Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe on the Impracticality of One-World Government and the Failure of Western-style Democracy
The Daily Bell is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (left).
Introduction: Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, born in 1949 in Peine, West Germany, studied philosophy, sociology, economics, history and statistics at the University of the Saarland, in Saarbruecken, the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, in Frankfurt am Main, and at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. He received his doctorate (Philosophy, 1974, under Juergen Habermas) and his "Habilitation" degree (Foundations of Sociology and Economics, 1981) both from the Goethe University in Frankfurt.
In 1985 Hoppe moved to New York City to work with Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), the most prominent American student of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973). In 1986 Hoppe followed Rothbard to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he served as Professor of Economics until his retirement in 2008. After Rothbard's death, Hoppe also served for many years as editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics and of the interdisciplinary Journal for Libertarian Studies. Hoppe is a Distinguished Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, and founder and president of the Property and Freedom Society. He currently lives with his wife Dr. Guelcin Imre, a fellow economist, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hoppe is the author of eight books – the best known of which is Democracy: The God That Failed – and more than 150 articles in books, scholarly journals and magazines of opinion. As an internationally prominent Austrian School economist and libertarian philosopher, he has lectured all over the world and his writings have been translated into more than twenty languages.
In 2006 Hoppe was awarded the Gary S. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty, and in 2009 he received the Franz Cuhel Memorial Prize from the University of Economics in Prague. At the occasion of his 60th birthday, in 2009, a Festschrift was published in his honor: Joerg Guido Huelsmann & Stephan Kinsella (eds.), "Property, Freedom and Society. Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe." Hoppe's personal website is www.HansHoppe.com. There the bulk of his scholarly and popular writings as well as many public lecture recordings are electronically available.
Daily Bell: Please answer these questions as our readers were not already aware of your fine work and considered opinions. Let's jump right in. Why is democracy "The God that failed?"
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The traditional, pre-modern state-form is that of a (absolute) monarchy. The democratic movement was directed against kings and the classes of hereditary nobles. Monarchy was criticized as being incompatible with the basic principle of the "equality before the law." It rested on privilege and was unfair and exploitative. Democracy was supposed to be the way out. In opening participation and entry into state-government to everyone on equal terms, so the advocates of democracy claimed, equality before the law would become reality and true freedom would reign. But this is all a big error.
True, under democracy everyone can become king, so to speak, not only a privileged circle of people. Thus, in a democracy no personal privileges exist. However, functional privileges and privileged functions exist. Public officials, if they act in an official capacity, are governed and protected by "public law" and thereby occupy a privileged position vis-à-vis persons acting under the mere authority of "private law." In particular, public officials are permitted to finance or subsidize their own activities through taxes. That is, they are permitted to engage in, and live off, what in private dealings between private law subjects is prohibited and considered "theft" and "stolen loot." Thus, privilege and legal discrimination – and the distinction between rulers and subjects – will not disappear under democracy.
Even worse: Under monarchy, the distinction between rulers and ruled is clear. I know, for instance, that I will never become king, and because of that I will tend to resist the king's attempts to raise taxes. Under democracy, the distinction between rulers and ruled becomes blurred. The illusion can arise "that we all rule ourselves," and the resistance against increased taxation is accordingly diminished. I might end up on the receiving end: as a tax-recipient rather than a tax-payer, and thus view taxation more favorably.
And moreover: As a hereditary monopolist, a king regards the territory and the people under his rule as his personal property and engages in the monopolistic exploitation of this "property." Under democracy, monopoly and monopolistic exploitation do not disappear. Rather, what happens is this: instead of a king and a nobility who regard the country as their private property, a temporary and interchangeable caretaker is put in monopolistic charge of the country. The caretaker does not own the country, but as long as he is in office he is permitted to use it to his and his protégés' advantage. He owns its current use – usufruct – but not its capital stock. This does not eliminate exploitation. To the contrary, it makes exploitation less calculating and carried out with little or no regard to the capital stock. Exploitation becomes shortsighted and capital consumption will be systematically promoted.
Daily Bell: If democracy has failed what would you put in its place? What is the ideal society? Anarcho-capitalism?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I prefer the term "private law society." In a private law society every individual and institution is subject to one and the same set of laws. No public law granting privileges to specific persons or functions exists in this society. There is only private law (and private property), equally applicable to each and everyone. No one is permitted to acquire property by means other than through original appropriation of previously un-owned things, through production, or through voluntary exchange, and no one possesses a privilege to tax and expropriate. Moreover, no one is permitted to prohibit anyone else from using his property in order to enter any line of production he wishes and compete against whomever he pleases.
Daily Bell: How would law and order be provided in this society? How would your ideal justice system work?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: In a private law society the production of law and order – of security – would be undertaken by freely financed individuals and agencies competing for a voluntarily paying (or not-paying) clientele – just as the production of all other goods and services. How this system would work can be best understood in contrast to the workings of the present, all-too-familiar statist system. If one wanted to summarize in one word the decisive difference – and advantage – of a competitive security industry as compared to the current statist practice, it would be: contract.
The state operates in a legal vacuum. There exists no contract between the state and its citizens. It is not contractually fixed, what is actually owned by whom, and what, accordingly, is to be protected. It is not fixed, what service the state is to provide, what is to happen if the state fails in its duty, nor what the price is that the "customer" of such "service" must pay. Rather, the state unilaterally fixes the rules of the game and can change them, per legislation, during the game. Obviously, such behavior is inconceivable for freely financed security providers. Just imagine a security provider, whether police, insurer or arbitrator, whose offer consisted in something like this: I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you – but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service. Any such security provider would immediately disappear from the market due to a complete lack of customers.
Each private, freely financed security producer must instead offer its prospective clients a contract. And these contracts must, in order to appear acceptable to voluntarily paying consumers, contain clear property descriptions as well as clearly defined mutual services and obligations. Each party to a contract, for the duration or until the fulfillment of the contract, would be bound by its terms and conditions; and every change of terms or conditions would require the unanimous consent of all parties concerned.
Specifically, in order to appear acceptable to security buyers, these contracts must contain provisions about what will be done in the case of a conflict or dispute between the protector or insurer and his own protected or insured clients as well as in the case of a conflict between different protectors or insurers and their respective clients. And in this regard only one mutually agreeable solution exists: in these cases the conflicting parties contractually agree to arbitration by a mutually trusted but independent third party. And as for this third party: it, too, is freely financed and stands in competition with other arbitrators or arbitration agencies. Its clients, i.e., the insurers and the insured, expect of it, that it come up with a verdict that is recognized as fair and just by all sides. Only arbitrators capable of forming such judgments will succeed in the arbitration market. Arbitrators incapable of this and viewed as biased or partial will disappear from the market.
Daily Bell: Are you denying, then, that we need the state to defend us?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Indeed. The state does not defend us; rather, the state aggresses against us and it uses our confiscated property to defend itself. The standard definition of the state is this: the state is an agency characterized by two unique, logically connected features. First, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision-making. That is, the state is the ultimate arbiter and judge in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself and its agents. There is no appeal above and beyond the state. Second, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of taxation. That is, it is an agency that can unilaterally fix the price that its subjects must pay for the state's service as ultimate judge. Based on this institutional set-up you can safely predict the consequences. First, instead of preventing and resolving conflict, a monopolist of ultimate decision-making will cause and provoke conflict in order to settle it to its own advantage. That is, the state does not recognize and protect existing law, but it perverts law through legislation. Contradiction number one: the state is a law-breaking law protector. Second, instead of defending and protecting anyone or anything, a monopolist of taxation will invariably strive to maximize his expenditures on protection and at the same time minimize the actual production of protection. The more money the state can spend and the less it must work for this money, the better off it is. Contradiction number two: the state is an expropriating property protector.
Daily Bell: Are there any good laws and regulations?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Yes. There are a few, simple good laws that almost everyone intuitively recognizes and acknowledges and that can also be demonstrated to be "true" and "good" laws. First: If there were no interpersonal conflicts and we all lived in perfect harmony there would be no need for any law or norm. It is the purpose of laws or norms to help avoid otherwise unavoidable conflict. Only laws that achieve this can be called good laws. A law that generates conflict rather than help avoid it is contrary to the purpose of laws, i.e., bad, dysfunctional or perverted law.
Second: Conflicts are possible only if and insofar as goods are scarce. People clash, because they want to use one and the same good in different, incompatible ways. Either I win and get my way or you win and get your way. We cannot both be "winners." In the case of scarce goods, then, we need rules or laws helping us decide between rival, conflicting claims. In contrast, goods that are "free," i.e., goods that exist in superabundance, that are inexhaustible or infinitely re-producible, are not and cannot be a source of conflict. Whenever I use a non-scarce good it does not in the slightest diminish the supply of this good available to you. I can do with it what I want and you can do with it what you want at the same time. There is no loser. We are both winners; and hence, as far as non-scarce goods are concerned, there is never any need for laws.
Third: All conflict concerning scarce goods, then, can be avoided if only every good is privately owned, i.e., exclusively controlled by one specified individual(s) rather than another, and it is always clear which thing is owned, and by whom, and which is not. And in order to avoid all possible conflict from the beginning of mankind on, it is only necessary to have a rule regulating the first, original appropriation of previously un-owned, nature-given goods as private property. In sum then, there are essentially three "good laws" that assure conflict-free interaction or "eternal peace:" a) he who first appropriates something previously on-owned is its exclusive owner (as the first appropriator he cannot have come into conflict with anyone else as everyone else appeared on the scene only later); b) he who produces something with his body and homesteaded goods is owner of his product, provided he does not thereby damage the physical integrity of others' property; and c) he who acquires something from a previous or earlier owner by means of voluntary exchange, i.e., an exchange that is deemed mutually beneficial, is its owner.
Daily Bell: How, then, does one define freedom? As the absence of state coercion?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: A society is free, if every person is recognized as the exclusive owner of his own (scarce) physical body, if everyone is free to appropriate or "homestead" previously un-owned things as private property, if everyone is free to use his body and his homesteaded goods to produce whatever he wants to produce (without thereby damaging the physical integrity of other peoples' property), and if everyone is free to contract with others regarding their respective properties in any way deemed mutually beneficial. Any interference with this constitutes an act of aggression, and a society is un-free to the extent of such aggressions.
Daily Bell: Where do you stand on copyright? Do you believe that intellectual property doesn't exist as Kinsella has proposed?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I agree with my friend Kinsella, that the idea of intellectual property rights is not just wrong and confused but dangerous. And I have already touched upon why this is so. Ideas – recipes, formulas, statements, arguments, algorithms, theorems, melodies, patterns, rhythms, images, etc. – are certainly goods (insofar as they are good, not bad, recipes, etc.), but they are not scarce goods. Once thought and expressed, they are free, inexhaustible goods. I whistle a melody or write down a poem, you hear the melody or read the poem and reproduce or copy it. In doing so you have not taken anything away from me. I can whistle and write as before. In fact, the entire world can copy me and yet nothing is taken from me. (If I didn't want anyone to copy my ideas I only have to keep them to myself and never express them.)
Now imagine I had been granted a property right in my melody or poem such that I could prohibit you from copying it or demanding a royalty from you if you do. First: Doesn't that imply, absurdly, that I, in turn, must pay royalties to the person (or his heirs) who invented whistling and writing, and further on to those, who invented sound-making and language, and so on? Second: In preventing you from or making you pay for whistling my melody or reciting my poem, I am actually made a (partial) owner of you: of your physical body, your vocal chords, your paper, your pencil, etc. because you did not use anything but your own property when you copied me. If you can no longer copy me, then, this means that I, the intellectual property owner, have expropriated you and your "real" property. Which shows: intellectual property rights and real property rights are incompatible, and the promotion of intellectual property must be seen as a most dangerous attack on the idea of "real" property (in scarce goods).
Daily Bell: We have suggested that if people want to enforce generational copyright that they do so on their own, taking on the expense and attempting through various means to confront copyright violators with their own resources. This would put the onus of enforcement on the pocket book of the individual. Is this a viable solution – to let the market itself decide these issues?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: That would go a long way in the right direction. Better still: more and more courts in more and more countries, especially countries outside the orbit of the US dominated Western government cartel, would make it clear that they don't hear cases of copyright and patent violations any longer and regard such complaints as a ruse of big Western government-connected firms, such as pharmaceutical companies, for instance, to enrich themselves at the expense of other people.
Daily Bell: What do you think of Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: You can give two very different interpretations to this statement. I see no difficulty with the first one. It is: I know the difference between "might" and "right" and, as a matter of empirical fact, might is in fact frequently right. Most if not all of "public law," for instance, is might masquerading as right. The second interpretation is: I don't know the difference between "might" and "right," because there is no difference. Might is right and right is might. This interpretation is self-contradictory. Because if you wanted to defend this statement as a true statement in an argument with someone else you are in fact recognizing your opponent's property right in his own body. You do not aggress against him in order to bring him to the correct insight. You allow him to come to the correct insight on his own. That is, you admit, at least implicitly, that you do know the difference between right and wrong. Otherwise there would be no purpose in arguing. The same, incidentally, is true for Hobbes' famous dictum that one man is another man's wolf. In claiming this statement to be true, you actually prove it to be false.
Daily Bell: It has been suggested that the only way to reorganize society is via a return to the clans and tribes that characterized homo-sapiens communities for tens of thousands of years? Is it possible that as part of this devolution, clan or tribal justice could be re-emphasized?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I don't think that we, in the Western world, can go back to clans and tribes. The modern, democratic state has destroyed clans and tribes and their hierarchical structures, because they stood in the way of the state's drive toward absolute power. With clans and tribes gone, we must try it with the model of a private law society that I have described. But wherever traditional, hierarchical clan and tribe structures still exist, they should be supported and attempts to "modernize" "archaic" justice systems along Western lines should be viewed with utmost suspicion.
Daily Bell: You have also written extensively on money and monetary affairs. Is a gold standard necessary for a free society?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: in a free society, the market would produce money, as all other goods and services. There would be no such thing as money in a world that was perfectly certain and predictable. But in a world with unpredictable contingencies people come to value goods also on account of their marketability or salability, i.e., as media of exchange. And since a more easily and widely salable good is preferable to a less easily and widely salable good as a medium of exchange, there is an inevitable tendency in the market for a single commodity to finally emerge that differs from all others in being the most easily and widely salable commodity of all. This commodity is called money. As the most easily salable good of all it provides its owner with the best humanly possible protection against uncertainty in that it can be employed for the instant satisfaction of the widest range of possible needs. Economic theory has nothing to say as to what commodity will acquire the status of money. Historically, it happened to be gold. But if the physical make-up of our world would have been different or is to become different from what it is now, some other commodity would have become or might become money. The market will decide. In any case, there is no need for government to get involved in any of this. The market has provided and will provide some money-commodity, and the production of that commodity, whatever it is, is subject to the same forces of supply and demand as the production of everything else.
Daily Bell: How about the free-banking paradigm? Is private fractional banking ever to be tolerated or is it a crime? Who is to put people in jail for private fractional banking?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Assume gold is money. In a free society you have free competition in gold-mining, you have free competition in gold-minting, and you have freely competing banks. The banks offer various financial services: of money safekeeping, clearing services, and the service of mediating between savers and borrower-investors. Each bank issues its own brand of "notes" or "certificates" documenting the various transactions and resulting contractual relations between bank and client. These bank-notes are freely tradable. So far so good. Controversial among free bankers is only the status of fractional reserve deposit banking and bank notes. Let's say A deposits 10 ounces of gold with a bank and receives a note (a money substitute) redeemable at par on demand. Based on A's deposit, then, the bank makes a loan to C of 9 ounces of gold and issues a note to this effect, again redeemable at par on demand.
Should this be permitted? I don't think so. For there are now two people, A and C, who are the exclusive owner of one and the same quantity of money. A logical impossibility. Or put differently, there are only 10 ounces of gold, but A is given title to 10 ounces and C holds title to 9 ounces. That is, there are more property titles than there is property. Obviously this constitutes fraud, and in all areas except money, courts have also considered such a practice fraud and punished the offenders. On the other hand, there is no problem if the bank tells A that it will pay interest on his deposit, invest it, for instance, in a money market mutual fund made up of highly liquid short-term financial papers, and make its best efforts to redeem A's shares in that investment fund on demand in a fixed quantity of money. Such shares may well be very popular and many people may put their money into them instead of into regular deposit accounts. But as shares of investment funds they would never function as money. They would never be the most easily and widely saleable commodity of all.
Daily Bell: Where do you stand on the current central banking paradigm? Is central banking as it is currently constituted the central disaster of our time?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Central banks are certainly one of the greatest mischief-makers of our time. They, and in particular the FED, have been responsible for destroying the gold standard, which has always been an obstacle to inflationary policies, and replacing it, since 1971, with a pure paper money standard (fiat money). Since then, central banks can create money virtually out of thin air. More paper money cannot make a society richer, of course, – it is just more printed-paper. Otherwise, why is it that there are still poor countries and poor people around? But more money makes its monopolistic producer (the central bank) and its earliest recipients (the government and big, government-connected banks and their major clients) richer at the expense of making the money's late and latest receivers poorer.
Thanks to the central bank's unlimited money printing power, governments can run ever higher budget deficits and pile up ever more debt to finance otherwise impossible wars, hot and cold, abroad and at home, and engage in an endless stream of otherwise unthinkable boondoggles and adventures. Thanks to the central bank, most "monetary experts" and "leading macro-economists" can, by putting them on the payroll, be turned into government propagandists "explaining," like alchemists, how stones (paper) can be turned into bread (wealth). Thanks to the central bank, interest rates can be artificially lowered all the way down to zero, channeling credit into less and least credit-worthy projects and hands (and crowding out worthy projects and hands), and causing ever greater investment bubble-booms, followed by ever more spectacular busts. And thanks to the central bank, we are confronted with a dramatically increasing threat of an impending hyperinflation when the chicken finally come home to roost and the piper must be paid.
Daily Bell: We have often pointed out that the Seven Hills of Rome were initially independent societies just like the Italian city-states during the Renaissance and the 13 colonies of the US Republic. It seems great empires start as individual communities where people can leave one community if they are oppressed and go nearby to start afresh. What is the driving force behind this process of centralization? What are the building blocks of Empire?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: All states must begin small. That makes it easy for people to run away. Yet states are by nature aggressive, as I have already explained. They can externalize the cost of aggression onto others, i.e., hapless tax-payers. They don't like to see productive people run away and try to capture them by expanding their territory. The more productive people the state controls, the better off it will be. In this expansionist desire, they run into opposition by other states. There can be only one monopolist of ultimate jurisdiction and taxation in any given territory. That is, the competition between different states is eliminative. Either A wins and controls a territory, or B. Who wins? At least in the long run, that state will win – and take over another's territory or establish hegemony over it and force it to pay tribute – that can parasitically draw on the comparatively more productive economy. That is, other things being the same, internally more "liberal" states (in the classic European sense of "liberal") will tend to win over less "liberal," i.e., illiberal or oppressive states.
Looking only at modern history, we can so explain first the rise of liberal Great Britain to the rank of the foremost world Empire and then, subsequently, that of the liberal US. And we can understand a seeming paradox: why it is, that internally liberal imperial powers like the US tend to be more aggressive and belligerent in their foreign policy than internally oppressive powers, such as the former Soviet Union. The liberal US Empire was sure to win with its foreign wars and military adventures, while the oppressive Soviet Union was afraid that it might lose.
But Empire building also bears the seeds of its own destruction. The closer a state comes to the ultimate goal of world domination and one-world government, the less reason is there to maintain its internal liberalism and do instead what all states are inclined to do anyway, i.e., to crack down and increase their exploitation of whatever productive people are still left. Consequently, with no additional tributaries available and domestic productivity stagnating or falling, the Empire's internal policies of bread and circuses can no longer be maintained. Economic crisis hits, and an impending economic meltdown will stimulate decentralizing tendencies, separatist and secessionist movements, and lead to the break-up of Empire. We have seen this happen with Great Britain, and we are seeing it now, with the US and its Empire apparently on its last leg.
There is also an important monetary side to this process. The dominant Empire typically provides the leading international reserve currency, first Britain with the pound sterling and then the US with the dollar. With the dollar used as reserve currency by foreign central banks, the US can run a permanent "deficit without tears." That is, the US must not pay for its steady excesses of imports over exports, as it is normal between "equal" partners, in having to ship increasingly more exports abroad (exports paying for imports). Rather: Instead of using their export earnings to buy American goods for domestic consumption, foreign governments and their central banks, as a sign of their vassal status vis-à-vis a dominant US, use their paper dollar reserves to buy up US government bonds to help Americans to continue consuming beyond their means.
I do not know enough about China to understand why it is using its huge dollar reserves to buy up US government bonds. After all, China is not supposed to be a part of the US Empire. Maybe its rulers have read too many American economics textbooks and now believe in alchemy, too. But if only China would dump its US treasuries and accumulate gold reserves instead, that would be the end of the US Empire and the dollar as we know it.
Daily Bell: Is it possible that a shadow of impossibly wealthy families located in the City of London is partially responsible for all this? Do these families and their enablers seek world government by elites? Is it a conspiracy? Do you see the world in these terms: as a struggle between the centralizing impulses of elites and the more democratic impulses of the rest of society?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I'm not sure if conspiracy is still the right word, because in the meantime, thanks to people such as Carroll Quigley, for instance, much is known about what is going on. In any case, it is certainly true that there are such impossibly rich families, sitting in London, New York City, Tel Aviv and elsewhere, who have recognized the immense potential for personal enrichment in the process of State- and Empire-building. The heads of big banking houses played a key role in the founding of the FED, because they realized that central banking would allow their own banks to inflate and expand credit on top of money and credit created by the central bank, and that a "lender of last resort" was instrumental in allowing them to reap private profits as long as things would go well and to socialize costs if they wouldn't.
They realized that the classical gold standard stood as a natural impediment to inflation and credit expansion, and so they helped set up first a phony gold standard (the gold exchange standard) and then, after 1971, a pure fiat money regime. They realized that a system of freely fluctuating national fiat currencies was still imperfect as far as inflationist desires are concerned, in that the supremacy of the dollar could be threatened by other, competing currencies such as a strong German Mark, for instance; and in order to reduce and weaken this competition they supported "monetary integration" schemes such as the creation of a European Central Bank (ECB) and the Euro.
And they realized that their ultimate dream of unlimited counterfeiting power would come true, if only they succeeded in creating a US dominated world central bank issuing a world paper currency such as the bancor or the phoenix; and so they helped set up and finance a multitude of organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, etc., that promote this goal. As well, leading industrialists recognized the tremendous profits to be made from state-granted monopolies, from state-subsidies, and from exclusive cost-plus contracts in freeing or shielding them from competition, and so they, too, have allied themselves to and "infiltrated" the state.
There are "accidents" in history, and there are carefully planned actions that bring about consequences which are unintended and unanticipated. But history is not just a sequence of accidents and surprises. Most of it is designed and intended. Not by common folks, of course, but by the power elites in control of the state apparatus. If one wants to prevent history from running its present, foreseeable course to unprecedented economic disaster, then, it is indeed imperative to arouse public indignation by exposing, relentlessly, the evil motives and machinations of these power elites, not just of those working within the state apparatus, but in particular also of those staying outside, behind the scenes and pulling the strings.
Daily Bell: It has been our contention that just as the Gutenberg press blew up existing social structures in its day, so the Internet is doing that today. We believe the Internet may be ushering in a new Renaissance after the Dark Age of the 20th century. Agree? Disagree?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: It is certainly true that both inventions revolutionized society and greatly improved our lives. It is difficult to imagine what it would be to go back to the pre-internet age or the pre-Gutenberg era. I am skeptical, however, if technological revolutions in and of themselves also bring about moral progress and an advance toward greater freedom. I am more inclined to think that technology and technological advances are "neutral" in this regard. The Internet can be used to unearth and spread the truth as much as to spread lies and confusion. It has given us unheard of possibilities to evade and undermine our enemy the state, but it has also given the state unheard of possibilities of spying on us and ruining us. We are richer today, with the Internet, than we were, let's say, in 1900, without it (and we are richer not because of the state but in spite of it). But I would emphatically deny that we are freer today than we were in 1900. Quite to the contrary.
Daily Bell: Any final thoughts? Can you tell us what you are working on now? Any books or websites you would like to recommend?
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: I once deviated from my principle not to speak about my work until it was done. I have regretted this deviation. It was a mistake that I won't repeat. As for books, I recommend above all reading the major works of my two masters, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, not just once, but repeatedly from time to time. Their work is still unsurpassed and will remain so for a long time to come. As for websites, I go most regularly to mises.org and to lewrockwell.com. As for other sites: I have been called an extremist, a reactionary, a revisionist, an elitist, a supremacist, a racist, a homophobe, an anti-Semite, a right-winger, a theocrat, a godless cynic, a fascist and, of course, a must for every German, a Nazi. So, it should be expected that I have a foible for politically "incorrect" sites that every "modern," "decent," "civilized," "tolerant," and "enlightened" man is supposed to ignore and avoid.
Daily Bell: Thank you for your time in answering these questions. It has been a special honor to address them to you in the context of your remarkable work.
Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe: You're welcome.
What a great interview. We say this immodestly because with some exceptions (free-banking and money competition being notable ones), Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, one of the finest libertarian thinkers and educators in the world today, actually seemed to agree with some of what has been proposed in these modest pages for several years. Don't take our word for it. Reread the interview if you wish. To have someone of Dr. Hoppe's caliber of mind endorse and elaborate on fundamental perceptions such as we have advanced on occasion is incredibly affirming and even (we don't mind admitting) intellectually satisfying.
On a less frivolous note, what comes across in the interview is that Dr. Hoppe is one of those peculiar individuals who, having glimpsed truth not available to most people, is unable by temperament to temporize about its validity. One sees this characteristic reflected in the work and narratives of Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises to name two brilliant thinkers that come to mind. The inability to avoid the conclusions (or to shy away from voicing them) developed from one's belief system is a telltale sign of intellectual courage and even, we submit, greatness.
It is indeed rare to have the privilege of conducting a dialogue with a truly clarified intellect, someone in fact with a mercilessly resonant frame of reference. If you read the interview closely, you can actually see (or hear) the disciplined approach with which Dr. Hoppe approaches the issues on which he comments. Each position is developed rationally and each conclusion evolves relentlessly from evidence adumbrated.
We won't write much more because like a great musical composition, this interview in our view is best appreciated on its own. Our clumsy commentary probably only detracts from its muscularity and elegant austerity. Of course, you may not appreciate our efforts, dear reader, but please acknowledge the courtesy, wisdom and intellectual courage of one of the world's profound free-market thinkers, Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
Posted by clark on 04/02/13 09:12 PM
Fantastic interview! The best part, it was easy to understand by anyone, and it covered a lot of ground.
From my perspective, libertarianism and Anarcho-capitalism are the very opposite of Fascism, so perhaps I'm biased.
I love this type of liberty and freedom stuff. I only wish even more people would read it. ... AND not let it go in one ear and out the other.
Posted by Dwight Ward on 04/15/11 07:28 AM
I intellectually rejected the libertarian position years ago as only a precursor to fascism. Yet, as someone who bows to relentless reason, this guy catches my attention.
Posted by Geopark on 04/08/11 06:25 PM
Thanks for that.
Took a partial listen to the first link you posted (Freedomain Radio: #67). Hopefully over the weekend will have time to read/listen up and post some thoughts, comments, questions.
Posted by Adam on 04/08/11 01:14 PM
'...dictionary definition of affect ... If I substitute the word creation' for the word 'affect' in your writing it starts to make sense.'
Should be 'effect' (meaning: the result of), so I've learned (I think).
Posted by Geopark on 04/05/11 09:22 PM
Lot's to chew on here and much appreciated. 'Bout cocktail hour here so I'll probably not post again until morning. Hope to continue the conversation.
One note (pardon the upcoming pun) the last thoughts by Rothbard(Mises) immediately made me think of a past study I did of American Jazz music. Many musicians I read talked of the uniqueness of every playing of even the same song much as Rothbard . . "each event is a complex resultant of a shifting variety . . of relationships with the others (players, audience, room, mood etc. etc)".
Posted by Adam on 04/05/11 09:10 PM
Typo and clarification:
'...ideas may not be scarce, but **they** are still property, are still affects/creations of the body.'
Every idea is uniquely created, by a unique being/body, at a unique time, and is thus uniquely scarce. But the fact of scarcity doesn't guarantee the idea has value.
Many people may later find that all had a very similar idea, but the creation of those ideas were each unique. Ideas are easily replicable and transmittable and so are difficult to protect, but they are still property, affects/creations of the body.
Posted by Adam on 04/05/11 08:54 PM
Geopark: "The thought of oil sands or tar pits land comes to mind as something which would have elicited no 'property' response from a farmer before oil was a valued commodity."
Agree. If the farmer didn't act upon that resource, he was not creating property.
Property is an affect of the body: Your body is your property and you use your property/body to create more property.
Whilst, I agree the word "creation" does indeed clarify, the word "affect" makes it clear that your body is ALWAYS creating property. The following podcasts might help with that idea:
Freedomain Radio: #67. Property Rights (MP3)
"Each human being is the master of his body. People are responsible for the affects of their bodies... We own what we create with our body. Property results from one's ownership of one's body."
Click to view link
Freedomain Radio: #29: Property Rights On A Desert Island (MP3)
"Everything you do creates something. In creating something, it has to be yours. Property is an act of creation."
Click to view link
How We Come to Own Ourselves by Stephan Kinsella
'The primary social evil of our time is lack of respect for self-ownership rights. Self-ownership is rendered meaningless if the right to own private property is not also respected. The unique relationship between a person and "his" body -- his direct and immediate control over the body, and the fact that, at least in some sense, a body is a given person and vice versa ... is what constitutes the objective link sufficient to give that person better title to his body than any third party claimant, even his parents... Any outsider who claims another's body cannot deny this objective link and its special status, since the outsider also necessarily presupposes this in his own case. This is so because in seeking dominion over the other, in asserting ownership over the other's body, he has to presuppose his own ownership of his body, which demonstrates he does place a certain significance on this link, at the same time that he disregards the significance of the other's link to his own body.'
Click to view link
In my previous reply, I purposely didn't engage the 'scarcity equals value' argument because value is entirely subjective regardless of scarcity. There's a great quote that speaks to this idea:
"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." -- Warren Buffett
Click to view link
I don't deny that scarcity exists. It is a conceptual measure of quantity. The concept of scarcity is the result of the brain/body, of property. Therefore scarcity cannot establish property. A body (property) was a necessary prerequisite to the creation of the concept of 'scarcity' and is a necessary prerequisite to the use of the concept of scarcity to measure quantity.
This is why I say to forget 'the argument from scarcity'. Contrary to Hoppe's argument (and I have no idea why he even makes this argument given that he established intellectual property via his argumentation ethics), ideas may not be scarce but there are still property, are still affects/creations of the body. Scarcity cannot establish what is and is not property. Scarcity can only tell you how much (or how little) property exists.
For the wider debate about protecting property (including intellectual property), see my comment above at 5:08:55 PM
Geopark: "It seems to me that this shows that "Property (established by human action/affects . . " does indeed repeat. Does Praxeology (logical action based on thought?) teach otherwise as you suggest?"
History/Human Action does not repeat, thus the action that is the creation of property does not repeat. Sure, you can duplicate a digital file, but each copy is created at a unique moment in time. And time has a value, economic information, for example.
Praxeology: The Methodology of Austrian Economics by Murray N. Rothbard
'...each historical event, as Mises pointed out, is not simple and repeatable; each event is a complex resultant of a shifting variety of multiple causes, none of which ever remains in constant relationships with the others. Every historical event, therefore, is heterogeneous, and therefore historical events cannot be used either to test or to construct laws of history, quantitative or otherwise.'
Click to view link
Posted by Geopark on 04/05/11 07:59 PM
If I substitute the word creation' for the word 'affect' in your writing it starts to make sense. Property comes into being only if a "unique body" (i.e. any body) "affects" or 'creates' it to be so. Though the essence of a thing is unchanged by the perception of 'any body' its identity certainly may be. The thought of oil sands or tar pits land comes to mind as something which would have elicited no 'property' response from a farmer before oil was a valued commodity.
Your thought that "-and so all property is uniquely scarce" does logically follow "unique body". I am unsure however how this thought applies to the idea of "scarcity". It seems to me that "scarcity" is the idea of demand exceeding supply. If ten (pure) farmers saw oil soaked land the 'scarcity factor' would be zero/ten or zero. If ten oilmen saw the same land then the 'scarcity factor' would likely be the maximum of ten/ten or one. It seems to me that this shows that "Property (established by human action/affects . . " does indeed repeat. Does Praxeology (logical action based on thought?) teach otherwise as you suggest?
Posted by Geopark on 04/05/11 06:42 PM
I read the Wikipedia entry on Praxeology and a dictionary definition of affect and I am still not sure what your are saying. I'll keep working on it, I do have a Tolkein 'Ent' kind of mind. Much appreciate your feedback as the Wikipedia entry is quite good with references to Mises and Hoppe.
Posted by Adam on 04/05/11 04:10 PM
Forget the argument from scarcity. Hoppe and Kinsella should too.
Scarcity does not establish property. Property is an affect of the body -- YOUR unique body -- and so all property is uniquely scarce. Property (established by human action/affects of the body) does not repeat just as history does not repeat. A fundamental insight from Praxeology.
The concept of 'scarcity' is an affect of the body, an intellectual thought, thoughts being properties of the brain/body.
Scarcity cannot, and does not, establish property.
Posted by Geopark on 04/03/11 02:15 PM
@Bill Ross on 3/31/2011 9:33:03 AM
I'm getting a picture here from your comments as well as Stranger, DB and others as relates to Dr. Hoppe's statement:
"the idea of intellectual property rights is not just wrong and confused but dangerous. And I have already touched upon why this is so. Ideas ‒ recipes, formulas, statements, arguments, algorithms, theorems, melodies, patterns, rhythms, images, etc. ‒ are certainly goods (insofar as they are good, not bad, recipes, etc.), but they are not scarce goods. Once thought and expressed, they are free, inexhaustible goods. I whistle a melody or write down a poem, you hear the melody or read the poem and reproduce or copy it. In doing so you have not taken anything away from me. I can whistle and write as before. In fact, the entire world can copy me and yet nothing is taken from me. (If I didn't want anyone to copy my ideas I only have to keep them to myself and never express them.)"
It seems to me that the primary objection for Dr. Hoppe, The Bell, and most other feedbackers is not the essence of IP itself but the fact that 'The State' is the primary enforcer of the same. In this I quite agree in principle although I am unclear as to how it would look in reality (RE: the Might is Right theme which has been mentioned more than once within the feedback).
I am still having a difficult time with Dr. Hoppe's statement that:
"(IP) are certainly goods (insofar as they are good, not bad, recipes, etc.), but they are not scarce goods."
Your specific explanation for this as I understand it, Mr. Ross, is that to be "scarce", a good must "provide REAL value (contribute to survival by saving life equals time and energy or providing unique knowlege to achieve the same)".
I can understand this viewpoint but it seems so limiting. As an appreciator of art of all sorts I value certain things which seemingly "contribute" nothing "to survival" although I suppose I could construe that these things do "provide unique knowlege to achieve the same". And, if I do take the position that art and the like "provide(s) (such) unique knowledge" than does not that define the same as "scarce" goods in sharp contrast to what Dr. Hoppe states?
Posted by Shane on 04/02/11 08:26 PM
Let me make this really easy for you:
You either agree that initiatory aggression is immoral and illegitimate or you don't. Simple.
If you agree with this principle, then logic and consistency requires you to apply it UNIVERSALLY. Simple.
This is the CORE of the debate between statists and anarchists--a debate that statists work VERY hard to avoid.
Posted by Patrick on 04/01/11 02:04 AM
Yo, you said no mp3 available at the moment in your reply to me above in the comments. Is one going to come? Like do you even conduct these interview orally? Or are they done in writing (ie. email, IM, etc)?
Reply from The Daily Bell
Don't know if there will be mp3 or not though it is a good idea ...
Posted by Stranger on 03/31/11 11:30 PM
I find the notion that IP is only valid if enforced yourself to be absurd. Even the most die hard anarcho-capitalist accept that you can pay someone in return for protection and justice (a division of labor in security), hence you should be able to pay someone to defend your IP. It so happens that the state maintains a monopoly on this good, and so far as this is true the state must defend IP rights.
These are fallacies #10 and #17 on the list, by the way.
Click to view link
Click to view link
Reply from The Daily Bell
Even the most die hard anarcho-capitalist accept that you can pay someone in return for protection and justice (a division of labor in security), hence you should be able to pay someone to defend your IP. It so happens that the state maintains a monopoly on this good, and so far as this is true the state must defend IP rights.
By all means, defend your "right" to IP. Just don't use the force of the State to do so. Ask yourself why the state and its backers are willing to enforce your IP right. It is certainly not because they have YOUR best interests at heart. It is all about controlling access to information and gradually making sure that only "approved" information is available. Your argument plays right into this information rationing. That's something even the most diehard anarcho-capitalist should be able to understand.
Posted by Gil on 03/31/11 10:05 PM
Ok Shane let put it another way:
If I oppose government speed limits then I don't see should why I should have to accept private road speed limits. Or if government censorhip is bad then private censorship is good. The government rules are bad but private rules are good. And, ultimately, government is bad but living in a private company town is good.
If Anarchism could exist it would simply mean private actors are owning land and making rules over that land while expecting payment for it. That is to say, the State has merely been privatised as opposed to something that would be totally different. Considering there's already Anarchism on a global scale because there's no global government then there would little difference. In other words, if you're not the lead dog the view is always the same.
Posted by PaulEd on 03/31/11 06:25 PM
Q: "No one is saying private ownership of information can't, or shouldn't exist. Only that a monopoly on IP shouldn't be enforced by the STATE."
DB: This is a profound point. But we have NEVER gotten that sense from Kinsella.
DB: Maybe Hoppe argues it; if so, he is our very close to our belief that people should have the right to enforce IP IF THEY CAN (with their own money and resources, in other words).
PE: I don't think HHH argues it either. There can be no property in ideas, only in scarce and rivalrous physical resources. Aside from keeping one's ideas to one's self in the first place, private enforcement of IP against those you have not contracted with, must amount to private aggression.
DB: Anyway, your argument, attractive as it is to us, is entirely different than what we understand Kinsella's position (anyway) to be. He never so far as we know differentiates between public and private IP. He simply maintains such a "right" should not exist.
PE: Yes, because property in ideas amounts to aggression against physical property.
Do you have links to where Kinsella makes this argument? Or Hoppe? Perhaps our elves simply haven't read widely enough or have misinterpreted some of the rhetoric. Sometimes the arguments are a bit overly substantive (dense, shall we say) ...
Posted by PaulEd on 03/31/11 05:31 PM
@Jacob on 3/27/2011 11:30:28 AM
... Anyway, I may have missed something here, ..."
I think you did. Compare your comment here:
"In a truly free banking paradigm, if Bank X offers a rate of return on deposits superior to all other banks, provided that depositors understand and accept the risks and rewards of its FRB practices, then Bank X has committed no fraud. Yes, those risks can be sizeable [if a threshold number of depositors elect to simultaneously withdraw their funds, or if Bank X makes excessively poor investment decisions with depositors' funds, etc.], but those risks are no different than, say, investing in most penny stocks. Caveat emptor?"
with Hoppe's here:
"On the other hand, there is no problem if the bank tells A that it will pay interest on his deposit, invest it, for instance, in a money market mutual fund made up of highly liquid short-term financial papers, and make its best efforts to redeem A's shares in that investment fund on demand in a fixed quantity of money. Such shares may well be very popular and many people may put their money into them instead of into regular deposit accounts. But as shares of investment funds they would never function as money. They would never be the most easily and widely saleable commodity of all."
You are not far from the HHH.
Posted by Jiang Rui Xin on 03/31/11 03:19 PM
HHH: "The traditional, pre-modern state-form is that of a (absolute) monarchy."
I believe he gets it wrong already from the start of his analysis. He seems to assume that the territorial monopolist governments created in Europe after the Pax Westphalia were the traditional way of governance. He then goes on to attack the government instead of the monopoly. His ideal becomes a place where "there is only private law (and private property), equally applicable to each and everyone."
His reasoning might be correct, but it rests on a false premise. There is so much evidence from all over the world of non-territorial governments, i.e. governments that weren't territorial monopolies. Convivencia in Spain, the Ottoman Empire, the Chinese Tang, etc, all were of non-monopolist nature. I also find his ideal very intolerant and monopolist in nature. For what would happen to those that disagree, individuals that for example want to live under unequal laws or whatever silly thing they come up with and willing to leave everyone else alone? They would have to live the Hoppe ideal, or what? Arbitration is certainly a way people have solved conflicts historically, but Hoppe still seems to have no idea of the famous 'actor sequitur forum rei' principle of conflict solving.
I have put together a reading list at Click to view link for those interested in learning more.
Posted by Shane on 03/31/11 10:31 AM
I'm not sure what the gist of your last comment was... If you're saying anarchy is impossible I guess we don't have much more to say to each other.
Those who advocated for an end to chattel slavery in the 18th century were a fringe group too... Many things that were considered "normal" at the time throughout history (the treatment of women, minorities, and children) are now considered atrocious.
There is a profound moral aspect that you are not grasping, imo, namely the legitimization of force which characterizes the very nature of the state. The perceived practicalities, conveniences, and established traditions of today's state all pale in comparison to the ugly NATURE of the state.
You either oppose--on principle--violence-based coercion in ALL of its forms, or you don't. Its as simple as that. The question of how, exactly, the state shall be replaced is secondary to this principle.
The first and most important step is to recognize the illegitimacy of coercion...until you renounce the legalized violence of the state you're spinning your wheels with endless "what ifs"...instead of contemplating real solutions.
We don't live in the past...just because a state existed in the past (and now) doesn't mean it always has to or will. Barriers to a stateless society in the past no longer exist today. It doesn't take an entire armed populace to repel a relatively small number of bad guys...w/modern weaponry (esp. WMDs) a small populace can even repel a quite large and aggressive group. It isn't inevitable that the VAST majority of humanity must suffer under the rule of a TINY minority of megalomaniacal criminals.
Reply from The Daily Bell
You ought not to engage Gil as you are only encouraging the erroneous idea he has that any of his statements make sense or are worth discussing. Since he has obviously not read anything of consequence, his thoughts and opinions are similarly inconsequential.
Posted by Bill Ross on 03/31/11 09:33 AM
"Would there be a corollary to "obscufication and technical methods" as applies to music or books?"
a) If a monopoly is tolerated on the means of production, distribution and playing and viewing, then, yes technical methods can be part of enforcing the monopoly. But, when innovaters find workarounds, out come the guns. Plus, allowing power to control the information we are exposed to is A VERY BAD IDEA, from which we are still on a downward path to non-survival (by collective ignorance, poor and coerced choice):
Click to view link
b) The market and laws of supply and demand ALWAYS determines value and thus outcome in markets. There is no shortage of music and books, so by the laws of supply and demand they have low value. Anyone playing in this market that doens not provide REAL value (contribute to survival by saving life equals time and energy or providing unique knowlege to achieve the same) is doomed in a commodity market with very tough competetion and low probability of "making it big" (unless you are assisting in the machinations and frauds of power, an artificial market, doomed to fail).
So, even though artists may "believe" their work has high value that should be forcefully protected, the market has deemed otherwise. There is absolutely no relationship between effort expended in creating something and what it is impartially judged to "be worth". And the market (sum of collective self-interest choices of participants " unseen hand) ALWAYS prevails.
In general, the market has spoken: The state and arbitray power must go. They will kick and scream all the way to their obivion, and will try to take the rest of humanity with them. They are too stupid to admit they have already lost and are grasping at straws, as DB (bless them) documents on a daily basis.