book reviews

Books by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

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These books describe Professor Hoppe's idea of libertarian anarchy, a compelling alternative to today's social welfare state. Perhaps appropriately, they are available for free download from the Ludwig von Mises Institute   website. (These libertarians just give stuff away!) It may be that not all of Hoppe's ideas are practical. His antiwar sentiment may sound to some like pacifism. But there is no need to accept all of his ideas at once, and few political economists have made as convincing an argument as Hans-Hermann Hoppe for abolishing the State. Given current trends, there is a strong possibility that the State will accidentally abolish itself. Before that happens, we need to consider what to replace it with.

The Private Production of Defense
Hans-Hermann Hoppe

I n this book Hoppe seeks to dispel the idea that collective security requires a collective government. He dismisses the idea that individuals left to their own accord would allocate insufficient resources to security. The question of national defense is a frequent objection to Hoppe's idea that the state should be abolished.

Hoppe's objections to the nation-state are:

  1. The main purpose of the State is to grow bigger and consume the wealth of its citizens. Eventually its only concern is protection of the state itself.
  2. Governments are monopolies that are immune to market forces. The economic failures of nation-states, which appropriate citizens' income and produce only overregulation, war, and financial chaos, are all too obvious.
  3. The inevitable trend among States is to unify into a socialistic world government, in which efficiency and cost accounting are impossible, because everything is controlled by the government. Hence permanent economic stagnation.

The only solution, says Hoppe, is to abolish the state altogether. For defense, Hoppe proposes private insurance companies, à la Blackwater. Companies are inherently peaceful, compared to governments, and far more economically efficient. The greatest benefit would be that, unlike now, we would be free men and women again. This fact alone makes his ideas worth considering.

We are already well on the way to implementing many of Hoppe's ideas. Because of the State's failures, gated communities and private security companies are replacing police, and private companies deliver our mail, run our prisons, and, in many locations, collect our garbage.

However, in foreign affairs there are still many practical obstacles. How, for example, do you selectively defend from invasion only those who paid their insurance bill? Or, if everyone is required to buy the insurance, how is this different from taxation? Who would trust State Farm or Geico with nukes, VX, and POW camps? What would stop the company from mutating into a State?

Hoppe recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect nation-states to be simultaneously abolished everywhere. But this leaves unresolved questions. How could a company defend against an invading nation-state or a totalitarian adversary with ICBMs? No insurance company could survive against a modern army. Since it would only care about its potential insurance liabilities, the company might declare bankruptcy at the first sign of an attack, leaving the people defenseless.

The idea still needs a little tweaking ... maybe a lot of tweaking ... but it's a provocative one nonetheless.

dec 24, 2012

The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production
Hans-Hermann Hoppe, ed.

H ans-Hermann Hoppe is the intellectual leader of one of the most radical branches of libertarianism in America today. His isolationist viewpoint and his misgivings about democracy set him apart from the Austrian tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. But his goal is the same: to abolish the welfare state.

Decentralization and devolution are ideas that are gaining ground in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere throughout the West. The basic concept can be traced back to the 19th century economist Gustave de Molinari, who argued on free-trade grounds that no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it.

That is the theme of this collection of essays by various libertarian writers. The idea is that American states should have the right to secede from the Union. For those of us who still believe in democracy, it is axiomatic: if citizens are prohibited from forming their own separate government, and forced to participate in social programs, policies, and projects imposed upon them by others, how can they call themselves free?

The devil, however, is in the details. We have seen firsthand how a state conceived in libertarian ideals can degenerate into a monstrosity that lies to us constantly, tries to control everything we eat, do, and say, grows fat on resources taken from us by threats of imprisonment, and soon will decide who can and who cannot get the medical care they need to stay alive. But how can a collection of free men and women defend themselves against an army equipped with JDAMs, stealth bombers, and cruise missiles? How can we recover those noble ideals without rejecting modernity and spinning utopian fantasies? The writers here attempt, with varying degrees of success, to answer those questions. In particular, Section 3, "Private Alternatives to State Defence and Warfare" contains excellent examples of military and historical analysis in support of the book's theme.

dec 24, 2012

See also:
Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe