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Posts Tagged ‘Private property’

If Government Can Take from One Group, It Can and Will Take from Everyone

Posted by M. C. on July 19, 2022

If a thief steals your money, you have every right to complain, and he’ll go to prison. But if the state does the same thing, then only a sociopath would complain, because the state is providing you and your neighbors with all kinds of “free” stuff. Only a self-responsible person and the enlightened minority understand that government can only give what it has stolen before. Most of the citizens still believe in the nanny-state myth and in free lunches.

Claudio Grass

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to argue that private property rights, as understood by classic liberal thinkers, by those who embrace Austrian economic theory, and by all members of an enlightened society, are not only the cornerstone, but also the last defense of human civilization and the Western way of life in particular. Nothing stands a chance without this premise. No prosperity can ever come about or even be maintained, none of the civil liberties and human freedoms we so often take for granted these days, no innovation in business, technology or science.

The respect of the individual’s property is at the heart of most of our freedoms, and when the state or any other central authority crosses this big red line, it causes a massive domino effect. This erosion of liberty might be slow, but it certainly is steady, and most citizens only realize the risks they’re facing only when it’s too late to do anything about it.

A Relentless Campaign

States’ incursion into their citizens’ lives, businesses, savings, and fundamental human liberties, like free speech, is certainly nothing new. In fact, it is a concerted campaign that has been going on arguably since the first form of centralized government emerged. Even without the (rather safe) assumption that megalomania and a pathological thirst for power and control over other people were the core motivation behind this, there have always been those among us that think they what’s best for others and are only too eager to “help” and “save” them. However, this push toward centralization has seen a significant acceleration over the past couple of decades.

After mostly unelected European Union bureaucrats and technocrats consolidated power in Europe and state powers were eroded in favor of federal authorities and countless agencies in the United States, the needle really moved, and although nothing happened from one day to the next, this shift certainly set the West on the path of more and more centralization. Toxic ideologies and misanthropic worldviews, like those promoted by the Frankfurt school and their long march through the institutions, were of considerable help along the way.

Window-dressing state control and massive wealth redistribution policies as “welfare” and promoting them as citizens’ “duty” to “give back” aided in disguising what was really taking place. Property rights became conditional.

If a thief steals your money, you have every right to complain, and he’ll go to prison. But if the state does the same thing, then only a sociopath would complain, because the state is providing you and your neighbors with all kinds of “free” stuff. Only a self-responsible person and the enlightened minority understand that government can only give what it has stolen before. Most of the citizens still believe in the nanny-state myth and in free lunches.

The concept of “free” and of “public goods” in particular appears to have stuck more than anything else. Especially in Europe and in much of the Commonwealth, there is to this day not only a clear understanding, but an expectation in the minds of most citizens that things like education and healthcare are and must always be “free.” Hardly anyone stops and questions what this means, and how services that obviously cost incredible amounts of money can be free.

Every time there’s an election around the corner, the incumbent governments start throwing all kinds of subsidies and extra welfare benefits from helicopters. The recipients of these checks, even when they are taxpayers themselves, still perceive these payments as government assistance, as though their prime minister or president and all their cabinet members had simply reached into their own pockets given gifts, out of the kindness of their hearts.

Of course, once wealth redistribution became established as the norm, it also became much easier to push a much more aggressive agenda. Once again, with the aforementioned ideological and political “packaging,” a fierce hatred started to take root, dividing our societies in extremely dangerous ways, but also really expediting the concentration of power in the hands of the few. We have seen a huge escalation of this in the last twenty-five years.

The “rich,” the “1 percent,” the “privileged” and the “greedy capitalists” are all terms that attempted to describe some largely mythical group of people that had their boots on the throats of everybody else. At first, it was just money that made some people instantly evil and thereby justified using state force to dispossess them. However, this soon expanded to success in general. Just being better than one’s peers, working harder, cultivating a particular talent, it all became reason enough for anyone to become a member of that hated group.

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Yes, They Were Socialists: How the Nazis Waged War on Private Property

Posted by M. C. on July 6, 2022

The Nazi government took control of the economy, which is what one expects from socialism.

John Kennedy

When the average person thinks of the Nazis, what often comes to mind is World War II, the Holocaust, and rousing speeches of hate. However, the National Socialists also had economic and political policies, policies many just assume were either free market or New Deal–style public works projects like the Autobahn. But Nazi policy was not so cut-and-dried.

The Nazis were socialists, and it showed in many of the policies they implemented after coming to power in 1933. First, like the Soviets, the Nazis initiated a war on private property. Not surprisingly, property rights were severely curbed by National Socialism in the name of public welfare.

How did the National Socialists combat private property in Germany? The first step came shortly after the Nazis took control, when they abolished private property. Article 153 of the Weimar constitution guaranteed private property, with expropriation only to occur within the due process of the law, but this article was nullified by a decree on February 28, 1933. 

With this, the new National Socialist government had complete control of private property in Germany. While they did not take complete control of the lands like the Bolsheviks did in Russia in 1917, the Nazis issued quotas for industries and farms, and later they reorganized all industry into corporations run by members of the Nazi Party. 

The War on Business

Peter Temin wrote about this in Soviet and Nazi Economic Planning, stating:

Both governments reorganized industry into larger units, ostensibly to increase state control over economic activity. The Nazis reorganized industry into 13 administrative groups with a larger number of subgroups to create a private hierarchy for state control. The state could therefore direct a firm’s activities without acquiring direct ownership of enterprises. The pre-existing tendency to form cartels was encouraged to eliminate competition that would destabilize prices.

The Nazis, ironically, called this reorganization “privatization,” although the owners of these corporations were either removed from board positions and replaced by Nazi Party members or sold out and became Nazi Party members. They included IG Farben and the Junkers airplane factory. IG Farben was a chemical company founded in 1925 by Carl Bosch and Carl Duisberg, who were both Jewish, and had a capitalization of around a billion marks by 1926. By 1938, all of the company’s Jewish workers had been purged and the supervisory board replaced by Nazis (see Joseph Borkin’s book The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben).

IG Farben was a clear example of the reorganization of industry the Nazis undertook for their benefit. Sybille Steinbacher, a professor of Holocaust studies, wrote about the public-private partnership in her book Auschwitz, stating:

Otto Ambros and IG Farben director Fritz ter Meer held a board meeting in Berlin with Carl Krauch who was not only a member of the board of directors of IG Farben, but also a member of the circle of industrialists around Reichsfurhrer-SS known as Himmler’s “Circle of Friends.” 

After the Nazis took power, this kind of cooperation was common.

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Murray Rothbard versus the Public Choice School | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on November 30, 2021

What I take to be the most important disagreement between Rothbard and public choice is this: Rothbard doesn’t take a value neutral attitude toward the state: he hates it. He sees the state as predatory. As he puts it in Anatomy of the State, “The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property

David Gordon

Murray Rothbard was at one time good friends with Gordon Tullock, one of the founders of the public choice analysis of government, and he also corresponded on friendly terms with James Buchanan, another of the founders. Both Rothbard and the public choice movement look with suspicion on claims by agents of the government to be acting for the common good, and both support the free market, though Rothbard does so to a much greater degree. Despite these points of agreement, Rothbard has some fundamental criticisms of public choice, and I’d like to look at one of these in this week’s column.

What I take to be the most important disagreement between Rothbard and public choice is this: Rothbard doesn’t take a value neutral attitude toward the state: he hates it. He sees the state as predatory. As he puts it in Anatomy of the State, “The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society.” By contrast, he views people outside the state, aside from criminals, as engaged in peaceful exchange. There is, then, a dichotomy between people in the state and nonstate actors.

The public choice school denies that this dichotomy exists. The key point of their analysis of government is that people in government act to promote their private interests, in the same way as private actors. That is to say, government officials aren’t more “public spirited” than private businessmen, but neither are they worse in their motives. The basic distinction, emphasized by Rothbard, that the state’s activities are coercive, in contrast to the peaceful exchanges in the free market, is glossed over.

More than this, the distinction is denied to exist, especially in the work of Buchanan. He considers the state to be a voluntary institution. You might ask, How can he possibly think this? Does he imagine that if you refuse to pay your taxes, government agents will just let you alone?

Buchanan is well aware that the government can forcibly extract resources from you while private actors cannot, but he thinks this distinction doesn’t matter because you have agreed to allow the state do this. Of course you will deny that you have made such as an agreement, but Buchanan has an argument that, despite what you might think, you have indeed.

Suppose, contrary to Rothbard, that you believe there are certain “public goods” that people will not voluntarily produce on the free market because they are nonrivalrous and nonexcludable, but you and others think it would be desirable to produce these goods. You could then make an agreement with these people to allow an agency to take money from you to pay for the public goods, so long as it does so from everyone else who signed the agreement as well. In this way, the alleged problems posed by the nonrivalrousness and nonexcludability of the public good would be overcome.

A simpler example may make voluntary acceptance of coercion clearer. Suppose people in an anarcho-capitalist society want to join a private protection agency that enforces a law code. The agency will have a list of the actions it will take in response to violations of this code. If you agree to join the agency, you have agreed that these actions can be taken against you, if you violate the law code. It is in exactly this way that Buchanan thinks that even though the state extracts resources from you, it is noncoercive: you agreed to be taxed and to be subject to the penalties for nonpayment.

The main objection to this is obvious and well brought out by Rothbard. People haven’t made an agreement of the sort Buchanan assumes. As Rothbard points out in a memo for the Volker Fund, available now in Economic Controversies, in The Calculus of Consent, Buchanan gets around this by weakening the conditions for the agreement. If the tax agents could say to you, “You, along with everyone else, agreed to be taxed and now we have come to collect,” they might have a case against you; but if it is just the case that a substantial number of people have agreed, but you haven’t, the matter is quite otherwise. As Rothbard says,

In short, despite a lot of talk about unanimity being called for, the upshot of the discussion is that (a) unanimity is weakened by numerous qualifications and circumlocutions—and that (b) much of the existing structure of government is endorsed as being “really” unanimity! This, of course, is worse than simply adhering to majority rule, and comes perilously close to the “we owe it to ourselves,” “we are the government” position of the Left. The worst example of this, including the definite tendency to rationalize the existing situation as reflecting unanimity, is the concept of “income insurance” to justify actions of government that “redistribute” income. Now it is obvious that when government takes from A and deliberately gives to B, this can hardly be called a gesture of unanimity, or people voluntarily banding together to purchase a service from government. But Buchanan and Tullock try to say this, by asserting that the wealthy really favor being taxed more than the poor, because they are taking out “income insurance,” knowing that when they will be poor, the government, like an insurance company, will help them. And, in another place, they say that people really want to be coerced so long as they are all coerced, so that, everybody is really not being coerced. Not only do I consider all this nonsense, but it is dangerous nonsense as well, because it provides new support for the idea that anything that the State does, no matter how blatantly coercive, is “really” backed by everyone.

There is a further problem with the argument. Even if we confine ourselves to the less than fully unanimous agreement discussed in The Calculus of Consent, and consider only people who would have entered into it, it doesn’t follow that the state may coerce them to pay taxes. Even if they would have found it rational to enter the agreement, they in fact haven’t. No such agreement exists, and only explicit agreements bind. Lysander Spooner long ago made this point. Buchanan ignores it, but Rothbard affirms it. Author:

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David Gordon is Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and editor of the Mises Review.

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Eviction Moratorium: A Postmortem on Private Property | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on August 11, 2021

A dangerous precedent has been established. If eviction moratoriums are deemed a lawful intervention, why shouldn’t the seizing of private property be used to quell future “crises”?

by Michael Milano

At the beseeching of congressional Democrats and the fanatical urgings of Nancy Pelosi, who called the extension of the federal eviction moratorium a “moral imperative,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new nationwide ban on evictions for counties with heightened levels of coronavirus community transmission. This latest CDC order comes in spite of President Biden’s candid admission that “the bulk of the constitutional scholarship says it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.” In The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard attests that the “right to contract is strictly derivable from the right of private property.” If private property is a keystone for prosperous societies and a fundamental tenant of common law, what happens in the aftermath of the vitiation of millions of private contracts?

A brief recap. In March 2020 under the CARES Act, an eviction moratorium was applied to all dwelling units participating in federal assistance programs. Invoking the Public Health Service Act of 1944, the CDC broadened the moratorium to cover all rental properties countrywide in September 2020. The CDC’s unprecedented unilateral expansion was rationalized as a reasonable measure to combat the spread of COVID-19 by preventing crowded living conditions that would stem from mass evictions and by facilitating self-isolation. This decree, initially slated to end after three months, had been extended on five separate occasions. Rent protection programs have additionally been enacted at the state level. In some states these eviction moratoriums are scheduled to expire over the upcoming weeks. In others, they are set to continue indefinitely.

In consonance with the ethos of a free society, the United States Constitution is a document grounded in natural rights, conceived to protect private property. The Founding Fathers did not include a universal pandemic exception. The Fifth Amendment states that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” but does permit private property to be expropriated with just compensation (e.g., eminent domain). The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees due process protection at the state level. According to the Contract Clause, no state “may pass a law impairing the obligation of contracts.” During the eviction moratorium however, contractual obligations were voided, property was despotically taken with no compensation, and liberty was deprived without a hearing.

For many painstaking months, landlords have been stripped of their rights to freely use their property, while being forced to fulfill legal duties for squatters. Courts at the district level ruled the CDC’s edict unconstitutional, yet the moratorium persisted. In June 2021, the Supreme Court chimed in, allowing the eviction moratoriums to stand in the case of Alabama Association of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services. However, Justice Brett Kavanaugh clearly stated that the CDC exceeded its authority, that congressional authorization would be required for a moratorium extension, and that his deciding vote was cast only due to the fact that a few weeks remained before the moratorium was set to expire. Nevertheless, in open defiance of the Supreme Court ruling, the CDC issued their slightly scaled back, 60 day ban on evictions, at the beginning of August.

A dangerous precedent has been established. If eviction moratoriums are deemed a lawful intervention, why shouldn’t the seizing of private property be used to quell future “crises”? Will the current fallout include landlords abandoning the industry, or will rents be raised to offset uncertainty risks as speculated by Jeff Deist? How do members of a society continue to confidently form agreements when the trust associated with contract enforcement erodes?

When taking this all into account, proponents of strict constitutionalism are inevitably forced to reconcile their philosophy in the face of a swelling regulatory state, led by power mongering aspiring autocrats, who perceive the founding documents as ignorable relics. None of this should be overly surprising given that politicians and bureaucrats are perversely incentivized to perpetually expand the size of government. In spite of illusions of separated powers, regardless of whether the reigns are wielded by Democrats or Republicans, when the state is the ultimate arbiter, even in cases involving itself, justice becomes an empty abstraction distributed to gain political favor.

Applying one set of ethical standards to the citizenry and another to the state is hypocrisy and downright immoral. In a system that preserves property rights, a creditor may grant a debtor forgiveness solely for obligations between the two parties. As Lysander Spooner wrote in No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority:

A man’s natural rights are his own, against the whole world; and any infringement of them is equally a crime; whether committed by one man, or by millions; whether committed by one man, calling himself a robber, or by millions calling themselves a government.

Michael Milano is an entrepreneur in the midst of penning his first novel. He earned his PhD from The Ohio State University. His areas of interest include Austrian economics, crypto-assets, evolutionary biology, and stoicism.

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Of Common, Public, and Private Property and the Rationale for Total Privatization | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on August 10, 2021

I find it tough reading too. Your elected “leaders” won’t bother. It goes against all they stand for.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe

I have three goals. First, I want to clarify the nature and function of private property. Second, I want to clarify the distinction between “common” goods and property and “public” goods and property, and explain the construction error inherent in the institution of public goods and property. Third, I want to explain the rationale and principle of privatization.

I. Theoretical Preliminaries

I will begin with some abstract but fundamental theoretical considerations concerning the sources of conflicts and the purpose of social norms. If there were no interpersonal conflicts, there would be no need for norms. It is the purpose of norms to help avoid otherwise unavoidable conflicts. A norm that generates conflict, rather than helps avoid it, is contrary to the purpose of norms, i.e., it is a dysfunctional norm or a perversion.

It is sometimes thought that conflicts result from the mere fact of different people having different interests or ideas. But this is false, or at least very incomplete. From the diversity of individual interests and ideas alone it does not follow that conflicts must arise. I want it to rain, and my neighbor wants the sun to shine. Our interests are contrary. However, because neither I, nor my neighbor controls the sun or the clouds, our conflicting interests have no practical consequences. There is nothing that we can do about the weather. Likewise, I may believe that A causes B, and you believe that B is caused by C; or I believe in and pray to God, and you don’t. But if this is all the difference there is between us nothing of any practical consequence follows. Different interests and beliefs can lead to conflict only when they are put into action—when our interests and ideas are attached to or implemented in physically controlled objects, i.e., in economic goods or means of action.

Yet even if our interests and ideas are attached to and implemented in economic goods, no conflict results so long as our interests and ideas are concerned exclusively with different—physically separate—goods. Conflict only results if our different interests and beliefs are attached to and invested in one and the same good. In the Schlaraffenland,1

 with a superabundance of goods, no conflict can arise (except for conflicts regarding the use of our physical bodies that embody our very own interests and ideas). There is enough around of everything to satisfy everyone’s desires. In order for different interests and ideas to result in conflict, goods must be scarce. Only scarcity makes it possible that different interests and ideas can be attached to and invested in one and the same stock of goods. Conflicts, then, are physical clashes regarding the control of one and the same given stock of goods. People clash because they want to use the same goods in different, incompatible ways.

Even under conditions of scarcity, when conflicts are possible, however, they are not necessary or unavoidable. All conflicts regarding the use of any good can be avoided if only every good is privately owned, i.e., exclusively controlled by some specified individual(s) and it is always clear which thing is owned, and by whom, and which is not. The interests and ideas of different individuals may then be as different as can be, and yet no conflict arises so long as their interests and ideas are concerned always and exclusively with their own, separate property.

What is needed to avoid all conflict, then, is only a norm regarding the privatization of scarce things (goods). More specifically, in order to avoid all conflict from the very beginning of mankind on, the required norm must concern the original privatization of goods (the first transformation of nature-given “things” into “economic goods” and private property). Further, the original privatization of goods cannot occur by verbal declaration, i.e., by the mere utterance of words, because this could work and not lead to permanent and irresolvable conflict only if, contrary to our initial assumption of different interests and ideas, a prestabilized harmony of the interests and ideas of all people existed. (Yet in that case no norms were needed in the first place!)

Rather, to avoid all otherwise unavoidable conflict, the original privatization of goods must occur through actions: through acts of original appropriation of what were previously “things.” Only through actions, taking place in time and space, can an objective—inter-subjectively ascertainable—link be established between a particular person and a particular good. And only the first appropriator of a previously un-appropriated thing can acquire this thing without conflict. For, by definition, as the first appropriator he cannot have run into any conflict with anyone in appropriating the good in question, as everyone else appeared on the scene only later. All property must go back, then, directly or indirectly, through a chain of mutually beneficial and hence likewise conflict-free property-title transfers, to original appropriators and acts of original appropriation.

As a matter of fact, this answer is apodictically, i.e., non-hypothetically, true. In the absence of a prestabilized harmony of all individual interests, only private property can help avoid otherwise—under conditions of scarcity—unavoidable conflict. And only the principle of property acquisition by means of original appropriation or mutually beneficial transfer from an earlier to a later proprietor makes it possible that conflict can be avoided throughout—from the very beginning of mankind until the end. No other solution exists. Every other ruling is contrary to the nature of man as a rational actor.

In conclusion, even under conditions of all-around scarcity it is possible that people with divergent interests and ideas can peacefully—without conflict—coexist, provided they recognize the institution of private (i.e., exclusive) property and its ultimate foundation in and through acts of original appropriation.

II. Private Property, Common Goods and Public Property

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Hans-Hermann Hoppe is an Austrian school economist and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosopher. He is the founder and president of The Property and Freedom Society.

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bionic mosquito: When Private Property Isn’t

Posted by M. C. on July 28, 2021

Yet, even at this extreme, try not paying property tax on the property, or income tax on the privately earned income, etc.  The property isn’t purely private in the sense of the owner have complete control over use and disposition.

At the other extreme…libertarians and Austrian economists will use the phrase “crony capitalism.” Instead, it has been “earned” via government connection.

Posted by bionic mosquito

My comment, at the Mises site:

[From the author of the piece]: “This does not mean that someone cannot be prevented from accessing certain venues or activities when their rightful owners set preventive sanitary rules….”

BM: Libertarians must really get past this kind of thinking. Does anyone believe that airlines, social media companies, mainstream media companies, any large company of any type is a private company in any meaningful sense? How quickly and suddenly they bow to government dictates no matter how draconian, and what punishment will befall them if they don’t. Willingly or through coercion, they do the state’s bidding.

The piece was about forced vaccinations.

There is much about private property that isn’t private.  At one extreme – consider it the closest to a libertarian ideal: we have property, acquired via voluntary transaction; either produced from other materials, acquired in trade, developed in code, etc.  Yet, even at this extreme, try not paying property tax on the property, or income tax on the privately earned income, etc.  The property isn’t purely private in the sense of the owner have complete control over use and disposition.

At the other extreme…libertarians and Austrian economists will use the phrase “crony capitalism.”  If this phrase is to mean anything, it has to indicate that the private property (necessary for a system of capitalism) has not been earned or acquired in a manner that fits the above definition of private property: acquired via voluntary transaction.  Instead, it has been “earned” via government connection.

Examples of this abound: perhaps the most obvious is banking, especially money center banks.  Others include military contractors, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, tech and social media companies, mainstream media, etc.  It could also include any company or industry that petitions the state for something (as opposed to petitioning the state to not do something or to stop doing something).

These crony capitalist companies do the state’s bidding.  They lobby for funds, lobby for regulations, and in exchange, they pay the piper by dancing to his tune.  They realize the consequences of just saying no.  Why do such a thing, when saying yes pays so well?  Can the property that results from such an arrangement be described as “private”?

There is a large area in between, of course.  The most unfortunate, and taken from the last sixteen months: any church or small business that did not enforce or abide by state mandates faced the potential of being crushed, and its pastor or owner faced prison.  One cannot call this property “private,” though through no transgression of the owner.

But the entities that hold property via crony-capitalism can in no way be considered holders of private property.  They are extensions of the state, really not much different than the military, department of (in)justice, the various spy agencies, etc.


Libertarians really need not make the caveat, as was done in the statement I cited at the opening of this post.  Instead, the proper caveat should be that much of what is considered private property isn’t. 

Until this is fully embraced and understood, well…we are like the dupe, falling for the con of the shell game.  Complain about government encroachment and defend the so-called private entities that are just as much a means of that encroachment as any government employee.  Yes, such libertarians may be following the right shell, but there is a second one virtually equally as dangerous to liberty.

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Watch “Private Property: The Bedrock of Civilization” on YouTube

Posted by M. C. on July 2, 2021

You will own nothing and be happy.

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Government Property Is Sacred. Your Property? Not So Much. | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on April 10, 2021

Only a detached member of the ruling class whose livelihood is sustained by some of America’s most powerful corporations can have the gall to downplay the trials and tribulations untold numbers of small business owners had to endure during last summer’s mayhem. Scarborough and his coterie would have us believe that paying respect to the hallowed institutions of mass democracy is the highest virtue while trying to defend the fundamental property rights of the common man is the province of buffoons and country bumpkins.

José Niño

In light of the government’s response to the January 6 storming of the Capitol, anyone with a sense of political sanity can no longer argue that the war on terror is separate from American domestic affairs.

US imperialism came full circle on January 20, 2021, when Washington, DC, was subject to military occupation during Joe Biden’s inaugural address in order to secure the Capitol from alleged domestic extremist threats. When the right-wing violence that DC talking heads were squawking about never came to pass, their focus shifted toward trying to deradicalize right-leaning individuals who hold heretical views that collide with the managerial regime’s gospel.

Former CIA director John Brennan was among the most vocal of the national security analysts who started listing off all sorts of problematic groups that potentially pose a threat to the dystopian political order crystallizing before our very eyes. The very act of a mob entering the holiest of the holy sites was enough to make the entire American political establishment have a mental breakdown.

The message the ruling class sent to those who protested against it on its own turf was quite clear: tread your muddy boots on our cathedral and you will be met with a firm response from the state.

So far, there have been over 380 people charged for participating in the January 6 incident. Rest assured, the politicians who are still shaken from January 6 are thirsting for more people to persecute. Words like coup, insurrection, riot, sedition, and treason were tossed around liberally to describe the January 6ers’ actions. Only a regime insecure of its legitimacy would throw a hysterical fit over the Capitol storming that looked more like a live-action role-play than a rebellion that threatened the sovereignty of the DC occupational regime.

Pace the gatekeepers of political opinion, launching a coup requires strong organizational capacity. Rag-tag groups of disgruntled, working-class Americans, disenchanted soccer moms, and extremely online Trump supporters aren’t going to be pulling off a coup against the most powerful government in human history. The only venues the January 6 demonstrators were capable of taking over were online chat rooms.

Government Property Is Sacred. Your Property? Not So Much. 

The double standards the legacy media is using to rationalize its ongoing crusade against the specter of extremism are farcical, to say the least. Over the course of a year when small business owners had their livelihoods destroyed by arbitrary lockdowns and widespread rioting, the ruling class tipped their glasses to the rioters and scoffed at those who had to put up with last summer’s mayhem. These same media mouthpieces would likely be cheering on color revolutions and lively protests in the Middle East and post-Soviet countries as the maximal expression of democracy. But when a rowdy group of Trump supporters took it upon themselves to stand up to their overlords, that was simply a bridge too far.

Any attempt to try to point out the inconsistency of the media’s hyperventilation with regard to the January 6 incident was met with instant pushback. On Morning Joe, TV host Joe Scarborough did not pull any punches:

I know there are idiots on other cable news channels that will say, “Well, this mom-and-pop store that was vandalized during the summer riots and that’s just as bad as the United States Capitol being vandalized.” 

He then had some colorful language for those who hazarded to question the prevailing narrative:

No jackass it’s not. It’s the center of American democracy. No, jackass…. I’m not going to confuse a taco stand with the United States Capitol.

Only a detached member of the ruling class whose livelihood is sustained by some of America’s most powerful corporations can have the gall to downplay the trials and tribulations untold numbers of small business owners had to endure during last summer’s mayhem. Scarborough and his coterie would have us believe that paying respect to the hallowed institutions of mass democracy is the highest virtue while trying to defend the fundamental property rights of the common man is the province of buffoons and country bumpkins.

Private Property Is Critical for Civilization

For the adherents of the present political order, symbols of the state have a religious aura. Private property, on the other hand, is a sacrificial animal to be slaughtered as an offering to the state, though the whole conversation would likely change if the property of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Big Tech, or politically connected corporations were defiled. The media would instantly become situational capitalists and vigorously defend the sanctity of their fellow peers’ property. 

Heck, they might just throw some radical free market defenses here and there. But this is out of pure self-interest, not because political leaders and their corporate patrons hold private property in high esteem at a holistic level. As for the rest of the rubes in Middle America, they must put up with whatever political violence befalls them and their property. Simply raising their voices in opposition will have the legacy media branding them as “reactionary,” “racist,” or “bigoted.”

On the other hand, Ludwig von Mises championed private property not just for the sake of sloganeering but to impart to others the necessity property rights as a means of fostering social harmony. As he observed in Omnipotent Government, “If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.”

Mises’s vision for a social order predicated on respect for property rights has not disappeared from the intellectual consciousness. Successors of the Misesian tradition such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe have continued making the case for the respect of private property as a civilizing force. Unlike the public sector worshippers, Hoppe understood the bigger picture of why private property, not public property, should be treated as sacred. In fact, he views the modern-day state as one of the principal drivers of the erosion of property rights throughout the West.

As Hoppe argued in Democracy, The God That Failed,

the more the state has increased its expenditures on social security and public safety, the more our private property rights have been eroded, the more our property has been expropriated, confiscated, destroyed, or depreciated, and the more we have been deprived of the very foundation of all protection: economic independence, financial strength, and personal wealth.

As a consequence of being accustomed to having mandarins in distant government agencies lord over them, Americans have gradually come to disrespect or at least take for granted the concept of property rights. Hence their relative indifference toward the wanton destruction of the property of many small business owners’ establishments during last summer’s riots and toward the devastation government-promoted lockdowns inflicted on these small business operations.

The sign of a healthy society is one where private property is respected, and not just the private property of social media whales or parasitic defense contractors, but that of everyday business owners. By the same token, a society with a modicum of sanity would laud acts of self-defense against criminals who wish to harm the property and persons of lawful individuals.

Many of the shibboleths that Americans have been so inured to accept are now imploding. Millions of Americans took it upon themselves to buy firearms at record levels during a time when police services could not be relied on to uphold their end of the proverbial social contract. Moreover, a number of Americans responded by forming community defense groups to protect their neighborhoods when police were standing down left and right as cities nationwide burned.

Even the idea of privatized policing is starting to gain traction in certain parts of America. Occasionally, moments of crisis force people to rethink many political premises they’ve stubbornly held. There’s something to be said about how operating outside of one’s comfort zone can compel one to look at things differently.

All things considered, the past year should all but dispel the notion that America is “exceptional.” It’s a country with a myriad of problems that have dotted empires in decay throughout world history—a corrupt ruling class, an overstretched military presence, an unstable monetary system, and declining public order.

Reassuring ourselves of empty bromides that it “can’t happen here” because America is exceptional is a pathetic cope that ignores the iron laws of politics and economics, which the US is not exempt from. The only thing exceptional is the level of befuddlement that many experts will find themselves in once the US inevitably careens into the abyss of social and economic decadence if the country’s leaders don’t get their act together. Author:

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José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook or Twitter. Get his premium newsletter here.

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To Understand Economics, First Understand Private Property | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 10, 2021

Chris Calton

In Man, Economy, and State, Murray Rothbard expounds the principles of economics by reconstructing an economy from the ground up. Following the practice of classical economists, he opens the book by imagining Robinson Crusoe alone on an island. After identifying the operative laws that apply even to isolated individuals, Rothbard’s second chapter considers Crusoe on an island with one other person, introducing the concept of direct exchange, or the barter economy. In the third and fourth chapters, Rothbard considers the origins of money and prices in an economy of indirect exchange.

For a treatise on price theory, Rothbard recognizes the need to explain the origins of money prices, as Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises did before him. In The Theory of Money and Credit, Mises built on Menger’s original explanation for the origin of money by formulating the regression theorem. When considering price changes back through time, Mises theorized, we must naturally come to points of origin and departure. Paper dollars today have no commodity foundation, but we can easily identify the point at which they were disconnected from specie. Going further back, we may not be able to identify empirically the moment at which specie, or any other commodity, was first used as a medium of indirect exchange, but we can logically deduce that such a moment must have occurred as primitive economies grew increasingly complex.

Mises’s theorem offered a number of important insights for price theorists. Perhaps the chief insight is that even though modern money may have no commodity base, the origins of any money could only have been a commodity with some original value in use. No new media of exchange can undermine this history. Even cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, can be traced back to a point at which they were first exchanged for dollars. Dollar prices then trace back to a point of disconnect from a commodity foundation, and those prices trace further to a point of original indirect exchange. Another insight derived from the regression theorem is that money prices depend on exchange. This may seem like an obvious truism, but in the early twentieth-century debates over socialism, the necessity of market exchange highlighted the crucial distinction between technical calculation (What do we need to build a given item?) and economic calculation (What should we build given the resources available?).

In chapter 2 of Man, Economy, and State, before Rothbard summarizes Mises’s insights about the origins of money prices, he considers the origins of property rights. With a citation of John Locke, Rothbard asserts the principle of self-ownership and argues that the original appropriation of property comes from mixing labor with yet-unowned resources, such as clearing land for cultivation. Only after establishing a basis for property rights, does Rothbard turn to considerations of exchange and money prices.

Even friendly scholars, happy to acknowledge the value of Rothbard’s treatise, often consider this passage an unwarranted deviation from value-free economic analysis. Rothbard, they claim, is importing libertarian ethical theory into his economic analysis. John Egger, for example, accuses Rothbard of putting on his “political scientist hat,” arguing that “the ethics adopted by . . . Rothbard cannot be derived from Austrian-school principles and are not necessary to Austrian economic analysis.”1

Even sympathetic Austrians rarely pay much attention to Rothbard’s explanation for the origin of property rights except to occasionally dismiss it as a libertarian deviation from scientific analysis, but I believe Rothbard is offering underappreciated economic insights. Mises recognized that money prices depended on exchange, and he saw the need to explain the origins of monetary exchange. Rothbard took Mises’s idea a step further, recognizing that the prerequisite for market exchange is private property and the origin of property norms is therefore just as relevant to economic analysis as the origins of money and monetary exchange. “Before we examine the exchange process,” Rothbard writes in no unclear terms, “it must be considered that, in order for a person to exchange anything, he must first possess it, or own it.”2

Critical readers might object that we cannot take it for granted that property rights originate in the way that Rothbard describes. Governments, of course, can establish property rights, even if in violation of Lockean ethics, that suffice to provide the conditions for market exchange. But such considerations would be inappropriate for Rothbard’s second chapter, as he is considering an unhampered market economy—one in which governments, as yet, play no role. For markets to exist sans government, then, private property norms must emerge spontaneously.

To this last point, Rothbard never asserts that the Lockean rule of first appropriation is the proper means of establishing property rights (though he certainly believed that and made genuinely ethical arguments along those lines in other works, such as The Ethics of Liberty). In Man, Economy, and State, he simply considers the way property norms could logically emerge in an unhampered market.

Man in a “free, unhampered market … may exchange any type of factor … for any type of factor,” Rothbard writes, but “it is clear that gifts and exchanges as a source of property must eventually be resolved into: self-ownership, appropriation of unused nature-given factors, and production of capital and consumers’ goods, as the ultimate sources of acquiring property in a free economic system” (emphasis in original).3

Rothbard’s argument follows a similar logical structure to Mises’s regression theorem, and in fact even extends the continuum of exchange that Mises outlines. When constructing his theorem, Mises views the end point of his analysis as modern monetary prices, and his point of origin is that moment when a commodity was first used as a medium for indirect exchange. Rothbard has the same end point in mind, but realizing that property rights are (1) necessary for exchange and (2) not a given for any society and therefore warrant explaining, he finds the origins of money prices in the original emergence of private property norms.

Of course, people can provide alternative theories for the origin of private property, but the mere fact that Rothbard recognizes the need to explain property norms is itself a valuable contribution to economics that continues to go unappreciated. The most obvious objection people might offer to counter Rothbard’s theory is no different than the alternative explanation to Mises’s and Menger’s theories for the origins of money: the state must construct property rights and introduce money, thus creating markets.

But as historians and anthropologists learn more about prehistory (the history of man prior to documentary evidence), the statist theories for both property rights and money crumble. Yale political scientist James C. Scott, for example, notes that evidence for the domestication of plants precedes the formation of the earliest states, arguing that states could not exist without a taxable base (grain, most commonly), and the domestication of plants and primitive commerce preceded state formation. Although he doesn’t address property rights directly, Scott notes that the formation of early states “required a host of products that originated in other ecological zones: timber, firewood, leather, obsidian, copper, tin, gold and silver, and honey,” which they obtained through long-distance trade of “pottery, cloth, grain, and artisanal products.”4

Recognizing that economic exchange preceded the state, both Rothbard and Mises raised valid considerations for the origins of money, exchange, and property norms. In offering their theories, they were in fact engaging in a common exercise among classical economists known as “conjectural history.” In the absence of empirical historical evidence, classical thinkers such as Adam Smith and Turgot speculated on the origins of observable, modern institutions based on assumptions about human nature. Although speculative, this method of history was not unscientific. The test of a good theory was that it explained more of what we can observe (both in terms of present society and extant evidence) and omitted less. Historians today who deal with areas of history that have scant documentary evidence, such as Africanists, still engage in conjectural history (even if they may not be aware of its roots in classical political economy).

In this light, Rothbard’s explication for the origins of property norms is not a value-laden prescription for how societies should establish private property rights. Instead, Rothbard is recognizing that early societies must have established some system of private property rights, which individuals recognized reciprocally with respect to each other, and he provides a theory for how this system most likely emerged. It is not an uncontestable idea (no scientific theory is), but scholars dismissing it as a libertarian sidestep from proper economic analysis fail to understand the important economic contribution Rothbard was actually making.

  • 1. John B. Egger, “Comment: Efficiency Is Not a Substitute for Ethics,” in Time, Uncertainty, and Disequilibrium: Exploration of Austrian Themes (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1979), p. 119.
  • 2. Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, with Power and Market, 2d scholar’s ed. (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), p. 91.
  • 3. Rothbard, pp. 92–93.
  • 4. James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 68–92, 125. Although Scott does not address the question of property rights or exchange, he does reference the role of exchange prior to the establishment of the state


Chris Calton

Chris Calton is a 2018 Mises Institute Research Fellow and an economic historian. He is writer and host of the Historical Controversies podcast.

See also his YouTube channel here.

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Pope Francis’s Latest Attack on Property: It’s a “Secondary Right” | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on October 21, 2020

Those paying attention may been uncomfortable with Pope Francis’ declaration against private property. It sounds familiar. The following may explain those feelings on property, his other utterances and Jesuit culture today.

Ignoring the encyclicals of his predecessors such as Pope Leo XIII, who once wrote that socialists, “working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies,” Francis openly advocates against putting too much stock in one’s love for his or her own culture and nation, claiming that instead we should be looking at “a universal horizon,” a “global society” of sorts. In light of this, it is hard to see his claims regarding property rights as anything but an attack against the idea that communities can and should self-govern and that persons can and should have a right to own the fruits of their own labor.

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