by Matt Battaglioli
Hans-Hermann Hoppe is one of today’s most published libertarians. He is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Business School, as well as the founder and President of the Property and Freedom Society. Some of his books have been translated into as many as 25 different languages, and he holds a PhD in philosophy, as well with his habilitation in Applied Economics and Sociology from the University of Frankfurt, Germany. A student and colleague of Murray N. Rothbard, it is small wonder that Hoppe is able to provoke the minds and interests of so many libertarians with his work.
Professor Hoppe, though, does remain one of the most controversial, if not then the most controversial living figure in the world of academic libertarianism. He’s not the kind of academic that one is likely to have a moderate view of; he’s a love him or hate him kind of intellectual, and for a good reason, too. An Austrian School Economist, and anarcho-capitalist social theorist, Hoppe consistently says and writes down ideas that could easily be construed as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and/or sexist. He doesn’t hold back on espousing even the most vehement criticisms of the state and its institutions, and he pays no mind to political correctness. In fact, the motto of the Property and Freedom Society (PFS) is “uncompromising intellectual radicalism”.
Due to these kinds of things, Hoppe is often criticized by other libertarians, even the more “radical” ones, as being harmful to the libertarian movement. People say that his work is more likely to turn people off from libertarianism than on to it, and that he eagerly espouses the social “negatives” of a free society, such as people’s rights to discriminate at will. He also attracts quite a bit of criticism for the sorts of speakers that he allows to speak at his events and conferences; people like Jared Taylor, the former director or the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, and Dr. Richard Lynn, a well published race scientist that promotes very politically incorrect ideas in regards to race, gender, IQ, and national development. However, despite the criticisms of him, it is precisely these things that make Hans-Hermann Hoppe distinct and essential to libertarianism.
When confronted with the work of Hoppe, in publications such as Democracy: The God That Failed, one is faced with ideas on the furthest edge of libertarianism. Hoppe’s work tests people’s commitment to intellectual radicalism, and makes them acknowledge possibilities about what parts of a free society may look like; the good and the bad, the popular and the unpopular. It is relatively easy for a person to get on board with a more humanitarian explanation of libertarianism, as described by the likes of Jeffrey Tucker, because the humanitarian case sounds so appealing simply due to how it is talked about. Many libertarians describe a free society by talking exclusively about the beauty behind people’s free association, and about the mutual benefits people receive from voluntary transactions, and things of this nature.
Indeed, all of that is certainly true, and libertarians should talk about those concepts, as many do. But to talk about libertarianism in this way exclusively, as many also do, is a mistake; a mistake that only a small few such as Hoppe contribute to correcting. When somebody is convinced of libertarianism only through the means of the humanitarian “sugar-coated” methods, they may begin to believe that libertarianism will always bring about the “social justice” and “equality” that is also praised by many of the humanitarian – or, Bleeding Heart – libertarians. However, if they ever suspect that libertarianism may not bring about those ends, or bring about the opposite, then their commitment to a free society will become compromised. In other words, the humanitarian approach does not necessarily foster a commitment to libertarianism, but a commitment to using libertarianism as a means towards a different goal that may not, or at least, may not always be achieved as well as it could be by using the state instead.
The work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe is the antidote to this. His work is honest and comprehensive in a way that could never “trick” a person into believing in liberty. It is not libertarianism on false pretenses. It is libertarianism for libertarianism’s sake, with all of the hierarchies, exclusions, inequalities and whatever else it may yield, as well as the benefits of them included. Professor Hoppe also gives a speaking platform to controversial speakers; not to be provocative, but to provide a platform for well educated, and even somewhat innovative academics and intellectuals to speak to a willing audience when they may not have the chance to do so in many other places. This gives people a range of ideas that would otherwise be hidden from them and helps viewers and listeners to better learn and construct their own point of view with new and different ones in mind. Typically, certain points of view are hidden from people, mostly in Europe and Asia, but in the United States somewhat as well, for being too controversial. This contributes to a compression of the Overton Window and to a certain ideological homogeneity amongst the masses.
Professor Hoppe works through his own ideas and others’ towards pushing back at this trend and offers others the chance to do the same. All in all, whether one agrees with him on a personal level or not, it must be said that Hans-Hermann Hoppe is an instrumental individual for promoting the ideas of a free society and for helping others to genuinely embrace libertarianism for all that it is, and all that it could ever be.