“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.”
“…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.”
“Since outright grants of monopoly or quasi monopoly would usually be considered baldly injurious to the public, governments have discovered a variety of methods of granting such privileges indirectly, as well as a variety of arguments to justify these measures. But they all have the effects common to monopoly or quasi-monopoly grants and monopoly prices when these are obtained.
The important types of monopolistic grants (monopoly and quasi monopoly) are as follows:
- governmentally enforced cartels which every firm in an industry is compelled to join;
- virtual cartels imposed by the government, such as the production quotas enforced by American agricultural policy;
- licenses, which require meeting government rules before a man or a firm is permitted to enter a certain line of production, and which also require the payment of a fee—a payment that serves as a penalty tax on smaller firms with less capital, which are thereby debarred from competing with larger firms;
- “quality” standards, which prohibit competition by what the government (not the consumers) defines as “lower-quality” products;
- tariffs and other measures that levy a penalty tax on competitors outside a given geographical region;
- immigration restrictions, which prohibit the competition of laborers, as well as entrepreneurs, who would otherwise move from another geographical region of the world market;
- child labor laws, which prohibit the labor competition of workers below a certain age;
- minimum wage laws, which, by causing the unemployment of the least value-productive workers, remove their competition from the labor markets;
- maximum hour laws, which force partial unemployment on those workers who are willing to work longer hours;
- compulsory unionism, such as the Wagner-Taft-Hartley Act imposes, causing unemployment among the workers with the least seniority or the least political influence in their union;
- conscription, which forces many young men out of the labor force;
- any sort of governmental penalty on any form of industrial or market organization, such as antitrust laws, special chain store taxes, corporate income taxes, laws closing businesses at specific hours or outlawing pushcart peddlers or door-to-door salesmen;
- conservation laws, which restrict production by force;
- patents, where independent later discoverers of a process are debarred from entering a field production.”
— Murray Rothbard, Power & Market
“Great quote that suggests another psychological barrier that may go something like this: “If it is so ‘self-evident,’ why haven’t I seen it?” (!). Or “Why didn’t great philosopher X see it if it was self-evident?”. Or “Why not my mom and dad and Obama?” “If all these people also don’t see it, it must be wrong!”
This is harder to grasp even than that there was a time before there was an iPhone (that is, five and a half years ago). “Self-evident” only applies after you get it. Before the particular understanding has arisen in the particular mind, there is “nothing to see” in the space where a few of us have the action axiom installed.
Rand used to always say “knowledge is not automatic.” Well, here it is. The knowledge just isn’t there yet because the person doesn’t get it yet. Sort of like if you don’t know calculus. Well then…you don’t know calculus. The difference with praxeology and economics is that far fewer people go around denying the validity of calculus because THEY don’t happen to understand it. They understand that it is there for the learning, but to learn it, they would have to engage in a particular process: study, think.
Notice also that all of these learning injunctions are also themselves… actions, whether in sensory or mental realms:
- “In order to see the moons of Jupiter, you need a telescope. In order to understand Hamlet, you need to learn to read. In order to see the truth of the Pythagorean theorem, you must learn geometry. If you want to know if a cell has a nucleus, you must learn to take histological sections, learn to stain cells, learn to use a microscope, and then look. In other words, all of those forms of knowing have, as one of their significant components, an injunction: If you want to know this, you must do this.”
— Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1998, 156)
It’s a rare few who read, understand and fully appreciate ESAM. For those who already have a solid grasp of the literature I cannot recommend it enough. Those that do accept the challenge often cannot help but marvel at just how important and cutting edge this body of knowledge — praxeology — really is.
Essentially your comment touches upon what this blog is partially about — planting seeds. Further to this will follow several recent remarks and quotes that expand upon the above over the next few days.
Ron Paul: How to Sell Liberty
In this video Dr. Paul speaks to a crowd in San Francisco in 1990 at an International Society for Individual Liberty conference. Having run for office under the Libertarian Party’s banner two years prior, Dr. Paul shares his experience on how to sell libertarianism to make it palatable to both liberals and conservatives.
Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State by Murray Rothbard
However, on rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have “open borders” at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as “closed” as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire. It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors.
Under total privatization, many local conflicts and “externality” problems—not merely the immigration problem—would be neatly settled. With every locale and neighborhood owned by private firms, corporations, or contractual communities, true diversity would reign, in accordance with the preferences of each community. Some neighborhoods would be ethnically or economically diverse, while others would be ethnically or economically homogeneous. Some localities would permit pornography or prostitution or drugs or abortions, others would prohibit any or all of them. The prohibitions would not be state imposed, but would simply be requirements for residence or use of some person’s or community’s land area. While statists who have the itch to impose their values on everyone else would be disappointed, every group or interest would at least have the satisfaction of living in neighborhoods of people who share its values and preferences. While neighborhood ownership would not provide Utopia or a panacea for all conflicts, it would at least provide a “second-best” solution that most people might be willing to live with.
To clarify Rothbard’s point it goes without saying there would obviously still be individual ownership of housing and property but those arrangements would not generally solve the ‘externality problem’ posited. Hans-Hermann Hoppe goes on to make essentially the same argument here.
In such a world what would immigration look like? How do the immigrants get there, wherever there is?
- Stephan Kinsella: I agree with David Gordon. I disagree with pro-voluntary slavery libertarians, like Walter Block (Thomas L. Knapp is another, though he pettifogs on the use of the term "voluntary slavery").
- Jeremiah Dyke: I too think it's insane not to have the ability to contract any percentage of your labor for any duration of time. [Sarcasm]
- Stephan Kinsella: This is not an argument. Abilities don't come from opinions. Let's be clear: to justify voluntary slavery means you have to justify the use of force by a would-be "master" against a would-be "slave", if the slave tries to run away or changes his mind or disobeys an order. The libertarian thinks use of violence against another person's body is unjustified aggression, unless it is (a) consented to, or (b) in response to aggression.
- But the slave has not committed aggression, so (b) is not a possible justification. Some alienabilists disingenuously argue that it IS "aggression" since the master owns the slave's body, so it's trespass (aggression) for the slave to use the master's property (the slave's body) in ways the owner (master) does not consent to. This argument is disingenuous because it is question-begging; it presupposes the legitimacy of body-alienability, in order to prove it. So this does not fly. I will say that I get very tired of people who engage in question-begging arguments. They do this all the time in IP -- where they label an act of copying "stealing" in order to show that what was "stolen" must have been ownable property. Horrible reasoning. I hope you don't engage in this kind of dishonest trick.
- As for (a); clearly the slave who tries to run away does NOT consent to the force the master wants to apply to him. The only way the alienabilist can get around this is to say that the PREVIOUS consent the slave gave (say, a week before) is still somehow applicable, i.e. that the slave cannot change his mind. Why not? because ... well ... because ... well ... because the slavery contract was binding! So we see, yet again, the sneaky and dishonest resort to question-begging; slavery contracts are binding because they are binding. Neat trick, that!
- The reason people can change their minds is that it does not commit aggression. And the reason a previous statement of intent is relevant is simply that it provides evidence of what the current consent is. It's a standing order, but one that can be overridden with better, more recent, evidence. If a girl tells her boyfriend he may kiss her now, and any time he feels like it in the future, then when tomorrow comes he is reasonable in assuming that she is still actually consenting NOW to another kiss, even if she says nothing, because she set up that presumption earlier. Her previous statement was not a binding contract, but just a way of establishing a standing presumption about what her ongoing consent IS. But if he goes to kiss her and she says NO, then we know that the previous statement about what her future consent WOULD be, was a bad prediction and has been undermined by the better, present/current evidence she is giving.
- It is no different in all the voluntary slavery situations.
Protecting Value and Harry Potter
Stephan Kinsella is interviewed on Houston’s Public Affairs Public Access Live program, with host David Hutzelman about Intellectual Property. Here he discusses protecting “value”, entrepreneurs, free-riders, J.K. Rowling, copyright and different business models.
- Libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life… Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism.
— Myth and Truth About Libertarianism
That is essentially libertarianism in a nutshell. The above definition provides the big tent perspective. As long as you are attempting to apply the non-aggression principle there can be general agreement about most conclusions. However, what one bases their justifications on does matter otherwise the agreement is merely superficial. There is no problem with fellow travelers who differ with their epistemology as long as they are radical abolitionists.
Put simply libertarianism begins from first principles with the concept of self-ownership, and original appropriation which necessarily leads to the non-aggression principle. The a priori of argumentation, or argumentation ethics offers the praxeological proof which establishes self-ownership as an axiom. It serves as a negative critique of justifiable norms. It bounds the scope of norms that can be consistently justified without pain of contradiction.
- Here the praxeological proof of libertarianism has the advantage of offering a completely value-free justification of private property. It remains entirely in the realm of is-statements and never tries to derive an “ought” from an “is.” — Hoppe, Economics and Ethics of Private Property, p345.
- My entire argument, then, claims to be an impossibility proof. But 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 [such as the existence of non-libertarian societies-RPM and GC]. Instead, it is a proof that it is impossible to justify non-libertarian property principles without falling into contradictions … empirical evidence has absolutely no bearing on it. — Hoppe, p406.
Libertarianism is meta-normative, it establishes what you have a right to do. It does not say what you ought or should do. In this sense, being an axiomatic-deductive legal theory based on action it is not a part of ethics at all. , , , .
Say you had the opportunity to pitch a liberty specific project idea to an organisation with the possibility of them providing full funding (i.e all expenses paid, travel and costs), with a guideline of 4-6 weeks travel between 1st September 2012 - 31st August 2013. The very brief framework:
- Max. of five countries is suggested, as is not crowding your itinerary.
What new knowledge do you hope to gain from your project?
Why do you need to travel overseas to obtain this knowledge?
How will your project benefit the community?
What would your idea be? [ethics related] What would you do? It would make sense for me to base the trip mostly in the US. Thus I am requesting some help from those with local knowledge to provide some possible events I could visit, individuals I should meet etc.
I haven’t nailed down the ‘liberty project idea’ yet, it’s early days, but I think it will be something along the lines of learning about how to build a movement (as is seen in the States), and translating the principles back to Australia. Whether the committee will go for that, we’ll have to see.
- Mises University, 2013. July 22-28. (1 week) Auburn, Alabama, USA.
- International Students for Liberty Conference, 2013. Feb 17-19. Washington, DC, USA. (2 days)
- Austrian Scholars Conference, March 8-10, 2013. (2 days)
- Mises Summer fellowships: Residency runs from late May until early August.
- Porcfest. June 18-June 24. (6 days) Northamptonshire.
- Ron Paul [Texas] - Washington, D.C.
- Walter Block [New Orleans] - Loyola University New Orleans
- Dan D’amico [New Orleans] - Loyola University New Orleans
- Stephan Kinsella [Houston, Texas]
- Gil Guillory [Houston, Texas]
- Bob Murphy [
- Thomas Woods
- Jeff Tucker [Baltimore, Maryland] - Laissez-Faire Books
- Lew Rockwell [Auburn, Alabama]
- Stephan Moleyneux [Canada]
- Konrad Graf
- Peter Schiff [Connecticut] - Europacific Capital
- Jim Grant
- Adam Kokesh
- John Stossel
- Doug Casey
- Hans-Hermann Hoppe [Istanbul, Turkey]
- Guido Hulsmann [Angers, France]
- Ludwig von Mises Institute [Auburn, Alabama]
- The Independent Institute [Oakland, California]
- Campaign for Liberty [Springfield, Virgina]
- Students for Liberty [Any chapter?], Washington DC. Cato.
Answer from your own perspective. I’m very open to suggestions & recommendations for anything, which will be very much appreciated. What have you got going on in your local area?
I thought I would recommend some of the not so well known but nevertheless mind-blowing journal articles that should be read by everyone in the movement, especially by those outside it. This will be the first in a series of many.
If you’re just starting out it is probably best to study the classics and introductory books. However, understanding the framework of knowledge, praxeology — the science of human action — and where the two important fields of economics and jurisprudence (political philosophy) reside is very helpful. This is the most cutting edge article out there that exists today.
Action-based legal theory is a discrete branch of praxeology and the basis of an emerging school of jurisprudence related to, but distinct from, natural law. Legal theory and economic theory share content that is part of praxeology itself: the action axiom, the a priori of argumentation, universalizable property theory, and counterfactual-deductive methodology. Praxeological property-norm justification is separate from the strictly ethical “ought” question of selecting ends in an action context. Examples of action-based jurisprudence are found in existing “Austro-libertarian” literature. Legal theory and legal practice must remain distinct and work closely together if justice is to be found in real cases. Legal theorizing was shaped in religious ethical contexts, which contributed to confused field boundaries between law and ethics. The carrot and stick influence of rulers on theorists has distorted conventional economics and jurisprudence in particular directions over the course of centuries. An action-based approach is relatively immune to such sources of distortion in its methods and conclusions, but has tended historically to be marginalized from conventional institutions for this same reason.
I don’t think the above will be bested in a very long time. It is a big read for a journal article, but do not let that put you off. It is well worth it. If you’re not a fan of reading online, I would suggest printing it out - which can be done very easily for around $5. It’s something you will come back to often. A one stop shop for understanding Austro-Libertarianism in one read.