Some of your statements trouble me, because we need passionate and articulate advocacy of libertarianism. And you’re clearly a passionate and articulate advocate. But it’s better if all of us are the best quality advocates possible, so that we reduce internal friction as wasted effort, and direct it elsewhere where it can be more benefit to liberty.
As Caplan has recently argued, Libertarians tend to behave as moral specialists. The cause of this behavior is the libertarian sentiment – the bias against coercion, and the forced sacrifice of opportunity that causes no loss either directly or by externality. But the problem with sentimental and moral arguments is that they since they ARE intuitive, and intuition is limited to whatever it is that we have mastered by experience.
In order to agree with Bastiat and Hayek (which, like you I do) we must also intuit that they are morally correct. But that we intuit that they are correct is not sufficient to argue apodeictically (rationally) or scientifically (empirically) that they are correct independent of that intuition.
To understand the contributions of the Anarcho-Capistalist movement, of Rothbard and Hoppe to the advance of liberty, libertarian ethics, and libertarian institutions, we need only appreciate that prior to Hoppe and Rothbard, the classical liberal (libertarian) program had failed to produce a non-intuitive, rational, analytical argument for liberty that was anywhere near the argumentative depth and veracity of marxism. Had it not been for Rothbard and Hoppe in ethics and Friedman in Economics, and Hayek in politics the world might be a very different place.
It is arguable that the conservative intellectual program has been a failure even if the political program has been a strategic success. And conversely, our intellectual program has been a success, but by empirical standards, a political failure.
The reason we have failed is Rothbard’s ‘ghetto’ ethics are not only intuitively insufficient for the majority who possess classical liberal ethics – they are intuitively reprehensible to them. And for an intuitive system of ethics to evoke intuitively negative emotions is politically problematic. It’s a non-starter. And for us it has been.
If we again look at what the conservatives have accomplished by focusing entirely on the moral sentiments, and not on ratio-scientific argument, it’s instructive. What is it that conservatives cannot rationally articulate or empirically demonstrate, but ‘sells’, and what what is it about our ethics we can rationally articulate but cannot sell?
I think I know that answer: and it is what is missing from Rothbardian and Anarcho capitalist ethics. Rothbard gave us the ethics of the ghetto – an ethic of rebellion. He did not give us the ethics of the high trust society – the aristocratic egalitarian, Christian, Protestant ethic of the high trust society, in which symmetry of knowledge is mandated by warranty, and externality is prohibited by morality and law.
While the Anarcho Capitalist program is certainly incomplete (I would like to complete it), it is the only advance in political theory that is substantive in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Rothbard reduced all rights to property rights. And he restated history to demonstrate that assertion. It was a fundamental insight, and provided us with an analytical language for responding to marxists. But his analysis of the scope of those rights is artificially narrow, and he provided us with no institutional means of obtaining or holding those rights – possibly because he could not solve the problem of institutions. I am extremely critical of Rothbard for these reasons, because he gave us both an insufficient definition of what is moral, and what is essentially a toothless voluntary religion to hold it with.
Hoppe has explained to us the incentives of why democracy fails, and why monarchy succeeded. He has tried to give us institutions that will provide services without monopoly bureaucracy, or even legislative law. Hoppe solved the problem of institutions – at least in a homogenous polity – and he did it in rigorous language.
He did not solve the problem of heterogeneous polities. (I think I may have, but I am not sure yet.) Neither of these insights were minimal in impact. Rothbard effectively made ethics non-arbitrary, and Hoppe provided a means of ethical governance. Both of them did this by eliminating the monopoly power of government.
Hoppe’s weaknesses are a) he relies argumentatively on rational rather than ratio-scientific arguments, which while I might argue are functionally correct, are causally weak, and we now have the ratio-scientific evidence to prove them without relying on complex (and nearly indefensible) rational arguments alone. b) That he is excessively fawning of Rothbard, for personally legitimate reasons – but that Rothbard is sufficiently tainted by the failure of his moral arguments to hinder Hoppe’s legacy, and his arguments. c) Style issues are those of politically active moralism against Marxists. His native german prose only lends itself to anglo articulation after he has reduced it through repetition. He uncomfortably peppers it with unnecessary ridicule as did Rothbard – which I have been consistently critical of, and which he has slowly laundered from his formal works, but not his speech – because it is in fact highly entertaining to audiences.
These are problems of argumentative method alone, not of intellectual contribution. Hoppe has given us solutions to serious political problems that are two and a half millennia old. That he did so in the language of his time is something to be acknowledged, but the results simply appreciated for the visionary insights that they are.
We cannot say that one is rationally or scientifically arguing for something without a rational or scientific argument. The fact that we are moral specialists, and rely upon moral arguments, and moral arguments that are intuitive to us, may in fact, suggest that our intuitions are correct, if and only if we can ALSO support those intuitions with rational, scientific and institutional solutions. Otherwise, the fact that we intuit liberty to be something moral, is merely an accident of evolutionary biology and nothing meaningful can be said about it.
So I would caution you, and most libertarians, who are, in fact, sentimental, rather than rational, ratio-scientific, and institutionally empirical, advocates, that just because we agree with something, and we intuit it, is meaningless, since that is exactly what the people on the other pole of the moral spectrum inuit. Intuitions must be defensible.
So while I assume you agree with Bob Murphy (who is our best economist) and Bastiat (who is the father of our institutional rhetoric), I would argue that you correctly intuit classical liberal ethics of the high trust society. In this sense you are superior in intuition to Rothbardian intuitionists.
However, we must also acknowledge that the classical liberal political system failed upon the introduction of women and non-property owners into enfranchisement. This is because those without property hold very different ethics – if ethics can be used to describe them. And the female reproductive strategy is to bear children and place the burden of their upkeep on the tribe (society). Private property was an innovation, that allowed males to once again take control of reproductive strategy, and the marriage that resulted from that innovation was a truce between the male and female strategies. A truce that feminists and socialists, and communists, and those that lack property, all seek to break. Private Property and the nuclear family, and the high trust ethic are both politically indivisible. And the classical liberal program cannot survive in their absence.
And no one else has provided us with a solution to this problem other than the feminists and socialists – who which to destroy private property, and the anarcho capitalists, who wish to preserve our freedom, and property.
And as far as I know, I am the only libertarian who is trying to solve the problem of freedom in the absence of the nuclear family that functioned as a uniform reproductive order now that we are in the order of production we call the industrial and technical age.
So these are not questions of sentimental intuition, or belief, or morality. They are questions of institutional, philosophical, and argumentative solutions to the problem of cooperation when the agrarian order of the nuclear and extended family has been replaced by the individualistic and familially diverse.
Political theory is not a trivial pursuit.