Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hoppe on "Libertarian Society"

An, uh, interesting excerpt from Hans-Hermann Hoppe's 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. 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 private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance towards democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal."

For inquiring about some of the implications in that paragraph, John T. Kennedy, of the No Treason blog, became the first non-spammer to be kicked off the Mises.org (sic) blog. You can read that exchange here.

Now, what is one to make of the Hoppe quote above? Should we, like the more rabidly dogmatic Rothbardian "paleo-libertarians," put it down to simply unclear writing that has been taken out of context anyway? Or should we, like John T. Kennedy and some of the other "atheist individualist left-libertarians," count it as incontrovertible proof that Hoppe is a Nazi in disguise? (The "Nazi" accusation is more an insinuation than an actual bald assertion, to be sure. In fact it's often hard to figure out just what it is, exactly, that those no-treason and left-libertarian guys are saying.)

Now, I'm no fan of Hoppe. I think he's an embarassment to the Austrian school of economics (his "Argumentation Ethics"--which would undoubtedly get him laughed out of any college sophmore's philosophy class--are a perfect example of the depth--or lack thereof--of his thinking). But I'm not entirely sure yet whether we should really throw Hoppe out with the bathwater.

I want to take a little time and really dissect what Hoppe said, in as unemotional a way as possible, since that didn't happen on the "Mises Institute" blog. So, let's begin...

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 private property, such as democracy and communism.

What Hoppe seems, at root, to be saying here is that it would make no sense to join in a covenant with a person or persons who question the legitimacy or the very idea of covenants. I'm with him so far, but he loses me here: "...no one is permitted to advocate...democracy and communism." Can someone please explain how that follows logically? And what exactly is meant by "[not] permitted"? Hoppe, at least in this quote, doesn't provide much of a clue, though what he implies doesn't seem too pleasant:

There can be no tolerance towards democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal.

What I find most damning to the Rothbardian position that Hoppe is simply describing the optimal arrangement for the functioning of stable and thriving voluntary private communities is the phrase "libertarian social order." I could understand a community getting together and mutually agreeing to kick out anyone who didn't tow the Rothbardian line, but isn't that a far cry from "[t]hey will have to be physically...expelled from society"?

1 comment:

Jim Lippard said...

I don't see the problem at all with a libertarian society allowing subsets of the population to live communally, in groups that vote democratically, etc., so long as they do so by informed voluntary consent.