Hoppe Revisited

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Several
writers in this space have recommended Hans-Hermann Hoppe's seminal
essay The
Private Production of Defense
. I too recommend it, especially
now in light of the events of September 11, 2001.

Hoppe
argues persuasively that collective security provided by the state
is perforce inferior to that which would be provided by private
insurance agencies. Because large insurance companies, many of them
multinational conglomerates, have vast financial resources and would
be in competition with each other for a staggering amount of business,
they would be far more efficient than monopolistic government police
forces.

Hoppe
states in the opening paragraph, "Among the most popular and
consequential beliefs of our age is the belief in collective security.
Nothing less significant than the legitimacy of the modern state
rests on this belief." He calls this belief a myth, and ascribes
it to English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who believed that man,
left to his own devices, would be in a constant state of conflict.
According to Hobbes, the solution to this circumstance is the institution
of a state.

The
problem with this theory as Hoppe sees it is that men who are essentially
combative are the same men who will make up the state: "Man's
nature is not transformed upon becoming (the state)." Additionally,
the state must levy taxes in order to provide collective security,
a situation that Hoppe accurately describes as a protection racket.

If
men are naturally confrontational, and these same men comprise the
state, it follows that it will be impossible for states themselves
to maintain peace. In fact, states will be even less peaceful toward
others than will individuals because states can externalize the
cost of their behavior by expropriating tax dollars from their subjects.

Hoppe
believes "… that the Hobbesian myth is accepted more or less
unquestioningly by well over 90 percent of the adult population."
Does this sound familiar? Polls immediately following the attack
on the WTC and the Pentagon indicated that 86% of Americans support
the U.S. government going to war "to put an end to terrorist
attacks," that is, to provide protection and security. Hoppe
continues, "However, to believe something does not make it
true. Rather, if what one believes is false, one's actions will
lead to failure."

It
cannot be denied that our government failed to protect its own citizens
in New York, or its own employees at the Pentagon. Apparently the
only people that were able to protect others from a similar calamity
were a group of (private) heroes who were successful in resisting
the hijackers on United flight 93 to the extent that they were able
to force the plane to crash into a barren section of Pennsylvania,
rather than its intended target, speculated to be the Capitol or
White House, thereby saving perhaps thousands more lives.

Furthermore,
"the U.S. government has become entangled in hundreds of foreign
conflicts and risen to the rank of the world's dominant imperialist
power. Thus nearly every president since the turn of this (20th)
century also has been responsible for the murder, killing, or starvation
of countless innocent foreigners all over the world." Is it
not clear that this, and not an envy of our freedom and capitalism,
as the politicians and the compliant media tell us, has provoked
the hatred and motivation of Osama bin Laden and his ilk?

Hoppe
summarizes his belief that the existence of the imperial state is
the problem rather than the solution when it comes to security and
protection: "The U.S. government does not protect us. To the
contrary, there exists no greater danger to our life, property,
and prosperity than the U.S. government …"

This
contention is borne out in the current situation. The actions of
our own government have posed grave danger to life (U.S provocation
leading to perhaps 10,000 of our own citizens dying in one day,
with the deaths of countless innocent foreigners sure to come),
property (the World Trade Center Twin Towers reduced to rubble)
and prosperity (airlines going bankrupt, likely to be bailed out
by your tax dollars; $40 billion and counting handed to the president
by Congress; the Fed printing over $100 billion in fiat currency
in two days, coupled with more interest rate cuts — inflationary
policies that act as hidden taxes).

"…
the U.S. president in particular is the world's single most threatening
and armed danger, capable of ruining everyone who opposes him and
destroying the entire globe."

Congress
has approved a resolution authorizing President Bush to “use all
necessary and appropriate force” against those involved in Tuesday’s
deadly terrorist attacks. Those who don't line up behind Bush will
surely be considered enemies, whether they are foreign or domestic.
And with everything on the table militarily, including nuclear weapons,
it is not a stretch to imagine that global warfare will be the result.

While
we can plainly see that Hoppe foresaw the recent events insofar
as they were caused by actions of the state, how is it that they
could have been avoided in a Hoppean world? He argues that insurers
would protect us from state aggression, just as they would from
the aggression of individuals. Because governments "are inherently
wasteful and inefficient in whatever they do, (including) weapons
technology and production, military intelligence and strategy,"
they would be unable to compete with private insurance agencies
whose profit motive would lead to superior efficiency. Further,
agents of a state would be regarded as unwelcome interlopers, leading
to emigration of residents of state-controlled territories to free
territories, thus weakening those governments.

Even
if a free territory were to be attacked or invaded by a state, "the
aggressor would not encounter an unarmed population." In this
instance, the hijackers armed with knives and the bluff of a bomb
would have been met by superior firepower held by the free men and
women on those planes. More likely, the hijackings would never have
occurred. Hoppe points out that insurers would have no desire to
disarm their clients. On the contrary, it is states that seek to
disarm their subjects in order to make the plunder of taxation easier
to affect.

Moreover,
an invading state would likely be met by multiple insurance firms.
Should the attack succeed, said insurance firms would be responsible
for enormous indemnification payments. In order to preclude making
those payments, insurers would be prepared to defend their clients
by possessing superior intelligence, weapons and personnel. Hoppe
envisions a two-pronged strategy: repelling or eliminating invaders
and minimizing collateral damage (in stark contrast to, say, Madeline
Albright); and targeting the offending state for reprisal, hoping
to encourage opposition to that government, possibly leading to
the transformation of the state to a free territory.

Clearly
in a Hoppean climate, the tragic events of September 11 would never
have occurred. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. What will it
make it reality? Again, Hoppe shows the way: "Without the erroneous
public perception and judgment of the state as just and necessary
and without the public's voluntary cooperation, even the seemingly
most powerful government would implode and its powers evaporate."

Hoppe
also invokes Murray Rothbard from Power
and Market
. "It follows that just as socialism cannot
be reformed but must be abolished in order to achieve prosperity,
so can the institution of a state not be reformed but must be abolished
in order to achieve justice and protection."

That
eventuality seems remote right now. But it is up to us to make it
happen. Talk to everyone you know who will listen about the advantages
of liberty. Print out The
Private Production of Defense
and mail it to your friends. Send
them articles via email from this site, Antiwar.com
and other appropriate sites. Go in with friends and buy 100 copies
of Frederic Bastiat's The Law for $150 from Laissez
Faire Books
and give one to everyone on your Christmas
list.

Perhaps
if we do this, and it becomes apparent in five or ten years that
the government has not ended terrorism despite the expenditure
of hundreds of billions of dollars and the slaughter of tens of
thousands of people, the vision of Hans-Hermann Hoppe can be realized.

Rick
Gee (send him mail) is
a writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also authors a monthly
column "On Liberty" for The Valley News.

September
4, 2001

Rick
Gee (send him mail) is
a freelance writer residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also authors
a monthly column “On Liberty” for The Valley News.

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