The Biggest Reason Why I Admire and Respect Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Besides making enormous contributions to sociology, philosophy, economics, history, and libertarianism, here’s the biggest reason why I admire and respect Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

This is an excerpt from  Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.‘s Forward to Hoppe’s book, A Short History of Man: Progress and Decline:

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is one of the most remarkable libertarian scholars of our time. He began as a prize student of Jürgen Habermas, the famous German philosopher and social theorist. Habermas was, and remains to this day, a committed Marxist. He is the leader of the notorious Frankfurt school.

Habermas was very impressed with Hans, and, under the patronage of this eminent Marxist, Hans had every reason to expect a stellar academic career in his native Germany. A problem soon arose, though, one which has had happy results for all those who love liberty. Hans soon came to realize that the leftism and socialism he had grown up with was intellectually barren and morally bankrupt. He discovered on his own the great works of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard.

Austrian economics and Murray’s anarchism were not what Habermas had in mind. By becoming a libertarian, Hans effectively ended his chances for a chair at a major German university, even though his intellectual accomplishments easily qualified him for one. Like Murray, though, Hans is a scholar of complete intellectual integrity. He would not surrender what he had come to realize was the truth, whatever the cost to his own career.

Hans decided to come to United States in order to study with Murray, who was then teaching in New York. When I met him, I was struck by Hans’s firm commitment to Rothbardian principles and his outstanding intellectual ability. Murray, of course, immediately grasped Hans’s potential. When Murray was named to an endowed chair in economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he worked to get Hans a position in the economics department as well. Together, the two of them made UNLV a major center for the study of Austrian economics; and they did so in the face of much opposition from some of their departmental colleagues.

Murray was especially intrigued by one of Hans’s main arguments. Hans’s teacher Habermas pioneered an approach to ethics based on the conditions for engaging in rational argument. In a way that Habermas would hardly approve, Hans turned Habermas’s ethics on its head. Instead of support for socialism, argumentation ethics as Hans explained it provided powerful support for self-ownership and private property.

In short, Hoppe’s commitment to truth, intellectual honesty, and logical consistency lost him a prestigious position at a German university. By turning away from Habermas’s Marxism and embracing Rothbard’s libertarianism Hoppe embodies Mises’s life motto:

Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito. (Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.)

 

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Jimmy Kimmel: Reality doesn’t Care about your Feelings

Jimmy Kimmel made another emotional appeal on his show after the tragic event in Las Vegas. Whether he is crying for socialized medicine or gun control, Kimmel needs to realize: Reality doesn’t care about your feelings.

Reason, rationality, and logic must be used when we discuss matters of economics and politics. Two emotionally-charged issues that frequently come up in the media are health care and gun control. All the crying in the world cannot reconcile the facts that gun control doesn’t work and that socialism doesn’t work.

First, to address the universal health care delusion. Nothing on earth is free. We live in a world of scarcity. There are limited resources to be used to reach desired ends or goals. Universal health care does not address this. Implementing universal health care doesn’t change the reality that we live in a world of scarcity.

Because resources are scarce, they must be rationed in some way. Resources are rationed in markets by prices. Highly-demanded goods in low supply are more expensive so as to ration the available supply. For example, surgeries performed by a specialist will cost more money than a routine check-up. Prices help ensure that scarce resources be allocated efficiently. Because of the high price, less people will demand that good or service.

If medicine becomes socialized, it is “free” in that there are no prices for consumers. However, there must still be a rationing mechanism. In a universal health care system, goods and services are rationed by the government instead of by prices like in a market economy. So, rather than being in control of you and your family’s future, the government decides who gets what health care at what time. Of course, people would feel less compelled to stay healthy if they aren’t bearing the costs of their healthcare and there are  other problems with universal health care. Unfortunately, these concerns aren’t addressed by the weeping leftists on TV. This shouldn’t be surprising. Jimmy Kimmel is an entertainer whose job is to entertain and keep people watching, not bust people’s bubble regarding their utopian delusions.

Murder is illegal, but that doesn’t stop people from committing murder. As we can see in the UK and elsewhere around the globe, banning guns and other weapons doesn’t prevent violence. Rather, it only ensures that good-willed people won’t be able to defend themselves. Criminals don’t care about gun laws. They buy them illegally or steal them. Or, they use knives, automobiles, acid, etc., instead. The reality is that bad people will do bad things regardless of the law. Disarming the good people doesn’t prevent bad people from doing bad things.

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Hoppe on the Libertarian Implications of Argumentation Ethics

 
Why should a libertarian care about Hoppe’s “Argumentation Ethics” proof of objective ethics? I’ll be quoting Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s 2016 talk for the Property and Freedom Society to explain the libertarian Implications of Argumentation Ethics.
Hoppe at the PFS 2016

First, I’ll summarize Hoppe’s proof: All truth claims are raised, justified, and decided upon in the course of an argumentation. The truth of this first proposition cannot be disputed without contradiction. One cannot argue that one does not argue. Argumentation is a purposeful action with the goal of attaining agreement regarding the truth value of an argument. Argumentation is a conflict-free, mutually agreed upon, and peaceful form of interaction aimed at resolving the initial disagreement and reaching a mutually agreed on answer to the truth value of an argument. The norms that make argumentation possible cannot be argumentatively disputed without contradiction. Each person engaging in argumentation must be entitled to self-ownership to be able to independently argue and come to conclusions. Each person engaging in argumentation must be entitled to ownership of prior possessions. Any argument to the contrary is a contradiction, if argumentation is to be a peaceful and conflict-free resolution to disagreement. To deny self-ownership and private property is to deny a person’s autonomy while affirming dependency and conflict and is contrary to the purpose of argumentation.

So, what are the libertarian implications of this proof? Hoppe explains in the video from his 2016 PFS talk and I quote some of his main points below.

Video Notes (Quoting Hoppe)
  • “All argumentation has a propositional content. Whenever we argue, we argue about something. This can be argumentation itself, that is, the very subject I have been speaking about so far, or the content can be all sorts of things. They can be matters of fact, or cause and effect, such as whether global warming presently exists and is man-made, or whether or not an increase in the money supply will lead to greater overall prosperity, but they can also be about normative matters. Such as, whether or not the possession; the actual control of something by someone, implies his rightful ownership of the thing in question, or if slavery or taxation are justified or not.”

  • “In short, argumentation can be either about facts, or it can be about norms. The source of an argumentation about facts is what I shall call, a disagreement, and its purpose is to resolve this disagreement and effect a change to the better in one’s own factual beliefs, so as to make actions motivated by these beliefs more successful in the future. The source of an argumentation about norms, on the other hand, is conflict and its purpose is to resolve this conflict and effect a change in one’s system of values so as to better avoid future conflict.”
  • “Rather than factual disagreements, then, it is the experience of conflicts that motivates most serious argumentation. And, it is argumentation about conflicts that generates our most intense interests. Now, conflicts arise whenever two actors want and try to use one in the same physical means, the same body, the same standing room, the same external objects, for the attainment of different goals, that is, when their interests regarding such means are not harmonious, but incompatible or antagonistic. Two actors cannot at the same time use the same physical means for alternative purposes. If they try to do so, they must clash. Only one person’s will or that of another person can prevail, but not both. Whenever we argue with one another about matter of conflicts then, we demonstrate that it is our purpose to find a peaceful argumentative solution to some given conflict. We have agreed not to fight, but to argue instead.”
  • “The task faced by any opponent and proponent engaged in an argumentation about conflict, then, is to find a peaceful resolution not only for the conflict at hand, but also for all potential future conflicts, so as to be able to interact henceforth with one another in a conflict-free and peaceful manner despite and not withstanding each other’s differing interests whether now or in the future.”
  • “The definitive answer to this problem is provided by a brief analysis of the logic of action, that is, by method of praxeological reasoning. Logically, to avoid all future interpersonal conflict, it is only necessary that every good, every physical thing employed as a means in the pursuit of human ends, be always and at all times owned privately, that is, be controlled exclusively by one specific person or voluntary partnership or association, rather than another. And that it be always recognizable and clear which good is owned by whom and which is not or owned by someone else. Then, the interests, the plans, and the purposes of different actors can be as different as they can be, and yet, no conflict will arise between them as long as their actions involve exclusively the use of their own private property and leave the property of others alone and physically intact.”
  • “How can physical things become someone’s private property in the first place? And, how can physical conflict in the appropriation of physical things be avoided? Now, praxeological analysis also yields a conclusive answer to these questions. For one, to avoid conflict it is necessary that the appropriation of things as means is affected through actions rather than through mere words, declarations, or decrees. Because, only through a person’s actions taking place at a particular place and time can an objective and intersubjectively ascertainable link between a particular person and a particular thing and its extension and boundary be established, and hence, can rival ownership claims be settled in an objective manner.”
  • “Not every recognizable taking of things into one’s possession is peaceful and can thus be argumentatively justified. Only the first appropriator of some previously unappropriated thing can acquire this thing peacefully and without conflict, and only his possession, then, can be regarded as his property, for, by definition, as the first appropriator, he cannot have run into conflict with anyone else in appropriating the good in question as everyone else appeared on the scene only later. And any late-comer, then, can take possession of the things in question only with the first-comer’s consent, either because the first-comer had voluntarily transferred his property to him, in which case and from which time on, he then becomes its exclusive owner, or else, because the first-comer had granted him some conditional use rights concerning his property, in which case, he did not become the thing’s owner, but its rightful possessor.”
  • “Indeed, to argue contrary to this and say that a late-comer, irrespective of the will of the first possessor of some given thing, should be regarded as its owner entails a performative or dialectic contradiction, because this would lead to endless conflict rather than eternal peace and, hence, be contrary to the very purpose of argumentation.”
  • “If different persons want to live in peace with one another, conceivably from the beginning of mankind until its end, and in arguing about conflict they obviously demonstrate that they want to do this, then only one solution exists, that I shall call the Principle of Prior Possessions: all just and lawful and argumentatively justifiable possessions, whether in the form of outright property or as lawful possessions, go back directly or indirectly through a chain of conflict-free and hence, mutually beneficial, property title transfers to prior and ultimately original appropriators and acts of original appropriation or production, and vice-versa, all possessions of things by some person that are neither the result of his prior appropriation or production nor the result nor the result of voluntary and conflict-free acquisition from a prior appropriator or producer of these things, are unlawful and, hence, argumentatively unjustifiable possessions.”
  • “Prima facie, the present possessor of the thing in question appears to be its prior possessor and, hence, its rightful owner, and the burden of proof to the contrary, that is, the demonstration that the evidence provided by the status quo is false and deceptive, is always on the opponent of the present state of affairs. He must make his case, and if he can’t, then not only remains everything as before, but the opponent then actually owes the proponent compensation for the misuse made of his time in having to defend himself against the opponent’s unjustified claims made against him, which reduces the likelihood of frivolous accusations.”
  • “No one can consistently argue that he is the rightful owner of another person’s body. Now, he can say so, of course, but in doing so and seeking another person’s ascent to this claim, he becomes involved in a contradiction. Hence, it is and can be recognized as an a priori truth that each person is the rightful owner of the physical body that he naturally comes with and has been born with and that he has directly appropriated prior and before any other person could possibly do so indirectly by means of his own body.”
  • “I am the lawful owner of my nature-given body with everything naturally in it and attached to it, and you are the lawful owner of your entire nature-given body. Any argument to the contrary would land its proponent in a performative contradiction. For me to say, for instance, in an argumentation with you, that you do not rightfully own all of your nature-given body is contradicted by the fact that in so arguing, and not fighting with you, I must recognize and treat you as another person with a separate body and recognizably separate physical borders from me and my body.”
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Video: Without the State, we would have Child Labor

Would we still have child labor in the US if it wasn’t illegal?

 

Video Notes
  • A common objection to free markets is something like this, “don’t you know history?!? We had a free market during the industrial revolution and all those kids were forced to work dangerous jobs for long hours! Thank goodness the government came along with some sense and made child labor illegal!”
  • Let’s consider this idea that government ended child labor with legislation.
  • Child labor still exists in the world outside of the US. Now, does it still exist abroad because factory owners or parents are evil and want to force children to work? Or is there something else going on that isn’t being considered?
  • We must ask, why were children working in the first place? Of course, child labor has existed historically as a way of supporting a family. Before the industrial revolution, children were likely to be working with their parents on the farm or whatever. Why? Out of necessity. Because the alternative to the child working and helping out the family, is that the family suffers. Before the industrial revolution skyrocketed human productivity, child labor was often necessary for families to survive.
  • So, as the industrial revolution increased human productivity, it became less and less necessary for children to work, as their parents were able to be more productive and earn more income. It was the increase in productivity from the industrial revolution that allowed families to put children in school rather than working.
  • Had the government outlawed child labor before production got to the point where children didn’t have to work to help their families, children would likely have been forced into crime or prostitution or some other way to provide for the family under the radar, because, the fact remains that something must give if a family isn’t able to provide sufficiently for itself. The family will have to get resources from somewhere to maintain its survival and this tends to be with means much worse than child labor.
  • This means that we cannot end child labor around the world by legislating it away. Rather, undeveloped countries need free markets where people can start businesses, hire one another, and become more productive so as to maintain a higher standard of living.

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Video: Minarchists Want World Government


Video Notes



  • Minarchy refers to limited government, whereas anarchy refers to no government.
  • Minarchists attempt to justify the need for a state in various ways. However, I think their arguments have unintended implications.
  • One argument that minarchists try to make is that because people don’t always do the right thing or behave morally, there must be a central authority or government to uphold law created by that government. They are essentially claiming that interactions between individuals must be governed by a third party to maintain order in society.
  • So, if minarchists are to be consistent, they should want to have a central authority or government over the individual nations of the world. If a government is required to maintain order between individuals, then why wouldn’t a world government be required to maintain order between countries?
  • The countries of the world are certainly in a state of “anarchy” as there is no central authority uniting of them.
  • Minarchists who believe in secession are inconsistent because if a state can secede from a union, then why not a county? Why not a city? Why not a community? And lastly, why not the individual?
  • The point of this video isn’t to further divide minarchists and anarchists, but to understand that we really share the common goal of limiting government. If limited government is better than big government, why shouldn’t no government be better than little government?
  • Of course, I would much prefer to live under a minimal government than the monster of a state that we have now. But, I prefer to advocate for the privatization of everything from policing to the courts system.
  • Read my article at LessonsInLiberty.net on public and private institutions to learn more about how private and public institutions operate differently.

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Video: Monopoly in a Free Market?

In this video, I respond to the criticism of free markets that says without government intervention, companies will form monopolies and over-charge consumers.

Video Notes
  • A monopoly is a firm who is the exclusive seller of a good or service.
  • Can there be a monopoly in a free market? Sure, but it would be very different than a government-created monopoly.
  • In a free market, a monopoly can only come to be by providing consumers with the best product or service for the best price, assuming there is no foul play going on. Of course, foul play to prevent competition in a free market would be viewed negatively by consumers. With the government able to create legislation that gives certain companies an edge in our current system, it is easy for companies to get away with crony and anti-competitive practices.
  • It is much more common for monopolies to exist because of government granted privilege rather than because of a lack of regulation in an industry. Larger companies frequently lobby the government to pass legislation that they can afford to comply with, but smaller companies can’t. Regulation tends to promote anti-competitive practices.
  • I’m sure anyone who went to public school in the US is familiar with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly that was “broken up” by the government in 1911. While Standard Oil had a 90% market share in the year 1880, there were competitors trying to emulate Rockefeller’s practices that allowed Standard Oil to be so efficient and hard to compete with.
  • In fact, in the year 1911, Standard Oil’s market share had gone down to between 60 and 65 percent due to competition over the years.
  • While many people fear that profit-seeking business can easily become monopolies without government intervention, it is the profit motive in a free market that encourages other businesses to enter the market and compete.

 

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An Objective System of Ethics: Justified by Three Libertarian Principles

This article is influenced by Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics and Stefan Molyneux’s Universally Preferable Behavior, though I hope I am not misconstruing or misusing their ideas in any way (feedback is appreciated).

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In this article, I want to explain how I arrive at an objective system of ethics based on three libertarian principles: self-ownership, non-aggression, and private property. I use these three principles that I justify in this article to determine what is objectively ethical or moral human conduct. Something that is objectively ethical must be universally preferable. A behavior that is universally preferable must be preferable to everyone involved.

This is different from a subjectively preferred behavior. For example, one might prefer to steal an item from a store rather than purchase it, but it is universally preferable for one to not steal. Theft cannot be universally preferable because that would mean one would prefer stealing as much as being stolen from. Theft cannot be universally preferable without falling into absurdity: if people prefer being stolen from as much as stealing, then it would be perfectly acceptable for all property to constantly be changing hands and never be consumed. An objective system of ethics applies universally to all people regardless of class, profession, or position of authority one may be in.

Self-ownership, or the idea that every person has a property right to their physical body, is justified because one cannot argue that one does not own oneself without performing a contradiction. To own something is to have direct and exclusive control over it. One cannot argue without using bodily faculties. This may include anything from one’s mind to one’s vocal cords or fingertips on a keyboard, depending on the method of communication. Argumentation is a human action, or purposeful behavior used to attain some end, that requires the direct control over one’s body. One cannot say, “I don’t own myself” without using one’s body by means of direct and exclusive control, which demonstrates ownership.




Property rights, or the acknowledgement of every person’s right to exclusivity of justly acquired property, are justified because if one owns oneself then one must be the exclusive owner of what they produce or otherwise come to directly control through voluntary means. To violate one’s property rights is to violate one’s right of self-ownership. For one to be justified in stealing from another is for one to have a right to what another produce, thus an attempt to directly control another. The original appropriator or otherwise justified owner must have an exclusive right to that property for property norms to be consistent with self-ownership. The first appropriator of unowned resources must be the rightful owner. Any other norm would result in an absurdity as no one could interact with resources for survival without first getting the consent of other potential appropriators.

The non-aggression principle is this: non-aggression is universally preferable to aggression. In this context, aggression means any trespass of anyone’s person or property. One cannot argue that aggression is preferable to non-aggression without performing a contradiction. Argumentation is a peaceful, consensual, and non-aggressive action. To engage in argumentation necessarily demonstrates a preferability for non-aggressive behavior. In fact, if aggression were universally preferable behavior, argumentation would cease to exist. Argumentation requires the acknowledgement of self-ownership in all arguing parties and that to trespass or otherwise aggress upon another would be contrary to the ethics of argumentation.

Any behavior that violates these three principles is said to be objectively unethical. Because the three principles are related, it is impossible to violate one and not the others. Any violation of self-ownership is necessarily a violation of private property and non-aggression. Because it cannot logically be universally preferable to violate these three principles, behaviors that violate these principles must be considered objectively unethical. Behaviors that don’t violate these three principles must be considered objectively ethical.

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The Myth of Minarchy

Is it possible to have a minimal state that truly conforms to principles of libertarianism such as self-ownership, non-aggression, and private property?

Minarchy is a minimal state. Anarchy is no state. The ideal minimal state would only have the function of upholding individual’s right to private property and self-ownership. Some people consider police, fire, and infrastructure like roads to be a function of a minimal state as well. The services provided by a minimal state would be provided privately in an anarchist society, assuming these services were demanded by consumers.

So, how would the services provided by a minimal state be funded? Inevitably, states must fund themselves through taxation. Taxation is the expropriation of private property by the state by threat of force if the victim does not comply. This begs the question, how can an institution that is supposed to protect property rights also be funded by the expropriation of private property?

A true minimal state would not legislate or regulate private property. A minimal state must have free markets. Due to the nature of public and private institutions, private institutions will overwhelmingly out-compete public institutions. So, if a state does not forcefully collect taxes, it cannot be sustained in a free market.

If a state cannot tax, it would become indistinguishable from a private institution. It would have to be funded voluntarily and it would have to compete with private firms offering the same good or service. A state funded by voluntary donations is likely unsustainable. If the state doesn’t interfere with competition, consumers would prefer to pay directly for services from private firms rather than donating to the state and not having control over the outcomes produced with that funding.

A minimal state that taxes only to protect property rights would be much better than the current state that is pervasive throughout everyone’s lives. However, I have my doubts that a minimal state could be achieved or sustained (look how the US government has grown since its creation). The incentives that public institutions operate on incentivize its growth, rather than its elimination.

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Video: Is Money the Root of All Evil?

In this video I discuss the fairly popular idea that love of money is the root of all evil. This idea is based on a few fallacious premises.

Video Notes
  •  What is money? Money is simply a medium of exchange that is used to facilitate transactions.
  •  Without a medium of exchange, we can only trade or barter with each other.
  •  Money makes it easier to meet your ends using your available means. If I raise cattle and I want to buy a TV, in a barter system I would have to find a TV owner who happens to want to trade for my cattle. With money introduced, I can sell cattle for a medium of exchange such as gold which I can then use to purchase a TV and whatever else I want.
  •  Money is a tool that we use to make our lives better. The only evil related to money is greed which comes from within individuals and not from money itself.
  •  Are profits evil? In a free market system where government doesn’t interfere in the market, the only way for someone to profit is by offering a good to be bought by consumers. These transactions, of course, are entirely voluntary.
  •  Not only are market transactions voluntary, but they are mutually beneficial. Meaning, both parties profit.
  •  Read my article on subjective value at LessonsInLiberty.net. In any voluntary transaction, both parties value the other’s good more than their own good, thus the exchange is mutually beneficial. Both parties profit in voluntary transactions because value is subjective.
  •  So, profiting is not a zero-sum game. In a free market, one cannot profit at the expense of others because all transactions must be voluntary. In a free market, one cannot get rich by doing harm to others. One can only get rich by providing value to others.



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