On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, adnotated. Part 2.

Part 1

In the following I outline an argument that demonstrates why this position is untenable, and how the essentially Lockean private property ethic of libertarianism can ultimately be justified. In effect, this argument supports the natural rights position of libertarianism as espoused by the other master thinker of the modern libertarian movement, Murray N. Rothbard—above all in his Ethics of Liberty. However, the argument establishing the ultimate justification of private property is different from the one typically offered by the natural rights tradition. Rather than this tradition, it is Mises, and his idea of praxeology and praxeological proofs, who provides the model. I demonstrate that only the libertarian private property ethic can be justified argumentatively, because it is the praxeological presupposition of argumentation as such; and that any deviating, nonlibertarian ethical proposal can be shown to be in violation of this demonstrated preference. Such a proposal can be made, of course, but its propositional content would contradict the ethic for which one demonstrated a preference by virtue of one’s own act of proposition-making, i.e., by the act of engaging in argumentation as such. For instance, one can say “people are and always shall be indifferent towards doing things,” but this proposition would be belied by the very act of proposition making, which in fact would demonstrate subjective preference (of saying this rather than saying something else or not saying anything at all). Likewise, nonlibertarian ethical proposals are falsified by the reality of actually proposing them. To reach this conclusion and to properly understand its importance and logical force, two insights are essential. First, it must be noted that the question of what is just or unjust— or for that matter the even more general question of what is a valid proposition and what is not—only arises insofar as I am, and others are, capable of propositional exchanges, i.e., of argumentation. The question does not arise vis-à-vis a stone or fish because they are incapable of engaging in such exchanges and of producing validity claiming propositions. Yet if this is so—and one cannot deny that it is without contradicting oneself, as one cannot argue the case that one cannot argue—then any ethical proposal as well as any other proposition must be assumed to claim that it is capable of being validated by propositional or argumentative means. (Mises, too, insofar as he formulates economic propositions, must be assumed to claim this.) In fact, in producing any proposition, overtly or as an internal thought, one demonstrates one’s preference for the willingness to rely on argumentative means in convincing oneself or others of something. There is then, trivially enough, no way of justifying anything unless it is a justification by means of propositional exchanges and arguments.

If your eyes also started crossing midway through this 7-layer bullshit dip, you’re not alone. In fact, there aren’t enough tacos in Tacoma to eat this deep a ditch of dumb shit, which is in fact all you need to know about this part of Hoppe’s argument. Your bullshit detector is not to be ignored lightly. If something literally wreaks to high heavens and you can practically see the cartoon wavy stink lines emanating from its very surface, it’s because someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes. The root of what Hoppe is trying to fudge over is that fact that humans aren’t rational, we’re rationalising, which means that we make use of consistent rather than correct narratives ex post facto that more-or-less align with reality as we’re wont to observe it. Any arguments we make, therefore, are not rooted in pure enlightened thought sourced from a divinely-linked pineal gland, but rather in animalistic, which is to say sexual, reactions. So it is that what is deemed “just” or “unjust” in a given time and place is a reflection of emergent norms of those in positions of power, not a reflection of cheap tawk of those in subservient roles. Therefore, Hoppe’s proposition that only humans have justice because only we have a word for justice is the No True Scotsman fallacy writ large. Justice is simply that which the winners deem to be correct, a phenomenon perhaps unknown to stones but one hardly unfamiliar within the animal kingdom. Justice and justification don’t require words, merely action. Is that too much for a praxeologist to grok ?

However, then it must be considered the ultimate defeat for an ethical proposal if one can demonstrate that its content is logically incompatible with the proponent’s claim that its validity be ascertainable by argumentative means. To demonstrate any such incompatibility would amount to an impossibility proof, and such proof would constitute the most deadly defeat possible in the realm of intellectual inquiry.

That Hoppe contests his will only within the realm of intellectual inquiry and not within the realm of practical inquiry, wherein the non-metaphysical arts such as war and economics are played, is perhaps the root of his detachment. Not that he’s wrong with regards to the power and purpose of logical argumentation. He’s quite right.

Second, it must be noted that argumentation does not consist of free-floating propositions but is a form of action requiring the employment of scarce means; and that the means which a person demonstrates as preferring by engaging in propositional exchanges are those of private property.

Perhaps I spoke too soon in denouncing our fair author. You’d swear he’s in the midst of making an about-face.

To be continued…

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2 thoughts on “On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, adnotated. Part 2.

  1. […] no libertarian myself. Their worldview is a bit too simplistic – rather like the Bohr atomic model – and equally surpassable by anyone […]

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