Vital Signs

Cui Bono?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe's essays will not be everyone's cup of tea, particularly in view of the author's stated purpose to defend individual property rights as the basis of a free and productive society. Hoppe tackles his job of apologetics by engaging in both economic analysis and ethical theorizing. The economic aspect of his work is mostly a cogent criticism of government policies that claim to distinguish public from private goods and benefits. Hoppe responds to the humanitarian claims of self-described advocates of the "common good" by asking "cui bono?" Who exactly is served each time the government takes under its control some aspect of the economy—or provides a service that might otherwise be privately fulfilled? Hoppe believes the government is never justified in circumventing market mechanisms to provide goods and services. He judges such activity to be irrational and unjust, ignoring the information supplied by market demand while frequently infringing on property rights.

Hoppe goes on to argue that a cooperative civil society would emerge if consenting property holders could have their way. To an objection made by the less thorough libertarian Loren Lomasky, that the demand for a government based entirely on the contractual activity of property holders is "unrealistic," Hoppe responds by pointing out the obvious: no economic libertarian will likely have his druthers in today's...

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