|Montreal, December 7, 2002 / No 115|
<< Version française de cette entrevue
is your position on the "war on terror" led by the US government? Do you
think an attack on Iraq is justified?
Hans-Hermann Hoppe: For one, it is important to note that the U.S. government is not exactly innocent in all of this. Through its interventionist foreign policy, and in particular its almost blind support given to the state of Israel, the U.S. can be said to have provoked terrorist acts. If you meddle in foreign affairs, you should not be surprised if besides some friends you will also make plenty of enemies.
In addition, it is the U.S. government, by having disarmed pilots and passengers, which made it first possible that people armed with box cutters could inflict the damage they did. Moreover, the non-discriminatory – affirmative action – immigration policy of the U.S. and other Western countries during the last few decades has made it possible that people alien or even hostile to Western values can easily come and infiltrate the Western world.
Iraq (and Saddam Hussein) is no worse and no greater danger than many, many other places. It has apparently committed no foreign aggression and its alleged Al Qaeda connection is mere say-so. A war against Iraq would thus be a purely preemptive strike and hence set an extremely dangerous precedent. In light of this, it is difficult to dismiss the suspicion that in both the war against the Taliban and against Saddam Hussein matters of pipeline and oil concessions (rather than humanitarian concerns) actually play(ed) a dominant role.
Indeed, one may even ask if it is not the U.S. (and Bush) that constitutes the greatest danger to world peace. The U.S. commands more weapons of mass destruction than anyone else, they have not hesitated to gas their own population (in Waco), they engage in economic embargoes (against Cuba as well as Iraq) which harm especially the civilian population and which, because of this, have been traditionally considered particularly shameful forms of war, and spurred on by the neoconservatives and evangelic fundamentalist the U.S. is driven by an almost religious – and self-righteous – zeal to make the old Wilsonian dream come true and make the world safe for democracy.
QL: Is there an efficient means to fight terrorism and preserve individual rights at the same time?
H.-H. H.: What we see in the U.S. today is something very familiar. Governments love crises – indeed, they frequently cause or contribute to them – in order to increase their own power. Just witness the government takeover of airport security, the establishment of an office for homeland security (isn't that the task of the Department of Defense? and if not, wouldn't it be more appropriate to call the department of defense the Department of War?), and the current plan of establishing an almost complete electronic surveillance system vis-a-vis its own citizens.
In order to combat terrorism it is necessary to engage in a non-interventionist foreign policy, to have a heavily armed civilian population – more guns, less crime – and to treat terrorism for what it is: not as a conventional attack by the armed forces of another state but as essentially private conspiracies and crimes which must be combatted accordingly by police action, hired mercenaries, privateers, assassination commandoes, and headhunters.
QL: French "classical liberals" oppose US libertarians and what they call their "pacifist propaganda." Do you consider yourself a "pacifist?"
H.-H. H.: In general (me included), libertarians are not pacifists. Quite to the contrary, they believe in the right to self-defense. However, they are opposed to the initiation of force, i.e., aggression. There exist "just" wars such as, for instance, the U.S. war of independence and the Southern war of independence. In order to be just, however, a war must be defensive, and a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants must be made.
QL: Does the epistemological revolution you carried out, that is, the justification a priori of the non-aggression principle, put the contemporary classical liberals in an intellectually unsustainable position?
H.-H. H.: Yes, in my book Democracy: the God That Failed I have shown that classical liberalism is an inconsistent and hence untenable position. Once you admit the necessity of a state – a territorial monopolist of ultimate decision-making equipped with the right to tax – there is no way that you can limit the power of the state to that of a minimal state. Assuming only self-interest on the part of the government rulers, every minimal state has a tendency to become a maximum state, notwithstanding constitutional provisions to the contrary. After all, the constitution must be interpreted, and it is interpreted by supreme courts, i.e., parts of the very government in question, whose interest is to enlarge state power (and hence their own power as well).
In addition, once it is admitted that states (and taxes) are necessary to provide for internal (domestic) peace and security it must be further accepted that only a single world state is capable of producing all-around (international) peace and security. And yet a world state would be the greatest threat to human liberty, because there exists no exit option anymore. That is, people can no longer vote with their feet against their government, because wherever they go, the same tax and regulation structure applies.
QL: Is there really a "war of civilization" between the Western world and the Islamic world, as many French classical liberals vehemently contend? Do you believe predominantly Muslim societies will always remain antagonistic to market economics and individual rights?
H.-H. H.: If you want the Western "goodies" and aspire to Western living standards, which I have the impression the overwhelming majority of Muslims wants, you will have to adopt a capitalist system based on private property rights, market economics, and individual rights. Religious fundamentalism, whether of the Muslim, Jewish or Christian variety, is hard or impossible to reconcile with capitalism.
Historically, the Muslims had less time to rid themselves of fundamentalist strands than Christians, for instance. However,
QL: Political globalism tends towards the emergence of a world state. Is this phenomenon reversible? How should we oppose it?
H.-H. H.: Interstate competition has indeed the tendency of leading ultimately to the formation of a world state. This phenomenon is reversible, however. For one, people should be reminded that it was precisely the near anarchistic structure of Europe as compared to China, for instance, that explains the rise of capitalism, i.e., the so-called European economic miracle: small states, in direct competition with others, must be moderate to their own population in order not to lose their most productive citizens.
For instance, small states must engage in free trade rather than protectionism. All government interference with foreign trade forcibly limits the range of mutually beneficial inter territorial exchanges and thus leads to relative impoverishment at home as well as abroad. But the smaller a country, the more dramatic this effect will be. A country the size of the U.S. might attain comparatively high standards of living even if it renounced all foreign trade. In contrast, if a territory the size of a city or village engaged in protectionism, this would likely spell disaster or even death.
In order to reverse the trend toward centralization and ultimately the creation of a world government, it is crucial that an alternative vision be promoted and popularized in public opinion. We must promote the idea of secession. Or more specifically, we must promote the idea of a world composed of tens of thousands of distinct districts, regions, and cantons, and hundred of thousands of independent free cities such as the present day oddities of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Greatly increased opportunities for economically motivated migration would thus result, and the world would be one of small liberal governments economically integrated through free trade and an international commodity money such as gold.
QL: From a strategic point of view, how should libertarians act in order to promote freedom?
H.-H. H.: First of all, they must develop a clear class consciousness, not in the Marxian sense, but in the sense of recognizing that there exists a clear distinction between taxpayers (the exploited) and tax consumers (the exploiters). Politicians as agents of the state live parasitically off the labor of taxpayers. Accordingly, instead of admiring them or seeking their association, politicians (and the more so the higher their rank) should be treated with contempt and as the butt of all jokes, as emperors without clothes. The political class and their intellectual bodyguards, teachers and professors, must be delegitimized as self-serving frauds, and democracy in particular must be attacked as an immoral system in which the have-nots vote themselves the property of the haves. Political activities, if they are to take place at all, should be restricted to the local level and be motivated by decentralist or better still secessionist objectives.
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