article originally appeared in
Liberty, Volume 3 Number 4 (March 1990), pp. 11–12.
Lomasky’s frenetic and almost hysterical review of Hans-Hermann
Theory of Capitalism and Socialism (“The Argument from
Mere Argument,” September 1989) is an amusing if unwitting vindication
of Hoppe’s method of exposing “performative contradictions” among
his opponents. Lomasky’s actual arguments against Hoppe
are meager, but the bulk of Lomasky’s review consists, not in
argumentation, but in making two angry charges: (1) that Hoppe
is impolite with philosophers or economists he disagrees with;
and (2) that Hoppe is unscholarly.
in making both of these charges, Lomasky is a living contradiction.
The reader of his review would never know it, but Hoppe’s critiques
of his opponents constitute a mere two or three footnotes in a
several-hundred page book. The great bulk of the book sets out
Hoppe’s positive deductive theory of economics and political ethics.
This accounts for Hoppe’s not spending more time rebutting Nozick,
Locke’s proviso, etc., which calls down upon him Lomasky’s wrath.
It is actually Lomasky who is ranting and rude in his attack
on Hoppe. Performative Contradiction Number One.
second charge against Hoppe is lack of scholarship, for which
not spending time on Nozick is a typical – and irrelevant – charge.
But what of Lomasky’s own scholarship, as evidenced by
his review? First, he is shocked and stunned that Hoppe is not
simply a defender of existing capitalism; his book is “no less
than a manifesto for untrammeled anarchism.” Well, heavens to
Betsy! Anarchism! One wonders where Lomasky has been for the last
20 years! Perhaps the knowledge has not yet penetrated to the
fastnesses of Minnesota, but anarchism has been a vibrant part
of the libertarian dialogue for a long time, as most readers of
Liberty well know.
then engages in a little trick. He quite correctly defines “socialism”
as central planning and state ownership of the means of production,
but then derides Hoppe as “idiosyncratic” for calling any government
interference with free exchange “socialistic.” The two, however,
are not contradictory. Total government is socialism; partial
government is socialistic. If Lomasky should ever read any comments
on the dramatic events in Eastern Europe, for example, he will
find them referred to, quite properly, as movements away from
socialism and toward free markets.
also writes as if the idea of an a priori of argumentation
is a weird new bizarrerie propounded by Hoppe. He seems
never to have heard of the Habermas-Apel doctrine, of which Hoppe’s
is a libertarian extension. Comparing Hoppe’s deductive arguments
to Zeno’s or Anselm’s also misses the point, since these classic
arguments are difficult-to-refute demonstrations of conclusions
most of us consider absurd, whereas Hoppe’s is a difficult-to-refute
argument for a conclusion libertarians are supposed to welcome:
a copper-riveted argument for the absolute rights of private
Lomasky attacks Hoppe’s arguments against public goods (completely
missing Hoppe’s subtle and lengthy discussion) as stating that
voluntary actions and exchanges are optimal, while coercive transactions
injure people and are therefore worse than optimal. Again, Lomasky
acts as if Hoppe has just come up with a bizarre thesis of his
own, not seeming to have heard of many decades of libertarian
and free-market thought that has concluded similarly. It seems,
in short, that Lomasky has never heard of libertarian arguments
or doctrines. Talk about lack of scholarship! Performative Contradiction
Lomasky review is an interesting example of what is getting to
be a fairly common phenomenon: Hoppephobia.
Although he is an amiable man personally, Hoppe’s written work
seems to have the remarkable capacity to send some readers up
the wall, blood pressure soaring, muttering and chewing the carpet.
It is not impolite attacks on critics that does it. Perhaps the
answer is Hoppe’s logical and deductive mode of thought and writing,
demonstrating the truth of his propositions and showing that those
who differ are often trapped in self-contradiction and self-refutation.
the good old days, this was a common style in philosophy, employed
by Kantians, Thomists, Misesians, and Randians alike. In the modern
age, however, this method of thought and writing has gone severely
out of fashion in philosophy, where truth is almost never arrived
at – and certainly never argued for in a deductive fashion.
The modern mode is utilitarian, positivist, tangential, puzzle-oriented,
and pseudo-empiricist. As a result, modern positivist types have
gone flabby and complacent, and reading hard-core deductivists
– to say nothing of hard-core libertarians! – hits these
people with the force of a blow to the gut.
shape up, guys! In argument as in politics, those who can't stand
deductivist heat should get out of the philosophic or economic
For more on Hoppe’s argumentation ethics, go
N. Rothbard (1926–1995), the founder of modern libertarianism
and the dean of the Austrian School of economics, was the author
Ethics of Liberty and For
a New Liberty and many
other books and articles. He was also academic vice president
of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Center for Libertarian
Studies, and the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The