On December 25, 2017, Freedom Today Journal published an article by Bill Wirtz in which he denounces Hans-Hermann Hoppe and his supporters, claiming that they have made improper and incompatible allies, done great damage to the libertarian movement, and should leave. In this rebuttal, I will show on a point-by-point basis that he is wrong on all counts.
Wirtz begins by mentioning a recent case of a member of Students for Liberty being kicked out for his support of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, though he does not cite a source. He then delves into an erroneous history of right- and left-libertarianism. The truth is that the term was originally used by classical anarchists such as Pierre Proudhon, whose beliefs were quite different from contemporary American libertarians. The word was appropriated from them by American classical liberals in the early 20th century because progressives had altered the meaning of the word liberal, although it continues to have a far-left connotation outside of American politics. He is correct to say that “left-libertarianism is merely another socialist viewpoint on the collective ownership of resources, that is inherently anti-capitalist.” But considering “leftists who described themselves as libertarians, as being very confused about what the philosophy means” only makes sense in an American context.
According to Wirtz, the American debate between right- and left-libertarianism is as follows: “the right believes in a strict application of property rights and the left has sucked up to ‘cultural Marxism’.” This is inaccurate; it is instead a description of the debate between thin- and thick-libertarianism. The thick libertarians believe that there is more to libertarianism than self-ownership, non-aggression, and private property—that these imply something more about the values that one should hold. Thin libertarians will have none of this, although most understand that libertarianism is not and was never intended to be a complete worldview and must have questions beyond what constitutes appropriate use of force answered by a complimentary philosophy, such as reactionary thought. Wirtz begins a pattern of applying scare quotes liberally with the term “cultural Marxism,” which he never bothers to define.
Wirtz then complains about Hoppe’s supporters, “who constantly nag the liberty movement about the importance of culture and the feeling of national identity,” being sure to place scare quotes around the word libertarian, as though they are somehow not libertarians. Let us note Wirtz’s focus on the liberty movement, a collective identification which will undermine the rest of his case. Denying the importance of culture and identity is a sign of political autism, as the philosophy of liberty was developed in a specific cultural context and those who do not form a group identity are at a disadvantage against those who do.
Wirtz refers to Hoppeans as “pretend right-libertarians,” but as we will see, Hoppe is more libertarian than Wirtz. His claim that Hoppeans invented this dichotomy is false; the thick-libertarians did this as a tactic of leftist entryism to disrupt and co-opt the liberty movement. Wirtz claims to understand Hoppe’s arguments, but he only does so in a superficial, politically correct manner. Wirtz writes,
“Private property tenants should be allowed to remove trespassers from their property, which particularly includes people who hold wildly anti-freedom believes [sic].”
But as Hoppe explains,
“With respect to some pieces of land, the property title may be unrestricted; that is, the owner is permitted to do with his property whatever he pleases as long as he does not physically damage the property owned by others. With respect to other territories, the property title may be more or less severely restricted. As is currently the case in some housing developments, the owner may be bound by contractual limitations on what he can do with his property (voluntary zoning), which might include residential versus commercial use, no buildings more than four stories high, no sale or rent to Jews, Germans, Catholics, homosexuals, Haitians, families with or without children, or smokers, for example.” (emphasis added)
In truth, libertarianism says that private property owners should be allowed to exclude people on any basis whatsoever, and the extent to which they are unable to do so is the extent to which the state or some other force is infringing upon their liberty. Wirtz notes the prevalence of memes about physical removal among the alt-right, but this is partly because alt-rightists tend to misunderstand the concept. He then claims that Hoppe “could have denounced white nationalists and national socialists as a group of collectivists who use his positions for their dangerous rhetoric” and has not done so. The facts are that Hoppe has denounced national socialists on multiple occasions, and that certain forms of white nationalism can be compatible with libertarianism. As long as a particular group of white nationalists acquire property in a legitimate manner, use their property rights to exclude non-whites, and refrain from aggression against non-whites, libertarians should speak out in favor of their property rights and freedom of association. In fact, because there is a short and slippery slope from interference with politically incorrect uses of private property to all manner of interference with private property rights, those who use their property rights in a controversial and/or reprehensible manner (as long as no force is initiated in the process) should be the first people that libertarians defend. This should be done regardless of one’s feelings about racial discrimination or white nationalism, for if their rights are infringed, ours are weakened as well.
Wirtz laments that Hoppe “seems all too keen to welcome the alt-right as his supporters, gives interviews to far-right papers and only occasionally calls the welfare-state ideals of people like Richard Spencer unfortunate.” Every part of this sentiment is fallacious. First, there is no reason why libertarians should not perform outreach to the alt-right. There is significant overlap and compatibility between the two, the alt-right are more willing than anyone else to do battle with authoritarian leftists, and many alt-rightists are former libertarians who left the liberty movement due to the latter’s perennial ineptitude. Should such outreach be successful, the result would be racists who no longer initiate the use of force in their advancement of racism or advocate for politicians to do so on their behalf. This should be regarded as a positive development by any sane person. The presence of such people in the liberty movement would also help to counter the worrying development of entryism by social justice warriors and other leftists into libertarian circles by triggering them into leaving, though as we will soon see, Wirtz may be fully aware of this and perceive it as a negative.
Second, Wirtz implies that it is wrong to even have a conversation with or use a platform provided by people with certain political views. The truth is that speaking with someone does not mean that one agrees with that person. Wirtz shows his establishment colors here, as this gatekeeper fallacy is the same tactic used by the legacy media against alternative content creators. The absence of dialogue with people who have different ideas also prevents both the improvement of libertarian philosophy and any outreach or conversion efforts toward those people. This makes little sense in light of the obsession that mainstream libertarians have with bringing as many people as possible into the liberty movement, regardless of quality.
Third, Wirtz seems to expect Hoppe to continually denounce the welfare statism of parts of the alt-right. While a libertarian should oppose the alt-right on this point, the implication here is that clearly stating one’s position is insufficient; rather, one must continually virtue signal in order to maintain one’s social status. This is a leftist, social justice warrior standard that should have no place in a healthy libertarian organization.
“One thing should be very clear: grouping people in categories in order to attribute certain behavioural characteristics to them, is inherently collectivist.
Ron Paul, now often claimed by these right-libertarians, has been equally clear on the topic:
‘Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups.’”
This is a straw man; the purpose of grouping people into categories is not to attribute certain behavioral characteristics to them, but to notice useful patterns that may serve as a heuristic for taking decisions in situations which disallow a consideration of each person on an individual basis. A refusal to do this results in a politically autistic hyper-individualism that is incapable of perceiving demographic trends and other group dynamics. This kind of thinking leaves libertarians vulnerable against opponents who do perceive such dynamics and weaponize them against us. Interestingly, this hyper-individualism tends to come full circle into a globalist hyper-collectivism. This occurs because a rejection of group differences combined with the blank-slate egalitarianism of classical liberalism causes one to see humans as interchangeable cogs in a grand machine called the global economy. The end result is a belief that all of humanity is one large collective with universally preferred values, which is inconsistent with all empirical results.
Paul’s description of racism is also misguided, as few racists think only in terms of groups or believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike. Many simply believe that there are significant differences between population groups and that because superficial physical characteristics are produced from the same genetic codes that influence a person’s intelligence, athleticism, behavior, and other important attributes, there is good reason to believe that there is some correlation between superficial physical characteristics and more meaningful traits.
Wirtz accuses Hoppe of “aligning with the worst parts of the political sphere,” by which he means the far-right. But what does it mean to be the worst part of the political sphere? By libertarian standards, this means initiating the use of force to cause the most deaths of people and destruction of property, regardless of rhetoric. Since Wirtz claims to be a libertarian and says earlier in his article that “there is every importance in the world between what we say and what we end up doing,” we may assume his agreement with this methodology. In such an accounting, it becomes clear that communists and other Marxists are the worst part of the political sphere, not fascists or racists. Though neo-Nazis are by no means a benevolent force, they can be a useful ally of convenience against communists, to be disposed of once the communist threat is eliminated. Contrary to Wirtz, this is not an “’end justifies the means’ sort of approach,” but a calculated political strategy. An unwillingness to deal with the context at hand by making alliances with unsavory characters in order to defeat even worse political forces is yet another sign of political autism.
Wirtz ends his article where it began, with a confused and ignorant view of left and right. He writes,
“Adopting the paranoia that everyone who disagrees with you must be leftist, a cultural marxist[sic] or what have not, is utterly ludicrous.”
This is a straw man, as no right-libertarian or alt-righter does this. There are significant internal disagreements in both camps, and there are discussions of these disagreements in which people do not sink into such ad hominem fallacies. That said, it would not be paranoid for a person who is completely right-wing to adopt such a view, as disagreement with such a person would necessarily require leftism of some variety.
“Libertarianism was about not being fooled by the left/right spectrum which only supports the narrative of big government. Either you believe in the ideas of liberty or not. And yes, this means means that there is a big tent from objectivists[sic] to classical liberals, but it surely doesn’t include the proponents of racial politics.”
Libertarianism is a philosophical position on what constitutes the proper use of force. It says that initiating the use of force is never acceptable, and using force to defend against an initiator of force (commonly called an aggressor) is always acceptable. It has nothing else to say about the left/right spectrum apart from the aforementioned. While it is true at face value that one either believes in the ideas of liberty or not, Wirtz seems pathologically incapable of considering not only the potential role of racial politics in preventing demographic shifts which will be hostile to liberty, but any indirect strategy whatsoever. Furthermore, he ignores the possibility of any sort of reactionary thought being under the big tent, when a synthesis of libertarianism and reaction makes more sense than any other such synthesis.
“Dear Hoppeans: you left the liberty-movement and expected us to follow you, yet nobody outside of a few losers with toy helicopters did. As you are the champions of freedom of association, here’s a little association freedom for you: get out.”
Hoppeans did not leave the liberty movement; it left us. As predicted by Robert Conquest, any organization which is not hostile to the left will eventually be taken over by the left. This is exactly what has happened to most mainstream libertarian organizations. The end result is no better than it was when Murray Rothbard tried to work with the left in the late 1960s and learned that they were insane. However, as misguided as Wirtz and his ilk are, perhaps there is a bootlegger’s cause to agree with his final suggestion. It may be easier to form a new libertarian movement that is complemented by reactionary thought in order to prevent entryism, denounce libertinism, and seek a stable libertarian social order than to attempt to fix the mess that has been made of the current liberty movement. Though it would be unfortunate to cede control of anything to people like Wirtz, perhaps the best right-libertarian minds could accomplish more without the burdens that left-libertarians bring.
- Burns, Jennifer (2009). Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 309.
- Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 139.