The Contributions of Reinach and Rothbard: An International Symposium

Reinach and Rothbard Symposium 2001
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Directed by Jörg Guido Hülsmann

Block, Walter. “Rothbard, Reinach, Law, Economics, Praxeology and Libertarianism.”

ABSTRACT: Austrian Theory of Law and Economics sounds like a contradiction; at the very least, like a violation of the normative-positive distinction. For Austrian economics is widely seen as a value free enterprise (Wertfreiheit) and the law can be nothing but a normative exercise. Nevertheless, the present paper attempts to place itself under the rubric of Austrian Law and Economics, and to apply these insights, particularly Rothbardian libertarian ones, to the writings of Reinach.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. “ Property, Causality, and Liability. A Comparative Analysis of the Concept of Causality and Liability in Rothbard and Reinach.”

ABSTRACT: Whenever there is scarcity of resources in relation to human demand the possibility of conflict arises. The solution to this problem is the assignment of rights of exclusive control (private property rights). All scarce resources must be owned privately, by someone rather than someone else, in order to avoid otherwise inescapable conflicts. However, while the assignment of private property rights makes conflict-free interaction possible, it does not assure it. Also the possibility of property rights violations (wrongs) exists. And if there are wrongs, then there must be also rights of righting a wrong and a corresponding liability on the part of a wrongdoer.

In my paper, I will analyze M. N. Rothbard’ s proposal of defining and determining “ wrong” and “ liability.”  According to his theory of strict liability, in every criminal or tort case  “evidence must be probative in demonstrating a strict causal chain of acts of invasion of person or property. Evidence must be constructed to demonstrate that aggressor A in fact initiated an overt physical act invading the property or person of victim B.”  In light of an alternative theory: R. Reinach’s reconstruction of the concept of causality and liability in Continental European criminal law, Rothbard’s liability criterion is criticized as unduly “ objectivistic,” i.e., as neglecting important “subjective” conditions that must be combined with “objective” indicators in determining liability. Rothbard’s objectivism, it is argued, makes his liability criterion at the same time too wide and inclusive and (in other regards) too narrow and exclusive.

Hülsmann, Guido. “ The A Priori Foundations of Austrian Law and Economics.”

ABSTRACT: Mainstream economists perceive Law and Economics as a comparatively new branch of economic science that has been pioneered by Chicago economists. This modern approach features the constitutive elements of neo-classical analysis: a psychological account of value, value calculus, and interpersonal comparisons of value. I will argue, by contrast, that there exists a more ancient tradition of analysing the relationships between law and economics, and that this type of analysis is at the bottom of virtually all tenets of economic science that have practical relevance. The first full-blown presentation of this type of Law and Economics is to be found in the works of the Austrian economists Mises and Rothbard. I will discuss the a priori nature of Austrian Law and Economics and argue along Reinachian lines that, fundamentally, it is an ontological analysis of human action.

Kinsella, Stephan. “ Reinach and the Property Libertarians on Causality in the Law.”

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses Reinach’s view of causality and responsibility in the law, and its relation to the property libertarian theory. I will review standard legal theories of causation, propose proper standards from the libertarian view, and relate the findings to Reinach’s theses.

Sechrest, Larry. “Praxeology, Economics, and Law: Implications and Issues.”

ABSTRACT: Both Adolf Reinach and Murray Rothbard employ a praxeological, or apriori, approach to their respective disciplines: legal theory and economic theory. Praxeology is usually described as a process of deducing correct principles from one, or a few, axiomatic propositions that are self-evidently true. It relies on verbal rather than mathematical logic, recognizes the subjective nature of individuals’ preferences and values, sees introspection as a useful guide to the universal, timeless truths of human experience, and rejects the positivists’ demand for continual empirical verification.

The use of the praxeological method raises (at least) two issues. First, in precisely what sense is this method “subjective” ? Second, given that one’ s correct use of language is itself grounded in observational experience, to what extent is this method founded on concepts that are “prior to experience” ? This essay argues that, as long as certain propositions are carefully delineated and properly understood, neither question poses a serious problem for praxeologists in either law or economics.

Rothbard takes the praxeological road in economics, and, as is well known, it leads him to a pure laissez-faire, stateless society. This essay argues that anyone who, like Reinach, adopts a praxeological method in law will be led, whether it is intended or not, to a similar, anarchistic position. The reason, briefly, is that collectivistic concepts are empty of meaning to a praxeologist, since collectives neither think nor value nor act. And state-imposed criminal law depends crucially on certain collectivist notions. Thus, all law should be civil law, all wrongs should be dealt with as torts, legal redress should be in the form of restitution rather than punishment, and both legal judgments and law enforcement should be market phenomena. Praxeology, whether applied to economics or law, implies a polycentric, or anarchistic, legal structure. Moreover, that anarchistic legal structure is not the precondition for a laissez-faire economy but an integral, evolving part of the economy.

Smith, Barry. “The A Priori Ontology of Social Reality.”

ABSTRACT: In his classic 1913 study The A Priori Foundations of the Civil Law Adolf Reinach defends a new type of aprioristic legal ontology which represents an alternative both to natural law theory and also to standard positivistic views in the philosophy of law. In this talk I shall present an introduction to Reinach’ s life and thought, demonstrating his important role in the history of phenomenology and also his anticipation of what later came to be known as the theory of speech acts. I shall discuss Reinach’ s views on the problem of the relation between law and ethics, and show how his theory deals with the problem of the compatibility between a priori legal principles and the various conventional stipulations of the positive law. I shall then concentrate my attentions on Reinach’s non-Kantian theory of the synthetic a priori, showing how, for Reinach, the synthetic a priori is to be understood primarily in ontological terms. Reinach shows that there are synthetic a priori principles upon which every major science depends, so that the range of the synthetic a priori is much broader than is commonly supposed. Economists, too can learn much from Reinach’s sophisticated defense of evident principles in the theory of human action.

The Bibliography of Adolf Reinach

The Bibliography of Murray Rothbard


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