Criticizing Rothbard, Or Criticizing The Abuse Of Rothbard?

I criticize Rothbard all the time, but always for the same single reason: he did not solve the problem of formal institutions and effectively, he tried to advocate freedom be achieved through informal institutions alone — effectively via a religion. That’s what Confucius did as well. He could not invent politics so he directed the entire civilization to operate as a hierarchical family.

But religions are means of rebelling against formal institutions largely by the lower classes, and those rebellions are limited to use by the lower classes. For the middle and upper classes to rebel, they need something to advocate that assists them in cooperation through formal institutions, even if those formal institutions are very limited in scope. And in our terms, limited in scope to the resolution of conflicts. Hoppe solved that problem. He solved the problem of formal institutions. That’s his genius.

Hoppe’s weakness is that his English words are structured in turgid German thought, and his writing is not as accessible or organized as are Rothbard’s and Mises’ – nor structured as a social appeal as is Hayek’s work. But Hoppe has found the answer to government that we have been looking for — for two and a half millennia: how to create those cooperative instituions, without at the same time creating bureaucracy. Or, how to create instituions within the market, and subject to the market rather than insulated from it.

When we try to advocate Hoppe’s work, we tend to advocate his line of reasoning, rather than the utility of his ideas. I think we do that because we’re paying too much attention to Rothbard’s approach to libertarianism as an informal institution — which again, I’m arguing is counter-factual: the majority do not want freedom, but increased ability to consume. So, both of these argumentative strategies are difficult, because those we wish to convert find fist, that the arguments themselves are ant-social, rather than just thought experiments to help us understand the difference between truth and norm. And second that the arguments are too complex and unnecessary given that the Hoppeian social order is actually quite simple. And any discussion of that social order serves to undermine the presumption behind government: that bureaucracy is a necessary component of achieving social order.

Curt, … I don’t follow you. what is the problem of “formal institutions,” and how did Rothbard “fail” to solve it, and why is this … something to criticize him about? No one can do evertyhing. What exactly is the probem of “formal instituitons” and what IS the “solution”, in your view? And what has this to do with libertarianism anyway?
— SK

1) Three categories of institutions: a)Technologies: history, numbers, arithmetic, accounting, objective truth, contracts, interest. b) Formal institutions: laws, courts, banking, armies, formal organizations for capital concentration. c) Informal institutions: manners, ethics, morals, norms, traditions, narratives, myths, rituals, public rituals, and religions.

2) Criticize is a bad word I guess, you’re right. a) I think I dont really comprehend how someone can argue for a normative system that is against the expressed political desires of the many, even if only for status reasons, despite the fact that it would serve their economic interests, if not their status seeking interests — or their will to power. So I tend to view rothbard and mises, as did Hayek, as artificially narrowing the scope of the problem for cultural reasons — because of their sentiments. b) The entire argument from Crusoe on down is a useful thought experiment, but one can’t draw conclusions from it without also trying the opposite thought experiment: an island populated with men in which one desires property rights. THe island after all, creates property by definition if one man is on it.. So, the many-man experiment is more insightful. And the Crusoe argument becomes subject to the reductio fallacy. That’s the thought experiment that’s equally as informative. And from that one comparison of thought experiments, we would have to answer the problem of institutions. And I’m pretty sure we run up against the nasty problem of redistribution (or better said: dividends) if we explore that experiment as well.

So you’re entirely right. It isn’t up to one man to solve anything. It is however a material problem, if we have created an ideology, rather than a solution. Ideologies are useful for obtaining the power to establish a form of government, even if that form is anarchic. But institutional solutions are necessary: both technical, formal and informal. So I’m criticizing perhaps the abuse of rothbard. He succeeds in creating the INFORMAL institutions. And hoppe the FORMAL institutions.

Rothbard created the simple rules that are necessary for infinite application. He just didn’t solve the rest of it. So I’m not so much criticizing him, as much as criticizing a reliance upon the rothbardian rather than hoppeian solution set.

3) What does this have to do with libertarianism? I see libertarian (commercialism), conservative (manorialism), and progressive (socialism) sentiments as cognitive biases that are largely a reflection of mating strategies. (Too deep for this post). And within libertarian sentiments, ‘libertarianism’ is a rothbardian invention. Libertarianism is a rigid concept, as you’ve stated many times. Libertarian sentiments are much wider. And many political solutions can be classified as libertarian in the sense that they serve the sentiment if not adhere to the hard definitions of rothbardian ethics.

(— Eds: added text follows –)

Further, as I stated in the first posting, hoppe solved the problem of institutions without bureaucracy.

(From a FB conversation)

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