which explains the cornerstones of logic: the laws of identity and contradiction. And it is this universal feature of action and choosing which also explains our understanding of the categories “there is,” “all” and, by implication, “some,” as well as “and,” “or,” “if-then” and “not.”
One can say, of course, that something can be “a” and “non-a” at the same time, or that “and” means this rather than something else. But one cannot undo the law of contradiction; and one cannot undo the real definition of “and.” For simply by virtue of acting with a physical body in physical space we invariably affirm the law of contradiction and invariably display our true constructive knowledge of the meaning of “and” and “or.”
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method, On Praxeology and the Praxeological Foundation of Epistemology, III, pg 71.
-  On rationalist interpretations of logic see Blanshard, Reason and Analysis, chapters 6, 10; P. Lorenzen, Einfuhrung in die operative Logik und Mathematik (Frankfun/M.: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1970); K. Lorenz, Elemente der Sprachkritik (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1970); idem, “Diedialogische Rechtfertigung der effektiven Logik,” in: E Kambartel and J. Mittelstrass, eds., Zum normativen Fundament der Wissenschaft (Frankfurt/M.: Athenaum, 1973).
- On the propositional character of language and experience, in particular, see W. Kamlah and P. Lorenzen, Logische Propiideutik, chapter 1; P. Lorenzen, Normative Logic and Ethics, chapter 1. Lorenzen writes:
“I call a usage a convention if I know of another usage which I could accept instead.·… However, I do not know of another behavior which could replace the use of elementary sentences. If I did not accept proper names and predicators, I would not know how to speak at all… . Each proper name is a convention … but to use proper names at all is not a convention: it is a unique pattern of linguistic behavior. Therefore, I am going to call it ‘logical’. The same is true with predicators. Each predicator is a convention. This is shown by the existence of more than one natural language. But all languages use predicators” (ibid., p. 16). See also J. Mittelstrass, “Die Wiederkehr des Gleichen,” Ratio (1966).
- On the law of identity and contradiction, in particular, see B. Blanshard, Reason and Analysis, pp. 276ff, 423ff. On a critical evaluation of 3- or more-valued logics as either meaningless symbolic formalisms or as logically presupposing an understanding of the traditional two-valued logic see W Stegmiiller, HauptstrOmungen der Gegenwartsphilosophie vol. 2 (Stuttgart: Kroner, 1975), pp. 182-91; B. Blanshard, Reason and Analysis, pp. 269-75. Regarding, for instance, the many-valued or open-textured logic, proposed by E Waismann, Blanshard notes:
“We can only agree with Dr. Waismann-and with Hegel-that the black-and-white distinctions of formal logic are quite inadequate to living thought. But why should one say, as Dr. Waismann does, that in adopting a more differentiated logic one is adopting an alternative system which is incompatible with black-and-white logic? What he has actually done is to recognize a number of gradations within the older meaning of the word ‘not’. We do not doubt that such gradations are there, and indeed as many more as he cares to distinguish. But a refinement of the older logic is not an abandonment of it. It is still true that the colour I saw yesterday was either a determinate shade of yellow or not, even though the ‘not’ may cover a multitude of approximations, and even though I shall never know which was the shade I saw” (ibid., pp. 273-74).
“…Finally, there is the almost incredible harassment of VCR owners. If I buy a VCR and a blank tape, I should be able to tape a movie or other program off my own TV set. If the TV or movie people don’t like it, they should jolly well have to lump it. It is grotesque that movie producers might get the Supreme Court to agree to outlaw use of the VCR. Worse yet is that the movie producers are harassing poor SONY, who only manufactures and doesn’t use VCRs. Obviously, SONY has the deep pockets to enjoin and sue, which most home owners do not. Obviously, too, the government would have a great deal of difficulty mobilizing an enormous Gestapo, armed to the teeth, to break in on and confiscate or destroy the VCRs in many million American homes. Defend your VCRs to the death, fellow Americans! In practice, then, the movie people are not going to outlaw VCRs. They will just force SONY and the other manufacturers to pay a tax to the movie people, a tax which will be passed on to every VCR buyer. But the unfortunate principle—and the higher cost—might well be enshrined in the books.
The problem in all these cases is not whether “property rights” should or should not be upheld. The problem in each of these cases is: Who should have the property right? The computer hacker to do what he wants with his own computer and his access to the telephone lines, or the other computer owner? The signal sender or the signal receiver in the latter’s own equipment? The VCR owner or movie producers? In all of these cases I believe that the concept of copyright has been illegitimately extended to become invasive, and that the fact that the common law cannot combat these “crimes” is already an indication that they are not crimes at all.
But I am in an odd position here. Of all the people in the libertarian movement, I probably know the least about computer technology. There are few movement people lower tech than myself. And yet among all the computer mavens in the movement, I have seen no discussion of these thorny issues. But it is important to apply libertarian property rights theory, i.e. judgments in various areas on who is a criminal and who is a victim, to advancing technology. So on these matters I still have a relatively open mind. Before the Iron Door closes, I cheerfully invite libertarian theorists and high-tech mavens to submit papers, on any or all sides of this problem, for possible publication in the Libertarian Forum. Is there computer crime? Are VCR and satellite dish owners criminals? Please send in your discussions, and help advance libertarian theory.”
— Murray Rothbard, The Libertarian Forum, 1983.