Comment on Misesian Absolutism

In a footnote to their most recent entry in the Cato-Unbound debate on libertarianism and social justice, Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi write,

Mises is a consequentialist, but he nevertheless appears to be a kind of property rights absolutist.

The crucial question is:  is Mises an “absolutist” when regarding property rights out of moral or out of economic considerations?  I think the evidence suggests that the answer is the latter.  Mises spent much of his early career arguing against economic systems based on other forms of ownership — namely, collective ownership (i.e. socialism) — and he found that a capitalist system, based on the private ownership of property, is much better at allowing individuals to attain their desired ends.

If this is true, there is a distinction between moral absolutists and Mises.  Mises argued that private property rights are the cornerstone of a successful society precisely because of his consequentialism.  So, he is not so much an absolutist, as he is a participant in the “democratic” debate on what means best attain what ends.

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