Here. Let me emphasize that I really do think I get what Hoppe is trying to do here, and I appreciate how awesome a project it is. It’s like Aquinas’ arguments for God; they are really hardcore and so much more fundamental than the usual thing you hear in a debate.
I just think Hoppe’s argument doesn’t work, I’m sorry. It’s not that I have a grudge against Hoppe’s style; for example, I love his Economic Science and the Austrian Method–he says the action axiom solved the mind-body problem. Absolutely blew my mind. But I just don’t think the argumentation ethics works.
==> Gene Callahan and I have at least three independent objections to it in this article that, in my opinion, are devastating. If just one of them goes through, it’s dead.
==> The very act of debating presupposes that we freely control our bodies and are standing on a piece of real estate. By making that observation, did I just prove that every non-criminal needs to own a plot of land in a just society? Of course not. But yet I’m pretty sure Stephan thinks it proves that every non-criminal needs to own his or her body. How?
==> At several points in his analysis, Stephan has to appeal to the fact that libertarian rights are reasonable and make sense, otherwise his argument doesn’t go through. For example, at about the 80% mark of the interview, Stephan discusses a guy who goes on a rampage on a farm, and the farmer imprisons the guy in his house while figuring out what to do next (like notify the law enforcement people). Stephan says the prisoner could demand, “How do you justify imprisoning me while you’re free?” and the farmer could say, “Because you just attacked my family!” Stephan’s point is that that is a legitimate reason, not like the arbitrary and/or non-universalizable reasons that social democrats would give to justify why they are using coercion to (say) imprison Wesley Snipes for tax evasion. But of course, the reason it seems reasonable to Stephan to imprison a guy for trying to steal private property, while it seems arbitrary and illegitimate to put a rich guy in a cage for not paying taxes, is that Stephan is a Rothbardian. Leo Tolstoy might think imprisoning the first guy would be arbitrary (especially if he was trying to take food or animals, not just hurting people and breaking stuff), and most Americans don’t think it’s arbitrary to lock up a selfish citizen who doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes. So in other words, to get anything out of argumentation ethics, you have to say, “First, let’s stipulate that libertarianism is right. Now, I can show you that anybody who denies libertarianism is wrong…”
==> Something that didn’t occur to me until listening to this podcast: Hoppe got the idea for this approach from his teacher, Habermas. Apparently Habermas himself used the approach to justify not the libertarian ethic, but a broader social democratic one. I haven’t looked it up, but I wonder if it goes something like this? “To properly debate, you need to be educated, have access to a good diet and exercise regimen, not be exhausted from working 80-hour weeks with no vacation or childcare, etc. So clearly, anybody arguing against the modern welfare state is contradicting himself.” So whatever methods Stephan uses to show why that is wrong, will also show why we don’t get to retain full-blown libertarianism either. As I said before, the only way you get libertarianism, is if you already believe it for independent reasons.
==> I’m exaggerating a bit (and hence being a bit unfair), but I want to make my above claims clear: Imagine somebody said, “2+2 = 4, therefore libertarianism is the only ethical system.” Then I say that’s a non sequitur, and the guy who proposed it is stunned. “But Bob, you’re a libertarian. So why are you playing dumb and pretending you think maybe there is a rival system that’s just as ethical? Or are you now saying math can be whatever people assert? Do you support Common Core?”