On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, adnotated. Part 3.

Part 2

For one thing, no one could possibly propose anything, and no one could become convinced of any proposition by argumentative means, if a person’s right to make exclusive use of his physical body were not already presupposed. It is this recognition of each other’s mutually exclusive control over one’s own body which explains the distinctive character of propositional exchanges that, while one may disagree about what has been said, it is still possible to agree at least on the fact that there is disagreement. It is also obvious that such a property right to one’s own body must be said to be justified a priori, for anyone who tried to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose the exclusive right of control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say, “I propose such and such.” Anyone disputing such a right would become caught up in a practical contradiction since arguing so would already imply acceptance of the very norm which he was disputing.

The real elephant in the room here ? Hoppe is exactly and I do mean exactly on the money. BUT! It’s not at all clear that he knows it! For it’s indeed the case that independent men and women of independent means and independent authority are the only ones qualified to opine on matters of import – be it politics or economics or military strategy or the day of the year on which fireworks are to be displayed – and that filthy-mindedi plebes may not propose anything whatsoever. It’s not their place. Not everyone has a voice, not for all the rationalistic wishing in the world can a mouse become a man or a burning bush become a rocketship. It’s however not in the slightest bit apparent that Hoppe draws this very real distinction between “haves” and have-nots.” Instead he imagines – quite conventionally and equally mistakenly – that all men are born free and aware, in stark contradiction to observable reality.ii Not that this reality much perturbs the dependent who know they’re dependent. The relaxation of ultimate responsibility and the recognition of one’s proper place is wholly liberating.iii Just as knowing what position you’re playing on the pitch is defining and focusing. Imagine the chaos that’d ensue if every soccer player thought they were a forward and you’ll have some notion as to the train wreck that is “democracy for the people by the people.”

Furthermore, it would be equally impossible to sustain argumentation for any length of time and rely on the propositional force of one’s arguments if one were not allowed to appropriate in addition to one’s body other scarce means through homesteading action (by putting them to use before somebody else does), and if such means and the rights of exclusive control regarding them were not defined in objective physical terms. For if no one had the right to control anything at all except his own body, then we would all cease to exist and the problem of justifying norms simply would not exist. Thus, by virtue of the fact of being alive, property rights to other things must be presupposed to be valid. No one who is alive could argue otherwise.

Even though it’s framed through the frankly bizarre lens of homesteading (seriously, how old are Libertarians ? a million ?), Hoppe makes a solid point. First-come-first-serve holds hard and fast in any sane jurisdiction with regards to property law… until, of course, force readily overcomes expediency, but Might Makes Right is equally a necessary pre-condition for exclusive control of anything.iv You can be King of the Castle in Siberia only as long as Herr Putin & co. don’t find oil reserves underneath “your” little fort in the wilderness. It’s therefore necessary but hardly sufficient that one is first to the kill – just ask the lion who catches the antelope all on his own but is then quickly relieved of his spoils by a pack of opportunistic hyenas. You have to be first, it’s true, but then you have to defend your property… with your life! And win! That earns you the right to do what you will the property. But this point is no doubt lost on a pacifist pussifisted Libertarian mind like Hoppe’s. Alas, we soldier on.

Moreover, if a person did not acquire the right of exclusive control over such goods by homesteading action, i.e., by establishing an objective link between a particular person and a particular scarce resource before anybody else had done so, but if instead late-comers were assumed to have ownership claims to goods, then no one would be allowed to do anything with anything as one would have to have all of the late-comers’ consent prior to ever doing what one wanted to do. Neither we, nor our forefathers, nor our progeny could, do, or will survive if one were to follow this rule.

If some dude fells a tree in forest and no one else’s there to steal his wood, does God recognise the feller’s property rights ? According to Hoppe, yes! What other “objective” measure could be divined other than… the divine one can scarcely construe without drinking so much Libertarian punch that you vote Johnson. And yet we non-voters are somehow “allowed” to do things with other things. As if by magic.

In order for any person—past, present, or future—to argue anything it must be possible to survive then and now, and in order to do just this property rights cannot be conceived of as being timeless and nonspecific regarding the number of people involved. Rather, property rights must be thought of as originating as a result of specific individuals acting at definite points in time. Otherwise, it would be impossible for anyone to first say anything at a definite point in time and for someone else to be able to reply. Simply saying that the first-user-first-owner rule of libertarianism can be ignored or is unjustified implies a contradiction, for one’s being able to say so must presuppose one’s existence as an independent decision making unit at a given point in time.

Again, Hoppe elides the cold reality that whether or not you’re interested in violence, violence is very interested in you. These “actions” he alludes to may be congenial transactions between two gents wearing top hats and smoking tobacco, but assuming that all transfers of property are so seemingly civilised is like assuming that all sex is missionary. It ain’t so I’m afraid.

Finally, acting and proposition-making would also be impossible if the things acquired through homesteading were not defined in objective, physical terms (and if correspondingly, aggression were not defined as an invasion of the physical integrity of another person’s property), but in terms of subjective values and evaluations. While every person can have control over whether or not his actions cause the physical integrity of something to change, control over whether or not one’s actions affect the value of someone’s property rests with other people and their evaluations. One would have to interrogate and come to an agreement with the entire world population to make sure that one’s planned actions would not change another person’s evaluations regarding his property. Surely, everyone would be long dead before this was accomplished. Moreover, the idea that property values should be protected is argumentatively indefensible, for even in order to argue so it must be presupposed that actions must be permitted prior to any actual agreement. (If they were not one could not even make this proposition.) If they are permitted, however, this is only possible because of objective borders of property, i.e., borders which every person can recognize as such on his own without having to agree first with anyone else with respect to one’s system of values and evaluations. By being alive and formulating any proposition, one demonstrates that any ethic except the libertarian private properly ethic is invalid. If this were not so and late-comers had to have legitimate claims to things or things owned were defined in subjective terms, no one could possibly survive as a physically independent decision-making unit at any given point in time. Hence, no one could ever raise any validity claiming proposition. This concludes my a priori justification of the private property ethic.

Agreed. Property value isn’t the point of this exercise. Property ownership is. This is exactly why it doesn’t matter what the fraudulent excuses for fiat-btc exchanges pretend that the “price” is on any given day so much as it matters that Bitcoin cannot be diluted. Anyways, three parts down, one to go.

To be continued…

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  1. It’s impossible to think clearly and cleanly if the room on your shoulders is a mess. If you can’t see your way to a simple task’s completion because you’re busy with your gamboyphone, don’t go blaming the “1%” that you don’t have nice things and can’t get a raise at PopCopy. []
  2. As Voltaire noted :

    Man is free, we repeat, when he can do what he wills to do; but he is not free to will; it is impossible that he should will without cause.

    []

  3. No, the star-patterned nightmare that is the socialist state doesn’t count, of course, because it cannot be depended on. Just ask any idiot who voted FOR CHANGE!!!11eleven1 and was inevitably and sorely disappointed that rainbow gumdrops didn’t trickle down from The Sky Gods as promised. []
  4. Lest we forget that the original “homesteaders” in the Americas still strung up plenty of natives, even if many in turn were scalped and pulled behind horses until dead. Right up until the US War of Independence and beyond, the pre-foosball redskins were a fierce and frequently victorious adversary for the would-be occupying forces. []

2 thoughts on “On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, adnotated. Part 3.

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

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