Democracy The God That Failed
Author: Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Publisher: Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey (2001) This can be purchased at most book stores but it probably will need to be ordered. I bought my copy from The Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn Alabama.
This is a extremely interesting book written from a libertarian perspective. It is a moderately difficult read as the author discusses economics and its interaction with society that requires the reader to occasionally stop reading a few moments and analyze the information before going on to the next paragraph or page. One thing that would cause confusion if one tried explaining his information to another party is liberalism and conservatism at one time had different meanings than now. His main focus is Western civilization, (the United States and Europe), and he traces and explains the histories of Monarchy, Democracy, capitalism, and socialism and the types of leaders that are representative of each system and the flaws in them as we have come to know them. He goes into detail about the rise and collapse of various societies and details the relationship that human nature and behavior played in the rises and falls. His assessment of history has been laid out extremely well and is very logical. His solutions are very interesting but I disagree with some of them.
Libertarian philosophy consists of either a very small government or no government at all as we have come to view them. The world should be run by the private sector in all areas even defense. There is no welfare, social security, Medicare, social programs, regulations concerning business, and public education. Benefits are not supplied by either government or business unless the business owner opts to do it. Benefits are supplied by the citizens themselves. He is opposed to centralization and advocates secession on a large scale and the world be broken up into small states, nations, city states, principalities, cantons, and the like. In chapter 11 he writes: “As their classic forbearers, new liberals do not seek to take over any government. They ignore government. They only want to be left alone by government, and secede from its jurisdiction to organize their own protection. Unlike their predecessors who merely sought to replace a larger government with a smaller one, however, new liberals pursue the logic of secession to its end. They propose unlimited secession, i.e., the unrestricted proliferation of independent free territories, until the states range of jurisdiction finally withers away. To this end – and in complete contrast to the statist projects of “European Integration” and a “New World Order” – they promote the vision of a world of tens of thousands of independent free cities – such as the present-day oddities of Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, (formerly) Hong Kong, and Singapore – and even more numerous free districts and neighborhoods, economically integrated through free trade (the smaller the territory, the greater the economic pressure of opting for free trade!) And an international gold commodity money standard.” He is very sympathetic to this concept. I find the idea of secession and breaking up into tens of thousands of small states to run counter to advancement of the species.
While I understand his theory I do not agree as I do not believe such an arrangement would work. While central planning has its flaws it is capable of greater achievements due to the scope of its reach. According to Science Desk Reference American Scientific: New York: Wiley, 1999, the land surface area of the planet is 57,500,000 sq. miles. (While it is true there is a certain percentage that would not be inhabitable but I will use the total land area as my reference point.) Andorra has a land area of 180 sq miles. If the world broke up into nations the same size as Andorra there would be 319,444 individual states. What about languages, passports, bank accounts, travel, and the like. A venture such as a space program for example requires a great deal of coordination and interaction. A world such as this would never be able to provide that cooperation and coordination. The Centers for Disease Control, of which there are numerous ones worldwide, would not exist. To expect the type of communication required to keep the planet safe from pandemics would not be possible. It is common knowledge the difficulty of two law enforcement agencies have working together and sharing information. The disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 shows the lack of coordination and communications between nations.
As far as protection is concerned whether it is a law enforcement matter or a national security matter is irrelevant to this philosophy. Mr Hoppe is of the belief they all should be handled through insurance companies; even rape, robbery, murder, theft etc. so if you are raped or robbed it seems the course of action would be to call State Farm or Progressive.
A high recommend read. Below are some excerpts from it hoping they will interest you enough to buy it and read it for yourself.
“World War I began as an old-fashioned territorial dispute. However, with the early involvement in the ultimate official entry into the war by the United States in April 1917, the war took on a new ideological dimension. …………….. under Wilson’s administration, the European war became an ideological mission – to make the world safe for democracy and free of dynastic rulers. But in March 1917 the U.S. allied Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a new democratic republican government was established in Russia under Kerensky, Wilson was elated. With the Czar gone, the war had finally become a purely ideological conflict: of good against evil.”
“As an increasingly ideologically motivated conflict, the war quickly degenerated into a total war. Everywhere, the entire national economy was militarized (war socialism), and the time honored distinction between combatants and noncombatants and military and civilian life fell by the wayside. For this reason, World War I resulted in many more civilian casualties – victims of starvation and disease – than that of soldiers killed on the battlefield. Moreover, due to the ideological character of the war, and its no compromise peace but only total surrender, humiliation, and punishment was possible.”
“However, at the end of the 20th century increasing evidence is accumulating that rather than marking the end of history, the American system is itself in a deep crisis.”
“………………. in the U. S., Less than a century of full-blown democracy has resulted in steadily increasing moral degeneration, family and social disintegration, and cultural decay in the form of continually rising rates of divorce, illegitimacy, abortion, and crime.”
“Phenomena typically associated with the “lower-class,” such as family breakdown, promiscuity, and venereal disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, crime, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy, all have a common cause in high time preference. Their cause is not unemployment or low income. Rather, notes Banfield, [read the book review on this site of “The UnHeavenly City Revisited” by Edward C. Banfield] causation is, if anything, the other way around: lasting unemployment and persistently low incomes are likely the effects of an underlying high time preference.”
“In every society of any degree of complexity, specific individuals quickly acquire elite status as a result of having diverse talents.”
“……. war typically requires extraordinary resources,……”
“A Democratic you ruler can use the government apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it. He cannot sell government resources and privately pocket the receipts from such sales, nor can he pass government possessions onto his personal heir. He owns the current use of government resources, but not their capital value. ………………………. instead of maintaining or even enhancing the value of the government estate, as a king would do, a president (the government’s temporary caretaker or trustee) will use up as much of the government resources as quickly as possible, for what he does not consume now, he may never be able to consume. In particular, a president (as distinct from a king) has no interest in not ruining his country.”
“………… A presidential government caretaker is not held liable for debts incurred during his tenure of office. Rather, his debts are considered “public,” to be repaid by future (equally non-liable) governments.”
“In contrast, Democratic wars tend to be total wars. In blurring the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, a democratic republic strengthens the identification of the public with a particular state.”
“………….. the 1994 edition of the code of federal regulations (CFR), the annual compendium of all the US federal government regulations currently in effect, consists of a total of 201 books, occupying about 26 feet of library shelf space. The Code’s index alone is 754 pages. The code contains regulations concerning the production and distribution of almost everything imaginable: from celery, mushrooms, watermelons, watch bands, the labeling of incandescent light bulbs, hosiery, parachute jumping, iron and steel manufacturing, sexual offenses on college campuses, to the cooking of onion rings made out of diced onions, revealing the almost totalitarian power of a democratic government.”
“Men commit more crimes than women, the young more than the old, blacks more than whites, and city dwellers more than villagers.”
“……….. In order to earn the market income a certain minimum of planning, patience, and sacrifice is required. One must first work for a while before one gets paid. In contrast, most serious criminal activities such as murder, assault, rape, robbery, theft, burglary require no such discipline. The re-ward for the aggressor is immediate and tangible, where is the sacrifice – possible punishment – lies in the future and is uncertain.”
“As a society becomes more egalitarian in its outlook, it become skeptical of claims that the inputs of some persons are intrinsically superior to those of others, and thus its members become more disposed to describe others’ output as unjustly earned.”
“…… the cost of Social Security systems have brought on the prospect of imminent economic meltdown. At the same time social breakdown and social conflict have risen to dangerous heights. If the tendency towards increased exploitation and present orientedness continues on its current path, the Western democratic welfare states will collapse as the East European socialist peoples republics did in the late 1980s.”
“…………. Rich men still exist today, but more frequently than not they owe their fortune now directly or indirectly to the state. Hence, they are often more dependent on the state’s continued favors then people of far lesser wealth.”
“Under democracy, exploitation does not disappear. Even though everyone is permitted to enter government, this does not eliminate the distinction between the rulers and the ruled. Government and the governed are not one and the same person.”
“Given the rules of democratic government – of one man one vote majority rule – a caretaker, whether to secure his present position or advance to another, must award or promise to award privileges to groups rather than particular individuals, and given that there always exists more have-nots than haves of everything worth having, his redistribution will be egalitarian rather than elitist.”
“After more than a century of compulsory democracy, the predictable results are before our very eyes. The tax load imposed on property owners and producers makes the economic burden even of slaves and serfs seem moderate in comparison. Government debt has risen to breathtaking heights. Gold has been replaced by government manufactured paper money, and its value has continually dwindled.”
“The mass of people, as La Boetie and Mises recognized, always and everywhere consists of “brutes,” “dullards,” and “fools,” easily deluded and sunk into habitual submission ……………….. most people mindlessly accepting repeat nonsense such as that democracy is self-rule and government is of, by, and for the people.”
“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. ……….. 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,……………… or imagine that in your own country the right to vote were extended to seven-year-olds. While the government would not likely be staffed by 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.”
“After all, the “permanently” rich and the “permanently” poor are usually rich or poor for a reason. The rich are characteristically bright and industrious, the poor are typically dull, lazy, or both. It is not very likely that dullards, even if they make up a majority, will systematically outsmart and enrich themselves at the expense of a minority of bright and energetic individuals. Rather, most redistribution will take place within the group of the “non-poor,” and frequently those will actually be better off who succeed in having themselves subsidized by the worse off.”
“As a result the birth rate will increase. Yet then the value of children will again fall ,…………..”
“After less than 100 years of democracy and redistribution, the predictable results are in. The “reserve fund” that was inherited from the past is apparently exhausted. For several decades (since the late 1960s or the early 1970s) real standards of living have stagnated or even fallen in the West. The “public” debt and the cost of the existing Social Security and health care system have brought on the prospect of an imminent economic meltdown. At the same time, almost every form of undesirable behavior: unemployment, welfare dependency, negligence, recklessness, incivility, psychopathy, hedonism, and crime has increased, and social conflict and societal breakdown have risen to dangerous heights. If current trends continue, it is safe to say that the Western welfare state (social democracy) will collapse just as Eastern (Russian style) socialism collapsed in the late 1980s.”
“……….. economic collapse does not automatically lead to improvement. Matters can become worse rather than better. ……………. Ultimately, the course of history is determined by ideas, be they true or false, and by men acting upon and being inspired by true or false ideas. The current mess is also the result of ideas. It is the result of the overwhelming acceptance, by public opinion, of the idea of democracy. As long as this acceptance prevails, a catastrophe is unavoidable, and there can be no hope for improvement even after its arrival.”
“Almost all major thinkers have nothing but contempt for democracy. Even the founding fathers of the U.S., nowadays considered the model of a democracy, were strictly opposed to it. Without a single exception, they thought of democracy has nothing but mob rule. ……………………… furthermore, even among the few theoretical defenders of democracy such as Rousseau, for instance, it is almost impossible to find anyone advocating democracy for anything but extremely small communities (villages and towns). Indeed, in small communities where everyone knows everyone else personally, most people must acknowledge that the position of the “haves” is typically based on their superior personal achievement just as the position of the “have-nots” finds its typical explanation in their personal deficiencies and inferiority under these circumstances, it is far more difficult to get away with trying to loot other people and their personal property to one’s advantage. In distinct contrast, in large territories encompassing millions or even hundreds of millions of people, where the potential looters do not know their victims, and vice versa, the human desire to enrich oneself at another’s expense is subject to little or no restraint.”
“More importantly, it must be made clear again that the idea of democracy is immoral as well as uneconomical. As for the moral status of majority rule, it must be pointed out that it allows for A and B to band together to rip off C, C and A in turn joining to rip off B, and then B and C inspiring against A, and so on.”
“……………. the existence of a welfare state, immigration has become to a significant extent the immigration of welfare bums, who do not increase but rather decrease average living standards…………”
“What are a democracy’s migration policies? Once again assuming no more than self-interest (maximizing monetary and psychic income: money and power), democratic rulers tend to maximize current income, which they can appropriate publicly, at the expense of capital values, which they cannot appropriate privately. Hence, in accordance with democracy’s inherent egalitarianism of one-man-one-vote, they tend to pursue a distinctly egalitarian – nondiscriminatory – emigration and immigration policy.”
“As far as immigration policy is concerned, this implies that for a democratic ruler it makes little, if any, difference whether productive and unproductive people, geniuses or bums leave the country. They all have one equal vote. In fact, democratic ruler might well be more concerned about the loss of a bum than that of a productive genius. While the loss of the latter would obviously lower the capital value of the country and the loss of the former might actually increase it, as a democratic ruler does not own the country. In the short run, which is of the most interest to a democratic ruler, the bum, voting most likely in favor of egalitarian measures, might be more valuable than the productive genius who, as egalitarianism’s prime victim, will be more likely to vote against the democratic ruler. …………… unproductive parasites, bums, and criminals – are likely to be his most reliable supporters.”
“For a democratic ruler, it also matters little whether bums or geniuses, below or above average civilized and productive people immigrate into the country. Nor is he much concerned about the distinction between temporary workers (owners of work permits) and permanent, property owning immigrants (naturalized citizens). In fact, bums and unproductive people may well be preferred as residents and citizens, because they create more so-called “social” problems, and democratic rulers thrive on the existence of such problems. Moreover, bums and inferior people will likely support his egalitarian policies, whereas geniuses and superior people will not.”
“…… The power to admit or exclude should be stripped from the hands of the central government and reassigned to the states, provinces, cities, towns, villages, residential districts, and ultimately to private property owners and their voluntary associations.”
“……. all immigrants must demonstrate through tests not only English-language proficiency, but all-around superior (above average) intellectual performance and character structure as well as a compatible system of values –……………..”
“Assume that the United States, or better still Switzerland, declared that there would no longer be any border controls, that anyone who could pay the fare might enter the country, and, as a resident, would then be entitled to every “normal” domestic welfare provision. Is there any doubt about the disastrous outcome of such an experiment in the present world, the United States, and even faster Switzerland, already weakened by protectionism and welfare, would be overrun by millions of Third World immigrants. Welfare costs would quickly skyrocket, and strangled economy would disintegrate and collapse,…….. Civilization would banish from the United States and Switzerland, just as it once did from Greece and Rome.”
“………….. while the welfare state is still in place, immigration would be permitted subject to the condition that immigrants are excluded from domestic welfare entitlements.”