Wouldn’t it be nice if it turned out that every argument presupposed that your ideology is correct? Hell, yeah! But, unfortunately, it ain’t so. Time to grow up and put away childish things.
I find it bizarre that anyone would find Hoppe’s argumentation ethics argument for libertarianism even slightly persuasive. It’s a string of non-starters followed by a string of non-sequitors. But I recently learned that at least one super-smart person found it convincing when he was younger. Thus, I think it’s worth showing how you can refute this argument in under a minute. First, I’ll give you terms commonly used in political philosophy. Then I’ll quote Hoppe’s argument. After that, the minute starts.
Begin with some terms from political philosophy:
A liberty right is something that grants me permission to do something.
A claim right is something that entails others have obligations, responsibilities, or duties toward me.
So, for instance, suppose you believe: “Everyone has the right to do whatever he pleases; no one has any duties to anyone else.” This sentence asserts that people have liberty rights to do anything, but have no claim rights at all.
In contrast, take: “I have the right not to be taxed–the government shouldn’t take my money.” Here I assert a claim right to my money–I assert that government agents have duties not to take my money from me.
So, to review, by definition:
“X has a liberty right to do Y” means “It is morally permissible for X to Y.”
“X has a claim right to do Y” means “Others have a duty not to interfere with X when he Ys.”
You can have a liberty right without a claim right. So, for instance, Hobbes thinks in the state of nature we all have liberty rights to kill one another, but he doesn’t think we have claim rights not to be killed.
With that distinction, consider Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s argumentation ethics argument for libertarian self-ownership.
Hoppe claims that the act of trying to justify a theory that rejected libertarian self-ownership is a performative contradiction—the act presupposes the truth of libertarian self-ownership. As he explains in The Economics and Ethics of Private Property:
It must be considered the ultimate defeat for an ethical proposal if one can demonstrate that its content is logically incompatible with the proponent’s claim that its validity be ascertain- able by argumentative means. To demonstrate any such incompatibility would amount to an impossibility proof; and such proof would constitute the most deadly smash possible in the realm of intellectual inquiry … Such property right in one’s own body must be said to be justified a priori. For anyone who would try to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose an exclusive right to control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say ‘I propose such and such’. And anyone disputing such right, then, would become caught up in a practical contradiction, since arguing so would already implicitly have to accept the very norm which he was disputing.
Okay, 60 seconds. Go!
For the sake of argument, on Hoppe’s behalf, grant that by saying “I propose such and such,” I take myself to have certain rights over myself. I take myself to have some sort of right to say, “I propose such and such.” I also take you to have some sort of right to control over your own mind and body, to control what you believe. (Nota bene: I don’t think Hoppe can even get this far, but I’m granting him this for the sake of argument.)
But all I need to avoid a performative contradiction here is for me to have a liberty right to say, “I propose such and such.” I need not presuppose I have a claim right to say “I propose such and such.” Instead, at most, I presuppose that it’s permissible for me to say, “I propose such and such”. I also at most presuppose that you have a liberty right to believe what I say. I do not need to presuppose that you have a claim right to believe what I say.
However, libertarian self-ownership theory consists of claim rights.
So, by saying, “I propose such and such,” at most I presuppose the permissibility of my saying “I propose such and such” and of your believing “such such,” but I don’t presuppose that anyone or anything has any claim rights or duties at all.
Hoppe’s argument illicitly conflates a liberty right with a claim right, and so fails.
Since Hoppe’s argument is complete nonsense, it has other fatal flaws aside from the one I described above. For further refutation, see here:
P.S.: Who is the guy taking the place of the Comedian in the video above?