Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Libertarian Extraordinaire

To my delight, Mr. Trevor Burrus over at Cato has responded to the call, ready to engage us here at Demos about the nature of libertarianism. As I wasted much of my prime youthful years reading libertarian texts, this should be a fruitful exchange.

My first question for Cato and libertarians more generally is this: What is up with Hans-Hermann Hoppe? For the unacquainted, Hoppe is a very prominent libertarian academic, certainly well known within intellectual libertarian circles. He ironically works at the University of Nevada as an economics professor, making him a public employee. He publishes frequently in libertarian academic journals, is a Distinguished Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, founded the Property & Freedom Society, is frequently referenced by other libertarians as one of them, and so on. What follows are some of the interesting things he has to say, all pulled from the second printing of his 2001 book Democracy: The God That Failed. It is a tad on the long side, but it's really good, the quotes especially.

Discrimination

Hoppe is a huge fan of discrimination of basically all sorts: racist, sexist, classist, and all the others. In fact, if there is any overarching theme in Hoppe's work, it is that the problem with our status quo society is that, because it is democratic, the majoritarian tendency reigns, and that majoritarian tendency is to protect people from discrimination. He explains (note immigration here means any moving around, not just across national borders):

The current situation in the United States and in Western Europe has nothing whatsoever to do with “free” immigration. It is forced integration, plain and simple, and forced integration is the predictable outcome of democratic one-man-one-vote rule. Abolishing forced integration requires the de-democratization of society and ultimately the abolition of democracy. More specifically, the power to admit or exclude should be stripped from the hands of the central government and reassigned to the states, provinces, cities, towns, villages, residential districts, and ultimately to private property owners and their voluntary associations. The means to achieve this goal are decentralization and secession (both inherently undemocratic, and antimajoritarian). One would be well on the way toward a restoration of the freedom of association and exclusion as is implied in the idea and institution of private property, and much of the social strife currently caused by forced integration would disappear, if only towns and villages could and would do what they did as a matter of course until well into the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States: to post signs regarding entrance requirements to the town, and once in town for entering specific pieces of property (no beggars, bums, or homeless, but also no Moslems, Hindus, Jews, Catholics, etc.); to expel as trespassers those who do not fulfill these requirements [...]

So you see, democracy leads to anti-discrimination, which is so intolerable that secession and eliminating democracy is the appropriate remedy. Lest you think this is some anomaly, here he is really summing it all up nice and short for us:

[T]rue libertarians cannot emphasize enough [...] that the restoration of private property rights and laissez-faire economics implies a sharp and drastic increase in social “discrimination” and will swiftly eliminate most if not all of the multi-cultural-egalitarian life style experiments so close to the heart of left libertarians. 

Normally, it is the left wing that lobs these bombs at libertarians. Hoppe embraces it though, thinks it is good.

Personal Freedom

In that last quote, notice Hoppe says "multi-cultural-egalitarian life style experiments." What does he mean by that? Well, he worries about things like "vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, drug use, promiscuity, pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, polygamy, pedophilia or any other conceivable perversity or abnormality." Some libertarians are hopelessly confused, says Hoppe. They think that in this world of free markets and private property, gays will be super-free to love who they want to love, live how they want to live. Not so:

They [these confused libertarians] fantasized of a society where every one would be free to choose and cultivate whatever nonaggressive lifestyle, career, or character he wanted, and where, as as result of free-market economics, everyone could do so on an elevated level of general prosperity. Ironically, the movement that had set out to dismantle the state and restore private property and market economics was largely appropriated, and its appearance shaped, by the mental and emotional products of the welfare state: the new class of permanent adolescents.

This intellectual combination could hardly end happily. Private property capitalism and egalitarian multiculturalism are as unlikely a combination as socialism and cultural conservatism. And in trying to combine what cannot be combined, much of the modern libertarian movement actually contributed to the further erosion of private property rights.

Hoppe realizes that in a world of a true lock down on private property, with no regulation on how such property might be used, there would be unbelievable amounts of social coercion to prevent people from living the lives they'd like. If you don't get on board with the dominant culture, you literally will find yourself with nowhere to live, work, eat, and will summarily die. Also, notice how old school he is even in 2001 comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles. Bold move, Hoppe, bold move.

Free Speech

Alright, so you can't be gay, polyamorous, a bum, or Jewish in this libertarian utopia, but at least you can speak your mind, right? Ha ha, think again. For Hoppe, a libertarian world is one in which we all basically live in these private gated communities that are generally managed by big landowners and their insurance companies (the insurance company is also the private police, by the way). These private holdings will not tolerate viewpoints critical of libertarianism, not one bit:

In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumberable things and promote almost any idea under the sun but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance towards democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They — the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism — will have to be physically removed from society too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.

If you make statements against Hoppe's politics, are a nature lover, or are gay (he is really hung up on gays for some reason), you will be expelled from society. The private insurance companies that will basically be the government in the future libertarian world will not and cannot tolerate people chattering about democratic governance and other evil things. They will violently exile such people. Fun!

These Weird Insurance Companies

As I mentioned briefly already, Hoppe's future world is heavily run by (what I would call) the private tyranny of insurance companies. These companies will be accountable to no one except their customers, and act like private administrators of their own brands of justice. Their biggest function will be to discriminate against people, and keep people of color, poor people, religious minorities, and so on from the "good" and "civilized" people. Hoppe explains:

Furthermore, insurers would also be particularly interested in gathering information on potential (not yet committed and known) crimes and aggressors, and this would lead to a fundamental overhaul of and improvement in current — statist — crime statistics. In order to predict the future incidence of crime and thus calculate its current price (premium), insurers would correlate the frequency, description, and character of crimes and criminals with the social surroundings in which they occur and operate. And always under competitive pressure, they would develop and continually refine an elaborate system of demographic and social crime indicators. That is, every neighborhood would be described, and its risk assessed, in terms of a multitude of crime indicators, such as the composition of the inhabitants’ sexes, age groups, races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, languages, professions, and incomes. [...]

Unlike states, [insurers] could and would not want to disregard the discriminating inclinations among the insured towards immigrants. To the contrary, even more so than any one of their clients, insurers would be interested in discrimination, i.e., in admitting only those immigrants whose presence adds to a lower crime risk and increased property values and in excluding those whose presence leads to a higher risk and lower property values. That is, rather than eliminating discrimination, insurers would rationalize and perfect its practice.

You read that right. The whole world will get chopped into what amount to gated communities, and insurance companies will decide who can live in them and who can't by looking at things like race, gender, class, age, and so on. It sounds like an unlivable hellscape because it is, unless you are of the "civilized" sort perhaps.

Conclusion

What's interesting about Hoppe to me is that he sees exactly the things every critic of libertarianism sees. He sees that, in fact, totally unfettered private control over the resources of the world would be a brutal existence (if an existence at all) for the vast majorty of people. Expanded private control is not free-love, wonderful, amazing liberty. It is a kind of total tyranny (tyranny of the property owner, as opposed to tyranny of the state). Instead of denying these things are true (as many try to), he says they are absolutely true, and that constructing this private tyranny is precisely the point of libertarianism.

So again, my question to Trevor Burrus of Cato: what is the deal with Hans-Hermann Hoppe? I didn't pull this man out of some backwater obscurity. He's not whoever wrote Ron Paul's racist newsletters (*cough* Lew Rockwell *cough*). This is a guy who holds all sorts of honors from all sorts of libertarian places, and this is a totally non-distorted exposition of his views.

Is anyone in the libertarian community willing to denounce Hans-Hermann Hoppe as not one of them, and call him the lunatic he clearly is? Or is he still going to get an invite to the next convention?

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