Abstract: Matt Mortellaro’s “Causation and Responsibility: A New Direction” is a brilliant Rothbardian analysis that makes numerous new and important points. It also critiques some of my own previous publications. In this piece I focus on Mortellaro’s rejoinders to me, and set forth a defense of my own positions.
Abstract: Properly speaking, money and law are natural outgrowths of human society, evolving over time via the voluntary cooperation that lies at the heart of the social enterprise. And as gold and the golden rule have for millennia formed the basis, respectively, of society’s money and law, they accordingly constitute the “twin pillars of civilization,” governing the social enterprise such that, in Mises’s words, “the human species has multiplied far beyond the margin of subsistence.” It stands to reason, then, that if money and law are corrupted, the social enterprise will be corrupted as well. And as this is precisely what the state has done, essentially toppling the twin pillars of civilization, it is necessary to understand what the state is, where it came from, and how it has systematically gone about corrupting money and law, and thus the social enterprise as a whole. For only then can money and law be returned to their rightful owners, and only then can the state be put in its proper place. Which is no place so far as the proper functioning of civil society is concerned.
Abstract: Since the financial crisis first erupted in the summer of 2007, the US Federal Reserve has sought to contain negative spillovers into the real economy by dramatically loosening monetary policy. Initially, this was done by lowering its key lending rates, but as the crisis has worsened, and rates have approached closer to zero, it has resorted to expanding its balance sheet in a historically unprecedented fashion. The Fed’s total assets have more than doubled to nearly $2 trillion since the summer of 2007.
Much of the debate surrounding the wisdom of this extraordinary increase in the production of money has revolved around its expediency–in other words, will it actually work to rescue the economy? Very little has been said, at least explicitly, about whether it is the morally right thing to do.
This paper seeks to fill this gap by providing a moral analysis of the Fed’s response to the financial crisis. For this purpose, we apply Aristotelian virtue theory, Lockean natural rights philosophy, Kantian deontology, and Benthamite utilitarianism. The idea is that if a consensus, or a strong majority, can be reached from differing philosophic assumptions and starting points, then the resulting judgment ought to be compelling for all neutral observers. On the basis that the Fed’s efforts are likely to result in a marked rise in inflation, we argue that every one of these four moral theories ultimately renders a negative judgment. As such, we conclude that the Fed is pursuing an immoral course.
Abstract: Progressive legal theorist Daniel Crane has argued that libertarians who believe that monopoly results from government intervention should accept antitrust law because the monopoly problem is a result of state government passage of General Incorporation Acts after the Civil War. The resulting corporate consolidation and control of industry necessitated federal antitrust law as a corrective. Crane has all of this wrong. State permission for incorporation was an ancient tool of mercantile grants of monopoly still in practice by state legislatures in the early 19th century, and the General Incorporation Acts were a major expression of a successful Jacksonian antimonopoly policy.
Abstract: Despite evidence that free market policies improve overall welfare, much of the world is making little progress in reducing state economic controls. Short-term transition costs may be the reason. A simple model demonstrates that it may be rational to weight these costs more heavily than the long-term beneﬁts of economic freedom.
Abstract: The private provision of road services and road privatisation has been extensively studied and has generated numerous debates among scholars. Block and Tullock exchanged on the possibility of having a completely privatised road system. Tullock defends the idea such a system is not viable, whereas Block shows a free market for road provision can be easily conceived.
This article proposes a re-examination of this debate and defends a pragmatic and realist approach. Although it shares Block’s conclusions on the possibility of having a free market for road services, it justifies them on a different ground. In fact, the ‘physical obstacle’ argument is less important that it could be previously imagined but it reflects more a socialist tendency to pose the problem.
Abstract: Milton Friedman is among those who have favored a value free, amoral defense of the free society. Here I discuss his basic reason for doing so, namely, that the claim to moral knowledge implies authoritarian politics. I argue that this is wrong because to act morally cannot require coercing people to do so–to quote Immanuel Kant, “ought” implies “can.”
Download Paper: “Milton Friedman & the Human Good”
Abstract: Both Ludwig von Mises and Richard von Mises claimed that numerical probability could not be legitimately applied to singular cases. This paper challenges this aspect of the von Mises brothers’ theory of probability. It is argued that their denial that numerical probability could be applied to singular cases was based solely upon Richard von Mises’ exceptionally restrictive definition of probability. This paper challenges Richard von Mises’ definition of probability by arguing that the definition of probability necessarily depends upon whether the world is governed by time-invariant causal laws. It is argued that if the world is governed by time-invariant causal laws, a subjective definition of probability must be adopted. It is further argued that both the nature of human action and the relative frequency method for calculating numerical probabilities both presuppose that the world is indeed governed by time-invariant causal laws. It is finally argued that the subjective definition of probability undercuts the von Mises claim that numerical probability cannot legitimately be applied to singular, non-replicable cases.
Abstract: Two prominent normative theories of business ethics are stakeholder and shareholder theory. Business ethicists generally favor the former, while business people prefer the latter. If the purpose of business ethics is “to produce a set of ethical principles that can be both expressed in language accessible to and conveniently applied by an ordinary business person” (Hasnas 1998), then it is important to examine this dichotomy.
While superficially attractive, the normative version of stakeholder theory contains numerous limitations. Since balancing multiple stakeholder preferences is difficult, competing claims often become tests of political strength rather than justice. Furthermore, stakeholder theory has significant normative weaknesses.
Although less attractive to academic ethicists, shareholder theory may provide superior results for society. The shareholder model focuses companies on meeting society’s material needs. Wise owners often balance other stakeholders’ views well since it is necessary for the business’s long-term success. Finally, shareholder theory has a strong normative basis in autonomy.
In light of this analysis, it is incumbent upon academic business ethicists to emphasize the value of shareholder theory when teaching business ethics courses.
Abstract: In “Property, Causality, and Liability” and “Causation and Aggression,” Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Stephan Kinsella & Patrick Tinsley, respectively, argue against the Rothbardian position on criminal liability, especially with regard to the issue of incitement. This essay takes a critical look at the suggested approaches of both and attempts to defend the Rothbardian position on incitement from their criticisms. Further, this essay examines the views of Walter Block on incitement and attempts to correct inconsistencies in his position with regard to murder contracts and threats.
Download Paper: “Causation and Responsibility: A New Direction”
Abstract: Metaphysical libertarianism (hereafter ML) is the doctrine that human beings possess free will, that free will is incompatible with determinism, and that determinism is false. In this paper, I argue that the philosophical viability of political and economic libertarianism (hereafter PEL) depends on the viability of ML. Compatibilism is the doctrine that determinism is compatible with free will, and hence possibly also with PEL. I attempt to undermine this contention by exploring the relationship between compatibilism and prepunishment – i.e., the practice of punishing people before their commission of a crime. I make a claim that considerations of prepunishment, as well as related advance actions, which I collectively call “preactions”, not so much reveal and underscore the radical consequences of compatibilism, but rather, firstly, threaten its collapse into hard determinism, and secondly, cast a shadow of suspicion on determinism itself, thus opening some new, promising avenues for ML, and, by implication, securing the philosophical foundations of PEL.
Download Paper: “Free Will and Preactions”
Abstract: Kukathas, in “Two Constructions of Libertarianism,” concludes that “the choice confronting libertarians is an invidious one. … The Federation of Liberty can, in principle, turn out to contain no communities of that federation which actually value or respect liberty; and even slavery might have a lawful place within it. The Union of Liberty, on the other hand, can, in principle turn out to be society ruled by a strong authority with little respect for dissenting moral traditions, including some self-styled libertarian moral traditions.” However, no such choice needs to be made. The one libertarian principle calls upon us to permit all voluntary association. It allows intervention to correct involuntary association, except in the case of relations of parents and children, the latter being not yet exactly persons. But the criterion of voluntariness is difficult, since people frequently submit themselves to authorities, even to ones who are authorized by those persons to use force against them. And it does not require us to intervene to correct injustices generally.
It is not clear what a “libertarian community” would be, beyond one in which relations among individuals and groups are fundamentally voluntary. But there is no difference between (1) allowing and (2) forbidding the disallowing of various practices, and that is the distinction which in essence the Federation versus the Union is defined in terms of. And the question whether to attempt to realize the libertarian principle better by erecting a single government with the kind of authority governments by definition have, versus making do with a fully anarchic society, is, I think, not settled to this day. Fortunately, as I have argued, the choice is not required by the alternatives Professor Kukathas’s interesting essay poses for us. In short: the libertarian principle remains univocal: no aggression against those not themselves guilty of any aggression. And therefore, no aggression against those with whom we disagree, including about the legitimacy of the libertarian principle. But, certainly, we may use force against those who compel others to go along. The touchstone remains the liberty of the individual.
Abstract: Characterizing the libertarian ideal, Robert Nozick’s Minimal State has been a classic model wherein individual rights are taken for granted, from which state power is derivative, and legitimate only if it protects and reinforces individual rights. However, the “protection” is not so limited as it appears to be and the feedback from the state to individuals is not always positive. A microscopic analysis of the “protection” proffered by minimal state reveals three constituents (retribution, preemption and prevention or preventive restraints), with “preventive restraints” being the most controversial and extensive, and conflicting with the rights as “side-constraints”. By rejecting “utilitarianism of rights”, Nozick sets out to optimally secure rights, yet in so doing, he could hardly reconcile the clash between “constraints” and “restraints”, the inviolable rights supposed to be protected and the protective measures supposed to limit rights.
Download Paper: “‘Triune’ Protection and its Implications for the Minimal State”
Abstract: This article responds to current critiques directed against Hoppe’s justification by performative contradiction of the self-ownership axiom. Maintaining that ethics should be grounded on sound principles, Hoppe observes that only self-ownership can pass the test of performative contradiction. From this idea, he concludes that only libertarianism (the ethical system grounded on the axiom of self-ownership) can be justified. Any other ethic is self-defeating. An important debate in ethics was stimulated by numerous critiques formulated against the performative contradiction and more precisely against the use that Hoppe makes of it in justifying libertarianism. Without endorsing Hoppe’s argumentation, this article prevents some common misunderstandings, systemizes the types of critiques and thoroughly replies to them.
Abstract: When H.-H. Hoppe claimed (in A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, 1989) that the principles of libertarianism were argumentatively irrefutable, both the logical coherence and the relevance of his “argument from argumentation” were criticized. While occasionally some of these criticisms still crop up, this paper defends Hoppe’s claim against them from the vantage point of the author’s own work (in Dutch) on the ethics of dialogue in the nineteen-seventies. It presents a more detailed and systematic presentation of the “argument from argumentation” than Hoppe had need for in the particular context of his book. It makes a distinction between arguments about principles and arguments about particular cases in which these principles may be invoked; and between the normative validity (as a matter of principle) of certain presumptions and the fact that in particular cases these presumptions hold only in principle and can be refuted by the evidence pertaining to the cases.
Download Paper: “Argumentation Ethics and The Philosophy of Freedom”
Abstract: This essay is intentionally one-sided. Almost all other essays by either defenders of capitalism (libertarians) or defenders of government (statists) are oppositely one-sided. They claim that capitalism’s voluntariness or government’s coerciveness mean that capitalism or government better fosters such things as art, happiness, education, jobs and world peace, and never much emphasise factors that may undermine their commentary. This essay emphasises the mitigating factors that others gloss over.
Arguments about the advantages or disadvantages of capitalism or government dominate political debate. This essay contends that these arguments, when they are not just about their author’s feelings, are usually incorrect or misleading. They often use value-judgments on behalf of others, disguised by false measures of happiness invented from economic data or surveys, and then applied across demographics and time. Another common error is to talk only of the positive side of something and ignore the negative. Libertarians spot these errors in statists, yet often do not hold themselves to the same standard.
Download Paper: “Grounding Political Debate”
Abstract: In this paper we assume the contours of the libertarian philosophy, its view toward the unjustified state, and, also, the punishment theory of this perspective. We address the narrow question of what punishment is justified for partaking in statist activities.
Abstract: This paper, by the late Bruno Leoni, was originally published in the Italian journal Il Politico in 1966. In the article, Leoni reviews H.L.A. Hart’s The Concept of Law (1961). Hart first analyzes the concept of law by resorting to the classical concept of “obligation.” But he later tries a “fresh start” by resorting to the concept of “secondary rules.” In his review, Leoni argues that the former attempt is confronted with serious difficulties, and that the latter attempt (to which professor Hart possibly resorts in view of overcoming some of said difficulties) is ultimately inconsistent with the former.
Download Paper: “On A Recent Theory of ‘Legal Obligation'”
Abstract: This paper, by the late Bruno Leoni, was originally presented at a special meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society (Tokyo, Sept. 5–10, 1966), and was originally published in the Italian journal Il Politico in 1966. The paper displays Leoni’s fondness for Chinese culture, and is essentially a defense of the unity of mankind. Westerners are often of the belief that the Occidental, or Western, individual freedom-based view of liberty is distinct from the Oriental (Eastern) view of liberty. Leoni challenges this perspective. Mill believed that disregard for custom was what made the West both free and different from the rest of the world, while the Oriental approach is more backward and based on blind respect for customs. However, custom has often been invoked both in the East and in the West to oppose and limit the power of tyrants, and to defend or to secure civil or political liberty. Mill argued that disregard of custom accounts for novelty, novelty for diversity of character and culture, and the latter for freedom and progress, but there was an unsurpassed diversity of character and culture when Oriental and Occidental people were put together under the rule of the Roman emperors. Furthermore, the “Orient” was not monotonous, dull, and homogeneous, as Mill presumed; to the contrary, Europe cannot show in any period of its history a variety of races, languages, cultures, philosophies and religions even slightly comparable to those of India or China. In fact, Buddha and Confucius were both concerned mainly with individual freedom. Confucius’s theory of society, in particular, was very individualistic; he clearly formulated for the first time in recorded history that principle of “reciprocity,” the “golden rule” for any liberal society. He maintained that the very fundamental principle for a happy society is “Not doing to others what one does not wish them do to one’s self.” Confucius shared, along with the greatest masters of liberal thought in the West, an almost unlimited confidence in education. He believed that everybody could be educated in principle, regardless of his condition, and that coercion is a very limited means of establishing a good society. Though the social and political theories of Confucius in sixth century B.C. China were not the same as those of modern Western liberals, Confucius had a clear and liberal idea of the unsurpassable limits of government in any desirable society. He made quite clear that the government existed for the people and not the people for the government, that no hereditary power whatsoever, but the happiness of the people provided a justification for the rulers. Like Western liberal democracy, Confucianism values freedom and the individual, and denies unlimited authority to the State. In fact, the entire humanistic and liberal background out of which Western democracy grew has much in common with the best traditions of Chinese thought. Ultimately, what is really relevant is neither East nor West, or any other geographical or historical limitation. It is human nature itself.
Download Paper: “Two Views of Liberty, Occidental and Oriental (?)”
Abstract: George Reisman’s magnum opus Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics is a monumental attempt at theoretical integration of leading economic phenomena into one unified whole. Few such books have been published in the history of economics. Still fewer of them contain a comparable proportion of path-breaking innovations both in approach and substance that are integrated in a tightly-spun system of thought that Capitalism does. Yet despite its numerous path-breaking contributions to economic theory, the book has attracted virtually zero attention from the scientific community. History shows that for the most part this has been the fate of all great innovations in science. This review attempts (a) to point out reasons why the book’s content is revolutionary, and (b) to finally start a serious discussion of its substantive ideas. Specifically, the review focuses in some detail on some of Reisman’s most important innovations which all point the way to a wholly new direction in economic theory that promises to provide the hitherto unseen conformity with empirical reality, analytical rigor, and doctrinal integration.