-1 vote

Mises on Natural Law: It doesn't exist!

Men are unequal. Eighteenth-century liberalism and likewise present-day egalitarianism start from the "self-evident truth" that "all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." However, say the advocates of a biological philosophy of society, natural science has demonstrated in an irrefutable way that men are different. There is no room left in the framework of an experimental observation of natural phenomena for such a concept as natural rights. Nature is unfeeling and insensible with regard to any being's life and happiness. Nature is iron necessity and regularity. It is metaphysical nonsense to link together the "slippery" and vague notion of liberty and the unchangeable absolute laws of cosmic order. Thus the fundamental idea of liberalism is unmasked as a fallacy.

Now it is true that the liberal and democratic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries drew a great part of its strength from the doctrine of natural law and the innate imprescriptible rights of the individual. These ideas, first developed by ancient philosophy [p. 175] and Jewish theology, permeated Christian thinking. Some anti-Catholic sects made them the focal point of their political programs. A long line of eminent philosophers substantiated them. They became popular and were the most powerful moving force in the prodemocratic evolution. They are still supported today. Their advocates do not concern themselves with the incontestable fact that God or nature did not create men equal since many are born hale and hearty while others are crippled and deformed. With them all differences between men are due to education, opportunity, and social institutions.

But the teachings of utilitarian philosophy and classical economics have nothing at all to do with the doctrine of natural right. With them the only point that matters is social utility. They recommend popular government, private property, tolerance, and freedom not because they are natural and just, but because they are beneficial. The core of Ricardo's philosophy is the demonstration that social cooperation and division of labor between men who are in every regard superior and more efficient and men who are in every regard inferior and less efficient is beneficial to both groups. Bentham, the radical, shouted: "Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense." [10] With him "the sole object of government ought to be the greatest happiness of the greatest possible number of the community." [11] Accordingly, in investigating what ought to be right he does not care about preconceived ideas concerning God's or nature's plans and intentions, forever hidden to mortal men; he is intent upon discovering what best serves the promotion of human welfare and happiness. Malthus showed that nature in limiting the means of subsistence does not accord to any living being a right of existence, and that by indulging heedlessly in the natural impulse of proliferation man would never have risen above the verge of starvation. He contended that human civilization and well-being could develop only to the extent that man learned to rein his sexual appetites by moral restraint. The Utilitarians do not combat arbitrary government and privileges because they are against natural law but because they are detrimental to prosperity. They recommend equality under the civil law not because men are equal but because such a policy is beneficial to the commonweal. In rejecting the illusory notions of natural law and human equality modern biology only repeated what the utilitarian champions of liberalism and democracy long before had taught in a much more persuasive way. It is obvious that no biological doctrine can ever invalidate what utilitarian philosophy says about the social utility of democratic government, private property, freedom, and equality under the law.

--My take:

Natural law is a semi-logical product of the Christian doctrine that God is no respecter of persons. We need to understand that it is not common sense for some and is not absolute for most. Utilitarianism is the way to address commonalities between different ideologies. Only the radical race and gender-based special interests and authoritarian right wingers cannot be reasoned with. Even most Marxists are mostly just incorrect in their assessment of problems. They do not understand that what they perceive as problems are unavoidable and therefore moot.

have a take, dont suck :)

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here's the full source, from

here's the full source, from human action


Master Pretzel Twister

Uh, what is the source of this?

I think it's from a Mises' book..so title of the book?

prob either human action or

prob either human action or theory and history. mises was a Boss.

Master Pretzel Twister

All men are created equal...

Word of the day: created

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

-Declaration of Independence

That means you were born at the same level as everyone else. No man can claim to be your ruler just because he was born the son of a king.

In addition, the word created is used in the context of unalienable Rights, such as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

natural science has demonstrated in an irrefutable way that men are different.

This is a case of "can't see the forest for the trees."

A challenge to anyone who doesn't believe in natural rights.

Full disclaimer I didn't read OP's post because the title is utter crap. Anyway here is a challenge.

The natural right of Privacy was implied in the 4th amendment, but not exactly explained in the bill of rights? Correct? Lets use this then since there will be no questions of the Constitutional legality.

I challenge ANY fool who doesn't believe privacy, a natural right, or privacy being a natural right to put his money where his mouth is and force government and private facilities across the country to completely renovate bathrooms so that women and mens' bathrooms are no longer segregated and no longer have stalls.

Everyone goes into a room (to protect against bathroom odors until a solution to constantly remove odors and "utility of odor barrier" is solved) to do their business, when they walk in to the room, all they see is rows of commodes.

Everyone can see everything be they woman or man, adult and child. I mean there is no such thing as natural rights according to OP so they should have no problem taking a shit or piss. Simple challenge. Do this, and stop shitting up our site with stupid opinions.

All I need to know is that stealing is stealing...

whether someone holds you up with a knife, a gun or a government.

I happen to be a Christian. but ultimately everything in this world is decided by brute force. Freedom means the application of brute force as a means of put an end to itself. We can appeal to higher truths, but he who has the gun makes the rules.

I do believe that I am my brother's keeper. I also believe that once I employ the force of my vote to force my ideas of charity upon others, then it ceases to be charity and becomes theft through the threat of violence. There is no such thing as political action for the collective good. There is only the exertion of Gov't force on fellow citizens,

Does this mean greed is good? Perhaps not. Obsessing over ones-self while being oblivious to the pain of others is probably not good, and probably really is soul killing. But it is for me to decide and for me to face the consequences of the decision. Once I step beyond the examination of my own heart and my own priorities, i step into the realm of bullying, regardless of what spin I try and put on it.

It is estimated that Government killed 150 million people last century, excluding deaths by warfare. Government perpetuates itself and seeks to solidify its control. Government obliterates the individual. if there is a natural law to be applied to political science it is this: The very first tiny step towards compelling others to your will through political action ultimately leads to theft and murder. That is the natural law of that i believe in.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Bump for timeliness of discussion

See #3.


All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

Here is where Mises misunderstood natural rights

Mises says and bases the rest of his argument on:

There is plenty of everything for everybody. Consequently, everyone has a fair inalienable claim against all his fellowmen and against society that he should get the full portion which nature has allot­ted to him. The eternal laws of natu­ral and divine justice re­quire that nobody should appropri­ate to himself what by rights belongs to other people. The poor are needy only because unjust people have deprived them of their birthright. It is the task of the church and the secular authorities to prevent such spoliation and to make all people prosperous.

In saying this, Mises implies that natural rights can be used to argue that everyone "should get the full portion which nature has allot­ted to him."

Natural rights do not guarantee equality of results. The existence of natural rights only implies that people have a right to that property which they have acquired through there own productive capacities. This invalidates the rest of his argument that follows that statement.

By the way, this not the only point which I disagree with Mises. He also states in The Theory of Money and Credit that utility is not measurable. In practice, this disagreement is more important.

Rothbard lit this argument up

I have to grab some books, it has been a while since I studied that. I shall return.

Introduction to Natural Law

Introduction to Natural Law - http://mises.org/story/2426
1. Natural Law and Reason
2. Natural Law as "Science"
3. Natural Law versus Positive Law
4. Natural Law and Natural Rights

The Nature of Law Part IV: The Basis of Natural Law
by Roderick T. Long - http://libertariannation.org/a/f42l1.html

Part I: Law and Order Without Government
- Introduction
- Varieties of Law
- Public Goods vs. Public Choice

Part II: The Three Functions of Law
- Why Three Functions?
- Should Law Be Monopolized?
- Locke's Case for Monocentric Law
- The Lockean Case Against Locke

Part III: Law vs. Legislation
- Socrates on Law
- Two Senses of Law
- Natural Law and Human Law
- Natural Law and Customary Law
- Law vs. Legislation: Documentary Evidence

Part IV: The Basis of Natural Law
- Is There Room for Natural Law?
- Who Has the Burden of Proof?
- Objection One: Natural Law Serves No Useful Purpose
- Objection Two: There Couldn't Be Such a Thing as Natural Law
- Objection Three: Even If There Were a Natural Law, It Would Be Unknowable
- Objection Four: Evolutionary Explanations Make Natural Law Obsolete


As a fellow Agnostic I love Rothbard's non-theological perspective on natural rights. The Ethics of Liberty is an incredible book.

"Every advance first comes into being as the luxury of a few rich people, only to become, after a time, the indispensable necessity taken for granted by everyone." Mises

On this planet

there is only one immutable law.
Survival of the fittest.
That rule underlies everything.

Moral, political, and philosophical ideas are merely ways to persuade the "fittest" to not exercise dominance over the weak.

In the end, you can claim all the rights and laws and thoughts you want to claim, but if you cannot successfully defend them, or yourself, you have nothing because your claims and your life will be taken by those who are stronger and/or more intelligent and more fit to survive than you are.

If you are the fittest, you may choose to be guided by your moral code to not exercise your potential to dominate over others, but you had better be strong enough to repel anyone else who is not guided by such morals.

The end.


Survival if the fittest is a general law not a absolute law. Also fitness can change on moment by moment basis. Applying this economics or politics is absurd. The rich are generally the smallest population not the largest. So according to your logic, the poor are more fit than the rich......

Define "fittest"

Would that be the highest intelligence, physically strongest, greatest wealth, or most moral?
The highest intelligence can be destroyed in a revolution. The same applies to the physically strongest, wealthiest society, or moral people.
Perhaps everything depends on time and circumstance?
What/Who controls time and circumstance?
Dumb Luck?
LOL that would be a joke of nature.

Physics. There are some laws, now. :)

I'm going for the jugular here: Abortion... How can it be something people bother trying to make laws about? Unless you are going to grab pregnant women the instant they realize they are pregnant and physically restrain them and control everything they eat and do, you will NEVER stop abortions. Truth alert: Most folks AGREE on this issue, they just come to the conversation from opposite perspectives. "Pro-lifers" consider the baby first, "pro-choicers" consider the woman first. Almost no one really expects a rape victim to carry the baby to term, and almost no one approves of using abortion for birth control. Rather than look at the common ground, folks want to take up sides... There is an over-riding NATURAL law: Yarrow, for instance, naturally occurs virtually everywhere in the world, and if a gal eats enough, she will abort. Now grab your pens, write all the laws you want, and see if that fact changes.
Nearly every stupid "law" that men write fails a similar test. If you can never enforce it (like prohibition) do not bother trying.

Truth exists, and it deserves to be cherished.

Natural law

is more than semi logical it is empirical and therefore testable. Natures laws are not easily manipulated with the effect of consequence. The genius of the founders is that respected those laws.

Mises by taking a

Mises by taking a utilitarian philosophy (or utilitism as his friend Hazlitt attempted to rename it) as a rational ethic failed to realize that it does not pass muster for universalizability. Luckily he pursued most of his intellectual efforts in the wertfrei science, and not on the task of philosophy and development of morality. As Rothbard cogently pointed out, utilitarianism would dictate if the case came about that the majority ought to perform a heinous act against the minority if the overall utility or the measure of happiness (as hazlitt defined utilitism) were increased in the majority and by subtracting the subsequent decrease in happiness expressed by the minority, the result was a net increase in utility (happiness). This is to say that tyranny of the majority or democracy is founded in utilitarian philosophy, but a republic is founded in the right to self ownership and the homestead principle.

The right to self ownership is self evident, even axiomatic, and universalizable. The alternatives are one or a few controlling the actions and bodies of the rest, or mutual communistic ownership. The first is clearly non universalizable. The second fails on the account that if followed in a universalizable way would prevent spontaneous action and would lead to the death of humanity, but more likely would devolve into the case of one or a few owning the rest. Rothbard is a better writer than I am, so instead of me recapping, I point you to the "Ethics of Liberty". Also be sure to check out Hoppe's "The Economics and Ethics of Private Property".

I'll take a republic over a democracy any day and a society based on self ownership over a utilist one just as quickly.


I support a synthesis of the

I support a synthesis of the two, but what utilitarians would say is that the best thing for society is to protect minority rights because a government that can target groups is dangerous..

Ventura 2012


you can ague that the contrary would bring about more utility.
Utility like Democracy can not be trusted.

Great read

Great read BmoreBrawler

Adding to this I would encourage others to investigate Rothbard on Natural Law too.

1. Natural Law and Reason
2. Natural Law as "Science"
3. Natural Law versus Positive Law
4. Natural Law and Natural Rights
5. The Task of Political Philosophy



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