Abstract: By the 1880s it had become clear that the intellectual tide in Britain was turning against the idea of a minimal state. Under the influence of the New Idealists, the Liberal Party, once the champion of individual liberty, had changed into an organ for interventionist legislation. Challenging this movement was an assortment of anti-collectivists including Old Liberals, Tories, and radical individualists. Spearheading the defence of individualism was the 10th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas. Most famous for his role in the formation of the Liberty and Property Defence League, Wemyss worked tirelessly in parliament to obstruct legislation deemed inimical to liberty, as well as to organise a mass educational effort to instruct the public about the errors of collectivist philosophy and policy. This paper examines the role Wemyss played within late Victorian individualism and considers how the melding of traditionalism and individualism provided an intellectual home for libertarianism on the Right.
Abstract: This study seeks to investigate the nature of ownership of land, and how the right to its control and use can be inferred from self-ownership as a premise. Hence, the question asked is how ownership (of land) can be justified considering the nature of man from a natural rights point of view. The starting point for the argument is self-ownership as being, where man is identified as an indivisible entirety with inalienable rights to his self emanating from his complex nature. This identification is the point of departure in examining the relation between man and the world, and the concept of ownership. Man’s right to self implies the right to use externals through choice, to “focus his consciousness” in order to achieve values beneficial to his being. The discussion on ownership, as inferred from self-ownership as being, ends in a discussion of the distinct features of land, and how ownership of such can be obtained. The conclusion is that man as a rights-bearer to self can obtain natural use-rights through possession and constructive use of resources, rights which are valid throughout the value-achieving process.
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Abstract: In this paper I examine Dr. Walter Block’s argument that a criminal should be forced to play Russian roulette with himself to compensate for the fear he caused his victim, with the number of bullets and chambers reflecting the fear caused. I argue that although this will yield the necessary fear that is part of the retributive justice due to the criminal, it is not libertarian justice because of the statistical expected value of the harm done to the criminal. Even if the threat of death is only used as leverage for the victim to demand a large payout to prevent it, thus preventing wealthy criminals from buying their way out of crimes, this leverage is unjust and leads to unjust exchanges.
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Abstract: There are many factors that may affect the analysis of ethical problems: the physical acts that occur, the relevant history, verbal communication, contracts, etc. One factor that can be difficult to incorporate is the role that socials norms play. This is because norms can vary widely between societies, and even within societies individuals are not usually consciously aware of the norms that they act upon. This paper examines how norms can effect ethical problems and gives one approach for investigating their effect.
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Abstract: This article offers a critical examination of theories that emphasize the importance of governmental provision of self-esteem to citizens. Self-esteem is the feeling that one’s abilities and achievements are positively appraised by the surrounding society, and in some cases the legal system. Such theories are becoming fashionable, following the influence of scholars such as Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser, and others.
The author argues that such theories face major challenges, on two accounts. First, trying to provide universal self esteem would imply that people would be under a duty to positively appraise the achievements of any given person, and that might violate the free exercise of judgment. Second, the dominant theories of recognition also emphasize the importance of self-respect. Such theories usually understand self-respect as ‘the relation of a person to herself/himself, that concerns their intrinsic worth’. The ability to positively or negatively appraise the conducts/achievements of other people is an integral part of this ‘intrinsic worth’. The attempt to provide universal positive appraisals (and therefore self-esteem) means therefore that a simultaneous achievement of self respect and self esteem is not possible as a social goal. Recognition theories face therefore not only an external critique by libertarian and (many) liberal approaches, but also internal problems of consistency between different parts of their own theories.
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Abstract: For more than two centuries in industrialized societies an inherent problem has persisted regarding the role of education and work. This is due in part to the entrenched cultural dogma of the Cartesian/Newtonian paradigm which views the world as a mechanical device and people as organic machines operating within such a world. More recently, it includes the scientific management approach of Frederick W. Taylor which defines individuals as “human capital” to be used and disposed of at will for the benefit of an organizational enterprise or national economy. In opposition to this view the progressive educational movement was born and John Dewey as one of its champions developed a holistic approach to education and work. Over the course of time Dewey’s approach became the cornerstone of holistic education and more recently the eudaimonistic philosophical school in American culture. In parallel with Dewey’s progressivism, the field of systems thinking was developing and a prevalent belief emerged, which holds that all systems, both biological and social, evolve toward greater complexity and that a linear approach to understanding complex systems is ineffective. Therefore, it is the purpose of this paper to propose 1) a eudaimonistic definition of education and work and 2) a systems thinking approach toward human resources in order to create a more humane world.
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Abstract: We attempt to shed light on property rights by examining the case of conjoined twins. We do so since their situation is perhaps among the most challenging of all cases of separating “mine” from “thine.”
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Abstract: Most people are aware of the pro-choice and the pro-life perspectives on abortion. But there is a third one, based on libertarianism called evictionism. I have written on this philosophy on numerous occasions (Block, 1977, 1978, 2004, 2008, 2010A, 2010B, 2010C, 2011, forthcoming, Block and Whitehead, 2005). Wisniewski (2010A, 2010B, 2011) has criticized this viewpoint. The present essay is a response to Wisniewski (2011).
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Abstract: Evictionist theory allows the mother of an unwanted fetus not to kill it (abortion equals eviction plus killing) but to at any time evict it from her womb, even if it sometimes means the death of the latter. Departurism is incompatible with that philosophy. Parr supports the latter theory. The present paper is devoted to a refutation of that perspective.
Abstract: David Friedman attacks deontological or principled libertarianism from a utilitarian point of view. The present essay is an attempt to refute his critique of this philosophy, and to cast aspersions on the utilitarian version of libertarianism he favors.
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Abstract: When there exists a situation in which a non-criminal trespasser is ceasing his property-directed aggression (that is, when he is in the act of stopping the crime of trespassing), departurism contends that libertarian law ought to require that the owner of the property in question allow for this trespasser to complete the process of his departure from the premises just in case death is the result of his eviction. Because such a case is relevantly similar to the case of a trespass within the womb (and because allowing for such a trespasser to depart in this situation is the gentlest manner possible consistent with stopping the crime) the same course of action ought to be endorsed by libertarian legal theory in either case.
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Abstract: In this essay I will try to demonstrate that the principle of self-determination is based on a formal and individualistic view of liberty rights. I also propose a different perspective that takes into account the relationships rather than the individual. I will show how this result can only be achieved through a different ascription of rights to individuals: in particular, I will try to demonstrate 1) that any social practices express specific values, 2) that these values are the result of historical and cultural circumstances, 3) that they are subject to an ongoing public debate, and finally 4) that only if the individual praxis is consistent with these values can it lead to recognition of rights
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Abstract: In the so-called “international credit market crisis,” which started in the second half of 2007 in the US subprime mortgage market, financial derivatives, most notably credit default swaps (CDS), have been publically blamed for having caused, or at least aggravated, the economic and monetary debacle. However, sound economic analysis reveals that CDS are fully compatible with the principles of the free market, and that CDS are not to blame for the disintegration of credit markets—with their tumbling banks, struggling private borrowers and increasingly overstretched government finances. CDS are instruments which are fully compatible with Rothbard’s libertarian property rights and contract theory—and thus economically and ethically legitimate. CDS are an efficient and effective instrument for putting an end to ever higher debt accumulation under fiat money regimes. Economic and ethical fault is to be found with fiat money rather than CDS.
On page 14 of the manuscript,
“This, in turn, increases the disciplinary pressure on borrowers, who are about to build up unsustainable debt levels, to consolidate; or it makes borrowers, who have become financially overstretched, go into default.”
“This, in turn, increases the disciplinary pressure on borrowers who are about to build up unsustainable debt levels to consolidate; or it makes borrowers, who have become financially overstretched, go into default.”
Abstract: Professor Edward Younkins has a very ambitious project, that is, to suggest a solid justification for a capitalist society integrating moral and political philosophy, and economics in support of public policy. With this book Professor Younkins concludes his argument in favor of the compatibility of Austrian Economics with neo-Aristotelian philosophy as the best justification for a free society. That synthesis is understood by many as unsustainable, but with his research the author challenges that common assumption.
Abstract: In this article we consider the theories of utility developed by Rothbard and Kirzner in their respective treatises on economic theory (Man Economy and State, and Market Theory and the Price System). We argue that while both authors were strongly influenced by Mises’ ordinalist conception of utility and in fact both authors affirm this conception in their initial expositions of utility theory, their subsequent developments diverge quite sharply. In particular, Kirzner adopts an approach that is neoclassicist in its essentials, and we discuss how this approach conflicts with the approach developed by Mises (and continued by Rothbard). We thus give further support to Salerno’s (2011) contention that there exists a tension within Austrian price theory today, falling between two camps: Rothbard’s furtherance of the Mengerian “causal-realist” tradition, and Kirzner’s “dynamic” version of the standard Hicksian indifference-based framework.
Abstract: In this article we consider an argument put forth by Selgin (1988) in support of the claim that there exists a mechanism for limiting coordinated expansions of fiduciary media under a system of fractional reserve free banking. Selgin argues that such banks hold risk-adjusted reserves against expected losses, and even if the expectation of reserve losses remains zero, the variance of such losses (adverse clearings) increases under an in-concert expansion (if such expansion is unwarranted by demand). It is this increased variability that is claimed to act as a brake on the expansion. We take issue with this argument on the basis of the fact that such a characterization of observed clearings would require that characteristics of the underlying data-generating process be obtainable from pathwise realizations of that process. In other words, there is an implicit assumption of stationarity (or more strongly, ergodicity) in Selgin’s argument, and this assumption is at odds with well-known empirical facts of non-stationarity associated with most economic time series. We also point out ways in which techniques of risk management commonly found in the modern financial industry are unlikely to be effective in addressing this problem.
Abstract: My claim that probability ought to be defined as a purely subjective measure of human belief has been challenged in a recent and interesting article on these pages by Arnold Baise (2011). Baise argues that probability ought to be defined, not as a purely subjective measure of human belief, as I have claimed, but rather in the following way:
Probability P(A|I) is a number between 0 and 1 that indicates how plausible it is that proposition A is true, based on information I. In addition, one could add that a probability of 1 indicates certainty that the proposition is true, while a probability of 0 indicates certainty that the proposition is false. (2011, p.3).
The reasoning that leads Baise to advance this definition for probability, however, is seriously and apodictically flawed. As a consequence, his definition for probability must be rejected as a viable alternative to my purely subjective definition.
Abstract: William Easterly has a reputation of being a free enterprise oriented economist. Were this not the case, his 2006 book The White Man’s Burden would not have been such a disappointment. In the event, this author misunderstands economic planning; buys into the fallacious notion of the poverty trap (poor nations are too poverty stricken to develop on their own without help from others – how did England manage this?); accepts a positive role for government in development, just as does Easterly’s target, Jeffrey Sachs; calls for state investment in early education; extols the virtues of democracy; attacks the idea of private fire companies, among many other compromises with dirigisme. With friends like this, laissez faire capitalism hardly needs enemies.
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Abstract: The author of this article maintains that Ayn Rand’s version of virtue ethics can provide a powerful basis for operating a successful business organization. An argument is made that Ayn Rand’s Objectivist virtues can serve as an underpinning for a firm’s long-term sustainable success as well as for the flourishing and happiness of its employees. In order to attain a company’s goals, values, and purpose, these virtues must be integrated with the firm’s vision, culture, and climate. The Objectivist virtues are said to provide an integrated framework for employees’ decisions and actions. Leaders must link these virtues to the survival and success of both the firm and its employees. Toward the end of the paper a diagram is presented to aid the reader in visualizing the linkages among the ideas presented therein.
Abstract: The root of any system of economic theory is the theory of price. But while modern Austrian economists have put a great deal of effort and ingenuity into building up the superstructure of their discipline since the mid-1970s, they have paid scant attention to ensuring that the price theory supporting the edifice is a sound and settled doctrine. The result is that, for many current Austrians, price theory is a “dynamic” version of neoclassical price theory. More precisely, it is Chicago price theory with a theory of entrepreneurship and of competition as a rivalrous process grafted onto it. This ad hoc approach to Austrian price theory thus relies heavily on the analytical tools and techniques developed by Alfred Marshall, Frank Knight, and Jacob Viner. George Stigler later elaborated these individual contributions into a systematic price theory.
The prevailing approach almost completely ignores the fact that there exists an alternative “causal-realist” tradition of price theory that was founded by Carl Menger and developed by his followers both in Austria and abroad. These include especially Böhm-Bawerk, J.B. Clark, Frank Fetter, Herbert Davenport, Philip Wicksteed, and Ludwig von Mises. The causal-realist tradition, which is explicitly anti-Marshallian and anti-Stiglerian, maintained a shadowy presence in Austrian economics for most of the postwar period. It is only in recent years that some Austrian economists, seeking a sound price theory to sure up the foundations of their discipline, have explicitly recognized and embraced it.
Israel M. Kirzner’s neglected book, Market Theory and the Price System, which was first published in 1963 and reprinted in a new edition this year, was the first and only systematic attempt to marry Stiglerian price theory with elements of the causal-realist tradition. Murray N. Rothbard, who had already reformulated and significantly advanced the causal-realist tradition in his own treatise Man, Economy, and State, wrote a comprehensive and quite critical referee report on Kirzner’s book manuscript for the publisher in 1961. His comments have never been published before.
This article contains two parts. The first part is a response to certain claims and omissions made by Peter J. Boettke and Frédéric Sautet, the editors of the new edition of Kirzner’s book. The second part contains Rothbard’s report on the book as a supporting document for the arguments of the first part. By proceeding in this way the goal is to clarify the important issues at stake for Austrian price theory.
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