Today’s document is an article written by Walter Block that was taken from the Vol. 22 #1 issue of the Journal of Libertarian Studies, which was published during 2011. It is a refutation of Robert Murphy and Gene Callahan’s criticisms against Hans-Herman Hoppe’s argumentation ethics. Footnotes have been removed for brevity and clarity of reading.
Although I shall have highly critical things to say about Murphy and Callahan, I am delighted they have written it, and very happy that the refereeing system organized by the editor of The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Roderick Long, saw fit to accept it for publication. And this for two reasons.
First, a minor one: there are those who accuse libertarianism of being a cult. A necessary (but not sufficient condition for such a statement is that all members be in thrall to the eminent leader. Well, Murphy and Callahan (hence, MC) are certainly members in good standing of the libertarian community. With the passing of Murray N. Rothbard, Hoppe has a good a claim as anyone, and a much better one than many, to being the new leader of the libertarian movement, at least insofar as being its most eminent and accomplished theoretician. And yet, while MC is of course respectful of Hoppe, it is a highly critical attack on the libertarian construct for which he is most justifiably famous: argumentation ethics. Yet, MC are still members in good standing in this community. So much for that unwarranted charged.
Second, there is a fierce battle now taking place within the libertarian community over this issue. I do not think we have seen the last word on this matter, including the present attempt; there are simply too many leading libertarian theoreticians on both sides of it for that to be the case. I think that the best way to resolve all such issues is through debate, and, yes, argument. Here, I am sure, all participants on both sides would agree. For this reason I welcome MC to the lists, and am delighted to be playing a small role in this myself at present.
Third, Hoppe’s argumentation ethics claims that people who argue against private property commit a performative contradiction, insofar as they are using private property (their own bodies, plus room to stand in, or a chair to sit on) to do so. MC are using, what else, argument, to attempt to refute the Hoppe thesis. This, alone, of course does not demonstrate that these two authors are themselves committing a performative contradiction. But it does at least furnish further evidence, as if any were needed, of the centrality of argument to the intellectual process. There are many libertarians who have whined and groused about the Hoppe thesis, or who have confined their remarks to unrefereed blogs, and web sites. MC have not limited themselves to that route. Instead, they have published their reflections in a peer reviewed scholarly journal, and have thus made themselves into far greater targets, as if of course fitting and proper. For this alone they deserve congratulation.
With these introductory remarks I am now ready to consider, and reject, several of the criticisms leveled at Hoppe by MC. Continue reading