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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Role of Intellectuals and Anti-intellectuals | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on August 6, 2021

Indeed, it may well believe that many of your policies are mistaken. However, it must believe in the legitimacy of the institution of the state as such, and hence that even if a particular policy may be wrong, such a mistake is an “accident” that one must tolerate in view of some greater good provided by the state.

Yet how can one persuade the majority of the population to believe this? The answer is: only with the help of intellectuals.

https://mises.org/wire/role-intellectuals-and-anti-intellectuals

Hans-Hermann Hoppe

The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else. —Frédéric Bastiat

Let me begin with the definition of a state. What must an agent be able to do to qualify as a state? This agent must be able to insist that all conflicts among the inhabitants of a given territory be brought to him for ultimate decision-making or be subject to his final review. In particular, this agent must be able to insist that all conflicts involving him be adjudicated by him or his agent. And implied in the power to exclude all others from acting as ultimate judge, as the second defining characteristic of a state, is the agent’s power to tax: to unilaterally determine the price that justice seekers must pay for his services.

Based on this definition of a state, it is easy to understand why a desire to control a state might exist. For whoever is a monopolist of final arbitration within a given territory can make laws. And he who can legislate can also tax. Surely, this is an enviable position.

More difficult to understand is how anyone can get away with controlling a state. Why would others put up with such an institution?

I want to approach the answer to this question indirectly. Suppose you and your friends happen to be in control of such an extraordinary institution. What would you do to maintain your position (provided you didn’t have any moral scruples)? You would certainly use some of your tax income to hire some thugs. First: to make peace among your subjects so that they stay productive and there is something to tax in the future. But more importantly, because you might need these thugs for your own protection should the people wake up from their dogmatic slumber and challenge you.

This will not do, however, in particular if you and your friends are a small minority in comparison to the number of subjects. For a minority cannot lastingly rule a majority solely by brute force. It must rule by “opinion.” The majority of the population must be brought to voluntarily accept your rule. This is not to say that the majority must agree with every one of your measures. Indeed, it may well believe that many of your policies are mistaken. However, it must believe in the legitimacy of the institution of the state as such, and hence that even if a particular policy may be wrong, such a mistake is an “accident” that one must tolerate in view of some greater good provided by the state.

Yet how can one persuade the majority of the population to believe this? The answer is: only with the help of intellectuals.

How do you get the intellectuals to work for you? To this the answer is easy. The market demand for intellectual services is not exactly high and stable. Intellectuals would be at the mercy of the fleeting values of the masses, and the masses are uninterested in intellectual-philosophical concerns. The state, on the other hand, can accommodate the intellectuals’ typically over-inflated egos and offer them a warm, secure, and permanent berth in its apparatus.

However, it is not sufficient that you employ just some intellectuals. You must essentially employ them all—even the ones who work in areas far removed from those that you are primarily concerned with: that is, philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities. For even intellectuals working in mathematics or the natural sciences, for instance, can obviously think for themselves and so become potentially dangerous. It is thus important that you secure also their loyalty to the state. Put differently: you must become a monopolist. And this is best achieved if all “educational” institutions, from kindergarten to universities, are brought under state control and all teaching and researching personnel is “state certified.”

But what if the people do not want to become “educated”? For this, “education” must be made compulsory; and in order to subject the people to state controlled education for as long as possible, everyone must be declared equally “educable.” The intellectuals know such egalitarianism to be false, of course. Yet to proclaim nonsense such as “everyone is a potential Einstein if only given sufficient educational attention” pleases the masses and, in turn, provides for an almost limitless demand for intellectual services.

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Contact Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is an Austrian school economist and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosopher. He is the founder and president of The Property and Freedom Society.

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