Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Brave New World

The libertarian Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s ideal model for a libertarian society is a “covenantal community” which requires a single property owner (or owners) who owns a whole territory or area and who then leases the right to live within this community to other people. A strict enforcement of a set of laws or rules on everybody is also necessary:
“The standard libertarian model of a community is one of individuals who, instead of living physically separated and isolated from one another, associate with each other as neighbors living on adjacent but separately owned pieces of land. However, this model is too simplistic. Presumably, the reason for choosing neighbors over isolation is the fact that for individuals participating in and partaking of the benefits of the division of labor, a neighborhood offers the added advantage of lower transaction costs; that is, a neighborhood facilitates exchange. As a consequence, the value of an individually owned piece of land will be enhanced by the existence of neighboring pieces of land owned by others. However, while this may indeed be true and constitute a valid reason for choosing a neighborhood over physical isolation, it is by no means always true. A neighborhood also involves risks and may lead to falling rather than -increasing property values, for even if one assumes, in accordance with the model under consideration, that the initial establishment of neighboring property was mutually beneficial, and even if it is further assumed that all members of a community refrain from criminal activity, it might still happen that a formerly ‘good’ neighbor turns obnoxious, that he does not take care of his property or changes it so as to negatively affect the property values of other community members, or that he simply refuses to participate in any cooperative effort directed at improving the value of the community as a whole. Hence, in order to overcome the difficulties inherent in community development when the land is held in divided ownership, the formation of neighborhoods and communities has in fact proceeded along different lines from those suggested in the above mentioned model.

Rather than being composed of adjacent pieces of land owned in severalty, then, neighborhoods have typically been proprietary or covenantal communities, founded and owned by a single proprietor who would ‘lease’ separate parts of the land under specified conditions to selected individuals. Originally, such covenants were based on kinship relations, with the role of the proprietor performed by the head of a family or clan.” (Hoppe 2007: 213–214).

“… gated residential communities are owned by a single entity, either an individual or a private corporation, and the relationship between the community proprietor and his renters and residents is purely contractual. …. Clearly then, the task of maintaining the covenant entailed in a libertarian (proprietary) community is first and foremost that of the proprietor. Yet he is but one man, and it is impossible for him to succeed in this task unless he is supported in his endeavor by a majority of the members of the community in question. In particular, the proprietor needs the support of the community elite, i.e., the heads of households and firms most heavily invested in the community. In order to protect and possibly enhance the value of their property and investments, both proprietor and the community elite must be willing and prepared to take two forms of protective measures. First, they must be willing to defend themselves by means of physical force and punishment against external invaders and domestic criminals. But second and equally important, they must also be willing to defend themselves, by means of ostracism, exclusion and ultimately expulsion, against those community members who advocate, advertise or propagandize actions incompatible with the very purpose of the covenant: to protect property and family.” (Hoppe 2007: 215–216).
But all of these libertarian “covenantal communities” need to be highly socially conservative and essentially homogeneous:
“Notwithstanding the variety of discriminatory policies pursued by different proprietary communities, however, and as will be further argued in the following above, for the sake of self-preservation each of these communities will have to recognize and enforce some strict and rather inflexible limitations with respect to its internal tolerance; that is, no proprietary community can be as ‘tolerant’ and ‘nondiscriminatory’ as left-libertarians wish every place to be.” (Hoppe 2007: 212, n. 25).
That is to say, the freedom that even Murray Rothbard allowed for different contractual communities (e.g., legalisation of drugs in some communities or hedonism in others) is abolished by Hoppe as something that would destroy a libertarian society.

Such contractual communities require exclusion of everybody deemed undesirable:
“As soon as mature members of society habitually express acceptance or even advocate egalitarian sentiments, whether in the form of democracy (majority rule) or of communism, it becomes essential that other members, and in particular the natural social elites, be prepared to act decisively and, in the case of continued nonconformity, exclude and ultimately expel these members from society. 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 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. 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. 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.” (Hoppe 2007: 218).

“A member of the human race who is completely incapable of understanding the higher productivity of labor performed under a division of labor based on private property is not properly speaking a person (a persona), but falls instead in the same moral category as an animal—of either the harmless sort (to be domesticated and employed as a producer or consumer good, or to be enjoyed as a ‘free good’) or the wild and dangerous one (to be fought as a pest). On the other hand, there are members of the human species who are capable of understanding the insight but who lack the moral strength to act accordingly. Such persons are either harmless brutes living outside of and separated from human society, or they are more or less dangerous criminals. They are persons who knowingly act wrongly and who besides having to be tamed or even physically defeated must also be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime to make them understand the nature of their wrongdoings and hopefully to teach them a lesson for the future.” (Hoppe 2007: 173).

“In civilized society, the ultimate price for ill behavior is expulsion, and all-around ill-behaved or rotten characters (even if they commit no criminal offense) will find themselves quickly expelled from everywhere and by everyone and become outcasts, physically removed from civilization. This is a stiff price to pay; hence, the frequency of such behavior is reduced. By contrast, if one is prevented from expelling others from one’s property whenever their presence is deemed undesirable, ill behavior, misconduct, and outright rotten characters are encouraged (rendered less costly). Rather than being isolated and ultimately entirely removed from society, the ‘bums’—in every conceivable area of incompetency (bumhood) —are permitted to perpetrate their unpleasantries everywhere, so bum-like behavior and bums will proliferate. The results of forced integration are only too visible. All social relations—whether in private or business life—have become increasingly egalitarian (everyone is on a first name basis with everyone else) and uncivilized.

In distinct contrast, a society in which the right to exclusion is fully restored to owners of private property would be profoundly unegalitarian, intolerant, and discriminatory. There would be little or no ‘tolerance’ and ‘open-mindedness’ so dear to left-libertarians. Instead, one would be on the right path toward restoring the freedom of association and exclusion implied in the institution of private property, 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. There would be signs regarding entrance requirements to the town, and, once in town, requirements for entering specific pieces of property (for example, no beggars, bums, or homeless, but also no homosexuals, drug users, Jews, Moslems, Germans, or Zulus), and those who did not meet these entrance requirements would be kicked out as trespassers.” (Hoppe 2007: 211).
Basically, this is what happens when libertarian anarcho-capitalists suddenly realise that their lunatic world of open borders and hedonism would lead to its own destruction (Hoppe recognises this in his paper Hoppe 2002: 88–89).

But because of their obsessive belief in absolute private property rights, their vision of the ideal society quickly degenerates into one of oppression, where irrational and extreme discrimination can be enforced on the grounds of private property rights, and where libertarian society degenerates into quasi-fascist demands for the physical removal of anyone deemed “undesirable,” including, most notably, cultural libertarians, hedonists, or anyone not committed to extreme social conservatism.

This is why it is not surprising at all that Rothbardian and Ron-Paul style American libertarians seem to morph easily into “Alt Right”, far right neo-fascists, anti-Semites, White nationalists, and haters of democracy.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 2007. Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick and London.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. 2002. “Natural Order, the State, and the Immigration Problem,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 16.1: 75–97.


  1. I would be extremely uncomfortable reading that book.

    I am not one of those safe spaces, or trigger warnings people, but those lines make me very queasy.

  2. “A member of the human race who is completely incapable of understanding the higher productivity of labor performed under a division of labor based on private property is not properly speaking a person (a persona), but falls instead in the same moral category as an animal—of either the harmless sort (to be domesticated and employed as a producer or consumer good, or to be enjoyed as a ‘free good’) or the wild and dangerous one (to be fought as a pest)"

    Hmmm... this reminds me of the old justifications of slavery...

    >>and where libertarian society degenerates into quasi-fascist...

    You could drop the "quasi" here.

  3. having all the Hoppes in Hoppetown is a feature, not a bug

  4. Lk
    Uhm its seems that this so called anaracho capitalists are missing to the ol good days of medieveal feudalism.

  5. You guys realize that by arguing with Hoppe you concede his point? Argumentation ethics.

    (just kidding. Hoppe is a loon and "argumentation ethics" is a joke.)

    1. Are you referring to his " I think therefore I am a libertarian" argument?

    2. He really argues that if you debate him you implicitly concede you do not have the right to use force against him, thus implicitly you accept his position. A lot of the Murphy crowd repeat this.

  6. Fascinating topic. But who is this Greg Johnson guy that's receiving such high accolades in the intro to the Youtube video you linked? Like to know something about the credentials of people before I go sharing things around.

    1. By "credentials" you mean tribal membership.

  7. Right at the 6:30 mark, he describes people who are nothing like the Libertarians I know. We disagree on economics and the role of government. They are hardly unaware of group identification and are simply not asking for such blind allegiance to a notion of erasing such distinctions from your mind. Many of the ones who are critics of Feminism actually tend towards Gender Essentialism, or at least a strong Gender Realism. The case against Feminism put forth by these individuals is also quite sound.

  8. Okay, I'm done with this d00d. Ayn Rand is not the mother of all Libertarianism, and she herself was critical of them on several counts:

    I seriously doubt this Greg Johnson clown has any connections to Libertarianism that he claims. Most of the ones I know are not unconscious Neo-Nazi's. Some are unconscious NeoCons, however - that go off the rails about Islam at the slightest provocation ;-)

  9. More like Brave Old World.

  10. The system he envisions can be achievable if libertarians move away from our society and built their own in another land. This was what many British had in mind when they left Britan to live in America, so the concept is not so strange after all.

    But sooner or later they will have to start expelling people from this new land too in order to maintain the libertarian order they desire. Or, in alternative, they will need to move away again from this land and start a new libertarian community elsewhere. A never ending cycle.

  11. This is hardly surprising -- as genuine libertarians (i.e., anarchists or libertarian socialists) have long pointed out, "libertarians" are not interested in liberty. They are interested in property -- and defending the power relations that go with it.

    Genuine libertarians -- those who coined the term in the 1850s -- had recognised, to use Proudhon's words, that property is both "theft" and "despotism".

    While Hoppe is very clear on this (and I have quoted him myself on this) people like Rothbard and Nozick made similar comments (the latter even supports, like Locke, voluntary slavery).

    While anarchism comes from the French labour movement and the democratic critique of liberalism, propertarianism is just classic liberalism and so exists to defend private hierarchies (the various factions disagree on whether public or private states are the best means of going so). The contradictions that propertarianism are obvious to anyone who is not a true believer, as I note here:

    Anarchist organisation: Practice as theory actualised

    Hoppe's vision is just the capitalist workplace applied to society. The hierarchies are obvious and so "anarcho"-capitalism may better be called private-statism or "anarcho-statism" to bring out its obvious contradictions and non-anarchist nature:

    An Anarchist Critique of anarcho-statism

    Suffice to say, the sooner people stop calling these authoritarians "libertarians" or "anarchists" the better -- anarchism is about replacing all hierarchies (private or public) with federations of self-managed associations in workplaces and communities. And liberty is threatened by private power just as much as public power -- something propertarians fail to recognise even if they accidently, like Rothbard, they admit it themselves in passing!

    An Anarchist FAQ

  12. Hi LK,

    Hoppe is a crackpot whose views, if implemented, would lead to the suppression of liberty for dissenters and the installation of private power elites, far worse than any that currently exist in western democracies.

    Those who wax eloquently about Hoppe and Rothbard over at the Mises website strike me as being crazy.

    Hoppe, while claiming to be libertarian is far from supporting liberty. I wouldn't waste my time reading his books (as the opportunity cost would be too high for me), but I appreciate your exposure of this nut LK.

    John Arthur

  13. There's never been anything "libertarian" about the absurdist 'anarchy-capitalist' ideology. Ancaps like Hoppe and Rothbard are and always have been far-right authoritarians. Their talk about 'Liberty' is and always has been entirely fraudulent.

    1. They smutz up the name Libertarian. As bad are the rest of the Ron Paul neo-confederate crowd like Tom Woods. It is hard enough arguing for freedom and markets without these guys.

      Long ago I was asked if I was arguing that any outcome is just simply because it's the result of a market process. I at first thought this was a demented strawman, because it's so obviously absurd, until I learned the Rothbard wing actually claim this! They piss in the pool.