Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the German Extremist Nationalist Right

July 1, 2005

Rockwell and Hoppe.jpg
Lew Rockwell and Hans-Hermann Hoppe: Together They Have
Opened the Gates of Hell and Welcomed the Most Extreme Right
-Wing Racists, Nationalists, and Assorted Cranks

The nutty professor from Las Vegas who has had such problems with his remarks about “undesirables” has been interviewed in the right-wing extreme nationalist German publication, Junge Freiheit, which celebrated his attacks on “democracy,” a concept which, it turns out, they also oppose. Junge Freiheit describes itself as follows:

Die JUNGE FREIHEIT h��?���¤lt die gro��?���¸e kulturelle und geistige Tradition der deutschen Nation in Ehren. Ihr Ziel ist die politische Emanzipation Deutschlands und Europas und die Bewahrung der Identit��?���¤t und der Freiheit der V��?���¶lker der Welt.

Translation: The YOUNG FREEDOM (paper) upholds the honor of the great cultural and spiritual tradition of the German nation. Its goal is the political emancipation of Germany and of Europe and the protection of the identity and the freedom of the peoples of the world.

Hmmmm…. “Emancipation” from…whom? Maybe from that group of alleged oppressors from which an earlier German nationalist movement sought to emancipate the Fatherland? The identity of the oppressors is coyly left unspecified, but those who understand German history should have no doubts. (Note also that there is no discussion of individual identity or freedom, but that of the “peoples of the world.” In the “PC Politics” that Hoppe and Junge Freiheit deride, that is known as “identity politics.”)

The paper has the distinction of having just won on June 28 a court case that has at least temporarily lifted its pariah status as being under the observation of the office for protection of the constitution, as Der Spiegel has reported. (The interviewer made a joking reference to the issue by asking “Sind Sie ein Fall für den Verfassungsschutz?” “Are you a case for the Office of Constitutional Protection?”) Perhaps a victory for freedom of speech that that they are no longer under observation, but when publications in Germany have been put under observation it is for some reason. Junge Freiheit promotes the ideas of holocaust denier David Irving, for example, although it’s always careful to stay juuuuussst on the legal side of the line. Perhaps holocaust denial, for example, should not be illegal at this time in Germany (I disagree with those who think that it should have been legal in 1945 or 1950), but allowing people to say something doesn’t mean that it’s true. Its writers also promote “revisionism” over long settled border issues regarding Poland and the Czech Republic.

The text of Hoppe’s zany interview has been posted online by an evidently similarly minded crank (also Geistes-Kranken in the German sense of that term) named Heinrich Kraemer, whose handle shows a charming little sign with a crescent and star attacking a German eagle and the words “Yesterday Bosnia, Today Kosovo, Tomorrow Germany.”

A commentator named “Prediger” [“Preacher”], who adorns his handle with the phrase “Freedom for Ernst Zündel” (Zündel is a notorious neo-Nazi currently being held in Germany awaiting trial for “Volksverhetzung,” incitement of the masses, which includes holocaust denial) posted Hoppe’s remarks and added “I like him!” Kein Wunder! No surprise!

Hoppe offers an inane attack on “democracy” per se, identifying it with unrestricted mob rule and not distinguishing such a system from the constitutional liberal idea of a limited republican government based on A) constitutionally protected freedoms and B) democratic voting for the choice of representatives.

It seems that Hoppe is not the only one opposed to democracy, for the upholders of the honor of the German nation at Junge Freiheit also oppose democracy. Imagine that! Junge Freiheit had also run a gushing review of one of Hoppe’s parodies of philosophy and social science last year.

Hoppe offers a particularly dumb comparison of democracy with monarchy, in which the former is simply a system of uncontrolled theft and redistribution, whereas under the latter justice is respected:

VerschÃ?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?¤rfend kommt hinzu, daÃ?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?¸ die Partei, die gerade herrscht, dazu nur vier Jahre Zeit hat — bis wieder gewÃ?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?¤hlt wird. Um so schneller und verantwortungsloser vollzieht sich diese Umverteilung. In der Monarchie dagegen, als deren “glückliche” Ã?Â??Ã?Â??berwindung die Demokratie zu Unrecht gilt, war der Staat potentiell für immer in den HÃ?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?¤nden ein und derselben Dynastie. Dementsprechend schonend geht ein Monarch mit seinem “Besitz” um. In der Demokratie gehÃ?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?¶rt der Staat dagegen keinem, dementsprechend hemmungslos saugt ihn die gerade herrschende Partei aus.

Translation: Aggravatingly added to that is the fact that the party which currently rules has only four years until there are elections again, meaning that that redistribution will be carried out all the more quickly and irresponsibly. In contrast, under monarchy, of which democracy is unjustly considered the “fortunate” overcoming, the state was potentially forever in the hands of one and the same dynasty. Correspondingly a monarch treats what he possesses [sein Besitz] quite carefully. In contrast, under democracy the state belongs to no one; correspondingly the currently governing party exhausts the state without restraint.

Not only does Hoppe fail to understand a basic distinction (in his native language!) between “Besitz” (posession, tenure, or occupancy) and “Eigentum” (property), but he shows barely any understanding of why property generates economic growth. Property (rather than mere possession) is the foundation of markets, through which goods are traded and capital values are established; the right to capture the residual (e.g., the difference between the purchase price and the sale price) is what leads people to take actions that will maximize the capital value of their property; since there is not much of a market for the buying and selling of monarchical “Besitz,” there’s damn little incentive for monarchs to act so as to increase the capital value (since there’s no market to establish one) of what they “possess.” Moreover, there is a connection between the legal security of property, as distinct from mere possession, and economic growth and prosperity. (One might compare the experiences of monarchies the rulers of which considered the entire realm their “Besitz” with the republican/democratic U.S. during the nineteenth century to see how that worked.) The late Mancur Olson, who was an economist (in contrast to Hoppe, whose knowledge of economics is profoundly cartoonish), understood the relation between the institutions necessary to economic freedom and those of democracy:

Interestingly, the conditions that are needed to have the individual rights needed for maximum economic development are exactly the same conditions taht are needed to have a lasting democracy. Obviously, a democracy is not viable if individuals, including the leading rivals of the administration in power, lack the rights to free speech and to security for their property and contracts or if the rule of law is not followed even when it calls for the current administration to leave office. Thus the same court system, independent judiciary, and respect for law and individual rights that are needed for a lasting democracy are also required for security of property and contract rights.” — Mancur Olson, “Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 87, No. 3, September 1993, p. 572

(It turns out that another Lew Rockwell writer, Paul Gottfried, writes for Junge Freiheit and “defends the magazine for rejecting ‘the view that every German patriot should be evermore browbeaten by self-appointed victims of the Holocaust.’“)

There’s more to be said, but people can figure out the implications for themselves. Hoppe and his promoter, Lew Rockwell, have done their best to open the gates to the nastiest denizens of the fever swamps. They have laid out the welcome mat to holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, bigots, racists, neo-Confederates, and others who are understandably unwelcome elsewhere. Decent people should take a stand against them.

P.S. I expect the usual comments about being an “idiot,” a “queer,” and the like. What I urge fair minded readers to ask is whether eager defenses of the free-speech rights of Junge Freiheit and their ilk are equivalent to defenses of what they believe and of Rockwell and Hoppe for associating with the racist, nationalist, extremist fringe of German and American politics.

P.P.S. Well, my fears were realized. Rather than defend Hoppe’s strange and economically ignorant views about “Besitz,” “Eigentum,” and prosperity, or his flirtation with extremist German-nationalists, or the call for “the political emancipation of Germany and Europe” and the associated “identity politics” of nationalism associated with it, the defender (well, one and a half defenders) of Hoppe have tried to paint me as a denier of free speech because…..in 1945 and 1950 I would have kept the ban on the National Socialist party. So let me repeat just to be clear: just because a party should not be banned doesn’t mean you should admire them. Just because they defend their freedom to speak it does not follow that they would defend yours. My point is not to ban or to maintain observation of Junge Freiheit, but to insist that decent people don’t get in bed with them.

P.P.P.S. Someone writing under the name of “Clement Goettel” (who, when googled, shows up in one and only one place, this blog posting) has taken up the bulk of the comments, so new readers might scan them (not to take them lightly, of course) and find a variety of other commentators, as well, some of whom offer corroboration of what I document or who pose other but related issues.

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