|Professor Hoppe against political correctness
By Gennady Stolyarov II
All too often, in the environment of modern academic institutions, the abilities of honest, intelligent, and meritorious individuals to express their original insights and advance the progress of the search for truth become stifled by the paradigm of "political correctness." Somebody is offended by an insight. Somebody cries, "Bigot!" and whines to the authorities, demanding that a man be censured and penalized for dissent from the accepted behavioral mode of challenging nothing, antagonizing no one, and practicing the art of forming lengthy passages of language without saying anything in particular (for such is the only manner in which one can be sure never to offend). But, indeed, the true bigots in such situations are not the accused, but rather the accusers. The true victims are the men of extraordinary intellect and courage, men willing to rise above conventional "politically correct" stereotypes and put forth fresh theories by definition outside the mainstream. One such man is Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
Dr. Hoppe, Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is a remarkable friend of liberty and the free market. His recent book, Democracy: The God that Failed, is a groundbreaking treatise on the inherent harms of unlimited political majority rule and its connection with the progressive deterioration of individual rights and economic freedoms in the countries that practice it. While many genuine advocates of freedom may not agree with some of Dr. Hoppe's particular remedies for the problems of the democratic system, the sincerity of his commitment to liberty cannot be doubted. The style of his writing is direct, detailed, and meticulous in warranting his every contention. A discerning reader of Dr. Hoppe's work will note that the man is the epitome of scholarship, preferring to insert a footnote into his text rather than a personal attack, and, devoted, above all, to the fundamental theoretical premises from which Austrian economics stems. Nevertheless, not even such a man is safe from political correctness's predatory incursion into ever more individual freedoms and prerogatives.
Dr. Hoppe's first offense, simply put, was that, in a reference to homosexuals, he did not portray them in an angelic light. His second offense was his disagreement with the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, the economic idol of the modern Left.
The crime scene was a lecture hall at the University of Nevada, where Dr. Hoppe dared espouse one of the principal ideas of Austrian economics, that of degrees of time preference. According to Austrian economics, a low time-preference, a tendency toward savings and deferred consumption, is the source of economic progress and the development of civilization, while a high time-preference, a tendency toward spending and immediate consumption, is counterproductive to those purposes. In this regard, Austrian economics differs starkly from fashionable Keynesian doctrine, which holds that rampant spending, especially by government, somehow assures an economy's soundness by squandering the resources on which such an economy is built. In teaching these ideas, Dr. Hoppe mentioned simple and well-documented statistical generalizations regarding overall trends in time preference. "Very young and very old people, for example, tend not to plan for the future," he said. Couples with children tend to plan more than couples without. As in all social sciences, he said, he was speaking in generalities. Another example he gave the class was that homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals.
Reasons for the phenomenon include the fact that homosexuals tend not to have children, he said. They also tend to live riskier lifestyles than heterosexuals…." (Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 5, 2005). Then Dr. Hoppe made a suggestion that sealed his fate and condemned him in the eyes of the politically correct Left. Namely, he had the audacity to remark that Keynes might have been influenced in his advocacy of vast, immediate spending by his homosexuality. It took only one "offended" student to cry "Bigot!" and unleash the politically correct thought police upon the professor.
When Dr. Hoppe asked for questions regarding the lecture, his comments about homosexuals were not the subject of any inquiries. They took up, after all, only 90 seconds of a 75-minute lecture. The "emotionally sensitive" student did not bother to dispute in public the statements he found disagreeable. Most likely, he was well aware that, had he made his grievances to the professor, they would have been refuted on the spot as unsubstantiated. His objections could not have withstood an honest academic debate where the free market of ideas would have given both sides the ability to express their message with equal lack of inhibitions. Thus, the student took the politically correct cowards' way out of using force to silence and punish what he could neither understand nor disprove. He lodged a complaint with the administration of the university.
Were I in Professor Hoppe's position, I would have been appalled to be notified by the university administration of such a grievance. When somebody who knows me has a problem with me, I, like any individual who respects honesty and sincerity, would prefer it to be stated to my face, and not to be extended to involve extraneous middlemen who were exposed to the complaint before I was. Any other approach is not only repulsively underhanded, but carried out with the premise that the accused is guilty of an offense he did not even know existed! Dr. Hoppe, however, was far more accommodating than I would be in response to such treatment. "Hoppe said that, at the request of university officials, he clarified in his next class that he was speaking in generalities only and did not mean to offend anyone. As an example of what he meant, he offered this: Italians tend to eat more spaghetti than Germans, and Germans tend to eat more sauerkraut than Italians. It is not universally true, he said, but it is generally true." (Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 5, 2005).
I might also add that the average income earned by an African-American is lower than that earned by a member of another ethnic group, that most males can bench press a larger weight than most females, and that Russian immigrants to the Chicago area tend to vote Democratic more often than not. I, a Russian immigrant to the Chicago area, happen to loathe the Democratic Party, and am certain that similar exceptions can be found to every statistical generalization, as Dr. Hoppe repeatedly noted. Surely, there also exist homosexuals who abhor the spendthrift mentality. However, to deny the utility of such generalizations, provided their limitations are recognized, is absurd. After all, if I wished to sap the political power of the Democratic Party in the Chicago area, would I not wish to examine the cultural and attitudinal factors prevalent among Russian immigrants that would incline their majority toward voting Democratic, so that I might attempt to influence those factors in an attempt to convince them to change their minds?
Did that logical explanation satisfy the "offended" miscreant? Quite the contrary. His "informal complaint" became formal and, now, Dr. Hoppe stands to be threatened with a letter of reprimand (i.e. censure) from the university as well as a forfeiture of his scheduled pay raise (i.e. a de facto fee for speaking his mind). The American Civil Liberties Union has come to his defense, and I sincerely hope that its efforts will prove fruitful. However, given the rampant onslaught of political correctness in academia, media, and journalism today, Dr. Hoppe cannot have too many defenders. This is especially true when one considers that, if political correctness prevails in this case, it will have won new territory for itself. No longer would it be confined to jabbering about semantics or even requiring a litany of excuses to be put forth before any substantive statement. It would, if successful here, have a precedent for blatantly and self-righteously stifling ideas based on content alone, targeting especially what the politically correct left rightly perceives to be its most dangerous opposition, including consistently conservative, libertarian, and Objectivist thinkers.
Political correctness, indeed, is a tool used by the post-modern left to force its ideas upon the rest of society by packaging them as "the only proper way to think." The essence of post-modern ideology is the conflict between "victim groups" and "oppressor groups," the "victim groups," of course, merely serving as vehicles to advance post-modern political agendas, such as the redistribution of the "oppressor groups'" wealth into the hands of socialist bureaucrats. In order for the cultural mainstream to accept this bizarre theory of class conflict, the post-moderns use political correctness to portray the "victim groups" as angelic and immune to criticism. Even if members of such groups exhibit any behavioral flaws, these can always be blamed on "oppression" by the dominant classes. Gradually, as whole generations become indoctrinated with the notion that saying one word not in adulation of a "victim group" member is the greatest faux pas conceivable, the cultural mainstream begins to become more amenable to the post-moderns' theory of class conflict and the political "remedies" it entails. The depiction of homosexuals as a "victim group" has recently become a favorite tactic among post-moderns, especially after their efforts to institute affirmative action for other "victim groups" have begun to meet serious intellectual challenges. But woe to a white male bourgeois member of the "oppressor group" like Dr. Hoppe when he dares say anything about this new favored class or one of its kind (Keynes) that could even remotely be interpreted as not flattering! The societal dominance of the "oppressor group" consists of not being able to utter a squeak in contradiction of the latest fashionable means toward post-modernism's political ends!
Moreover, like any secular religion, the modern Left relies on a canon of saints whose authority is beyond politically correct challenge. These include, in a variety of fields, the Roosevelt cousins, the Kennedy brothers, Mohandas Gandhi, Pablo Picasso, Arnold Schoenberg, Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung, B.F. Skinner, Herbert Marcuse, Aldous Huxley, Rachel Carson, and the subject of Dr. Hoppe's sacrilegious criticism, John Maynard Keynes, whose economic theories were the foundation of one of the other saints' New Deal, which leftist politicians had been applying to ruin the country for 72 years. Previously, the Left had resorted to contemptuous scoffing at and dismissal of opponents of Keynesian scripture as fringe lunatics. Now, especially when, through the masterful scholarship of economists like Dr. Hoppe, Keynesianism is being thoroughly debunked, its apostles see no other means to avert its imminent downfall but an outright censorship of all criticism.
Free market economics teaches that, absent third party restraints, the best ideas, methods, and behaviors will compete to win the public approval. This is why, in the 19th century, when political correctness was unthinkable, the Western world nevertheless experienced a flowering of manners, civility, politeness, self-discipline, and refinement during the Victorian Age, an epoch whose spirit is almost inconceivable to moderns who have been for generations living under the yoke of government restraints. If it were elementary good manners and respectable discourse that the advocates of "political correctness" sought, they would have allowed the expression of any ideas whatsoever, even if such thoughts were genuinely irrational, repulsive, or affronting, and permitted the free market to do its remarkable work in weeding out bad manners, ideas, and tastes and replacing them with good ones. But this is not what the "politically correct" seek. What they seek is being manifested in its bare essence with the attempted censorship of Dr. Hoppe; it is the coercive suppression of ideas opposed to the agenda of the Left, and it can only be attained via the methods that the post-moderns pursue.
Even had Dr. Hoppe made sweeping conclusions beyond the scope of statistical data, this would not have been cause to worry in a free market respecting individual liberty. The best way to correct wrong ideas is to expose them to public scrutiny and honest debate, provided that no party is institutionally barred from expressing its point of view. As Objectivist thinker David Kelley would say, we might be wrong in nine out of ten of our original ideas, but we will be right in the tenth, and that could spark an unprecedented leap of progress. There is no way to be right in any idea, however, if one does not allow ideas to be formulated for fear that somebody, somewhere, will have his sensibilities hurt.
Political correctness is an integral part to the left's attempts to usurp the integrity of individuals' minds, a post-modern crusade that is the greatest threat to freedom in our time. Even the Left's economic controls pale in comparison to this menace, so long as they can be challenged by dissenters in debates on intellectually equal terms with the controls' proponents. However, the Left's attempts to silence the very ability of dissenters to hold such debates, and to simultaneously denigrate the dissenters themselves as automatic "bigots," is a tactic that, if implemented, would entrench leftist ideas into a position beyond challenge, while betraying both the Left's cowardice and its authoritarianism.
Princeton University's WordNet Dictionary defines "bigot" as "a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own." Let the reader reexamine the facts in Professor Hoppe's case and decide for himself who the true bigots in it are.
G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to The Autonomist, Le Quebecois Libre, and Objective Medicine. He is also Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the Western principles of reason, rights, and progress. Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's newest science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus here.
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