Hans-Hermann Hoppe in 10 Great Quotes


Hans-Hermann Hoppe in 10 Great Quotes

By Eric Field

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is one of the most defining of contemporary libertarian thinkers. A graduate of the Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany and a former Marxist, Hoppe’s is best known for his rigorously logical examination of culture, human action, and the state. Hoppe has at times courted controversy for his belief that natural hierarchies are essential to human liberty. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with much of Hoppe’s statements, he has greatly improved the quality of libertarian discourse. So much so, that “Hoppean” has become a synonym for rigorously supported scholarly support for libertarianism.

1. Our existence is due to the fact that we do not, indeed cannot accept a norm outlawing property in other scarce resources next to and in addition to that of one’s physical body. Hence, the right to acquire such goods must be assumed to exist. (Economic and ethics of private property, 1993).

Hoppe presents self ownership, the idea that one owns their physical body, as the starting point from which further property rights derive. He argues that all human rights derive from property rights, which makes so called “positive rights”, or involuntary obligations by someone to provide another person with some good or service, illegitimate.

2. The property right in one’s own body must be said to be justified a priori, for anyone who would try to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose the exclusive right to control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say “I propose such in such.”(Democracy, the God that failed, 2001).

Hoppe advances a concept known as ‘argumentation ethics’, which asserts that the very act of engaging in a discussion tacitly accepts the concept of self ownership. Demonstrating that individuals own their own bodies validates Hoppe’s first point, that individuals accept the concept of property rights. At this point, the discussion becomes a matter of defining how one establishes subsequent rights to scarce goods, but the fact that property rights exist in some form is no longer a matter of dispute.

3. Families, authority, communities, and social ranks are the empirical-sociological concretization of the abstract philosophical-praxeological categories and concepts of property, production, exchange, and contract. Property and property relations do not exist apart from families and kinship relations. (Democracy, the God that failed).

4. We must promote the idea of secession. Or more specifically, we must promote the idea of a world composed of tens of thousands of distinct districts, regions, and cantons, and hundred of thousands of independent free cities such as the present day oddities of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Greatly increased opportunities for economically motivated migration would thus result, and the world would be one of small classically liberal governments economically integrated through free trade and an international commodity money such as gold. (Interview with quebecoislibre.org).

5. Egalitarianism, in every form and shape, is incompatible with the idea of private property. Private property implies exclusivity, inequality, and difference. And cultural relativism is incompatible with the fundamental—-indeed foundational—-fact of families and intergenerational kinship relations. Families and kinship relations imply cultural absolutism. (Democracy, the God that failed).

6. In every society, a few individuals acquire the status of an elite through talent. Due to superior achievements of wealth, wisdom, and bravery, these individuals come to possess natural authority, and their opinions and judgments enjoy wide-spread respect. Moreover, because of selective mating, marriage, and the laws of civil and genetic inheritance, positions of natural authority are likely to be passed on within a few noble families. It is to the heads of these families with long-established records of superior achievement, farsightedness, and exemplary personal conduct that men turn to with their conflicts and complaints against each other. These leaders of the natural elite act as judges and peacemakers, often free of charge out of a sense of duty expected of a person of authority or out of concern for civil justice as a privately produced “public good.” (Natural Elites, 2013).

7. Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else. (Democracy the God that failed, 2001).

8. From the moment when a single member of the natural elite successfully monopolized the function of judge and peacemaker, law and law enforcement became more expensive. (Natural elites, 2013).

Hoppe argues that hierarchy in and of itself is not immoral or tyrannical. Rather, it is the monopolization of legitimated violence that is itself tyrannical. Hoppe distinguishes between a natural hierarchy that is absent of violent aggression, and those hierarchies imposed by the monopolized violence of the state.

9. Conventionally, the state is defined as an agency with two unique characteristics. First, it is a compulsory territorial monopolist of ultimate decision-making (jurisdiction). That is, it is the ultimate arbiter in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself. Second, the state is a territorial monopolist of taxation. That is, it is an agency that unilaterally fixes the price citizens must pay for its provision of law and order. (The Great Fiction, 2012).

Hoppe defines the institution of the state as being more than simply the institution of government. The “state” is a specific form of government defined by a geographical monopoly on legitimated violence and adjudication. When Hoppe and other propertarian anarchists call for a private law society, they are arguing for the end of the involuntary form of governments that is the state. Hoppe and company are not calling for the end of law or the end of all forms of governance.

10. As for the moral status of majority rule, it must be pointed out that it allows for A and B to band together to rip off C, C and A in turn joining to rip off B, and then B and C conspiring against A, and so on. (Democracy, the God that failed, 2001).

Democracy is not the same as freedom.

For the sake of intellectual honesty, Hoppe’s most controversial quote:

11. In a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting life-styles incompatible with this goal. They – the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centred 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. (Democracy the God that failed).

Both detractors and partisans of Hoppe argue about the meaning and context of this quote. Stephan Kinsella argues that Hoppe was only referring to the right of a covenant community within an anarchist society to physically remove individuals from their specific communities. Numerous associates of the Center for a Stateless Society take an opposing view, arguing that Hoppe has myopically sought to universalize traditional bourgeoisie values by conflating an idealized cultural conservativism as being the only practicable values for a free society.


Most works are available in print from most major booksellers. Electronic editions of works are available from the Ludwig von Mises Institute (mises.org), from Laissez Faire Books (lfb.org), and booksellers carrying e-books.

Hoppe, H. H. (1993). Economics and ethics of private property: Studies in political economy and philosophy. (2nd ed.). Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Hoppe, H. H. (2001). Democracy–the God that failed: The economics and politics of monarchy, democracy, and natural order. New Brunswick, NJ: Transactions Publishers.

Hoppe, H. H. (2012). Great fiction: Property, economy, society, and the politics of decline. Baltimore, MD: Laissez Faire Books.

Hoppe, H. H. (2013). Natural elites, intellectuals, and the state. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute.


  1. Is it not the case that someone who moved from Marxism to (supposed) Libertarianism needs to have his musings and statements taken with a large pinch of salt?

    • No. Most libertarians started as something else. Besides, ideas stand by themselves. It is their relationship to each other, and to probable facts about the world, that make them worth considering, not the intellectual history of those who state them. I have little doubt there are feminists who deny the laws of Geometry on the grounds that Euclid was a man.

      • There are indeed feminists who claim E=mc2 is a “sexed equation” and Newton’s Principia “a rape manual”.

  2. I think number 11 shows a rather serious flaw in Hoppe’s thinking. It is fairly easy to show that those societies which are most strongly “family and kin centred”, anti-hedonist etc are the furthest from Libertarian values. To use an obvious example, Islamist societies currently. Libertarianism is fundamentally hedonist, in that it recognises that an economy should serve wants by allowing its participants to freely trade.

    Note that I use the term “hedonist” here not in a perjorative sense, but in the sense of simply seeking enjoyment in life- which may mean partying til dawn, but may also mean meals with friends, playing sports, writing philosphical tracts or listening to chamber music. The key point is that libertarianism dies in societies which are overtly anti-hedonist (“puritans”) because such persons need to stifle the human pleasure seeking instinct with centralised oppressive mechanisms.

    It is my argument that a key reason for the (perhaps surprising) genius of Western society is relatively weak family values. Our tradition is for relatively small family units with relatively weak links to the larger family “clan”. A couple who marry become an independent unit with its own goals. This is strongly divergent from the clannish, large families of the Levant. Clan families are characterised by the domination of powerful responsibilities between clan members, and a lack of interaction with other clan families. This leads to several negative consequences; instead of trading, most production is internal to the clan, leading to a weak capacity for trade and capitalism. Clans are permanently mutually distrustful, and prone to tribal violence and feuds that can last generations.

    Women particularly become imprisoned within the clan, to the extent of being permanently closeted. One powerful reason for this is that “policing” is entirely internal to each clan family, who “look after their own” and see other clan members as potential subjects for plunder; thus women are unsafe outside the home. We see this in rape epidemics perpetrated by men from clan societies, whose traditions characterise the woman outside the home as being outside her clan’s protection and thus asking for whatever she gets. (In the Islamic case again, hence the burka which isolates the woman from the environment and declares her “owned” by the clan. Without a general system of rights, the woman has to carry her closet around with her).

    Small, weak family structures force a community composed ot them to develop a system in which individuals can freely and safely interact. This is probably the basis of what we libertarians think of as our beloved negative rights. The small families do much less production within the family; it is thus obligatory for family members to venture beyond the family and interact with non-relatives on the basis of trade and frienship networks. This produces a society in which women have a higher status and expect freedom to move about without molestation (as also children and men, of course) and, for mutual benefit, a general understanding that men will act together to protect women and children in general, regardless of whether they are related or even know them. From this, we get the idea that everyone has a right to be free from crime, compared to the clan enforcement system of “you look at my sister I fucking kill you Luigi”.

    Oops, waffling again. Anyway, I think Hoppe’s got it wrong. Weak families and hedonism. That’s the genius of the West.

        • Ok Ian. Your call.

          But I think it is so perspicacious, and that it illuminates so transparently what humans have previously been like for hundreds of thousands of years. We were, really, no better then than any other clever-ish species of carnivorous/polygynic animals, which would even kill and eat its fellows/steal its breeding-females etc.

          And, this is, I now begin to see, what our temporal masters want deliberately to boot (all the rest of) us (whom they deem “superfluous to normal slavery-demand-management-requirements”, including the “production of enough pretty pubescent daughters to capture and fuck when they feel randyish”, unceremoniously back into (and from which we have laboriously emerged through English liberalism withing only the last 1,000 years or so). That is why your comment og=ught to be elevated to a formal “reply to Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s point”.

          All of you know, in your hearts, that there is a “class” of what Paul Johnson in “Enemies of Society” called the “Honestiores”. This is trying to re-establish itself after the devastation caused to it by the various (English-driven) Industrial and Agrarian Revolutions of the 18th and 19th century.

          It has always existed, sadly, since the Dawn Of Time. It was initially the biggest and strongest male Hominids that were able to creep up most silently onto the area of the “next caves or hutments”, at dawn, bash in the skulls of the adult/teenage males while their adjacent comatose females were screaming in their half-sleep, fuck all the poor female-dears immediately, to restrain them while they wept, and then carry off the less smelly and less ghastly ones for further breeding, having then bashed in the skulls of those who they’d taken more than 20 seconds to “come” inside, and who probably had halitosis which put off the raping-males somewhat.

          Sorry, I got rather carried away there by the awful imagery of socialism, as it was, in the pre-capitalist-barbarian era of human history, which is sadly most of it. Perhaps it wasn’t all bad, since we find many hominid bones, both fossil and recent, say inside the last 10,000 years, with butchery-marks on them, indicating that the conquerors were into “recycling” in a good way, and probably ate the corpses of their murdered male victims. You know…to “imbibe their manly virtues”, and so on!

          I don’t quite know what I’m going to say next, except that I’ve been going on for years and years and years, about the awfulness of those who feel that they have some right to order the lives of others in line with some image or other. I need a drink now. What a business it is, running the Chimpanzee-Type Writers’ nissen hut, then.

        • I agree David. And this is the thing really. I take the view that our opponents who call themselves “progressive” are nothing of the kind, but are all characterised by intense- what word can I use?- reactionariness. Is that a word? It is now!

          This for instance is why they idealise “indigenous peoples” so much. They simply detest modernity. Over and over, they talk about how in the glorious past before evil capitalism, we were all communists. And to be fair, indeed, we were. Which is why the violent death rate in such noble savage societies is upwards of 20%. You can’t have communism without heaps of bodies; goes together like a horse and carriage.

          But one thing I was sort of saying above is that for basically accidental geographical reasons, parts of Western Europe settled on this small family village model and were less clannish. I have done nowhere near enough research to support the following statement; but I think it’s down to agriculture in this scraggy peninsula hanging off the left side of Eurasia. Not universally; for instance the Vikings were pure pillage,rape’n’plunder-ists. But in settled farming regions, the small-family-in-a-farmhouse model took hold. One husband, one wife, relatively small number of children, no grand clan structure (except the Scots, in their bleak northern fastness). Pastoralism tends to correlate with polygamous clans, hence the Biblical patriarchs constantly boasting about their sheep and camels and wise Solomon and his three million concubines living in barracks built with slave labour.

          Where was I? Can’t remember.

          So anyway, reactionary is the wrong word, because they’re not trying to take us back to our own past, but other peoples’. Peoples they saw on a TV documentary, or their Gap Yah (before the PPE, Oxon), or read about in that famous work of fiction, Coming Of Age In Samoa by Ms Margaret Madeitallup.

      • “bash in the skulls of the adult/teenage males while their adjacent comatose females were screaming in their half-sleep, fuck all the poor female-dears immediately, to restrain them while they wept….”

        Metaphorically – has anything really changed?

        • No, not really. There are “groups of people” that still, er, sort of, do this, in the name of “ethno-religious” “customs”.

          But if I told you what the names f their “religions” were, then I would have to kill you. For my own safety.

  3. Regarding Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics, I think it’s a nice try attempt to derive the “ought” of libertarianism from an “is”, but it seems to me it fails at the first hurdle, by implicitly presuming that the two parties have agreed to a discussion in the first place. If a warlord has ridden into my village to steal my stuff and carry off my women, he isn’t entering into a discussion. He’s just decided he wants to steal my stuff, and my opinion on the matter is of no interest. Which is the general basis of plunder.

    On a somewhat milder level, the government doesn’t enter into a debate with me about whether it can tax me or not. It just taxes me because it wants to. Same principle, same problem for Argumentation Ethics.

  4. Ian, you’re the man for putting your objections to #11 up there. Hoppe’s ‘atom’ in the discussion of the smallest indivisible unit within a culture is based on a familial heirarchy, rather than an individual. This issue becomes largely problematic when inevitable disagreements occur between clan members (and certainly for disagreeable neighbors). Conflict is created because of social pressures to unite under the leader’s (or ruling group’s) banner, an ideal for X lifestyle choice or Y point of view. In other words, clan thinking often fosters intolerance, at the expense of an individual’s right to independent thought or action. I appreciate that someone see’s the importance of the West’s great movement toward “individual hedonism”.

    I hereby dub this the Ian-B-ism.

  5. I’m a bit late but this caught my eye….

    “it seems to me it fails at the first hurdle, by implicitly presuming that the two parties have agreed to a discussion in the first place. If a warlord has ridden into my village to steal my stuff and carry off my women, he isn’t entering into a discussion.”

    Ian B, this exact issue caught me too but has been elaborated on a few times with further reading.

    There is no implicit presumption about “agreeing” to discussion. What happens is, by engaging in any form of argumetation, by your action you presuppose a preference for resolving disputes in a non violent manner. After all, you could just kill the person – but you didn’t and instead attempted to resolve the dispute by discourse. There may end up being no ‘agreement’ at all, but the point of EE is observing and deducing the basis for rational and ethical human conduct.

    Regarding the Warlord, the existance of such a Warlord does not have any implications, or change anything in regards to argumentation ethics. A person that engages in no discourse, and just acts with violence becomes a technical issue, such as a wild animal attacking your body/property. In this case there is no need for a rational ethic or justification of behaviour when dealing with such an issue..

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