Economic Programming Survey Results

Hey guys, this is the result of the economic programming survey.


Leftypol User Survey

Hey guys, I did some surveys of leftypol’s user base. There are about 950 active leftypol users, and we got about 80ish responses total. So all in all, there should be about a 10% margin of error, given a 95% confidence level and . Keep in mind people are allowed to select more than one option.


Leftypol Demographics

The top 5 Tendencies are:

  1. Anti-idpol
  2. Anarcho-Communist
  3. Libertarian Socialist
  4. Libertarian Marxist
  5. Classical Marxism –tied with– Communalism / Bookchin


With regards to ideal economic system the top 5 are:

  1. We can’t know in advance, it will have to be adapted to the circumstances
  2. Participatory / Democratic Planning Socialism
  3. Computational Planning (Labor Vouchers, etc.)
  4. Mutualist or Market Socialist / Cooperatives
  5. Other (largely blank entries)

The Shibboleth of Capitalist ‘Democracy’ Part II: Liberal Republicanism vs Direct Self-Governance


This means replacing what in fact is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (a dictatorship hypocritically cloaked in the forms of the democratic bourgeois republic) by the dictatorship of the proletariat. This means replacing democracy for the rich by democracy for the poor. This means replacing freedom of assembly and the press for the minority, for the exploiters, by freedom of assembly and the press for the majority of the population, for the working people. This means a gigantic, world historic extension of democracy, its transformation from falsehood into truth, the liberation of humanity from the shackles of capital, which distorts and truncates any, even the most “democratic” and republican, bourgeois democracy. This means replacing the bourgeois state with the proletarian state, a replacement that is the sole way the state can eventually wither away altogether.

V.I. Lenin – “Democracy” and Dictatorship

‘Liberal’ political movements have not achieved any discernible level of political change in recent history. The Arab spring failed to bring true democracy to the middle east. The Occupy wall street movement, despite all the protestations of liberals, has been an abject failure. The American ‘right to protest’ did not seemingly apply to the occupy movement as the police forcibly ejected, beat and pepper sprayed them. Nor did it stop the FBI from declaring the movement to be a ‘terrorist threat‘. The occupy movement has not had even one iota of the impact of it’s right-wing counterpart, the ‘Tea party’, despite being at least equal in popularity, simply because the tea party’s right-wing economic goals comport with the objectives of the ruling capitalist class, and the occupy wall street agenda of egalitarianism does not. Left-Liberals in the US may claim that the voices of millions of peaceful protesters in the street cannot be ignored. Yet, with these democratic movements, including those in developing nations such as the Turkish protests against Erdogan, and the Egyptian revolution, and even first world movements like occupy wall street have all had (literally) millions of people out in the streets, resulting in some of the largest protests in human history. Yet, Erdogan remains in power in Turkey, real democracy has failed to materialize in Egypt, and the American political establishment remains recalcitrantly committed to neoliberal economics. The Bolivarian movement in Venezuela, despite having parliamentary power for over a decade, both failed to fully implement socialism and was defeated in the elections following the death of Chavez. This is fully attributable to the parliamentary and incrementalist methods the leaders of the Venezuelan movement have restricted themselves to. Despite over a decade of socialist power, large swathes of the Venezuelan economy remain curiously privatized.

Even the ‘victories’ of the social-democratic/left-liberal movements of the early 20th century in western countries exemplified by the ‘New Deal‘ in America and the Left-leaning parties in Europe occurred in the context of the post-world war two geopolitical conflict with the Soviet Union and it’s Marxist ideology. Moderate leftists in those times could not have achieved the concessions they did without the specter of revolution haunting the dreams (or rather, the nightmares) of the wealthy elites. To use a ‘Trumpist’ term, the moderate left was able to ‘talk past the sale’. With this ‘threat’ to their power ostensibly eliminated, the capitalist ruling class sees no reason to continue with even moderate concessions to working people. After all, why should they continue to contribute even a portion of their wealth to social programs or egalitarian wealth redistribution when the potential downsides are so minimal. With the ‘fall of Communism‘, the capitalist elites of western societies were finally able to reveal the naked nature of their power without pretense or consequence. The left-liberal demand for egalitarian concessions using protest is an empty and toothless threat which is not (and will not) be taken seriously except in the context of some radical alternative. With the defeat of all these movements, we must dispense of the notion, once and for all, that protest alone can change governments or even government policy. But why are peaceful protests not enough? Certainly, I would not suggest that leftists stay home instead, but I would also not suggest that voting can result in radical change, or indeed anything beyond perhaps staving off the most blatantly reactionary of policies. This misunderstanding is a result of fundamental left-liberal misconceptions about the nature of the state and power.

Liberals often claim that we have ‘freedom of speech’ in America. This is true to a degree, but ideas that are not strictly illegal to espouse are still subject to the ‘soft tyranny’ of American society, including investigation by authorities in order to find some other pretense of prosecution (this was the case with the FBI and the civil rights movement of the 20th century, and will certainly be the case with future left-wing movements). Even without explicit governmental intervention, the right-wing citizens of America can practice soft tyranny through social ostracization, economic ostracization and even physical assault. Right wing militias are free to open carry weapons, intimidate protesters, and seize federal buildings while the protesters themselves are beaten and pepper sprayed by the police. If an Islamist or left-wing group had engaged in similar action, the authorities would not hesitate to use violence and engage in a firefight with those individuals, but thus far, these right-wing groups have been given somewhat of a pass. This is because the government fears the reaction of sympathetic right wing elements in the populace (such as with the Oklahoma City bombing) were they to use brutality against these groups. More importantly, the idealized ‘Americanism’ espoused by groups like the Oath Keepers comports fully with the capitalist ideas of the ruling class and thus they are tolerated to a degree that would be unthinkable with their hypothetical counterparts. Given the obvious right-wing bias of the American government, the childish opposition to guns on the left is puzzling. Liberals may decry policemen as brutal racists who use their arms and authority to harass and occasionally kill minorities and other individuals, but then will turn around and claim that only policemen should have guns. The right-wing types of the country will always have firearms regardless of their legality, and would be even more motivated by a weapons ban. Indeed, if firearms were made illegal, many right-wing gun owners would resort to machining fully automatic weapons in their basements, thus increasing, rather than decreasing their firepower. There is no way to stop this other than banning simple machine tools and blocks of steel (not to mention the nascent 3d printing technology), which obviously cannot be done. The notion that gun control is somehow ‘left wing’ or progressive is one of the greatest fallacies of the so-called ‘left’ in America today. In fact many gun control policies have their roots in reactionary politics. Gun control in California, for example, was partly a reaction to the Black Panther movement, and indeed, historically, many gun control laws have their basis in racism. To use a modern example, a liberal may say that convicted felons should not own firearms. However, we all know that there is a racialist component to the justice system of the United States. To disarm based on felony convictions would (and does) immediately preclude a non insignificant portion of the black population, as well as other people of color, from owning firearms legally. Liberal arguments for gun control, in fact, smack of elitism and anti-working class bigotry, as they imply that the working class, the poor, and the marginalized cannot be ‘trusted’ with firearms. If the government were more representative of the population, a case for gun control might be more reasonable. The right wing distrusts gun control because it distrusts the government which enforces it. But the true left should be even more distrustful, given the right-wing orientation of the American government: the American government is a ‘bourgeois state’, a capitalist state, the primary purpose of which is to enforce capitalism and property rights. In short, the government is a government of the wealthy elites, not the people, and does not have the people’s bests interests in mind.

Furthermore, even if an ostensibly left wing government were to come to power in a capitalist democracy despite these enormous hurdles against it in the first place, it would still face other problems imposed by the structure of a capitalist government. Unlike people, governments are not ‘created equal’. A particular government system is not equally suited towards running all types of political economy efficiently. A capitalist government like that of the United States for example, would be a very unwieldy tool in the hands of even the most committed leftists. It would be analogous to trying to take a paperclip and use it to open the lock on your house every day after getting home from work, rather than using one’s keys. Every radical change in society necessarily requires an intervening period of austerity. The length and severity of this transitional phase depend greatly on the degree of internal and external interference in the socialist program, as well as the social, material, and technological conditions of that country. It may last weeks or perhaps months in the best case scenario, although in the worst case it may last years. In this transitional period, the capitalist ruling class, having it’s profit, power, and privilege threatened, would react with unimaginable vitriol (even to the point of violence or a coup, as it has done historically) and do it’s utmost to undermine the new government at all costs. All sorts of legal and political objections would be brought against the new government’s programs, slowing socialist nationalization to a snail’s pace. The left-wing government would be forced to attempt socialism using a political structure designed to preserve the status quo, retard progress, and stymie change. In the meanwhile, the bourgeois would use their remaining influence and power to sow economic chaos through society, protract the transitional period of suffering as long as possible, and attempt to use their control and influence, including the media, to manipulate the fickle and low-information portions of the public into blaming the new government, rather than those obstructing it. Rather than seeing the economic labor pangs as the prerequisite to the birth of a new society, the public would seek to murder the movement in it’s womb, aborting the revolution before it could truly be completed. This is precisely what happened to the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela, and precisely why using the existing structure of capitalist government is a fallacy to begin with.

Many people conceive of socialism as a tyrannical system imposed upon the masses by an elite. In fact, socialism is an authoritarian democracy, whereas capitalism is a liberal tyranny. That is, socialism is a democracy of the working class, while using authoritarianism against the (now former) oppressors of society, that is, the capitalist class, who want to restore their rule. Capitalism is precisely the opposite – it uses the structure of political liberalism towards the end of capitalist class rule (This is what Marx meant by ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, respectively). To use a popular anarchist saying, ‘if voting changed anything, it would be illegal’ (the same could be said of other liberal-democratic ‘rights’). It should be understood that capitalist ‘rights’ (especially property ‘rights’) are not ‘freedom’, but rather, the means by which workers are deprived of their actual freedom – the freedom to have a say in how the economy is run.

In order to have true political democracy, we first must have economic democracy i.e. socialism. But since socialism cannot be effectively achieved by participation in capitalist democracy, the whole rotten apparatus of capitalist democracy must be first replaced in toto. The first step towards this sort of thing, in my opinion, would be something like a ‘constitutional convention‘ to change the constitution to be directly democratic, so citizens could directly vote on laws on a national scale.

The Shibboleth of Capitalist ‘Democracy’: Free Speech


It has been said that terror is the principle of despotic government. Does your government therefore resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that gleams in the hands of the heroes of liberty resembles that with which the henchmen of tyranny are armed. Let the despot govern by terror his brutalized subjects; he is right, as a despot. Subdue by terror the enemies of liberty, and you will be right, as founders of the Republic. The government of the revolution is liberty’s despotism against tyranny. Is force made only to protect crime? And is the thunderbolt not destined to strike the heads of the proud? . . . . . . Indulgence for the royalists, cry certain men, mercy for the villains! No! mercy for the innocent, mercy for the weak, mercy for the unfortunate, mercy for humanity. Society owes protection only to peaceable citizens; the only citizens in the Republic are the republicans. For it, the royalists, the conspirators are only strangers or, rather, enemies. This terrible war waged by liberty against tyranny- is it not indivisible? Are the enemies within not the allies of the enemies without? The assassins who tear our country apart, the intriguers who buy the consciences that hold the people’s mandate; the traitors who sell them; the mercenary pamphleteers hired to dishonor the people’s cause, to kill public virtue, to stir up the fire of civil discord, and to prepare political counterrevolution by moral counterrevolution-are all those men less guilty or less dangerous than the tyrants whom they serve?

Maximilien Robespierre

One of the most common complaints of the right (particularly the ‘alt-right’) in addition to the ‘Cultural Marxism’ conspiracy theory, is the idea that laws against hate speech, as well as a general atmosphere of ‘political correctness‘ which dominates the media, college campuses, popular politics, etc. is fundamentally illiberal because many feminists, critical race theorists, and other such ‘new left’ intellectuals argue from a position of postmodern narrative and against a notion of objective truth, contending that the legal, political, etc. systems of western society are systematically biased in favor of cis-gendered heterosexual white males and against all other groups.

As an empirical-materialist, I have some epistemological problems with the ‘intersectionalist’ position. However, I agree that the rhetoric of ‘free speech’ is quite problematic.

In the idealistic ‘libertarian’ view of freedom of speech/of the press, ideas compete in a ‘free market of ideas’ and the best ideas win out, whereas the ideological ‘losers’ are those ideas that fail to win popular support. Many people, inculcated in bourgeois ideology, believe that bourgeois freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, property rights, etc, are a defense against tyranny. Although it seems contradictory, these rights are given not because they can be used to challenge the elites, but precisely because they empower the elites. Equality with regards to legal or civil freedoms always disproportionately empowers those with the economic resources to best take advantage of those freedoms. Take for example the statement ‘we are all free to buy a ferrari’. It is technically true – the government has passed no law forbidding people from owning ferarris. At the same time we know that in reality only a small number of wealthy people can actually choose to buy a ferarri. There is an enormous difference between formal freedom and the actual ability to do something, because formal freedoms do not include the various restrictions that are part of the class structure of a capitalist society. Although this particular example involves sports cars, the same principle can be applied to more basic ‘freedoms’ such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In a capitalist society, the means of production are owned by capitalists, including the means of production and dissemination of information. This control is not total, and there is some room for dissent, however, there is still a systemic class bias. The wealthy have the resources to fund think tanks, media campaigns, political candidates with pro establishment views, etc, whereas the left has a few bloggers and maybe a podcast or two. The wealthy have the freedom to buy a megaphone and shout their ideas through it, and the rest of us have the freedom to scream ineffectually into the wind. Liberals implicitly recognize this when they advocate for campaign finance reform. However I agree with their libertarian critics who claim such reforms are ‘anti-freedom’ in that the freedom to spend money on social and political influence is as much a bourgeois freedom as the freedom of speech. In other words, there is ‘market power’, oligopoly, and monopoly in the ‘market for ideas’, and the barriers to entry in the information age are as high as the amount of money the wealthy are willing to spend getting their message across. Furthermore, a ‘marketplace of ideas’ requires debate participants to be acting in good faith: in other words, it requires them not to be trolls. The utilitarian justification for ‘free speech’ is that by hearing many ideas, the best ideas will naturally be the most convincing and ‘rise to the top’. However, ‘trolling’ does not cause a debate or discussion to converge on a good idea or even agreement: it actually derails and disrupts the discussion. It is for this reason that trolls are commonly banned from online message boards, and it is reasonable to adopt a similar policy in real life.

The terms ‘Freedom’ and/or ‘liberty’ in the context of American political speech are usually bereft of meaning; thoughtless and thought-terminating expressions of nationalistic jingoism. Insomuch as the American everyman thinks about ‘freedom’, he conflates the bourgeois idea of freedom with some genuine expression of the same. To most people ‘freedom’ means the ability to do whatever one wants without interference. However to libertarians and other such apologists, ‘freedom’ means something much more abstruse (and in my opinion, warped). In a stratified class society where a tiny minority of the population controls most wealth and property, pieces of private property (the atomic elements of our society) from the factories, office buildings, residences, and even the land and natural landscapes, are all owned by an elite minority of landlords and capitalists, while the vast majority only have their own capacity to perform work for a wage. By freedom, capitalists mean the freedom of property owners to do whatever they want with their property regardless of what the rest of society wants (even though their property literally consists of almost everything we see around us), and by ‘tyranny’ they mean the attempts of the general populace to use whatever means possible to rectify this unjust situation. Even if campaign finance reform were to be achieved (which is itself doubtful), it would not fundamentally change the nature of capitalist society. The wealthy have always had disproportionate influence over politics, society, the media, and public opinion, although recent developments have certainly made this more transparent.

To reference ancient Greek political theory, Aristotle believed that democracy meant the people would vote on issues directly. Aristotle termed a system where people elected their leaders, an ‘aristocracy’, since the ancient Greeks believed that any time there was an electoral system, the upper class would inevitably dominate it. This is because in a class society with inequality, the people being elected are almost always of a higher social class than the people electing them. In order to be elected, one has to say that they are better than the average and therefore qualified to lead. In a class society, the people who appear to be better are the more powerful, wealthier, and better educated section of society – in other words, the ruling class (or people who have their blessing).This type of control or influence by capitalists over capitalist society is not a ‘corruption’ of the system, but rather, the essence of it. To use the parlance of software engineering, “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature“.

READ: The Shibboleth of Capitalist ‘Democracy’ PART II

Hawaiian Nationalism

One of the most curious aspects of Hawaiian culture to outsiders is the existence of Hawaiian nationalism (also known as the Hawaiian sovereignty movement). Hawaii was originally an independent state with a monarchical form of government. However as capitalism began to take hold in the 19th century, Hawaii’s nascent bourgeoisie began to gain power. With the Bayonet Constitution of 1887 (so called because it was forced on the king at gunpoint), the (largely white) class of agricultural industrialists managed to wrest control of most of the monarchy’s political power for itself. When the king’s successor, Queen Liliuokalani, attempted to take back some of that power, she, and in fact the Hawaiian Kingdom itself, were overthrown in 1893 with the help of American Marines, leading to the formation of a parliamentary provisional government which was dominated politically by the agricultural industrialists. It was, in fact, a classic ‘bourgeois revolution’, in which a monarchy was overthrown by a merchant class which then became the new ruling class. A few years later, Hawaii was annexed by the United States as a Territory. Modern Hawaiian nationalists have reinterpreted this event through a racialist lens, seeing the overthrow of the kingdom as an example of Anglo-American political and cultural domination which continues to this day. This viewpoint is, in my opinion, an example of how real problems of oppression are misconstrued as they are filtered through the lens of postmodern bourgeois ideology.

As part of an indigenous revival movement beginning in the 1970’s, the nationalist movement has since gained the support of a significant minority of the native Hawaiian population. According to the late John Reinecke, a professor of linguistics and former member of the now-defunct Hawaiian Communist Party, “time and energy devoted to “the Hawaiian national question” is mostly time and energy wasted, which could be devoted to much more important issues.( Hawaiian Nationalism: A Non-Question).

Several decades ago, Reinecke’s position would have been a defensible one. However, the modern nationalist movement is much more powerful than before. From the ivory tower of academia to the tent cities of indigenous homeless on Oahu’s west side, there is a non insignificant level of support for the idea that Hawaii, ethnic Hawaiians, and Hawaiian culture have been victims of US imperialism, and that this injustice should be redressed. While some adherents of the sovereignty movement who advocate secession, others instead advocate for a ‘nation within a nation‘ solution, similar to the tribal status enjoyed by native Americans. Still others advocate for peaceful appeals to the United Nations on the grounds that the United States annexation of Hawaii was illegal under international law, and that the UN should compel the United States to peacefully give Hawaii political independence. Although this strategy may be a decent means of garnering some international sympathy, the legal case is borderline conspiratorial at best. In some ways, the ‘international law’ nationalists are reminiscent of right-wing American ‘sovereign citizens’, who are equally convinced that the federal government of the United States is a fiction, and that by saying some magical combination of legalese mumbo jumbo, the United States will somehow be compelled by law to leave Hawaii. This conviction is obviously highly unrealistic. Hawaii’s role as a strategic naval base for the US military and it’s importance in projecting power into the wider pacific/Asian region means there is no rational geopolitical motive for the United States to give up Hawaii, even if it were a violation of ‘international law’. Furthermore, even a cursory examination of the American foreign policy reveals a well-documented history of boutique military adventures, covert interventions, coups, torture, airstrikes on various civilian targets such as hospitals, pharmaceutical factories and weddings, as well as countless other war crimes and wars of aggression. The idea that American commitment to ‘international law’ extends beyond mere lip service is laughable, and so are any theories of political change that are based on it. 

However, in my opinion, given the social and material reality of the Hawaiian situation today, socialists must support the sovereignty movement, despite it’s admittedly distasteful racialist and petty-bourgeois aspects. I am reminded of a quote from Marx. “we do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.The nationalist movement may succeed politically but fail in practice if foreign absentee capitalists and landlords are allowed to continue to profit off of Hawaii while the only economic benefits accrued to the population take the form of low wage service jobs. Unless the nationalist movement makes redistribution of land and property part of it’s political program, formal independence will mean little. In any case, any socialist movement, must (for the time being) attempt to ally itself with (or at least not offend) the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement in order to have even the slimmest chance of success.

Argumentation Ethics and Self-Ownership

Hans-Herman Hoppe is a German bourgeois economist who subscribes to the “Austrian school” of economics. Out of all the contemporary Austrians, Hoppe may indeed be the most reactionary, advocating not-so-subtle racism against non-white immigrants to the United states, an end to democracy and a return to monarchy – a view so reactionary one could almost call it anti-bourgeois. Hoppe has proposed a libertarian political/ethical theory called “Argumentation Ethics”, which he portrays as an ‘a priori’ ethical justification for Capitalism.

Marxism and Ethics

The response to (and criticism of) Argumentation ethics has been almost entirely from a right-wing perspective. The reason for this is simple: ethical theories are largely irrelevant to Marxism. Dialectical Marxism cannot produce an ethical theory because it is not in any way normative. Marxism, in this sense, can be understood as the scientific study of the laws of motion of history and of capitalism.

This means that if Hoppe truly has derived an “ought” from an “is”, he has not demonstrated the opposite to be true. Therefore it is possible to believe in both Marxism and Argumentation Ethics: one may believe that the working class described by Marx is completely immoral for forcibly seizing the means of production and thus violating the principle of self-ownership, and also believe that such action is historically necessary (the bourgeois economist Joseph Schumpeter held a position very similar to this). Therefore ethical theories(including A.E.) have no bearing on the truth-value of Marxism and cannot be used to falsify it.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s engage libertarianism on it’s own terms.

The argument can be summed up as follows:

1. Self-ownership is a prerequisite of argumentation

2. Therefore to argue against self-ownership is a ‘performative contradiction’.

Two fellow libertarians by the name of Robert P. Murphy and Gene Callahan responded to Hoppe’s argument in “Hans-Herman Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethic: A Critique”. Among other things, Murphy and Callahan argued (correctly) that use does not equal ownership:

But now we move on to a more fundamental objection to Hoppe’s argument: One is not necessarily the rightful owner of a piece of property even if control of it is necessary in a debate over its ownership. Because of this fact, a crucial link in Hoppe’s argument fails. Someone can deny the libertarian ethic, and yet concede to his opponents the use of their bodies for debate. There is nothing contradictory about this, as we shall demonstrate with a few examples. First, imagine a devout theist who believes that God created the entire universe, and is therefore the rightful owner of everything, including the bodies of human beings. The theist might believe that God has granted humans temporary control over His property, just as a landlord leases an apartment. However, just as the landlord would prohibit certain destructive acts, so too (the theist might think) would God prohibit such things as suicide and prostitution. Because of his worldview, such a theist might argue (against a libertarian Atheist, perhaps) that people do not own their bodies, and that it is perfectly legitimate for outsiders to use force to prevent someone from committing suicide. Now, we grant that the theist would have a difficult time proving his case; indeed, we would disagree with his conclusions if such a theist really existed and advocated this stance. However, we do not think he has, by making such a case, in any way engaged in contradiction. Since we have come up with a logical counterexample to his sweeping result, Hoppe’s argument as it stands must be incorrect.

Second, imagine that a Georgist were to argue that everyone should own a piece of landed property. The Georgist could go so far as to claim that his position is the only justifiable one. He could correctly observe that anyone debating him would necessarily grant him (the Georgist) some standing room, and then he might deduce from this true observation the conclusion that it would be a performative contradiction to deny that everyone is entitled to a piece of land. We imagine that Hoppe would point out to such a Georgist that using a piece of land during a debate does not entitle one to its full ownership, and Hoppe would be correct. But by the same token, Hoppe’s argument for ownership of one’s body falls apart; Hoppe has committed the exact same fallacy as our hypothetical Georgist… Hoppe’s response to this objection, when it was made by David Friedman, Leland Yeager, and others, was to point out that he was not denying the historical existence of slavery, but rather its justification. But Hoppe misunderstood his critics’ point. Friedman, for example, wasn’t merely saying that because slavery has existed, Hoppe must be wrong. Rather, Friedman argued that, because countless slaves have engaged in successful argumentation, Hoppe must be wrong when he claims that self-ownership is a prerequisite to debate.

Answering the Hoppean claims that the argument is ‘a priori’, Murphy and Callahan respond:

Misesian economists will no doubt appreciate Hoppe’s frustration; he believes he is in the analogous position of someone being asked to deal with ostensible “counterexamples” to the law of diminishing marginal utility. However, as we stated above, it is Hoppe who is misunderstanding the type of claim being made. Yes, Hoppe is arguing for a conclusion (namely, that only libertarian ethics are consistently justifiable) that by itself makes no empirical claims, and hence cannot be falsified by observation. However, Hoppe’s chain of arguments to reach that (empirically neutral) conclusion crucially relies on an empirical assumption, to wit, that a person needs to enjoy self-ownership (and all other libertarian rights) if he is to successfully debate. It is this empirical assumption that his critics attacked, and quite successfully so: It is simply not true that one needs to own his body in order to fairly debate, just as one doesn’t need to own standing room in order to fairly debate.

We do not wish to deny that there is a definite sense in which, if there is to be a legitimate give-and-take of ideas, the two parties in question must enjoy a degree of autonomy or “freedom.” It would indeed be silly if the puppeteer “debated” his marionette, or if a man trained his dog to engage in a mock argument. Yet this transcendental self-ownership is not what Hoppe is after; even the heretic being burned at the stake ultimately has free will and “owns” his mind. It was ingenious for Hoppe to attempt to equate the conditions necessary for rational discourse with the property rules of radical libertarianism, but it is obvious to us that this attempted mapping fails.

In their criticism of argumentation ethics, MC have actually stumbled across a much larger problem with self-ownership.

The Problem of Alienability

According to Rothbard, “the absolute right of each man [sic] … to control [his or her] body free of coercive interference. Since each individual must think, learn, value, and choose his or her ends and means in order to survive and flourish, the right to self-ownership gives man [sic] the right to perform these vital activities without being hampered by coercive molestation.” [For a New Liberty, pp. 26-27]

The problem is that ownership cannot exist in a vacuum. Ownership, in general, is an implicit or explicit contract between the property-owner and a third party of enforcers: historically the state, but presumably in a hypothetical libertarian world, this job would be done by a private, mafia-like protection agencies. Property requires enforcement precisely because it is alienable. Nobody needs to enter into such a contract with regards to so-called ‘self-ownership’. No one needs a deed to control of their own body; the fact that people control their own bodies is so obvious in it’s immediacy that it requires no theory to justify it at all.

Rothbard in “For a New Liberty” seems to argue that self-ownership requires not being “hampered by coercive molestation”. In other words, it is implied that self-ownership is more than the simple fact that people control their own bodies and can be alienated by “coercive molesation” i.e. self-ownership is alienable. However, in defending argumentation ethics against the equivocation argument, libertarians seem to imply that self-ownership is defined as merely “the ability to control one’s own body”.

It would seem that ‘self-ownership’ and ‘ownership in general are two very different things. The reason libertarians have used the same word (ownership) to describe the fact that people control their own bodies with the social institution of private property is because they are ideologues who have started with the goal of justifying capitalism and have “worked backwards” to those premises. To sum it up:

If self-ownership is alienable, then argumentation ethics is false because it commits the fallacy of equating use with ownership.

If self-ownership is inalienable, then the conception of the self as property (self-ownership) is impossible because something must be alienable to be “owned” in the first place.

Pope Francis the leftist


Recently, Pope Francis of the catholic church gave a ‘stunning’ speech condemning capitalism.

From the article:

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills…How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?”

“economic inequality features [is] one of the issues Francis is most concerned about, and the 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence… ‘As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,’ he wrote.”

While the catholic church has condemned socialism in the past, the Pope’s new tone is surprising to many, given the free market views shared by many of the faithful, particularly in the United States.