A problem with Hoppe's ethics

4 posts

Bob Dylan Roof

One of Hans-Herman Hoppe's more ubiquitous themes is the connection between scarcity and conflict. In order to sketch out the theme, he often begins with a discussion of a hypothetical world where there is no scarcity of goods. In such a world there would be no need to dispute over goods and there would be a potentially infinite amount of space for groups to separate from other groups. See the beginning of this video for the Crusoe example:
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/embed/ej6uqo2ugZM

Hoppe therefore assumes a priori that scarcity is the sole cause of conflict between men and accordingly searches for a remedy to all conflict in the economic domain: the application of philosophy to the problems posed by scarcity. The following quote is a summation of the ethic he derives from this approach:

[O]nly because scarcity exists is there even a problem of formulating moral laws; insofar as goods are superabundant (“free” goods), no conflict over the use of goods is possible and no action-coordination is needed. Hence, it follows that any ethic, correctly conceived, must be formulated as a theory of property, i.e., a theory of the assignment of rights of exclusive control over scarce means. Because only then does it become possible to avoid otherwise inescapable and unresolvable conflict.

Having spent many a night reading Carl Schmitt and Joseph de Maistre, I've always found this argument to be highly suspect. Perhaps I have not adequately understood it, but it seems quite obvious that Hoppe's approach to conflict fails to account for the distribution of human beings and consequently the problem of wars of extermination and wars for the hearts and minds of men. Even if his model also assumes an infinite supply of people, universal theology demands that war be waged for all eternity in order to convert or exterminate every enemy of the faith. This final dreary image of the world strikingly conforms to the life of our own earth. Joseph de Maistre described it well in his St. Petersburg Dialogues :

Thus is worked out, form maggots up to man, the universal law of the violent destruction of living beings. The whole earth, continually steeped in blood, is nothing but an immense altar on which every living thing must be sacrificed without end, without restraint, without respite until the consummation of the world, the extinction of evil, the death of death.
President Camacho

Yeah I don't buy the 'economics-as-root cause of all human conflict' position-- it is essentially the same basic hypothesis adopted by Communism although libertarianism calls for mirror opposite remedies.

I tend to believe more in the Nietzschean dictum that conflict is inherent in the very conception of mobile life, that it is the facilitator of history and life itself. Therefore "world peace", the conception of the "global marketplace/community", and other progressive ideologies proposing any sort of static "endgame" for mankind are essentially philosophies of death.

Beefy Rep

lmao--that was awesome; a philosophic talk that's "so bad its good." The real hidden myth here is a kind of enlightenment state of nature, represented by the garden of Eden, that allows humans to start out as autonomous rational individuals possessed of bodies ("I am not my body I merely own it") and ranging across an unowned earth. Then there's the naivety that its not precisely the fact that people want to control other peoples bodies that the cause of many wars. When this tendency is successfully precluded from a society--not by any banal set of magic rules but by a long-standing traditional education and absolute attunement to unchanging surroundings, such as found in certain tribes--the scarcity of the earth no long presents itself as a cause of war at all. Conversely our society, perhaps the wealthiest that will ever exist on the planet, has also been amongst the most warlike.

Bob Dylan Roof
Rather than concealing it, the Austrians parrot this myth throughout their treatises. Every act of appropriation is "homesteading" or the original acquisition of unowned space and resources, and the fact that the current distribution of resources on earth is largely the result of centuries of forceful appropriation from others is simply glossed over.