Hans-Hermann Hoppe and “free” videos

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Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Hans-Hermann Hoppe published Democracy – The God That Failed in 2001.  He began Chapter 4, “On Democracy, Redistribution, and the Destruction of Property” with this paragraph:

Imagine a world government, democratically elected according to the principle of one-man-one-vote on a worldwide scale.  What would the probable outcome of an election be?  Most likely, we would get a Chinese-Indian coalition government.  And what would this government most likely decide to do in order to satisfy its supporters and be reelected?  The government would probably find that the so-called Western world had far too much wealth and the rest of the world, in particular China and India, far too little, and a systematic wealth and income redistribution would be necessary.  Or imagine that in your own country the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds.  While the government would not likely be staffed of children, its policies would most definitely reflect the “legitimate concerns” of children to have “adequate” and “equal” access to “free” french fries, lemonade, and videos.

While I agree with his overall sentiments, the very last part struck me more than anything else.  I brought up the date of the original publishing for a reason.  In 2001, if you couldn’t watch something on TV, you had to go to a video store to rent the show or movie or check it out of a library. The now defunct Blockbuster was a huge chain and there were other chains as well as independent stores.  I remember going to the video store to pick a movie that the family would watch later that night.

But to kids nowadays, hearing about going to the video store is like my parents talking about seeing a movie at the drive-in.  Thanks to the power of the market, kids have access to an incredible number of free videos on demand.  Youtube is the 2nd most visited website in the world according to Alexa rankings.  There are countless videos and you could spend lifetime upon lifetime watching all of them.  And there are plenty of other sites out there like it (and other video services).

And it all comes at no cost to the viewer (for accessing Youtube itself—you would of course have to pay for the computer, internet access, etc., but that’s beside the point since people presumably have all of that already).  Let the seven year old children rejoice!  But Youtube isn’t without costs.  It costs $6.35 billion to operate the site.  They figured out, however, a way to make sure the end user doesn’t have to pay a dime.

Would the state via central planning have figured that out?  Could it have figured it out?

The state could provide the “free” videos if it decided to, but it would come at a steep cost and would not be commercially viable like Youtube is.  The state would have to seize the resources to provide the service and without being able to perform economic calculation it would undoubtedly provide it wastefully.  Other areas of the economy would suffer greatly.  When the market provides it, however, it does so very prosperously.  Not only are we wealthier for having the videos available to us, many people make a lot of money using Youtube.  It’s both direct and indirect.  Youtube pays some content creators from the advertising fees it charges while others are able to expand their businesses by adding video content.

One of the best parts about all of this is that Hoppe probably included videos because he thought that access to free videos was rather frivolous and unnecessary.  He was probably thinking: “Why would we ever need that?!”  No one can predict what the market will bring to fruition and no one can predict what will be popular and profitable any given time from now.

Free videos from services like Youtube is just a drop in the bucket of everything the market provides and that we simply take for granted.  It should be unfettered to provide adequate goods and services for all industries.

 


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