Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Foreword,” in Stephan Kinsella, Legal Foundations of a Free Society (Houston, Texas: Papinian Press, 2023); also republished as Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Foreword: Legal Foundations of a Free Society,” Mises Wire (Oct. 24, 2023) and on LewRockwell.com (Nov. 3, 2023). As one commentator noted, “One of the most powerful pieces I ever read.”1
Foreword: Legal Foundations of a Free Society
The question as to what is justice and what constitutes a just society is as old as philosophy itself. Indeed, it arises in everyday life even long before any systematic philosophizing is to begin.
All throughout intellectual history, one prominent answer to this question has been to say that it is “might” that makes “right.” Or more specifically: that what is right or wrong, just or unjust, is unilaterally decreed by a State qua territorial monopolist of violence. The self-contradictory nature of this “decisionist” position, i.e. of “legal positivism,” comes to light once we ask its proponents for a reason or evidence as to why we should believe the proposition that “might makes right” to be true and correct. By virtue of providing any such reason or evidence, however, and thus seeking—ultimately—unanimous agreement regarding the validity of the proposition in question, any such proponent implicitly acknowledges the presence of other reasonable and sensible persons and, importantly, that the question of right or wrong, true or not-true, then, is not a matter of “might” or “fiat,” but a question to be decided on the basis of common reason and experience instead. Yet reason and experience demonstrate, contrary to the proponent’s initial claim, that “might does not make right.” That “might is might” and “right is right,” but “no might can ever make a right.”