A Question About Utilitarian Libertarianism

Letter 1

From: Edmund Shieh

Subject: Question about utilitarian libertarianism

Hi Walter, I’ve been having a difficult time trying to justify deontological libertarianism and from listening to you, it seems like this would describe you. I seem to fall into the trap of being a consequentialist libertarian when trying to justify libertarianism.  I understand the fundamental flaw with utilitarianism (e.g. your description of the utility monster). However, It seems that at the end of the day, a libertarian would fall into the trap of justifying libertarianism on the basis of utilitarianism(i.e. intervention doesn’t create good results). I feel that one would need to justify libertarianism on a basis that is not utilitarian otherwise one would fall into the trap of using models to assess utility etc. which would by definition turn one into a utilitarian.

Thanks

Edmund

Letter 2

From: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Question about utilitarian libertarianism

Dear Edmund:

I’m both a deontological and a utilitarian libertarian. I place more emphasis on the former, given the difficulties of cardinal utility and interpersonal comparisons of utility.

I believe that the market necessarily improves the economic welfare of all participants. What about the horse and buggy workers after they were no longer needed due to the automobilie. They used to be market participants, but are no longer market participants. Hey, want to buy my pencil for $100000? No? What? How dare you decline this offer of mine. No one takes me up on this offer? Well, then, to that extent, in this regard, I’m not a market participant.

How to justify deontological libertarianism? I’m a big fan of Hans Hoppe’s work on this:

http://www.mises.org/store/Basic-Principles-of-Economic-Value-P233C1.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_ethics

Argument from argument:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_ethics

Arguementation ethics, Argument from argument:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_ethics

hics”; see www.HansHoppe.com, go to publications, topics, argumentation ethics.

http://www.mises.org/esandtam/pfe3.asp

Hans: argument from argument: arg from arg

http://www.hanshoppe.com/sel-topics.php

Pro: Block, 2004, 2011; Gordon, 1988; Hoppe, 1988, 1993, 1995; Kinsella, 1996, 2002; Soo, 2002; Rothbard, 1998.

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Are Alienability and the Apriori of Argument Logically Incompatible?” Dialogue, Vol. 1, No. 1; http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/2004/256gord6.pdf

Block, Walter E. 2011. “Rejoinder to Murphy and Callahan on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 631–639; http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_31.pdf

Gordon, David. 1988. “Radical & Quasi-Kantian.” Liberty (November): 46–47.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1988. “Utilitarians and Randians vs Reason.” Liberty (November): 53–54.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1993. The Economics and Ethics of Private Property. Studies in Political Economy and Philosophy, Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 204-207

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 1995. Economic Science and the Austrian Method. Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises Institute; http://www.mises.org/esandtam/pes1.asp;

http://www.mises.org/esandtam/pfe3.asp

https://mises.org/library/economic-science-and-austrian-method

Kinsella, Stephan. 1996. “New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 12 (12): 323–38.

Kinsella, N. Stephan. 2002. “Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan,” Anti-state.com, Sept. 19.

Meng, Jude Chua Soo. 2002. “Hopp(e)ing Onto New Ground: A Rothbardian Proposal for Thomistic Natural Law as the Basis for Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Praxeological Defense of Private Property.” Working paper, http://www.mises.org/journals/scholar/meng.pdf

Rothbard, Murray. 1988. “Beyond Is and Ought.” Liberty (November): 44–45.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Edmund Shieh

Subject: Re: Question about utilitarian libertarianism

Dear Walter,

Thanks for your response. I understand that this is a primary difference between Rothbard and Mises, and I’ve also read into Hoppe’s argumentation ethics as a justification for libertarianism which personally I do not find convincing (with the same criticisms as Bob Murphy has). To me it seems like at the end of the day Mises is right in separating the “is” from the “ought” which would make libertarianism no more morally “right” than any other political ideology. The only thing one can say is that it achieves a certain purpose better than others.

Kind regards,

Edmund

Letter 4

From: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Question about utilitarian libertarianism

Dear Edmund:

But Hoppe, and I, and other deontological libertarians, separate the “is” from the “ought.”

As a deontological libertarian, I believe people ought to be punished for violating the NonAgression Principle.

As a utilitarian libertarian, I think the best chance for happiness, peace, wealth, etc., is if everyone obeys the NAP.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 5

From: Edmund Shieh

Subject: Re: Question about utilitarian libertarianism

Dear Walter,

To the extent that you are a utilitarian libertarian, would you not be falling into the same trap as a classical utilitarian. i.e. Making a value judgement based on your assessment that if everyone followed NAP it would achieve some socially optimal outcome (precisely what utilitarians try to do). For example there are individual cases where a single individual may be better off if the NAP was broken (e.g. welfare). Though i cannot argue that this is better for society based on the flaws of utilitarian arguments as we’ve both mentioned, you also cannot argue the contrary (that the society was better off when the NAP isn’t broken).

Kind regards

Edmund

Letter 6

Dear Edmund:

You’re right. You put your finger on the weakness of utilitarian libertarianism. I alluded to this before: interpersonal comparisons of utility. We can’t say definitively, at least not as Austrian economists (which I also strive to be), that “society” is worse off when we steal money from the rich and give it to the poor in the form of welfare, as you mention. All we can say is that as a broad empirical judgement, doing this, paradoxically, hurts the poor by making them more dependent.

An excellent case for this sort of thing is made here:

Murray, Charles. 1984. Losing Ground: American Social Policy from 1950 to 1980, New York: Basic Books

But, I agree with you: someone could still say that the benefits to this one welfare recipient outweigh the costs to the victim of taxes needed to support this money transfer.

Best regards,

Walter

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2:18 am on July 10, 2020