In response to my post, Antonio Gramsci Libertarians, I was offered up the following selection by Hans Herman Hoppe: “A Realistic Libertarianism.” Apparently this is an attempt to put me in my place – a dare, if you will, for me to give to Hoppe the same treatment that I have so lovingly offered to the left libertarians. You see, Hoppe is apparently the poster boy for “right” libertarianism for those who identify as left-libertarians.
It may not seem like it for the next 2000 words or so, but trust me…I will have disagreements with Hoppe the realist.
Hoppe’s position can best be summarized in the opening paragraph, by citing Rothbard:
“Libertarianism is logically consistent with almost any attitude toward culture, society, religion, or moral principle. In strict logic, libertarian political doctrine can be severed from all other considerations; logically one can be – and indeed most libertarians in fact are: hedonists, libertines, immoralists, militant enemies of religion in general and Christianity in particular – and still be consistent adherents of libertarian politics. In fact, in strict logic, one can be a consistent devotee of property rights politically and be a moocher, a scamster, and a petty crook and racketeer in practice, as all too many libertarians turn out to be.
You will note: libertarian theory is thin. Rothbard defines it as such, and as Hoppe cites Rothbard on this, I will assume he agrees. I could end this post here, I suppose, as the question has been answered. But there would be no fun in that. So I press on.
Strictly logically, one can do these things, but psychologically, sociologically, and in practice, it simply doesn’t work that way.” [my emphasis, HHH]
Murray Rothbard, “Big-Government Libertarians,” in: L. Rockwell, ed., The Irrepressible Rothbard, Auburn, Al: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000, p. 101
According to Hoppe (and Rothbard), life isn’t so simple. According to me, too.
In summary, Hoppe presents a practical-logical analysis of libertarianism left and right. He concludes that positions generally considered “left” are incompatible with libertarianism and positions generally considered “right” are compatible with libertarianism.
I believe I can summarize Hoppe’s position even more concisely: the objectives of “left” and the objectives of “libertarian” will always be in tension; “left” toward positive rights, and “libertarian” grounded in property rights and non-aggression. The positions of “right” result in no similar tensions with “libertarian.”
Tension is eventually relieved; history has made plain that the relief often comes in the form of a savior, promising positive rights. Many of these saviors have been the most brutal humans ever to roam the earth. This is the future of left-libertarian thinking, and the brutal humans know it – Gramsci knew it when he concluded that alliance with all leftists groups would help lead to communism.
Hoppe offers an even more succinct statement:
You cannot be a consistent left-libertarian, because the left-libertarian doctrine, even if unintended, promotes Statist, i.e., un-libertarian, ends.
The reason Hoppe believes this to be true can best (and briefly) be explained via an observation of the real world – a world made up of humans, not new utopian men.
The difference between the Right and the Left, as Paul Gottfried has often noted, is a fundamental disagreement concerning an empirical question. The Right recognizes, as a matter of fact, the existence of individual human differences and diversities and accepts them as natural, whereas the Left denies the existence of such differences and diversities or tries to explain them away and in any case regards them as something unnatural that must be rectified to establish a natural state of human equality.
This fits well the left, bleeding heart, Antonio Gramsci model of libertarianism: according to left-libertarians, libertarians should not (or must not) let differences or diversities stand in the way of…well…anything.
In a world made up of people with differences – and within the framework of a political philosophy built on absolute recognition of property rights and non-aggression principle – the logic of left-libertarians falls short; it is self-contradictory.
I can hear the left-libertarians screaming: “bionic, we are the ones who advocate for those who are different. It is the right that wants to discriminate against them.”
The issue is not the differences of the observed, but of the observer; not the one acted upon, but the one doing the acting. The issue is not that of the gay couple, but that of the baker. I, as an individual, have preferences – “differences” and “diversities” if you will; every individual does. To say I should or must relieve myself of these in order to be a proper libertarian is diametrically opposed to the meaning of property. It is also a wish that flies in the face of human history and human nature.
Advocates of such thinking believe in man as something other than human. A new, utopian, man is a pre-requisite for bankrupt and corrupt political philosophies – communism, fascism, democracy, national socialism. Why would libertarians want the same for libertarianism?
Hoppe offers the primary contradiction inherent in left-libertarianism:
…how is it possible to reconcile [the left libertarian’s] anti-discrimination stand with private property, which all libertarians are supposed to regard as the cornerstone of their philosophy, and which, after all, means exclusive property and hence, logically implies discrimination?
It cannot be reconciled. One must stand above the other – property rights or positive rights. And positive rights have no place in libertarian theory. While this may not conclusively lead one to the libertarian right, it demolishes any semblance of a logical theory for the libertarian left. It is a bankrupt theory.
Some left-libertarians will give lip service to the idea that property rights are paramount, yet these words will not relieve the aforementioned tension; tension awaiting a savior for the granting of their positive rights.
Hoppe places paramount importance on the traditional family structure as the rock upon which libertarianism can be built. Despite the wishes of some left-libertarian anarchists, who believe that a society with no hierarchical order can be achieved, Hoppe believes otherwise. Thousands of years of recorded human history believes otherwise. Human nature believes otherwise. I certainly believe otherwise.
Despite the pipe dreams of these left-libertarians, for a society to thrive, let alone survive, demands governance – not government in the form of a coercive force, as it is known today, but governance. Hoppe identifies traditional family and kinship as the best, most decentralized, and most libertarian institution to achieve this required governance. History demonstrates the success and offers the possibility of further development along these lines. I am most familiar with the example offered throughout hundreds of years of the European Middle Ages. There are other examples.
Hoppe goes further. He suggests that acceptance of any egalitarian sentiments threatens a libertarian order. Advocates of such sentiments should be expelled from the community; on the surface, a stunning statement from a libertarian.
To examine Hoppe’s views on maintaining a libertarian order, I will take a detour through his book “Democracy – The God That Failed.”
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.
So far, nothing controversial. On my property, I do not tolerate certain forms of speech. I will remove individuals who persist in speech that I find contrary. It is my property, after all. I am also free to make such an agreement with my neighbors – further, my landlord or homeowner’s association is free to have rules governing speech on the property to the extent that the market offers takers.
One may say innumerable 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.
This gets dicey – without discussing and debating ideas, how does the truth come out? On the other hand, it is my property. And for libertarians, property trumps all.
There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. (Emphasis added)
Hoppe writes of “a libertarian social order”; he is not conditioning the term “libertarian.”
Hoppe advocates (if I recall correctly) tens-of-thousands of small city states around the world, each with their own norms, values, etc., as long as they abide by the NAP and the underlying respect for private property (and if Hoppe does not advocate for this, he should). I suspect, but don’t know, that if some of these choose to organize on communist principles but leave others outside of the community to their own devices, Hoppe would find no reason to intervene. Anyway, I find no reason to intervene.
Consider the above superficially stunning statement in the context of this world of tens of thousands of significantly diversified and decentralized political organizations. Being expelled from a society organized to maintain a libertarian social order only means one is free to move to a society that better fits his political beliefs. Good riddance, I say.
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.
Is there something controversial about this? People have formed a community with the advancement of certain governance structures in mind – being family and kin. Those who wish for different structures are a) free to go elsewhere if anyone will have them, and b) may be removed as their purposes are in conflict with the covenant of the community.
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.
Despite the pipe-dreams of some left-libertarian advocates, there will be hierarchy and governance in every thriving and even surviving society. Hoppe suggests family as the most libertarian form of governance. I agree.
If not for family, who or what will provide this governance? The answer isn’t “no one, it isn’t necessary.” Therefore the answer is someone else. And there is the rub; this is Hoppe’s point.
Hoppe offers that those who believe otherwise can find somewhere else to live, somewhere in accord with their cultural views.
I don’t know why this idea of having other places to go would be controversial – even the left-anarchists at C4SS agree:
…we are all unified by a commitment to create space for diverse decentralized communities to make value decisions for themselves.
Well, they kind of agree. C4SS makes room for all types of “diverse decentralized communities” except for one:
What’s with the socially conservative strain of anarcho-capitalism coming out of the Mises Institute and Hans-Hermann Hoppe? If you’re an outsider to the libertarian tradition you might be baffled by some of the positions of some of the libertarian anarchists like Hans-Hermann Hoppe at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
It’s an agenda; it isn’t a consistent political theory.
Back to Hoppe’s Realistic Libertarianism post: Hoppe goes on to examine a few of the prominent wishes of left-libertarians. First is the desire to correct past wrongs via restitution. Hoppe offers that proper restitution is only possible in cases where there is an individualized case of victimhood at the hands of an individualized perpetrator.
Within libertarian theory, this seems not only reasonable, but the only justifiable response. Is it reasonable that an individual be subject to punishment for the crimes of another? This inherently contradicts the NAP – as force is initiated against someone not an aggressor.
All [insert your favorite privileged class] benefitted on the backs of [insert your favorite class of historic victims]. I have news for you: every human being on earth has both benefitted from and been harmed by countless historic violations of the NAP. Go sort that out and rectify it at a level other than the individual without violating the NAP; it can’t be done.
Next, Hoppe examines migration. People may freely migrate according to Hoppe. Yes, I know this isn’t how many on the left portray his position – it isn’t even really how Hoppe portrays it, at least not on the surface.
See, Hoppe conditions this free migration – and it is this condition that upsets left-libertarians. Hoppe has the audacity to suggest that an individual may come upon my property only with my permission, and an employee may only work for me only at my pleasure. Why is this a problem? This is also quite consistent with libertarian theory and the NAP. Why would the necessity for the permission of the property owner or businessman upset left-libertarians?
“Borders should be open” the left-libertarians scream. But the borders of my property are not “open.” The issue is not the positive right of the immigrant, but of the property right of the owner to prevent trespass. This conflict cannot be reconciled by left-libertarians.
Of course, the problem is clouded by political lines drawn on a map:
In a world where all places are privately owned, the immigration problem vanishes. There exists no right to immigration. There only exists the right to trade, buy or rent various places.
Consider the simple and obvious truth in that statement. Is there any wonder that consistent libertarians keep the focus on property rights and non-aggression? Is it any wonder that consistent libertarians are anarchist (in the Rothbardian sense of the term)?
Yet what about immigration in the real world with public property administered by local, regional or central State-governments?
First off: What would immigration policies be like if the State would, as it is supposed to do, act as a trustee of the taxpayer-owners’ public property? What about immigration if the State acted like the manager of the community property jointly owned and funded by the members of a housing association or gated community?
Hoppe offers as the answer “the full cost principle”; an immigrant, or the individual inviting him, is responsible for paying the full cost of the benefits received.
In theory, it seems Hoppe cannot know this answer – some communities might have an open door or open gate policy. In theory…
In practice? I wouldn’t want to live in such communities (and I bet not too many left-libertarians would either). Some communities may freely choose this model; my community won’t.
There is ample proof all around us that individuals desire to be exclusionary to the maximum extent that the law allows. I suspect that every housing association and gated community has controls regarding access to common areas, and certainly for non-residents.
Summarizing these left-libertarian positions:
The views held by left-libertarians in this regard are not entirely uniform, but they typically differ little from those promoted by cultural Marxists.
Finally, a reason to strongly disagree with Hoppe – I told you this was coming. Left libertarians do not hold cultural Marxist views; as I explained in great detail in my last post on this topic, they hold cultural Gramsci-ist views. Hoppe really should do his homework.
Another disagreement between me and Hans:
…many libertarians have drawn the conclusion that libertarianism is neither Left nor Right. That it is just “thin” libertarianism.
It isn’t from this that I conclude that libertarianism is thin. I conclude it for the same reason Rothbard did in the opening quote: “Libertarianism is logically consistent with almost any attitude toward culture, society, religion, or moral principle. In strict logic, libertarian political doctrine can be severed from all other considerations…”
Libertarianism is that simple. The problem is…life isn’t.
Hoppe calls himself a right-libertarian, “or, if that may sound more appealing, a realistic or commonsensical libertarian – and a consistent one at that.” I agree – he is realistic and commonsensical…and consistent.
But wait, I am not done disagreeing with Hoppe:
In light of this, as a right-libertarian, I would of course first say to my children and students: always respect and do not invade others’ private property rights and recognize the State as an enemy and indeed the very anti-thesis of private property.
Wait, that’s not it; it’s this:
But I would not leave it at that. I would not say (or silently imply) that once you have satisfied this requirement “anything goes.” Which is pretty much what ‘thin’ libertarians appear to be saying! I would not be a cultural relativist as most “thin” libertarians at least implicitly are.
Them’s fightin’ words, Hoppe. A “cultural relativist”? Not THIS thin libertarian. Life requires so much more for surviving and thriving than merely an agreement regarding property and aggression.
As Hoppe demonstrates, however, maintaining a libertarian social order requires certain cultural parameters…unless someone believes that no tyrant will step into the void of a horizontal hierarchical structure. (You can’t hear me laughing out loud at the naïve or devious advocates of this view, but I am.)
In any case, my world does not begin and end with “anything goes”; only my libertarian theory does. To all the cultural relativist libertarians out there, I welcome you to go start your community.
To prove my non-cultural relativist cred, I offer:
I am a traditional-culture-Christian-guitar-based-metal/progressive-rock-fan-Austrian-Economic-revisionist-history-anti-state-anti-war-Rothbardian-anarcho-capitalist-started-with-Ayn-Rand-via-2112-unborn-child-defending-greens-are-watermelons-IP-(if-you-can-defend-it-without-the-state)-supporting-free-banking-fractional-reserve-banking-isn’t-fraud-public-education-is-state-enforced-brainwashing-European-middle-age-admiring-end-the-Fed-libertarian (and this only includes items that I have commented on within this blog).
And my support for property rights is unequivocal.
My tent is very large, with as many rooms as there might be need for different communities with different values. As long as you respect property rights and the NAP in regard to those in other rooms, I only exclude people who cannot appreciate this as the height of man’s musical achievement.
You will scream – “bionic, this exclusion proves you are also not a thin libertarian.” Save it. After all, I may be thin but I am still human; not perfect.