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Democracy in Chinese

A Chinese translation of Democracy: The God That Failed (Transaction, 2001 is now available [PDF]. Translation by Ke`er (可二).

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Decentralized and Neutral

Originally published as “Dezentral und Neutral,” Misesde.org (9 März 2022) (https://perma.cc/2PD5-ADKQ). Translated Google auto-translate, with light editing by Stephan Kinsella. Also translated into Portuguese: “Descentralizado e neutro,” Instituto Rothbard (23/04/2022).

Reprinted at Mises Wire (4/26/2022).

See also:

Decentralized and Neutral

Hans-Hermann Hoppe

States, regardless of their constitution, are not economic enterprises. In contrast to the latter, states do not finance themselves by selling products and services to customers who voluntarily pay, but by compulsory levies: taxes collected through the threat and use of violence (and through the paper money they literally create out of thin air). Significantly, economists have therefore referred to governments, i.e. the holders of state power, as stationary bandits. Governments and everyone on their payroll live off the loot stolen from other people. They lead a parasitic existence at the expense of a subdued and “host” populace. [continue reading…]

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This is the Spanish translation of an interview that Hans-Hermann Hoppe gave to the Association for Liberal Thinking in Turkey.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

La esperanza se encuentra en la secesión

Entrevista a Hans-Hermann Hoppe concedida a la Association for Liberal Thinking de Turquía.

P: ¿Cómo llegaste a ser libertario y qué pensadores fueron los más importantes en la formación de su pensamiento?

Hoppe: Cuando todavía era joven, estudiante alemán de secundaria, yo era un marxista. Más tarde, como estudiante en la Universidad de Frankfurt, me encontré con la crítica de Böhm-Bawerk a Marx, y aquello aniquiló la economía marxista para mí.

En consecuencia, después de eso, me hice un poco escéptico, atraído por la metodología positivista y especialmente falsacionista de Popper y por el programa gradual de ingeniería social de Popper. Como el propio Popper, en ese momento yo era un socialdemócrata de derecha.

Y luego las cosas comenzaron a cambiar rápidamente. En primer lugar, descubrí a Milton Friedman (muy bueno), entonces Hayek (mejor), luego Mises (mucho mejor debido a su metodología explícitamente antipositivista y a priori) y, por último, el sucesor teórico más importante de Mises, Murray N. Rothbard.

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Portuguese Translation of The Great Fiction

A Portuguese translation of The Great Fiction is now available (in print): A Grande Ficção: Propriedade, Economia, Sociedade e a Política do Declínio. See also Kinsella’s Afterword.

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This the Spanish translation (by Jorge A. Soler Sanz) of a short interview given in Belgium and originally published on The Brussels Journal.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

La centralización lleva a la pobreza

El 24 y 25 de mayo de 2005, Hans-Hermman Hoppe, profesor de economía en la Universidad de Nevada, Las Vegas, y miembro distinguido del Instituto Mises de Auburn, Alabama visitó Amberes (Bélgica), lugar donde dio una conferencia sobre el valor económico que aportan los pequeños Estados.

E: Usted tiene bastante simpatía por los movimientos secesionistas que se dan por todo el mundo. ¿Por qué?

HHH: De acuerdo con la postura de lo políticamente correcto, una integración política mayor es algo bueno, mientras que la desintegración y la secesión es algo malo. Se dice, por ejemplo, a través de los burócratas de la Unión Europea que se encuentran en Bruselas, que la prosperidad económica ha aumentado dramáticamente a partir de la unificación política. En realidad, sin embargo, la integración política (centralización) y la integración económica (mercado) constituyen dos fenómenos totalmente distintos. La integración política implica la expansión de los poderes impositivos y regulación del Estado. La integración económica constituye la extensión de la división del trabajo, las relaciones interpersonales y la participación de mercado. En general, cuanto más pequeño sea un país y sus mercados internos, tanto más probable será que apruebe un sistema de libre empresa.

Creo que un mundo que consista en varios miles de países, regiones dadas y cantones integrados por cientos de ciudades libres e independientes, tal y como ocurre con lugares tan fuera de lo común como Mónaco, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong y Singapur, representaría un mundo de prosperidad económica y avance cultural sin parangón.

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“The Hayek Myth” (PFS 2012)

This lecture is from the 2012 meeting of the Property and Freedom SocietyHans-Hermann Hoppe (Germany/Turkey), The Hayek Myth. PFS 2012 Playlist.

For the panel discussion with Q&A, see PFP102 | Daniels, Kinsella, Marks, Hoppe, Tucker, Discussion, Q&A (PFS 2012).

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Hoppe on SERVUS TV: On State, War, Europe, Decentralization and Neutrality (Interview starting at about minute 24): https://www.servustv.com/aktuelles/v/aaws3m4ss49fyqkup41r/ (April 4, 2022)

Youtube of the Hoppe portion:

An English translation of the transcript was prepared by Leonhard Paul, a law student from Germany. Also reprinted as Hoppe: “My Dream Is of a Europe Which Consists of 1,000 Liechtensteins,” Mises Wire (April 16, 2022)

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This is a lecture given by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in 2004 in the city of Marrazó, transcribed and translated into Spanish by Sociedad de Estudios Políticos de la Región Murcia, on the topics of his book Democracy: The God That Failed.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

Monarquía, democracia y orden natural

Conferencia de Hans-Hermann Hoppe en 2004 en la ciudad de Marrazó, transcrita y traducida por la Sociedad de Estudios Políticos de la Región Murcia, sobre los temas de su libro Democracy: The God That Failed.

Teoría e historia

Quisiera mostrarles, en un plano de abstracción superior, de qué modo la teoría resulta imprescindible para interpretar correctamente la historia. La historia —la secuencia de acontecimientos que se desenvuelven en el tiempo— es «ciega». Nada nos dice sobre las causas y los efectos. Podríamos estar de acuerdo, por ejemplo, en que la Europa feudal era pobre, la Europa monárquica era más rica y la democrática lo es aún más. Ahora bien, ¿quiere ello decir que Europa era pobre a causa del feudalismo y que se enriqueció a causa de la monarquía y la democracia o, más bien, que Europa se enriqueció a pesar de estas formas de gobierno?

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A previous translation (by Dante Bayona) of this piece (The Socialism of Social Engineering and The Foundations of Economic Analysis [1988]) was published before on Centro Mises. Oscar Eduardo Grau Rotela has now provided a revised, and corrected version of it. This essay is the Chapter 6 of A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

El socialismo de ingeniería social y los fundamentos del análisis económico

Esta es la traducción del capítulo 6 del libro A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism de Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

A la luz de los argumentos teóricos presentados en los capítulos precedentes se observa que no hay justificación económica para el socialismo. El socialismo prometía traer más prosperidad económica a las personas que el capitalismo, y gran parte de su popularidad está basada en esa promesa. Los argumentos presentados, sin embargo, han probado que lo opuesto es verdad. Se ha demostrado que el socialismo de tipo ruso, caracterizado por medios de producción nacionalizados o socializados, necesariamente implica desperdicio económico, dado que no existen precios para los factores de producción (porque a los medios de producción no se les permitía ser comprados o vendidos), y por tanto no puede hacerse contabilidad de costos (que es la forma de dirigir los recursos escasos con usos alternativos a las líneas de producción con mayor valor productivo). Y en cuanto al socialismo socialdemócrata y al conservador, se ha demostrado que, en cualquier caso, ambos implican un aumento en los costos de producción y, mutatis mutandis, una disminución en los costos de su alternativa, es decir, la no producción o producción en el mercado negro, y eso conduce a una reducción relativa en la producción de la riqueza, ya que ambas versiones del socialismo establecen una estructura de incentivos que (en comparación a un sistema capitalista) favorece relativamente a los no pro­duc­to­res y no contratistas sobre los productores y contratistas de bienes, productos y servicios.

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Portuguese Translation of Hoppe’s Festschrift + Preface

Professor Hoppe’s 2009 Festschrift, Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Jörg Guido Hülsmann & Stephan Kinsella, eds., Mises Institute, 2009) (PDF, epub, and print versions) has been translated into Portuguese by Fernando Fiori Chiocca and published in Brazil as Propriedade, Liberdade & Sociedade: Ensaios em homenagem a Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Rothbard Institute Brasil, 2022). An English translation of an excerpt from the Preface is provided below. Online version.

Hoppe and the current stage of Austro-libertarianism in Brazil

[This article is excerpted from the preface to the Brazilian edition of the book Property, Liberty & Society: Essays in honour of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, just published by Rothbard Institute]

 

The present Festschrift was attended by 35 authors who gave testimonies about their friendship with Hans-Hermann Hoppe and/or took the opportunity to comment on or develop some of his theses. Among these authors are the world’s greatest libertarians and economists, such as Lew Rockwell, Walter Block, Jesús Huerta de Soto, Joe Salerno and Guido Hülsmann. The book was published in 2009 and given to Hoppe in celebration of his 60th birthday. Today, 13 years later, I take the opportunity of publishing the translation of the work to modestly insert myself among these great authors. [continue reading…]

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Dezentral und Neutral

From Ludwig von Mises Institut Deutschland, 9 March 2021

9. März 2021 – von Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Staaten, gleich welcher Verfassung, sind keine wirtschaftlichen Unternehmen. Im Unterschied zu Letzteren finanzieren sich Staaten nicht durch den Verkauf von Produkten und Dienstleistungen an freiwillig zahlende Kunden, sondern durch Zwangsabgaben: durch Gewaltandrohung und -anwendung eingetriebene Steuern (und durch von ihnen buchstäblich aus dem Nichts geschaffenes Papiergeld). Bezeichnenderweise haben Ökonomen Regierungen, das heißt die Inhaber staatlicher Gewalt, deshalb auch als stationäre Banditen bezeichnet. Regierungen und alle Personen, die auf ihrer Gehaltsliste stehen, leben von der Beute, die man anderen Personen geraubt hat. Sie führen eine parasitäre Existenz auf Kosten einer unterworfenen und als „Wirt“ dienenden Bevölkerung.

Hieraus ergeben sich eine Reihe weiterer Einsichten.

Naturgemäß bevorzugen stationäre Banditen eine größere Beute gegenüber einer kleineren. Das heißt: Staaten werden stets versuchen ihr Steueraufkommen zu erhöhen und ihre Ausgaben durch Papiergeldvermehrung weiter zu steigern. Je größer die Beute, umso mehr Gefälligkeiten können sie sich selbst, ihren Angestellten und ihren Unterstützern erweisen. Doch sind diesem Treiben natürliche Grenzen gesetzt. [continue reading…]

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Property and Freedom Podcast, Episode 069.

This lecture is from the 2011 meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Germany/Turkey), Politics, Money and Banking. Everything You Need to Know in 30 Minutes. PFS 2011 Playlist.

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From PFS:

Property and Freedom Podcast, Episode 060.

This lecture is from the 2010 meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: “On Private Goods, Public Goods, and the Need for Privatization,” by Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Germany/Turkey). PFS 2010 Playlist.

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Ética rothbardiana | Rothbardian Ethics

A new revised version in Spanish of Hoppe’s speech titled Rothbardian Ethics has been provided by Oscar Eduardo Grau Rotela. This piece was published on LewRockwell.com in 2002. The old and original translation can be found here.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

Ética rothbardiana

Este ensayo está basado en una conferencia del Profesor Hoppe en memoria de Murray N. Rothbard en el Austrian Scholars Conference llevado a cabo en 1999 en Instituto Mises, Auburn, Alabama.

El problema del orden social

Robinson Crusoe, solo en su isla, puede hacer lo que le plazca. Para él, la cuestión concerniente a las reglas de la conducta humana ordenada —cooperación social— sencillamente no surge. Naturalmente, esta cuestión sólo puede surgir cuando una segunda persona, Viernes, llega a la isla. Incluso entonces, la cuestión sigue siendo largamente irrelevante hasta tanto no haya escasez. Supongamos que la isla es el Jardín del Edén. Todos los bienes materiales están al alcance con sobreabundancia. Son «bienes libres», como el aire que respiramos que, por lo general, es un bien «libre». Sea lo que fuere que Crusoe haga con esos bienes, sus acciones no tienen repercusión con respecto a su propia provisión de esos bienes, ni con respecto a la provisión actual o futura de los mismos bienes de Viernes (y viceversa). Por lo tanto, es imposible que pudiese haber un conflicto entre Crusoe y Viernes en lo concerniente al uso de esos recursos. El conflicto se hace posible sólo si los bienes son escasos, y sólo entonces puede surgir un problema de formulación de reglas que hacen posible a una cooperación social ordenada, libre de conflicto.

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Adrián González Fuentes has translated Hoppe’s Must Austrians Embrace Indifference? article from 2005 published on The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. This translation was publish for first time on Centro Mises.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

¿Deben los austriacos aceptar la indiferencia?

Este artículo apareció en la edición de invierno de 2005 de The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

En su célebre artículo «Hacia una reconstrucción de la economía de la utilidad y el bienestar», Murray Rothbard escribió que:

La indiferencia nunca puede demostrarse mediante la acción. Todo lo contrario. Cada acción implica necesariamente una elección, y cada elección implica una preferencia definida. La acción implica específicamente lo contrario de la indiferencia. (…) Si una persona es realmente indiferente entre dos alternativas, entonces no puede elegir ni elegirá entre ellas. Por lo tanto, la indiferencia nunca es relevante para la acción y no puede demostrarse en la acción. (Rothbard 1997, pp. 225-26)

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Un mundo sin robo | A World Without Theft

This is the spanish translation (made by Dante Bayona) of Hoppe’s A World Without Theft conference given at the Mises Institute in 2006.

Un mundo sin robo

Una conferencia dada en el Instituto Mises en el año 2006.

En el Jardín del Edén hay superabundancia de bienes. En ese mundo los seres humanos no tienen razón para discutir entre ellos, ¿sobre qué van a discutir? Sólo hay dos cosas sobre las que pueden discutir. El uso de sus cuerpos, que son escasos, y el lugar sobre el que pueden ubicar sus cuerpos. Respecto a esos dos asuntos sí puede haber conflictos. Entonces, incluso en el Jardín del Edén tendrían que darse ciertas reglas para evitar los conflictos. Las reglas tienen que ser sobre el control exclusivo de los recursos escasos (el cuerpo y el lugar que ocupa).

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The Great Fiction: Property, Economy, Society, and the Politics of Decline (Laissez Faire Books, 2012)

[Note: for the Second Expanded Edition, Mises Institute, 2021, see here]

Editorial Preface

by Jeffrey Tucker

If you are unfamiliar with the working of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, prepare for The Great Fiction to cause a fundamental shift in the way you view the world. No living writer today is more effective at stripping away the illusions almost everyone has about economics and public life. More fundamentally, Professor Hoppe causes the scales to fall from one’s eyes on the most critical issue facing humanity today: the choice between liberty and statism.

The title comes from a quotation by Frederic Bastiat, the 19th century economist and pamphleteer: “The state is the great fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.” He does not say that this is one feature of the state, one possible aspect of public policy gone wrong, or one sign of a state gone bad in a shift from its nightwatchman role to become confiscatory. Bastiat is characterizing the core nature of the state itself.

The whole of Hoppe’s writings on politics can be seen as an elucidation on this point. He sees the state as a gang of thieves that uses propaganda as a means of disguising its true nature. In fleshing this out, Hoppe has made tremendous contributions to the literature, showing how the state originates and how the intellectual class helps perpetuate this cover up, whether in the name of science, or religion, or the provision of some service like health, security, education, or whatever. The excuses are forever changing; the functioning and goal of the state are always the same.

It is true, then, that Hoppe stands with a long line of anarchist thinkers who see the state as playing a purely destructive role in society. But unlike the main line of thinkers in this tradition, Hoppe’s thinking is not encumbered by utopian illusions about society without the state. He follows Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard in placing private property as a central element in social organization. In justifying this point of view, Hoppe goes far beyond traditional Lockean phrases. He sees private property as an inescapable institution in a world of scarcity, and draws on the work of contemporary European philosophy to make his claims more robust than any of his intellectual predecessors did.

The reader will be surprised at the approach Hoppe takes because it is far more systematic and logical than people expect of writers on these topics. I suspect that this is because he came to views after a long intellectual struggle, having moved systematically from being a conventional left-socialist to become the founder of his own anarcho-capitalist school of thought. The dramatic change happened to him in graduate school, as he reveals in the biographical sections of this book. He takes nothing for granted in the course of his argumentation. He leads the reader carefully through each step in his chain of reasoning. This approach requires extraordinary discipline and a level of brilliance that is out of the reach of most writers and thinkers.

This particular work goes beyond politics, however, to show the full range of Hoppe’s thought on issues of economics, history, scientific methodology, and the history of thought. In each field, he brings that same level of rigor, that drive for uncompromising adherence to logic, the fearlessness in the fact of radical conclusions. In light of all of this, it seems too limiting to describe Hoppe as a mere member of the Austrian or libertarian tradition, for he really has forged new paths—in more ways than he makes overt in his writings. We are really dealing here with a universal genius, which is precisely why Hoppe’s name comes up so often in any discussion of today’s great living intellectuals.

It so happens that Hoppe is also an extremely controversial figure. I don’t think he would have it any other way. Regardless, this is always the case for truly creative minds that do not shrink from the conclusions of their own premises. The perspective from which he writes stems from a passionate yet scientific attachment to radical freedom, and his work comes about in times when the state is on the march. Everything he writes cuts across the grain. It is paradigm breaking. Just when you think you have figured out his mode of thinking, he takes it in a direction that you didn’t expect, which is why in writing this editorial preface I’m being careful not to give away too many of the ideas herein. It is not only his conclusions that are significant but the masterful way that he arrives at them.

It is my great honor as executive editor of Laissez Faire Books to be the publisher of a work of this significance. This is more than a collection in the libertarian tradition; it is a testimony to the fact that progress in ideas is still possible in our time. So long as that remains true, so long as the tradition Hoppe represents is living and improving, we have reason to believe that human liberty has not and will not finally succumb to the great fiction.

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This is the Spanish translation published on Mises.org of Hoppe’s The Role of Intellectuals and Anti-intellectuals orginally published on Libertarian Alliance on 2008. Otra versión traducida puede encontrarse aquí.

For more Spanish translations, click here.

El rol de los intelectuales y los antiintelectuales

Este texto es el capítulo 1 de The Great Fiction y apareció originalmente en Libertarian Alliance en 2008.

El Estado es la gran entidad ficticia por la que todos buscan vivir a costa de todos los demás.

—Frédéric Bastiat.

Permítanme comenzar con la definición de un Estado. ¿Qué debe hacer un agente para ser considerado un Estado? Este agente debe ser capaz de insistir en que todos los conflictos entre los habitantes de un territorio determinado sean llevados a él para la toma de decisiones finales o estén sujetos a su revisión final. En particular, este agente debe poder insistir en que todos los conflictos que le afecten sean resueltos por él o por su agente. Y el poder de excluir a todos los demás de actuar como juez último, como segunda característica definitoria de un Estado, lleva implícito el poder del agente de cobrar impuestos: determinar unilateralmente el precio que los solicitantes de justicia deben pagar por sus servicios.

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“The Ethics and Economics of Private Property” (2004)

The Ethics and Economics of Private Property,” Mises Daily (Oct. 15, 2004; republished Feb. 24, 2022)

Archived comments from the Mises blog:

Comments

Article right on the mark about property rights. The only problem I have with it is when two parties come in conflict over violation of property rights. Say a powerplant produces large volume of mercury pollutants and these fumes are deposited downwind onto a person property. The owner of the property doesn’t care that his property and person are being contaiminated. The owner then sells the property to a new owner. The new owner, who does care about such things, doesn’t want his property right violated anymore. The power producing plant much stop such violations, or the new owner property rights are not absolute. The flaw in the article that states that who ever was first, and they have a “right” to pollute, negates the idea of the property rights of another individual were being violated in the first place.

Posted by: Curran Kemp at October 15, 2004 06:59 AM

Curran, your given situation brings up the problem of “traditional right of way”. A new owner is held to allow the same use by the community that the previous owners allowed.

I don’t know if there is a practical answer in the “common law” tradition, but the up front answer is for all such information to be made available to any prospective buyer, and therefore the prior owner will take better care of things in order to get the most money for their property when sold. I know I would consider it fraud if I bought property with such an easement without knowing it was there.

Posted by: Curt Howland at October 15, 2004 08:52 AM

I have heard Curran’s argument before, and am always struck by the same thought: who in his right mind would knowingly buy a property which had been subjected to years worth of pollution if he was anti-pollution? The scenario doesn’t make any sense logically speaking.

Phaedrus

Posted by: Phaedrus at October 15, 2004 08:58 AM

In Curran’s example, if the factory began polluting in a fixed area before any other property was established in that area, then any future owners who established property in the affected area would have to tolerate it. In fact the act of polluting the unowned area probably should be viewed as taking posession of the area; the factory would then have ultimate say in allowing or disallowing future homesteaders to take posession of property in the region, and would have ultimate say in setting out conditions on the transferred property (such as requiring new owners to tolerate unlimited future pollution from the factory). The property rights of homesteaders in the pre-polluted area

If there were already homes established before the factory was built, or if the factory began producing pollution in a larger area, so that pollution was falling on previously unpolluted homes, then the factory would be stepping outside its rights and onto the rights of others, and would be liable for damages to those parties.

Posted by: Jean Paul at October 15, 2004 10:01 AM

Also, if the factory was established after the homes, but the people tolerated the pollution initially, the people would still retain the right, absent any other contract, to claim damages at any time. That right would transfer with sale of any property, and if the new owner wanted to take action against the factory, it would be his right. The factory would have to weigh that risk of future non-tolerance when choosing to locate in that area, when choosing to negotiate pollution rights from the established homeowners, and when choosing to pollute to begin with.

Posted by: jean paul at October 15, 2004 10:09 AM

Pollution does not resolve the paradox, simply shifts it.

First, I generally agree with the principle of original ownership for establishing property rights, but not that the principle is sufficient to define all morality nor that it doesn’t require a fair amount of further exploration in the Natural Law to define how much is owned.

If I dig a pond for some flowers next to and dependent on the river, do I now own the river, tributaries, and springs all the way to the origin insofar as it is required to maintain my pond?

Lets say there is a new land opening up. I rent a military size cargo plane and drop popup “Mine!” signs over thousands of square miles. Do I own it? Who defines “use” or “improvement”. OK, I drop some nice flower seeds.

Better yet, I drop a bunch of really smoky torches along a line near the upwind end. Now I’ve polluted thousands of square miles, so I now own those.

Lets say I die the day after (but having mailed my claim, which is found valid) and never do anything else. My will says the estate is to do nothing with the property. So I now own it forever, even though the signs will eventually rot, and/or the smokepots will go out, and the land will never find another use. Or has no one else noted that we sometimes die? What happens to ownership beyond my span of years? Is there a requirement of even maintainence much less some even trivial continued improvement?

Also Hoppe’s system would have the original owner maximize obnoxiousness. If I know that if I don’t continually blast out loud dissonant noises, I will lose the right to, and if I don’t send toxic pollutants across the entire area, I’ll lose that right, my incentive is to put up as many obnoxious speakers and toxic smokepots even if there is otherwise no benefit to me.

Another problem is the contradiction between “physical damage” and not counting value. Lets say some weed-killer flows over to your lawn and kills the dandelions. Did I cause damage or improve the land? There may be a tresspass tort, but how do we measure it? You can kill my dandelions anytime you want if it is tit-for-tat. Otherwise the value of the loss must be established.

Maybe I consider you ugly, and I didn’t have to see you when I originally owned the land – can I demand that you not be visible nor block my view of lands beyond? And that carbon dioxide you keep emiting must stop! At some point, it becomes absurd – the law needs to draw a line between ordinary or common conduct and nusiance. It is not that it can’t be drawn, but that “who’s on first” has by itself no answer.

In a post below I noted that speaking is an act. That can damage the value of property. This generally requires the act to be malicious – the specific intent is to damage the value of you or your property.

Also I will disagree with a subtlety in the characterization of “Self-Ownership” by Aquinas and the other Christian thinkers. Our minds (will, soul, spirit) and bodies are granted by God and under our guardianship – we are responsible for them. The difference is that God maintains a Lein. If you don’t, then you don’t deny slavery, as long as I am the one selling myself into slavery. Or I am selling my will, vote, body, jury finding, respect for property rights, etc. The “self” is that with the right and ability of ownership, not just another thing owned.

If I could use your body before you could take ownership (unless you agree with l4l.org) – say with an electronic implant or hypnosis or maybe just cutting out some cells like embryonic stem cells, Do I now own your body even if your “soul” shows up later?

Posted by: tz at October 15, 2004 03:46 PM

I agree with TZ, I don’t think spewing pollution onto land—damaging property but not developing it, in other words—grants one any kind of ownership.

Property rights have no meaning unless you have utmost respect for the property rights of others. And that means no pollution of anything beyond your own immediate property. And I don’t think simply “being there first” gives one ownership over land. The earth is a trust to be divided among all people present and future; it’s not something any of us created with our own effort, nor is it something we can replace if we destroy it.

Posted by: Paul D at October 15, 2004 03:53 PM

TZ is right: polluting unowned land, making it unsafe or uninhabitable by one means or another does not confer ownership. Homesteading an acre of land and then installing automatic machine guns to spray the adjoining area’s with bullets is no legitimate way to appropriate those areas.

Rothbard and Hoppe surely agree too: such activities do not come near to anything resembling homesteading.

Do such activities establish a weaker form of property (other than ownership)? After all, their point is that an “easement” is established.
However, talk about “an easement” sounds like a mere evasion.

How would a [libertarian] judge look at the matter? I suppose he would treat it as a question of nuisance, spill-over or neighbourhood effect, not as a question of property rights. Symmetry would be a relevant consideration. I do not think a judge would grant a newly established pig farmer his claim against the one who was there first: “Your pig smells no better than his.”

In other cases, if the polluter for a while profited from the fact that neighbouring land was unoccupied, without bothering to homestead sufficient land to keep the nuisance on his own property, one may wonder why he should be granted the right to enjoy that advantage indefinitely. Why should we not say that he gambled that no one would come to appropriate the land next to his — gambled and lost? I think a judge could properly rule that a new homesteader should be granted the right to force the already established owner to bring down the nuisance / pollution to some acceptable level.

Noise pollution and stench are transient phenomena, leaving rubble and toxic stuff are not.
This raises the interesting question of clean-up costs. I do not continue to own the things I throw away, yet why should this mean that I am no longer responsible / answerable / liable for the harm that they do? I exposed others to the harm by letting those things get out of my control.

I am not formulating any ‘hard rules’ here. Such cases must be judged individually, on their merits, taking into account all the relevant particular information. That is a job for judges, not for legal theorists. A sensible Austrian economist should not presume to have an economic theory that allows us to dispense with entrepreneurial judgment. For the same reason, a libertarian should not presume to have a a theory of law that leaves no room for the judgement of judges.

Posted by: Paul C at October 15, 2004 07:06 PM

If I wanted to establish an airline which would fly over a part of the world which to date never had air traffic, no doubt it would bother many people under the flightpath. What would a libertarian propose I, the prospective business do? The prospect of having to individually enter into contracts with everyone under the flight path would kill any such idea I suppose. Or could one argue that I am homesteading that airspace or that those underneath it do not own the silence they previously enjoyed? Not trying to be awkward just not sure how logically they could approach this.

Posted by: Jonathan at October 16, 2004 12:19 AM

Jonathan,

Homesteading airspace and owning silence are not helpful concepts here. The problem is nuisance or spill-over effects. Some of these must be tolerated, up to some level, if social life (peaceful co-existence and interaction) is to be possible at all. Others, and all above some level, cannot be tolerated above some level, if social life is to be possible at all.

The issue for libertarians is whether those instances and the corresponding levels of tolerable spill-over effects should be determined by political means (via a monopolistic government or its monopolistic court system) or by economic means (negotiation, contracting, assisted if need be by technical and judicial experts chosen by those who are directly involved.)

A libertarian judge must hear all sides; he cannot escape his peculiar responsibility, which is to define acceptable standards of behaviour for the case before him and to justify those standards with arguments that are pertinent to the case. Of course, there always will be people who do not want to agree to finding a reasonable modus vivendi. There will be those who have agreed to let a judge sort out the case and then refuse to honour the standard he has defined merely because it is not what they want (without showing that his arguments were wrong). Such people may pose problems, even become dangerous, but then libertarianism — or should I say, paleolibertarianism? — is not about abolishing human nature. It about promoting standards of reasonableness within a framework of respect for persons and their property.

Posted by: Paul C at October 16, 2004 05:16 AM

Here is one escape from the problem I proposed – despoiling the land decreases its market value (I’ve already established if you can have torts for tresspass or physical damage, you must be able to set a value).

This I’m just throwing out, so it might have problems of its own, but it solves the immediate paradox.

If my overall action adds significant value to a property (or in the case of mining, extracts it), I may claim title. If my action(s) effectively despoil property, I don’t.

I.e. if I have to ruin 5 acres entirely to get less than a 500% increase on each acre I develop, I won’t get ownership and may have to compensate later owners. I would probably set the threshold higher (a 2:1 ratio or something), and require a minimal increase “per acre” to prevent my “dropping ‘my property’ signs from planes” scenario.

For the airline, I think the company might owe compensation for the devaluation of the property now that there was noise. This would also have to be a market value, and include a punative charge because if I really don’t like it and have to move (more than the average person who would set the “market value”), it would be more damaging to me. There would be incentive to minimize noise, but prevent “heckler’s vetos”.

Another example is a group of properties on a floodplain. A dam or levee would be a public good since it would prevent flooding all properties and increase their value – not just those who wanted it. At some high threshold (90% ownership or acreage), a bond could be imposed that would pay for the flood control system but only be due when the heckler wanted to sell his property, and would be effectively paid for by the increased sales price; if the price didn’t increase sufficiently there would be no incentive to build the flood control system. It is not that I desire such impositions, as I think they are violations of rights in the purest sense, but progress ought not to require unanimity. Easements are one of those relief valve mechanisms. I don’t know if these are the best mechanisms, only that some mechanism is required.

Posted by: tz at October 18, 2004 04:35 PM

The Earth (or Nature) is a trust in the sense that it does not have zero value before someone does something to it. I’ve made that point in other ways saying our bodies and souls (Life and Liberty) also function more as a trust than outright ownership, i.e. you cannot sell yourself into slavery since your liberty is entrusted to you (I’d say by my creator, but use whatever construct you like). Similarly, Life (which I measure from conception to natural death) is something else that cannot be abrogated. It is still murder even if I ask or pay you to kill me.

Some of this derives from teleological ideas – what is the purpose or end of Liberty, or property ownership. I don’t see these so much as ends in themselves which I why I think in terms of guardianship or stewardship and not merely ownership.

Property can be resold (if not despoiled). I don’t see the idea of improvement creating ownership as conflicting as trusts normally increase in value. Doing so would indicate you are a good guardian and ought to continue.

(I’d grant very wide latitude here as to what is considered “improvement” including preserving things in a natural state – finding a really nice acre, different from the hundred others and preserving its state is in a way “improving” it).

Posted by: tz at October 18, 2004 04:47 PM

I am confused about the difference between physical property and intellectual property. Rothbard seemed to imply that all issues of “property rights” are derivatives of some fundamental squatters’ rights pertaining to physical land/resources.

Isn’t the idea of “I ALREADY own that property” the idealism that led to the current plague of patent bullsh*t?

And, without patents, what would keep me from saying to everyone “I’d like to see you PROVE that you already own that property.”

btw: I disagree that forming tactics to deal with a gorilla on a desert island would not interject questions of morality. The argument of the article seems to be “If some living thing can’t reason with me, I can do with it whatever I wish.” A person could TRY to do whatever they wish with a non-human, but the hypothetical gorilla might object with an “argument” that uses no language other than brute strength.

Posted by: Omch’Ar at October 18, 2004 05:57 PM

I’m new to Libertarian ideals, so this question may seem sophmoric. Why is it reasonable to place more value in the property rights of a “first owner”, than in the property rights of subsequent “neighboring owners”? It seems to contradict the idea that every property owner has exclusive rights. In my opinion, the timing of ownership is irrelevent to the rights of the owner. The only real test is whether property has been damaged. If a factory owner polutes the surrounding area without claiming that area and then another owner claims that area, the simple fact is that further polution to that property is damage. The factory owner can protect themselves by either acquiring the property, limiting polution to a non-damaging amount or contracting with downstream owners for polution rights. Otherwise, the future rights of the factory neighbors are being altered without compensation.

Posted by: Dave N. at October 18, 2004 07:55 PM

Dave,
The alternative would be allowing later owners to infringe on the rights of existing owners. For example (this is ongoing in my hometown): I move into a neighborhood next to a hospital, which I know full well is a trauma center that operates a medical evacuation helicopter 24 hours a day to airlift seriously injured people to the hospital. Do I then have a right to demand that the hospital stop doing so, since the comings and goings of choppers interfere with my peace and quiet, even though I knew they were there when I moved in? What rights do I have that are being altered? Should the hospital owe me under these circumstances?

Posted by: Lisa Casanova at October 19, 2004 04:25 PM

Lisa,
The difference here is that noise (at least at the levels of a trauma center) is not a property damaging polutant. If the hospital had been surrounded by unclaimed property that they routinely dumped medical waste on and then you moved in and claimed an adjacent lot, would the hospital have the right to continue dumping medical waste on your property? Property owners, regardless of order of ownership, should be liable for the physical damage they cause to the property of others. In this sense, the question becomes what constitutes physical damage?

Posted by: Dave N. at October 19, 2004 06:04 PM

I think the discussion so far shows that we should not expect a one-size-fits-all rule to solve all the problems associated with nuisance, pollution, and other spill-over effects.
These are matters that should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, by a convention of all the parties directly involved or by a judge. In these cases, the particulars matter. Casting the problem in the format “Should the first owners or later arrivals prevail?” simply makes no sense.

Posted by: Paul C at October 19, 2004 06:05 PM

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