Article: The Property And Freedom Society — Reflections After Five Years

This article is an edited version of Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s opening address to the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society (PFS) held in Bodrum, Turkey at the Hotel Karia Princess, June 3-7, 2010. The address provides an insightful overview of various libertarian alliances and strategies over past decades, including the paleo-libertarian/paleo-conservative alliance, and reasons for its failure. Hoppe illustrates how the state has coopted even most free market think tanks into serving the state’s aims, because they are not radical enough and their principal addressee is the central government. Hoppe argues (a) that libertarians must not put their trust in politicians or get distracted by politics and (b) using the case of Pat Buchanan as an example, that it is impossible to have a lasting intellectual association with people (such as some conservatives) who are either unwilling or incapable of grasping the principles of economics.

In view of these insights and this history, Hoppe surveys the brief history of the PFS and sets out its basic purposes.

Read the Full Article by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Afterwards, discuss the article below.

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  • What an excellent speech! His logic is unassailable.

  • The “paleo libertarian” experiment was a miserable failure not only because of conservative failure on economics but also because of libertarian failure in promoting some ridiculous notion of the need of cultural uniformity, in particular a conservative cultural uniformity. There is no such thing as “cultural uniformity.” Sure, there may be an “official culture” enforced and propagandized by organs of the State. Indeed, I would argue that it is the Corporate State and/or Socialism that requires “uniform culture.”. Any political theory that argues for the need of uniform culture is at root, authoritarian. Hoppe once again demonstrates he is an authoritarian, not a libertarian. He is anathema to libertarianism. And frankly, his logic is hardly unassailable; it’s full of holes.

    More here:

    Bottom line: to think you can have closed culture and open markets is nonsense. If you deny this, then, in my book, you are no better than those who deny the Broken Window Fallacy

    • This post suggests to me that Hoppe is not an advocate of cultural uniformity, at least not on a society-wide basis.

      • That’s one interview, and, frankly, it doesn’t comport with the rest of his writings. This piece is brand new and it once again only stirs the pot, demonstrating to me that his ruminations fail clarify or illuminate. For example:

        The anti-establishment Austro-libertarians sought to learn more from the conservative side about the cultural requirements of a free and prosperous commonwealth.

        What are these conservative cultural requirements and who exactly has established them, from a scholarship standpoint, as a necessity? In other words, who says?

        Libertarianism, historically proper, is neither politically nor culturally conservative, in that libertarianism does not respect tradition or the status quo in either political or cultural institutions. This goes back to Déjacque’s criticism of Proudon as “libéral et non libertaire.”

        I don’t find Hoppe’s “time preferences” particularly compelling, if that’s his rationale for conservative values. I actually have spent most of my adult life as an “entrepreneur ,” a businessman. I could never do this if i had a family because, frankly, you have to forgo a measure of current income and security for a future payoff. If you have a family, you don’t have the luxury of assuming these risks or have the luxury of going periods of time without being paid. It’s one thing for you to make a personal decision to deny yourself such things as health insurance, it’s another matter to to deny this for your entire family. I could go on on about the trade offs that you encounter.

        In this sense, I think, then, one can figure out why the percentage of entrepreneurs in the gay and lesbian populations is much higher then a random sample of a general population. And I think Jeff Riggenbach’s “In Praise of Decadence” makes a compelling case why breakdowns in the authority of cultural institutions leads to creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I agree with Riggenbach that the 60s counter-culture was a great libertarian moment, and if you have read the original libertarians in the US, a la Tucker(e.g., on “Free Love”), you would conclude that it was, in a very real sense, a libertarian revival.

        Now, I agree more or less with Hoppe’s criticisms of Cato’s conception of limited government. But really, this “limited government” version of libertarianism is a 20th century american bastard, and this bastard child flows entirely out of conservatism and the “old right.” In particular, I’m referencing Ayn Rand’s “Minarchist government,” noting that Rand was a creature of the “old right.”

        From a radical libertarian standpoint, Hoppe’s criticism of Cato and, more generally, limited government liberal institutionalism is nothing new. There is a vast historical libertarian tradition here. But, Hoppe’s defense of the “Paleo phase” is laughable. In terms of criticizing Cato, he’s only throwing stones from a glass house. Trying to unite libertarianism with right-wing Christian culture was an egregious mistake, one that should have elicited a far greater round of mea culpas that have not been forthcoming. Hoppe seems unable to admit that this christian culture, that he viewed as essential, has since become the cultural bastion of neoconservatism. So much for Christianity…

        These issues are still relevant. The irony of the Ron Paul campaign of 2008 is that demographics of the people who voted for him were secular and non-christian. But in trying to work through the GOP, meaning having to make peace with the christian conservatives, all these supposed “liberty candidates” are trending toward social cons/neocons. You end up with bastard creatures like Rand Paul or Sharron Angle. You end with the likes of Angle waxing poetic about alcohol prohibition and declaring every American county should have a Joe Arpaio.

  • This is a great article. I have been involved with the libertarian movement for over 40 years as a limited government libertarian but within the past 5 years I have reached the same conclusion that limited government libertarianism has the seeds of its own distruction. Moreover, it is extremely naive to believe that libertarians can engage in limited government debate and change the proponents of interventionism. Libertarians are ill equipped to play on the playing field of government interventionism. But lets face it limited government libertarianism and their discussion of unintended consequences is cover to not turn off conservative (and not necessarily libertarian or anarcho-libertarians) donors and financiers.

  • It is my understanding that New Zealand has made some headway in rolling back government. How can we account for that? Do their free market think tanks operate differently? Do things have to get sufficiently bad for liberalization to be undertaken? Other???

  • As Rothbard said – Did you ever see a politician give up power voluntarily? NZ has been liberalizing for quite some time now, as well as Australia during the Howard Liberal government but it has stalled now in Australia with the Labor government. Only when things get bad do politicians act to liberalize the economy and society. Only when the USA is faced with collapse is there a chance that the politicians will reverse the trend but I do not expect it to happen. I think the USA is doomed to collapse like the Roman empire did and the Soviet Union did.

  • You can’t change something or someone who doesn’t want to change. Why should they? If they’ve gotten away with it for as long as they have, and they have for a long long time, then there is no incentive, no matter how intellectually stimulating and libertarian, to change. As I read somewhere it is said that organizations on the increase are not open to change or suggestions from the outside. They see themselves getting away with whatever they’re engaged in, no matter if they’re planting the seeds of their own destruction, and say to themselves, “Self! We’ve done well and profited for generations. Clearly we’re doing the right thing and all those intellectual siege engines battering against our walls insisting to be heard are merely envious malcontents”. Only when in the decline and when they’re in pain are they even open to the “idea” of listening to outsiders and even then it’s not they that are to blame, but through cognitive dissonance, some devils du-jour. I can see no reason to expend blood and treasure trying to “convince” the unconvinceable and thus becoming yet another industry withing the imperial city.

  • I find this article very helpful, informational, and to this reader, very intellectually comfortable.

    Re ka1igu1a’s statement, “to think you can have closed culture and open markets is nonsense,”
    is wide of the mark insofar as he is comparing apples and oranges. His ‘closed culture’ refers to a single voluntary organization whose purpose requires a like-minded membership, whereas his ‘open markets’ refers to a population wide economic and societal ideal.

    Paul Kautz

  • ka1igu1a’s point about having a family and risk-taking is well-taken (I work in a risky business and don’t have a family for reasons along the lines he describes among others), but statements about time-preference or other economic topics have to be taken in context – and are usually made with some sort of ceteris paribus caveat – even if it’s not explicit. I have to agree with ka1igu1a that the “libertine” population would be more willing to take risks than a bourgeois family man if they could get their hands on the capital, but then again, would they necessarily be more willing to save the capital in the first place (if they felt that there were no heirs to their property)? Obviously, we are passing outside of strict economic deduction and making some “entrepreneurial” guesses about who would be entrepreneurs (in the conventional sense of the word – but we are all enterpreneurs facing uncertainty), but I do want to make some comments about “libertines” acting as entrepreneurs in today’s world. Today’s world is a statist world. It is also a world of fiat money, easy credit, and intellectual property – trademark, etc.

    Where does the libertine get the capital to risk in his entrepreneurial adventure in today’s world? Probably some sort of debt financing – maybe subsidized directly by the state in the form of small business loan or indirectly through a fiat money regime and banksterism. Maybe he can get the money from his libertine friends, but assuming they are similar to him, where are they going to get the capital from? I know I probably wouldn’t want to lend to him or any of his friends, because as a lender, I don’t get participation in the upside of his entrepreneurship if it goes well, but I bear losses if his entrepreneurial judgment fails. If I’m not getting bailed out as a lender by the state, then I would be a lot less willing to take a yo on anybody’s entrepreneurship.

    Now some comment about the demand side of risk capital. In today’s world, certain types of entrepreneurial adventures have higher returns (both expected ex post and realized ex ante) because of intellectual property. Branding, trademarks, patents, etc. It’s a lot harder to get rich writing software, coming up with an innovative production method/recipe, etc., or any of the things that people talk about in the “knowledge economy” if you are allowed to be copied as soon as you come up with it. In this private property world, is the libertine (or anyone) going to be as willing to risk that capital when I’m not as buffered from potential competition as in today’s world? No.

    So then you have to ask yourself who will be risking the capital in a pure private property society if debt financing would probably be severely curtailed? People that already have it – and people that have a LOT of it – and not minding as much if they lose a little of it. Rich people – probably coming from rich families – willing to patronize someone or sponsor a concept out of “conspicuous consumption” or “noblesse oblige,” or whatever. From that standpoint – the modern state is decidedly anti-family – taking resources away someone who doesn’t probably doesn’t want to take risk (as ka1igu1a points out) and moving them to risk-takers (libertine or no) via banksterism. In a private property world, you may still have a lot of libertine entrepreneurs funded by rich patrons as a sort of amusement (or perhaps on onerous lending terms), but they are going to have to go hat and hand to property owners directly instead of being subsidized by the state.

    But what does any of this have to do with a preference for bourgeois values? The way I see it, Hoppe’s preference for bourgeois values has nothing at all to do with entrepreneurship – so in that way ka1igu1a is setting up a bit of a straw man even though he makes some interesting points. Even though bourgeois values may actually be at odds with certain types of entrepreneurship they have everything to do with PROPERTY – which is the cornerstone for his construction of ethics and defense of anarcho-capitalism, austro-Libertarianism, whatever you want to call it. Although it’s not strictly logically inconsistent to be libertine and advocate private property in everything, empirically it seems that most libertines have an axe to grind against property. On the other hand, bourgeois types tend to be believers in property before any of their other values – although this often manifests itself in some sort of neo-con nonsense, fascism, what have you. Hoppe’s justification for his brand of libertarianism comes from the concept of private property, so to the extent that someone can be logically argued away from a statist position – it’s probably strategically easier and more consistent to start with someone that understands private property and then get them away from statism than it is to take someone who doesn’t believe in private property and get them away from statism. And that’s the point. None of this will be convincing to an anarcho-syndicalist, or anarcho-communist, but hey – whatever. I’m just pointing out the connection between bourgeois values and a private property ethic – which should hardly need pointing out. But show me a libertine that believes in private property, the right to exclude others from that property, the right to not associate with others, and hey, I’ll probably get along with him, and if I don’t – I’ll be happy to not associate with him. He can stay on his property – and I’ll stay on mine. I still might trade with him, though, through an online anonymous channel where I don’t have to deal with him directly. 😉

  • grrr – I mixed up ex post and ex ante there -but folks should get the joke