by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief

Last year the late Neville Kennard sponsored Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe to speak at the first Australian Mises Seminar. Since then, Hoppe has been swervingly and waveringly followed by his Australian audience. For a recent example, Chris Berg of the Institute of Public Affairs — and attendee of the first Australian Mises Seminar — celebrated the 50th anniversary of Buchanan and Tullock’s Calculus of Consent in his audition for Hallmark Cards titled, “Happy Birthday To Free Market Liberalism.”

I cannot find where Berg has made any attempt to even acknowledge the many objections of Rothbardians to Buchanan and Tullock’s faith in government restraint and legitimacy. Rothbard himself called the “new contributions” of the book “utterly and absolutely wrong” and, far from being what Berg calls the birth of modern free market liberalism, to Rothbard they are “the death knell of all genuine political philosophy,” since questions of government itself are evaded. As Hoppe explains:

The most prominent modern champions of Orwellian double talk are Buchanan and Tullock. They claim that government is founded by a “constitutional contract” in which everyone “conceptually agrees” to submit to the coercive powers of government with the understanding that everyone else is subject to it too. Hence government is only seemingly coercive but really voluntary. There are several evident objections to this curious argument. First, there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for the contention that any constitution has ever been voluntarily accepted by everyone concerned. Worse, the very idea of all people voluntarily coercing themselves is simply inconceivable, much in the same way as it is inconceivable to deny the law of contradiction. For if the voluntarily accepted coercion is voluntary, then it would have to be possible to revoke one’s subjection to the constitution, and the state would be no more than a voluntarily joined club. If, however, one does not have the “right to ignore the state” — and that one does not have this right is, of course, the characteristic mark of a state as compared to a club — then it would be logically inadmissible to claim that one’s acceptance of state coercion is voluntary. Furthermore, even if all this were possible, the constitutional contract could still not claim to bind anyone except the original signers of the constitution.

Not quite as glowing as Berg’s appraisal. Why is this?

Is it peer pressure? Is that why Berg confuses a criminal band’s pact of association for distributing loot and electing gang leaders with a consensual foundation for civil society?

Or is Berg so committed to individual liberty that he is willing to compromise any and all legal and economic principles to get it? That would explain how he could believe having some important services funded and provided without the consent of its funders and recipients by a coercive monopolist is the best way to foster free-trade.

Or could it be nominal determinism? Many of the things Berg’s namesakes touch is ravaged by unusually large holes, whether it be the Titanic, the Zeppelin or the cheese. In fact, Berg’s praise for Buchanan and Tullock has more holes than a lotus chip, Jarlsberg cheese, sliced olive and jalapeño nachos. Put a candle in each hole and it could pass for a 50th birthday cake — but if it doesn’t, at least the cheese would melt.

Or maybe there are two political Australian Chris Berg’s — one who is familiar with Hoppe’s work, and one who isn’t — same as there are two famous Sydney-born expatriate Robert Hughes’s — one an art critic who died on August 6 2012, the other an actor arrested on child molestation charges on August 9 2012.

For yet another explanation, here is Professor Walter Block speculating why Berg and the Rothbardians are in such disagreement:

It’s all very ironic. The Public Choicers, having grasped the essential point about the state — that it is composed of self-interested individuals — slide into the most naive view of it. I don’t understand why. Perhaps they are conflicted. On the one hand, they see the government as self-interested. On the other hand, they are convinced of the necessity of the state and are lurching towards some justification for its existence.

If only we had someone like Professor Block in Australia.

Luckily, we had Neville Kennard, the biggest of Australian think tank insiders, who offered an explanation compatible with Block’s:

I wish the think tanks with their classical liberal [or social democracy] positions would reply and respond to my views as to the benefits to them of such classical liberal vs anarchocapitalist debates. Are they too scared? They have the talent, the scholars, the finance … Perhaps they don’t have the guts.

Here is an excerpt from Berg’s essay where he squanders a perfect opportunity to explain how government is justified:

A full recognition of the problems of collective action in government should lead to a general reluctance to trust government to act on our behalf. Not to no government, but to modest government, constitutionally restrained.

Why not to “no government”?

Rothbardians want to learn from Chris Berg and the IPA, but Berg and the IPA are not divulging the important lessons they have to share, even if the person requesting the information is someone of Neville Kennard’s seniority. I’m sure they have a perfectly convincing reason for supporting government, but they won’t tell us what it is. So what else are we meant to do but speculate? Yes, we could ignore them, but it is hard when they advertise themselves as libertarians and free-market advocates. Moreover, they don’t merely advertise themselves as libertarians and free-market advocates; the IPA advertise themselves, on their most prominent webpage (other than their homepage), as “the  O N L Y  organisation in Australia actively opposing bad climate change policies, the Nanny State, high taxes and over-regulation.” To no avail we have been upfront, transparent and asked questions.

So, since logical arguments are not forceful or endearing enough on their own, what can we do? Assuming you can’t give guts to the gutless, we have to think of a way to make the gutless decision be to fall in line with Rothbard. I’m not talking about vigilante Rothbardian debating, like singling out supporters of democracy and taking away their property, which they admit they have no right to, because being singled out would make them the minority. But, no, I am not advocating that — not publicly, anyway. I think there is another method of persuasion we can turn to: peer pressure by Rothbardians.

One way to bring peer pressure to bear is to attract Australian Misesians to one location, making Mises the dominant and popular philosophy for that location, by having another Australian Mises Seminar, but this time even bigger. But what would an Australian Mises Seminar look like without Professor Hoppe, the star of the first one? And what would it look like without Neville Kennard himself? We won’t know till 2013, because, before Nev died, he secured a speaker for this year.

Nev could have chosen some of Australia’s highest-profile politicians or one of many high-profile supporters of the Iraq War from America, but he did not want to choose someone who had already spoken at events organised by self-proclaimed free-market so-called think-tanks in Australia. Nor did Nev want to choose a speaker who would defend government control of important areas, but then call himself a free-market advocate because he opposed government control of less important areas. So Nev decided, very unusually, on a genuine free-market advocate: Professor Walter Block.

Defenders of government are so certain that government is justified that they don’t care whether the specific justifications they provide can withstand criticism. They think it is so obvious, that, even if an argument they put forward is refuted, they just assume with absolute certainty that there must be some other argument that will do the job, so they never seriously reflect on the criminality of government. But with Walter Block we’ve got more than just talent and charm; we can use such great tools of societal and peer pressure as the retorts, “respect your elders” (he is in his 70s), “he is an Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics from America” and “he has already written about that in peer-reviewed journals”.

Professor Block is so prolific that many of the footnotes of his own publications list, not only his own previous publications, but also his own forthcoming publications. He is so prolific that Cicero’s comment, “Somehow or other no statement is too absurd for some philosophers to make” — which Adam Smith quoted and Ludwig von Mises repeated to his students to put them at ease asking questions —, appears trite if it is not updated to: “No statement is too absurd for some philosophers (and economists) to make, and for it to have already been comprehensively dealt with by Professor Walter Block, all of whose work is available free online in every different format imaginable.” Professor Block has even written prolifically about Buchanan and Tullock’s Calculus of Consent. Here are two examples:

  1. Walter Block and Thomas J. DiLorenzo, “Is Voluntary Government Possible? A Critique of Constitutional Economics,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, vol. 156, no. 4, December 2000, pp. 567-82. Excerpt: “We believe that the analogy between politics and markets that is made by constitutional economists is theoretically weak, often factually mistaken, and clouds rather than enhances our understanding of political economy. Government is an inherently coercive institution that has little in common with the non-coercive, voluntary exchange in the marketplace.”
  2. Walter Block and Thomas J. DiLorenzo, “Constitutional Economics and The Calculus of Consent,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, Summer 2001, pp. 37-56. Excerpt: “Our society, thanks to analysis of the sort offered by Buchanan and Tullock, has failed to realize that there is all the difference in the world between slavery, which arises from coercion, and voluntary [contractual relationships], which emanates from consensual adult agreement. It is as if opposition to Nazi death camps requires opposition to hotels as well.”

But of course making his work available free online is not enough. The world is still plagued by politics even though Professor Block has destroyed all the justifications for government. So if giving his work away for free doesn’t succeed, what will? Is the only option left to start paying people to read his writings? Yes, it is.

But before we get that desperate (and then realise we don’t have any money anyway), there is another option: to smuggle the Professor behind enemy lines for him to clamber down the intellectually underprivileged reaches of the universe, especially Sydney, Australia, where our only intellectual sustenance is food. Professor Hoppe was the first intellectual pioneer to discover Australia, but it is still equally brave and pioneering of Professor Block to follow in his footsteps, because the natives have tried to disavow all knowledge of Hoppe’s trip, proudly remaining political primitives. So we appreciate the risk and sacrifice Professor Block is taking travelling to Australia, leaving behind family, friends and civilisation.

Also putting everything on the line to come to Australia for our 2nd Mises Seminar is another international intellectual pioneer, Konrad Graf, who is the Joseph Banks to Block’s James Cook. Graf and Block are coming from a land Australian political observers — being flat-earthers who think the political spectrum is two-dimensional — don’t believe in. Graf and Block are our best hope to transform the essentially uncharted political geography of Australia, bringing some balance to end the constant focus on the petty infighting of our Labor-Liberal Coalition and the Howard-Gillard bickering over who will increase government the fastest.

And if you consider yourself more a Hayekian than a Blockian, then check out this passage from the Nobel Laureate:

Looking through Defending the Undefendable [Block’s 1976 book, where this paragraph is reproduced] made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than 50 years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. Even now I am occasionally at first incredulous and feel that “this is going too far,” but usually find in the end that you are right. Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions.

How many speakers in Australia have had such an endorsement from F.A. Hayek? Many Australians quote Hayek to show they are fans, but we can quote Hayek himself really actually publicly literally showing that Hayek himself was a fan of our main attraction!

And, to top it off, to put the glitter on the croquembouche, we even have the great Professor Sinclair Davidson attending, who has generously agreed to speak on Hayek. I think one of the things Davidson and Block might agree on, is, as Block said in his introduction to Defending the Undefendable, “The uniqueness of libertarianism is found not in the statement of its basic principles [‘that it is illegitimate to engage in aggression against non-aggressors‘] but in the rigorously consistent, even maniacal manner with which the principle is applied.”

And, well, that was just a taste of some of the speakers and topics that the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar will cover.

Another way that the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar will be relying on things other than unsuccessful old logical argument is that our speakers will be speaking from: a stage. As theatre critic George Jean Nathan observed:

All that is necessary to raise a piece of imbecility into what the mob regards as a piece of profundity is to lift it off the floor and put it on a platform. Half the things that are said from a pulpit or rostrum or stage would get their spokesmen the bum’s rush if they enunciated them five feet nearer the sea level. [George Jean Nathan, The Autobiography of an Attitude (New York: Knopf, 1925), p. 160; see also this scene in Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).]

Maybe this observation alone explains why government persists.

Another way we can attract people to an event with such unfashionable ideas is to have it at a fashionable location, in a fashionable city at a fashionable time of year.

It will be held on December 1 and 2, 2012, in Sydney at The Establishment Ballroom, a larger venue than last year to cope with the increased numbers of libertarians in Australia (unsupported assumption, reference needed) and also the fact that this year women are being invited. We were going to have discounted ticket prices for women, but we decided against it, because they would think we were arguing that they are less able to pay their way in the world than men.

Another way we can do more than mere logical argument — to capture hearts, not just minds; to drown out their songs, not just their arguments — is to have our own conference soundtrack. Here is the unofficial soundtrack for the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar:

  1. Tommy Trinder’s “Everything will be lovely”
  2. Noel Coward’s “There are bad times just around the corner”
  3. Julie Andrews’s “Whispering in the dark”
  4. Billy Thorpe’s “Most people I know”
  5. And Huey Lewis and the News’s “Hip to be square”

I also propose that there be no shaking of hands at the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar. Politics is a genre of entertainment, like sport; it is not business. Rather than handshakes, we should greet each other with high-fives. Only when we greet our enemies should we shake hands.

To further reinforce these cultural ideas for libertarianism in Australia, we now have the ultimate cultural statement: a glossy print magazine which we can flaunt and bandy to drive home our popular appeal. Yes, with Australian print newspapers and magazines closing down or on the brink of closing down, and our web presence well-entrenched, we have launched a new international print magazine to compete with The Economist and Time Magazine. Our subscription numbers have already surpassed Australia’s most illustrious and longest-running magazine, The Bulletin, and major print newspapers are fast catching up with us. Please help expedite the inevitable and subscribe to Capitalism.HK. It is packed with Australian content. The third issue is now out (in print only so far), but it is not too late to ask for your subscription to start at the first edition, a collector’s item.

Neville Kennard introduced self-storage to Australia in 1973, when he developed a small storage facility in Sydney’s Moorebank. Imagine if you got in on Kennards Self Storage at the beginning! Nev introduced Hans-Hermann Hoppe to Australia in 2011. And Nev has ensured that Walter Block will be introduced to Australia in December 2012 — that is so recent that tickets have only just gone on sale. So you can get in at the beginning! Check out www.mises.org.au, where you can browse the schedule and take advantage of the special early bird price. 39 years from now, you’ll then be able to say, “Well, that didn’t quite work out. If only I’d invested the $200 in mosquito nets.”

Here’s a cool ad by Anthony Coralluzzo of Liberty Australia:

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Acquiescence
  2. Why Sports Fans Should Be Libertarians
  3. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  4. Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
  5. Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
  6. The Drugs Problem Problem
  7. Self-Defeating Campaigning
  8. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
  9. Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
  10. Population Puzzle Solved
  11. An Open Letter to the CIS
  12. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  13. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  14. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  15. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  16. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  17. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  18. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  19. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  20. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  21. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  22. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  23. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  24. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  25. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  26. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  27. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
  28. Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
  29. Ronald Kitching Obituary
  30. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  31. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
  32. Economics.org.au in the news again
  33. Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
  34. The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
  35. WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
  36. Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
  37. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  38. Economics.org.au at 42
  39. "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
  40. "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
  41. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  42. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  43. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  44. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  47. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  48. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  49. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  50. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  51. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  52. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  53. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  54. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  55. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
  56. The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
  57. Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
  58. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  59. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  60. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  61. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
  62. The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
  63. Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
  64. The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
  65. Neville Kennard Obituary
  66. Contrarian Conformism
  67. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
  68. Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
  69. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
  70. Bad news about the Mises Seminar
  71. Gina Rinehart Fan Club gives big to Australian political education
  72. Sam Kennard wins North Sydney by-election by unanimous consent
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