Involuntary unemployment is logically impossible

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    In Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s book “The Eonomics and Ethics of Private Property” there is an argument which I don’t really understand. In the essay “Theory of Employment, Money, Interest, and the Capitalist Process” Hans-Hermann Hoppe writes:

    “In the absence of an institution exempt from the rules of the market involuntary unemployment is logically impossible, and prosperity instead of impoverishment will result.”

    There is also a footnote expanding on this:
    “The claim that involuntary unemployment is possible in the framework of a private property economy as characterized above is due to an elementary logical-conceptual confusion: It ignores the fact that employment is a two-party affair; i.e., an exchange which, like any voluntary exchange, can only take place if it is deemed mutually, bilaterally beneficial. It makes no more sense to classify someone as involuntarily unemployed if he cannot find anybody willing to meet his unilaterally fixed demands for employment, than to call a person in search of a wife, a house, or a Mercedes involuntarily wifeless, homeless, or Mercedesless because no one wants to marry him or supply him with a house or a Mercedes at terms which this person has unilaterally determined as agreeable to him. Absurdity and contradiction would result if one were to do so. For then one would not only have to accept, as the other side of the same coin, that the boycotting employer, woman, or owner of a house or a Mercedes in turn would have to be regarded as an involuntary nonemployer, nonwife, or nontrader of a house or a Mercedes because his/her unilateral demands had not been met by the would be employee, would-be husband, or would-be house or Mercedes owner just as much as they had not met his. Moreover, with both the would-be employee as well as the would-be employer classified as involuntarily being what they are because no mutual agreement had been reached between them, to create “voluntary employment” would imply coercing either one or both parties to accept an exchange whose terms one or both of them regard as unacceptable. Hence to say involuntary unemployment is possible on the unhampered market is to say coercion means voluntariness and voluntariness coercion, which is nonsense” (Footnote 7, Page 142)

    So I have a few questions concerning this essay,
    1. Why would it be absurd and a contradiction to say that somebody is involuntarily wifeless or involuntarily Mercedesless? I think I understand the point which he tries to make and why he shows that analogy. But let’s say a man would like to marry. Women do not accept his offer. I don’t know why you could not describe him as involuntarily wifeless. (The women who do not accept his proposal only seem involuntarily unmarried if they would have a general interest in getting married. A woman who doesn’t want to get married couldn’t be described in the same way – she is in fact voluntarily unmarried.

    2. The conclusion he draws is very difficult for me to understand. Let’s say, the man and the woman are involuntarily unmarried. But one of them or both don’t want to marry the other one. Why does it imply that you have to coerce one of them (or both) so it gets “voluntary”. I just really can’t understand how he makes this step. (The same can be said analogously for the non-employer and the Mercedes owner.)

    “ to create “voluntary employment” would imply coercing either one or both parties to accept an exchange whose terms one or both of them regard as unacceptable”.

    3. Of course you can always find employment if you settle for a very, very low payment. You could always find somebody you can work for if you accept a cent, a thanks or gratitude as a payment. But that would be a very simple message to say that involuntary unemployment is logically impossible because the wanna-be-employee just has to lower his payment request as close to zero as possible and then he will always get employed.

    Thanks to everybody who took the time to read this. Probably I was just misled or I focused on the wrong aspects of Hoppe’s argument. I would be very happy about your thoughts and clarifications.
    Alle the best from Vienna,


    You might consider posting this question to the economics forum, to be sure Professor Herbener sees it.

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