On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, adnotated. Part 4.

Part 3

A few comments regarding a topic already touched upon earlier, the relationship of this “praxeological” proof of libertarianism to the utilitarian and to the natural rights position, shall complete the discussion. As regards the utilitarian position, the proof contains its ultimate refutation. It demonstrates that simply in order to propose the utilitarian position, exclusive rights of control over one’s body and one’s homesteaded goods already must be presupposed as valid. More specifically, as regards the consequentialist aspect of libertarianism, the proof shows its praxeological impossibility: the assignment of rights of exclusive control cannot be dependent on certain outcomes. One could never act and propose anything unless private property rights existed prior to a later outcome. A consequentialist ethic is a praxeological absurdity. Any ethic must instead be “aprioristic” or instantaneous in order to make it possible that one can act here and now and propose this or that rather than having to suspend acting until later. Nobody advocating a wait-for-the-outcome ethic would be around to say anything if he took his own advice seriously. Also, to the extent that utilitarian proponents are still around, they demonstrate   through their actions that their consequentialist doctrine is and must be regarded as false. Acting and proposition-making require private property rights now and cannot wait for them to be assigned only later.

No disagreement here even if the non-economist must surely assume that the “consequentialist” must be a straw man – a trumped up figment of Hoppe’s active imagination – until the non-economist recalls that there are charlatans in the “educated” ranks who adhere to the ghastly state theory of money.

As regards the natural rights position, the praxeological proof, generally supportive as it is of the former’s position concerning the possibility of a rational ethic and in full agreement with the conclusions reached within this tradition (specifically, by Murray N. Rothbard), has at least two distinctive advantages. For one thing, it has been a common quarrel with the natural rights position, even on the part of otherwise sympathetic observers, that the concept of human nature is far too diffuse to allow the derivation of a determinate set of rules of conduct. The praxeological approach solves this problem by recognizing that it is not the wider concept of human nature but the narrower one of propositional exchanges and argumentation which must serve as the starting point in deriving an ethic. Moreover, there exists an a priori justification for this choice insofar as the problem of true and false, of right and wrong, does not arise independent of propositional exchanges. No one, then, could possibly challenge such a starting point without contradiction. Finally, it is argumentation which requires the recognition of private property, so an argumentative challenge of the validity of the private property ethic is praxeologically impossible. Second, there is the logical gap between “is-” and “ought-statements” which natural rights proponents have failed to bridge successfully—except for advancing some general critical remarks regarding the ultimate validity of the fact-value dichotomy. Here the praxeological proof of libertarianism has the advantage of offering a completely value-free justification of private property. It remains entirely in the realm of is-statements and never tries to derive an “ought” from an “is.” The structure of the argument is this: (a) justification is propositional justification—a priori true is-statement; (b) argumentation presupposes property in one’s body and the homesteading principle—a priori true is-statement; and (c) then, no deviation from this ethic can be argumentatively justified—a priori true is-statement. The proof also offers a key to an understanding of the nature of the fact-value dichotomy: Ought-statements cannot be derived from is-statements. They belong to different logical realms.

Hoppe hits the mark here. Anyone arguing from a position of “People ought to do X because reasons” or “If only people would be more Y the world would be a better place” definitively and ipso facto have no business discussing anything more consequential than Drake’s new haircut and Apple’s new headphones. So it is! They might fill to the brim the voluminous dumping grounds for pointless drivel posing as “social media” but they may never control the levers of power, merely, at best, the shades of idiocy colouring their idiotboxes. No more.

It is also clear, however, that one cannot even state that there are facts and values if no propositional exchanges exist, and that this practice of propositional exchanges in turn presupposes the acceptance of the private property ethic as valid. In other words, cognition and truth-seeking as such have a normative foundation, and the normative foundation on which cognition and truth rest is the recognition of private property rights.

At long last, we’ve arrived at the end of our journey into the political philosophy of Libertarianism and its admittedly incomplete – or more specifically non-violent and non-classist – understanding of property rights. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride thus far, but don’t feel rushed into disembarking, there’s always more time available on the ship. More time to learn, more time to reflect, more time to look forwards, more time to look backwards…

Les hommes, en tout tems, ont pensé qu’ autrefois,
De longs ruisseaux de lait serpentaient dans nos bois;
La lune était plus grande, et la nuit moins obscure;
L’hiver se couronnait de fleurs et de verdure;
Se contemplait à l’aise, admirait son néant,
Et, formé pour agir, se plaisait à rien faire, etc.

More time to look forwards.

___ ___ ___

One thought on “On the Ultimate Justification of the Ethics of Private Property by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, adnotated. Part 4.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>