The Great Fiction | Hans Hermann Hoppe

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No living writer today is more effective at stripping away the illusions almost everyone has about economics and public life. More fundamentally, Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe causes the scales to fall from one’s eyes on the most critical issue facing humanity today: the choice between liberty and statism.

The Great Fiction, published by Laissez Faire Books, is an expansive collection of his writings centering on the theme of the rise of statism and its theoretical underpinning. Some essays have been published in mostly obscure or offbeat places, while others are new and have never appeared in print. Together they constitute a devastating indictment of the many forms of modern despotism and a sweeping reconstruction of the basis of state management itself.

The title comes from a quotation by Frederic Bastiat, the 19th-century economist and pamphleteer: “The state is the great fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.” He does not say that this is one feature of the state, one possible aspect of public policy gone wrong, or one sign of a state gone bad in a shift from its night-watchman role to become confiscatory. Bastiat is characterizing the core nature of the state itself.

The whole of Hoppe’s writings on politics can be seen as an elucidation on this point. He sees the state as a gang of thieves that uses propaganda as a means of disguising its true nature. In fleshing this out, Hoppe has made tremendous contributions to the literature, showing how the state originates and how the intellectual class helps perpetuate this cover-up, whether in the name of science, or religion, or the provision of some service like health, security, education, or whatever. The excuses are forever changing; the functioning and goal of the state are always the same.

This particular work goes beyond politics, however, to show the full range of Hoppe’s thought on issues of economics, history, scientific methodology, and the history of thought. It is divided into five sections: Politics and Property, Money and the State, Economic Theory, The Intellectuals, and Biographical. The content ranges from highly structured academic pieces to prepared lectures to impromptu interviews. Together they present an example sampling of his perspective a range of issues.

In each field, he brings that same level of rigor, that drive for uncompromising adherence to logic, the fearlessness in the fact of radical conclusions. In light of all of this, it seems too limiting to describe Hoppe as a mere member of the Austrian or libertarian tradition, for he really has forged new paths — in more ways than he makes overt in his writings. We are really dealing here with a universal genius, which is precisely why Hoppe’s name comes up so often in any discussion of today’s great living intellectuals.

It is true, then, that Hoppe stands with a long line of anarchist thinkers who see the state as playing a purely destructive role in society. But unlike the main line of thinkers in this tradition, Hoppe’s thinking is not encumbered by utopian illusions about society without the state. He follows Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard in placing private property as a central element in social organization. In justifying this point of view, Hoppe goes far beyond traditional Lockean phrases. He sees private property as an inescapable institution in a world of scarcity, and draws on the work of contemporary European philosophy to make his claims more robust than any of his intellectual predecessors did.

The reader will be surprised at the approach Hoppe takes because it is far more systematic and logical than people expect of writers on these topics.He came to his views after a long intellectual struggle, having moved systematically from being a conventional left-socialist to become the founder of his own anarcho-capitalist school of thought. The dramatic change happened to him in graduate school, as he reveals in the biographical sections of this book. He takes nothing for granted in the course of his argumentation. He leads the reader carefully through each step in his chain of reasoning. This approach requires extraordinary discipline and a level of brilliance that is out of the reach of most writers and thinkers.

The perspective from which he writes stems from a passionate yet scientific attachment to radical freedom, and his work comes about in times when the state is on the march. Everything he writes cuts across the grain. It is paradigm breaking. It is not only his conclusions that are significant but the masterful way that he arrives at them. The Great Fiction provides, perhaps better than any previous work, a full immersion experience into the mind and worldview of Hans Hermann-Hoppe.

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