Chapter 10 On Conservatism and Libertarianism

Hoppe begins by noting that conservative can mean only one of two things:

  1. It refers to the type of person who likes to maintain the status quo; or
  2. It refers to a person who "believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things...."  

Hoppe summarily discards the first meaning as that has no substance.  What is the natural state that the conservative recognizes? Families and households based upon private property is the most "fundamental, natural, essential, ancient, and indispensable social unit....Conservatives (or more specifically, Western Greco-Christian conservatives), if they stand for anything, stand for and want to preserve the family and the social hierarchies and layers of material as well as spiritual-intellectual authority based on and growing out of family bonds and kinship relations."

Part II

Today conservatives "must be antistatist libertarians and...libertarians must be conservatives." In a footnote (page 189) Hoppe quotes at length from Robert Nisbet's History of Sociological Analysis, "no principle [is] more basic to the conservative philosophy than that of the inherent and absolute incompatibility between liberty and equality. Such incompatibility springs from the contrary objectives of the two values. The abiding purpose of liberty is its protection of individual and family property....The inherent objective of equality...is some kind of redistribution of leveling of the unequally shared material and immaterial values of a community...." Given the innate differences in humans, this can only lead to attempts to cripple the liberties of the "strongest and most brilliant."

Hoppe credits some modern conservatives (e.g. Pat Buchanan and the late Sam Francis) with correctly seeing problems (family disintegration, multiculturalism, centralization of power in the state, crime, etc), but with failing to understand the root cause of the problem.  They fail to see that the state has no role in education at all. Education is solely the function of the family. Such conservatives as these defend the core institutions of the welfare state: "social security, medicare, and unemployment subsidies."

What Buchanan and company seek is the reconciliation of the cultural policies of the right with the economic policies of the left (trade protectionism, the end of free trade, the end of laissez-faire).  This is simply "national socialism." But is it impossible to "maintain the current level of economic socialism... and reach the goal of restoring cultural normalcy...."  Hoppe deplores the lack of understanding of economics of the Buchananite conservatives. "No wishful thinking can alter the fact that maintaining the core institutions of the present welfare state and wanting to return to traditional families, norms, conduct, and culture are incompatible goals."

It is a law of economics that subsidizing the poor by taking from the rich will increase the number of the poor and decrease the productivity of the rich.  This law, which applies on the individual level, also applies on the national and international level. By subsidizing the elderly, society impoverishes the young and reverses the traditional family relationship in which the older family members assist the younger who have not yet had an opportunity to produce their own wealth.

"[C]lassical old style conservatives knew [that moral degeneration and cultural rot]...are the inescapable and unavoidable results of the welfare state and its core institutions." States are always and everywhere striving to break down and weaken family bonds to increase their own power. Buchanan's prescription is a prescription for the impossible.  If one wants to restore "normalcy" to society, "one must oppose all aspects of the modern social-welfare state."

Part III

If real conservatives must be libertarian (as Hoppe's reasoning in Part II above would indicate they must), then, must real Libertarians also be conservative?

What is Libertarianism?  It is "a systematic law code, derived by means of logical deduction from a single principle....of original appropriation. Ownership of scare resources--the right of exclusive control over scare resources (private property)--is acquired through the right of original appropriation....the first-use-first-own principle." (There is a lengthy footnote at page 200 supporting the inherent, irrefutable, logic of this principle, which I highly recommend to anyone not familiar with this principle).

But are libertarians conservative? Their methods are certainly different from conservatives, but the leaders of modern libertarianism have been conservative (Murray Rothbard and Ludwig Von Mises, not Ayn Rand). In one way they are alike: "Conservatives are convinced that the 'natural' and 'normal' is old and widespread (and thus can be discerned always and everywhere). Similarly, libertarians are convinced that the principles of justice are eternally and universally valid (and hence, must have been essentially known to mankind since its very beginning). That is, the libertarian ethic is not new and revolutionary, but old and conservative."

While conservatives focus on "families, kinship relations, communities, authority and social hierarchy," libertarians focus on "property and its appropriation, transformation and transfer," these are "different aspects of one and the same object: human actors and social cooperation....[Libertarians can] provide conservatism with a more...rigorous moral defense of its own end (the return to civilization in the form of moral and cultural normalcy) than conservatism itself could ever offer."

Part IV

Of course the foregoing view of libertarianism is not the current accepted view.  That view sees libertarianism as "a movement that combines radical anti-statism and market economics with cultural leftism, counter and multiculturalism, and personal hedonism...." Hoppe sees this view (and the real modern libertarian movement) as arising out of the modern libertarian movement that began in 1971 overlapping with the growth of the welfare state and the left's anti-Vietnam War movement.  The anti-statist view and non-aggression principle appealed to the young leftists because it implied "that vulgarity, obscenity, profanity, drug use, promiscuity, pornography, prostitution, etc.... were victimless crimes, [and] were no offenses at all but perfectly normal and legitimate activities and lifestyles. Not surprisingly, then, from the outset the libertarian movement attracted an unusually high number of abnormal and perverse followers....[T]he movement that had set out to dismantle the state and restore private property and market economics was largely appropriated, and its appearance shaped, by the mental and emotional products of the welfare state: the new class of permanent adolescents."

This section contains extended footnotes from Murray Rothbard criticizing the modern libertarian who "knows nothing and cares less about history, culture, the context of reality or world affairs."  Rothbard also blamed himself for attempting to forge an alliance with the left, reflecting later in life that he should have realized that it would over power a nascent movement such as modern libertarianism. 

Hoppe further criticizes the left libertarians from the Cato Institute and the Institute for Justice seeking "the assistance of the central government in the enforcement of various polices of nondiscrimination...[who also call for] non-discriminatory or 'free' immigration." He sees them as engaging in two fundamental errors: (i) seeking to enhance the power of the central state by relying upon it to enforce its laws through the use of force; and (ii) mistaking public property as "unowned" property (for a fuller discussion of the nature of public property, see Chapter 6.  There mistake arises from their "egalitarian concern for the lofty yet elusive idea of the 'progressive extension of dignity' (instead of property rights) ...misleads them to accept the very principle of 'nondiscrimination' thereby contributing to the "further aggrandizement of the state."  Given the nature of commerce the that all property abuts a so-called public street, the rights of private property owners are continually diminished.

Make no mistake, Hoppe is openly calling for the right of humans to exercise their right to discriminate, to freely associate with whom they please and to exclude others from their property based upon whatever characteristic is relevant to the property owner. He acknowledges that such a society would be "profoundly unegalitarian, intolerant and discriminatory....[It would be a society that was on] the right path to restoring freedom of association and exclusion."  He sees the right to discriminate as essential to maintaining a social order, which always "require conscious effort and purposeful action...to prevent them from disintegrating."

Part VI

Part VI is devoted to discussing the nature of property ownership and social grouping that would exist in a truly libertarian social order.  The typical view that each libertarian would own his own plot upon which he would do as he wishes is rejected by Hoppe. Hoppe sees the more typical situation as being covenantal community in which the proprietor (the owner/developer) fulfills three separate functions: "selection of members, land planning and leadership."  The leadership function will necessarily involve creating security (respect for property rights) in the community and creating a functioning dispute resolution process.

Of course, the proprietor cannot carry out these functions alone.  He must have the support of the leaders/heads of households in the community.  These parties must be willing, together, to "defend themselves by means of physical force and punishment against external invaders and domestic criminals....[t]hey 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."

What is one of the main ideas that is a threat to the community?  Egalitarianism, which Hoppe sees as "the infantile view that property is 'given' (and thus distributed arbitrarily) rather than individually appropriated and produced (and hence, distributed justly). Hoppe understands that youth may be susceptible to these ideas and believes that community leaders will be tolerant to these ideas when expressed by youth; however, he is unstinting in how forcefully he thinks that such ideas must and should be contradicted in adults.  He goes so far as to say that "naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contra to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism...[Those people advocating those ideas] will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order."

Part VII

"[L]ibertarians must be moral and cultural conservatives of the most uncompromising kind." The principle of tolerance and state enforcement of non-discrimination laws have severely constrained the rights of private property ownership while growing an ever more powerful state. He concludes by prescribing that libertarians "dissociate themselves from false multi-countercultural and anti-authoritarian egalitarian left-libertarian imposters."

 

 

 

 


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