Hans-Hermann Hoppe is interviewed by Andrea Venanzoni for the Italian Online Magazine Atlantico. Rivista Di Analisi Politica, Economica e Geopolitica @ atlanticoquotidiano.it
Q: The pandemic and the very often liberticidal, restrictive responses devised by states have led many people to rediscover the value of individual freedom, of natural law, as opposed to positive law. Do you think that the general climate may be conducive to a resurgence of libertarian analyses of society and the shortcomings of the state?
HHH: It is probably useful to briefly sum up what has happened during the last one and a half years and what is still continuing to this day. Never before during peacetime have our liberties been as drastically and severely restricted, ranging from house arrests to curfews, business closures, bans on work, production, travel, movement and association. There were some differences from country to country or region to region as regards the severity of these restrictions, but nowhere was life allowed to go on in its normal way. And all of this was done in the name of protecting the population from a supposedly deadly and highly infectious virus that otherwise, without these restrictions, would allegedly cause a dramatic or even catastrophic increase in the mortality rate.
It became quickly apparent, however, that none of this is true. In the overwhelming number of cases (some 80%) the virus is a-symptomatic, such that a person would not even know that it had been affected by it if the person had not been subjected to an artificial and highly unreliable test. That in all such a-symptomatic cases, a person posed no infectious risk whatsoever for other people. That, even if the virus was accompanied by symptoms of illness, the patient would survive his illness in practically all cases (in more than 99% of all cases for people under the age of 70, and in about 95% of all cases in the age group of 70+). That, taking the population size and the age structure into account, there was no significant excess mortality to be found as compared to other, previous time periods with an intense flu season. And that the casualty rate (of ill and dead) for countries or regions with hard and severe lockdowns, such as Germany or California, for instance, did not significantly differ from those with comparatively mild and lenient restrictions, such as Sweden or Florida.
For politicians, however, who are paid out of taxes and are thus largely sheltered from and cannot be held liable for the economic damage and hardship that their measures are causing for large sections of the population, none of this accumulating evidence has made much of a difference. They continue in their efforts to keep the population in a permanent panic mode by prattling on about potentially more dangerous future virus mutations, and exerting ever more pressure on the population to get vaccinated, even though the approved vaccines are largely untested for side-effects and already known to not safely protect against any re-infection by the virus, all the while all of their producers have been exempt from any and all liability claims.
After these lengthy preliminaries my answer to your question can be comparatively brief and compact – and to say it right from the outset: I am not as optimistic as you seem to be. Given the massive and unparalleled invasions of private property rights and natural human liberties by the state, the level of public opposition, resistance and civil disobedience has been depressingly low. To be sure, in places with a long tradition of individualism, such as the US, some notable instances of civil disobedience were registered, and in the countries of the former East bloc in particular, with their lengthy tradition of authoritarian or dictatorial government, people had long since learned how to successfully ignore or circumvent many an obtrusive or meddlesome government edict. As well, all over the world numerous demonstrations, often with many thousands of participants, took place, protesting the various governmental restrictions. But nowhere in the public debate associated with such protests could I detect a clear awareness of the root cause of the problem: namely the very institution of a state. That is, an institution that is exempt from the provisions of normal, private law as it applies to everyone else; an institution instead, whose agents can issue commands regarding the property of other people without their consent and who cannot be held liable for the consequences of their commands; and an institution, then, that stands in clear violation of the so-called Golden Rule of ethics, the biblical commandments eight and ten, and all of natural law. Even worse, not only was and still is there no clear grasp of the fundamental, structural cause of the entire malaise, then, but any public criticism and any outspoken critic of the government measures was immediately condemned as irresponsible, mean-spirited or even dangerous by the mass media and rejected as such also by the overwhelming majority of the general public that still, to this day, sheepishly adheres to all government commands, no matter how ridiculous they may be.
In sum: I am sorry to say, then, that as an outgrowth of the present Covid-affair I do not so much expect an upsurge in libertarian analyses and a renewed interest in natural law. But rather, I am afraid that politicians have learnt from the present experience that a public panic can be manufactured based on little more than some cleverly doctored health statistics and that this panic then can be used to expand one’s own power to the utmost limit of near totalitarian control; and hence, given the megalomania typical of politicians, that they will not only drag on the present panic mode as long as possible, but be encouraged to resort to the same or similar totalitarian measures again in the future, if they deem the time for that to be “right.”
Q: According to some, the pandemic will eventually increase migration flows. If this prediction proves correct, we will witness (yet another) assault on private property. What should be done in your opinion?
HHH: I essentially agree with this assessment. Just as the pandemic has hit poorer individuals harder than richer ones, so also poorer countries and regions, such as the Middle East and Africa, for instance, have economically suffered more than the comparatively richer countries of Western Europe. Accordingly, the attraction of the countries of Western Europe for potential immigrants from the Middle East and Africa has even further increased as a result of the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the mass-migration into Western Europe from the Middle East and Africa had to be characterized as some sort of foreign invasion. Now, as the result of the pandemic, the number of potential invaders can be expected to rise still higher.
These invaders did not and will not arrive armed with weapons and intent upon military conquest and occupation. Yet they are invaders nonetheless. For one, because no one of them has been personally invited by domestic residents or resident institutions, and second, once they arrive at their destination they did not and will not sustain their lives by normal means, i.e. with their own money, but by plunder, i.e. at the expense of domestic residents. Moreover, as compared to former times, plundering nowadays is much easier. The invaders do not have to engage in lengthy searches to find out where there is more or less to loot. Rather, they know from the very outset the size of the reward that awaits them at various locations, rendering Sweden and Germany their most highly preferred destinations, for instance. And wherever the invaders end up, their plundering does not require the exercise of any violence, they come typically armed only with some cell-phone, but merely their registration with some state-office. And the state, then, as the domestic plunderer-in-chief, will provide them with housing, food and some pocket money out of its own vast reservoir of booty (of taxes and so-called public property), in the expectation that in return for such public “generosity” the invaders will henceforth lend it their active support in its own future plundering activities.
Moreover, the current mass-migration from the Middle East and Africa into the countries of Western Europe exhibits another peculiar feature. It is not necessarily the case, that invaders remain forever plunderers, looting and living at the expense of the domestic population. It is also possible, and there have been historical examples of this, that some original invaders turn out superior, more ingenious, productive and entrepreneurial than the domestic population and thus actually enrich rather than impoverish the invaded country. In the present case, however, this is definitely not the case. The current invaders, in the overwhelming number of cases, are, to put it mildly and as politely as possible, people endowed with some rather low level of human capital, such that most of them will end up on the dole and, qua tax-consumers, be a permanent drag on the economy. Worse, closely correlated with this malaise is the fact that the present crop of invaders exhibits also a disproportionally high crime rate.
What should be done in this situation seems rather apparent. The invaders must be stopped and only invited people who bear the full cost of their own presence be let in. More specifically, all boats with so-called refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean to land in Italy, for instance, should be immediately escorted back from where they came, the crew should be arrested and forced to pay all the expenses of this expedition, and the boats should be confiscated. Only a couple of such operations and the entire spook will be over once and for all! The same procedure should be applied to the organizers and participants of invasions via the land-route through the Balkans, for instance. All domestic sponsors of so-called refugees, whether private individuals, churches or any other organization, should bear the full costs associated with the presence of their sponsored clients and be held liable for any and all damage caused by them. That is: no externalizing of costs onto anyone else! And as for asylum seekers, if at all possible, they should be required to first apply at and be screened by the nearest embassy or consulate of their desired destination, because these institutions, owing to their greater familiarity with local circumstances, would seem to be best equipped to distinguish between genuine and fake cases: after all, we are familiar with quite a few cases where someone who is claiming that he is in imminent danger of being innocently killed or tortured has only yesterday or a year ago been himself a killer or torturer of innocent people. Do such creatures deserve asylum?
While the measures required to stop the invasion of Western Europe through masses of uninvited strangers are rather obvious, then, I am highly doubtful that any of them will be actually undertaken, however, notwithstanding the fact that a huge majority of the population all across Western Europe wants their governments’ current immigration policies immediately stopped..
Q: One of the aspects that seems to be most closely linked to social justice and resource redistribution policies is that of political correctness, which has become an authentic collective psychosis. Do you think it is possible to heal from this authentic disease of the spirit?
HHH: I agree that in recent years “political correctness” has turned into some sort of infectious mental disease. There are some hopeful signs, however, that the infectious agents, i.e. the incubators of such ideas, have overplayed their hands by now. The doctrine has reached such levels of absurdity in the meantime, that even the most docile people are regularly put into a state of disbelief and an increasing number of people actually begins to consider the whole shebang as nothing but a cruel joke. Even if the peak of mental insanity may have been reached, however, to really defeat the disease its root cause, i.e. its fundamental intellectual error, must be identified and eliminated.
The fundamental error, propagated relentlessly by the ruling elites all across the Western world is its egalitarian world view. They do not recognize, or rather they do not want to recognize what should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see: that every person is unique, different and unequal to all other persons, and that the same is true for every group of persons as compared to any other group. Moreover, each of these naturally different people and groups of people is faced with and must act under different external circumstances that they have inherited from and that have been shaped by their various different ancestors. Given this point of departure, then, it should be expected as perfectly normal and natural that the outcome of all this should be different as well: that is, that the achievements, the successes or the failures, of different people and different groups of people in life should be different, too.
In the egalitarian view, however, this natural, predictable and to-be-expected phenomenon of widespread and remarkable inequality represents a scandal. For if one assumes – against all empirical evidence – that all people and all groups of people are essentially equal, then the empirically observed, often massive and profound actual differences in the achievements of different persons and groups of persons and their respective ancestors must have some un-natural, i.e., morally questionable, causes that they, the ruling elites, must eliminate in order to restore mankind somehow to its allegedly original and natural state of human equality. From the egalitarian viewpoint, then, inequalities, in particular but not solely of income and wealth, do not arise from differences of personal achievements and the accumulation of such achievements through successive generations of biologically and genealogically related people, but either from cosmic luck of circumstances or by means of exploitation and discrimination and are accordingly “underserved.” And it is the “noble” task of the ruling elites, then, to rectify such inequities and injustices by means of income- and wealth-redistribution and various affirmative-action or non-discrimination laws. As well, it is up to the ruling elites to determine which differences, out of a countless number of observable differences between various individuals and groups of individuals, are to count as relevant and actionable or not, and how then to do the corrective “equalizing.” And in this endeavor, the Western power elites have concocted in the meantime a truly remarkable, and indeed remarkably perverse, rank order of people and groups of people, from the most “undeserving” and in most urgent need of making amends, all the way down to the most “disadvantaged” and entitled to the most generous compensation. There is occasionally disagreement among the reigning power elites regarding the exact location of some particular person or group of persons in this rank order. Sometimes a tie appears, and there is disagreement how to untie it. But there is almost unanimous agreement regarding the two extremes: the most deserving and the most undeserving.
The top spot of the most undeserving people is supposedly occupied by white men, and in particular white heterosexual men; and the top rank of the most deserving people is occupied by blacks, and in particular by black women and above all black lesbian women. That is: what we are essentially told to believe is this: Those people and groups of people and their respective ancestors that have apparently made the greatest contribution to human civilization, that have demonstrated the greatest ingenuity, enterprise and productivity and boast the largest amount of capital accumulation, general prosperity and common civility and thus offer the most attractive places for people to stay or go – precisely those people are supposedly in greatest need to make amends and offer compensation to all other people. And the most generous compensation they owe precisely to those of all people or groups of people, who have made the least contributions to human civilization, who show the greatest amount of social pathologies and who inhabit the least desirable locations. And why? Because the former allegedly do not deserve their superior position on account of their and their ancestors’ superior achievements, but they owe this position instead solely to cosmic luck, white privilege and exploitation; and likewise, the latter peoples’ inferior position is not the result of a lack of talent and achievement on their and their ancestors’ part, but solely the outcome of bad luck and victimhood: the victimization of blacks through conquest, colonization and discrimination by whites. – And on top of all this we are told that all biologically normal people, i.e. all heterosexual males and females, are supposed to apologize, bow down to and make amends to everyone of a different, anomalous sexual orientation.
(Incidentally: according to this view, the earlier mentioned ongoing mass migration of blacks and browns into territories dominated by whites is not a hostile invasion, then, but rather constitutes some long overdue restitution and reparation by white oppressors to their long suffering black and brown victims.)
Moreover and above: We are asked to believe all of this egalitarian nonsense by a ruling elite that is itself made up overwhelmingly of white heterosexual males and that, all the while diligently working on the destruction of their own, Western civilization with their equalizing redistribution policies, are themselves enjoying huge, highly unequal privileges and living in great, highly unequal comfort.
These elites have been amazingly successful in dumbing down their own people and managed to make them hold many patently foolish beliefs. But there are limits to the gullibility even of dull people. To ask their people to believe what the “politically correct” doctrine says about their position, rank and location in the global social fabric, is simply asking too much. It is too absurd to be believed. Indeed, it is so absurd that even many if not most of the allegedly most deserving beneficiaries of the ruling elites’ redistribution policies do not believe it.
As stated at the outset, then: Faced with increasing public opposition: of ridicule, defiance and resistance vis-a-vis the commandments of political correctness, and so as not to endanger their own legitimacy, I expect the ruling elites to retrench a bit from the current ideological frontier and tone their egalitarian message somewhat down from its present heights of absurdity. I would not even rule out a short “populist” interlude in reaction to the present state of mental derangement and insanity. But I expect any such relief to be only temporary. And I do not expect a return to normality, then, but rather the quick resumption of egalitarian causes, themes and narratives in ever new and innovative tunes and variations Because egalitarianism, and the compulsory re-distribution of income, wealth and social position, i.e. a policy of divide et impera, is part and parcel of what it is and requires to be a ruling class in control of a State.
Q: Can you please talk to us about the Property and Freedom Society you founded years ago?
HHH: The PFS is an exclusive intellectual salon, meeting annually, running through several days, set in beautiful surroundings, and hosted by myself and my wife. Now in its 15th year, the salon typically assembles some 80 to maximally 100 participants, including about a dozen speakers. Participation is by personal invitation only, but interested parties are open to apply for an invitation. Participants are made up of exceptional individuals of all ages, intellectual and professional backgrounds and nations. They all are united, however, in their recognition and affirmation of justly acquired private property and private property rights, freedom of contract, freedom of association and dis-association, free trade and peace. And by the same token: they are radically opposed to all promotion and promoters of statism, warfare, socialism, legal positivism, moral relativism or egalitarianism, whether of “outcome” or “opportunity.” Essentially, it is an assembly of culturally conservative libertarians (of the most radical sorts), and of old-school or “paleo”-conservatives with distinctively libertarian leanings. Or alternatively: a meeting of decidedly bourgeois anarchists of sorts. Most importantly, however, it is a meeting of minds that do not recognize any intellectual “taboo” or “political correctness” whatsoever, but are instead committed to uncompromising intellectual radicalism, willing to follow the dictates of reason wherever these may lead. – If I may immodestly say so: There is nothing quite like PFS meetings.
Q: Are you working on new writing? What are your current research interests?
HHH: At the next, upcoming meeting of the PFS, in September, I am planning to bring back to life the work of the Swiss thinker Karl Ludwig von Haller (1768-1854). Quite famous throughout Europe during the first half of the 19th century, Haller and his work are today almost completely unknown. If Haller is mentioned at all, it is usually by historians of thought, and they typically present and refer to him dismissively as an “ultra-reactionary” – an arch-enemy of the glorious “enlightenment” – , whose ideas have long since been overcome and superseded by the sophistication of “modern” political philosophy. At best, such is the general verdict, Haller is worthy only of antiquarian interest.
In sharp contrast to this view, I take Haller seriously, as a systematic thinker, and will present him and his theory of a “natural social order” and the corresponding idea of a “private law society” both as an important precursor and a necessary corrective to modern libertarian political philosophy, and at the same time as the fiercest of critics and criticisms of everything running nowadays under the label of modern political philosophy.
In the longer run, and provided I can still muster sufficient mental energies, I plan to return to my intellectual beginnings as a philosopher, and hopefully still complete a comprehensive essay on epistemology and method.