- Series: Perspectives on Democratic Practice
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765808684
- ISBN-13: 978-0765808684
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 78 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Democracy – The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy and Natural Order (Perspectives on Democratic Practice) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Hans-Hermann Hoppe received his Ph.D. and his "Habilitation" from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He is currently professor of economics at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, AL, and editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly Review.
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The overwhelming task of political philosophy is to construct and maintain a public sector presence that is shared, legitimate, law-bound and accountable through long-term institution building, not to abandon the project to the fragmentation of private interests that will grow to assert wide ranging control. Society is a public thing and cannot be maintained in the absence of public institutions and there is no reason to suppose that powerful private interests will remain local. The sovereignty of public institutions and of government so constituted would be replaced by the sovereignty of the market and the survival of the fittest ethic in the cruel utilitarian logic of the market. Civil order and a rational society is not the default condition of human existence in the absence of legitimate public institutions. High standards of living do not magically appear once governments is out of the way so to speak, they are in fact highly dependent on public law that guarantees the safety of private property. Preservation of the community is essential for personal well-being and individual flourishing. For example, although property is a private good, property rights are a public good.
Completely forgotten is the necessity of politics in the imaginary private law society. We are asked to seriously consider the notion of private dispensers of law and order. The author does not consider the risk that private law enforcement agencies will become private armies and gangs that then proceed to undermine civil order, not guarantee it. In short, a return to tribal organization is what is advocated in this book. The basic public institutions that guarantee civil order are nonexistent in a world ordered purely on private interest. The result is a fractious and volatile society unable to guarantee public order or private interest. A shared political experience of citizenship is essential to the maintenance of civil life. A proliferation of private and competing lawgivers will only sort individuals into fragmented and rival ideological camps and communities. Civil freedom is to be found in legal order. The beginning of the criminal mafias of southern Italy in the nineteenth century was in providing private law enforcement services in the absence of a functioning government. It is a short move from providing of protection to the extraction of extortion.
There must be a moderation and a balance between legitimate private interest guaranteed by pubic law and legitimate public interest, guaranteed by private consent. Just as the individual must be protected from the whims of the state, so must the state be protected from the whims of the individual. We take the existence of public institutions, like fish in water, for granted and do not realize how difficult a world it would be without a public sphere and how difficult it would be to rebuild, if even possible, public institutions once lost or thrown away.
Reducing Hoppe's thesis to a superficial core, democracy is to blame for everything. It fosters low time preference in people (that is, a hand-to-mouth mentality), moral bankruptcy, intellectual stultification, general malaise, the decline of "family values" and traditional hierarchy, and the general the degeneration of "civilization." Hoppe also posits that governments tend to expand, rather than remain constant in size, which is thoroughly more difficult to dispute due to its historical accuracy.
Opening the book with a discussion about World War 1 and how it marked the end of monarchical order, Hoppe blames the massive amount of death and destruction evidenced in this war on the United States' entry, claiming that in doing so, the US turned the battle into "ideological warfare," which made monarchical powers fight all the harder to prove their legitimacy. Hoppe seems to re-vision his own history here, forgetting that World War 1 was started by monarchies, that the US joined the battle very late, and had a marginal impact on its outcome. Additionally, the Great War was extremely brutal and ideologically-driven long before the United States entered the theatre. If Hoppe had read any of Karl Kraus' work (oddly left out of the list of Austrian "geniuses" he places in the book), he would have realized the high level of animosity between European powers, even in the early years of the war. The development of new technological weaponry, such as the machine gun, tanks, aircraft, allowed for new levels of violence and bloodshed to be reached, with or without the US's help.
Such revisionism or forgetting is common throughout the text. Hoppe never bothers to mention the countless examples of monarchs trampling over individual rights, taking formerly public lands, and generally ignoring the needs of the people. The threat of punishment always exists, after all.
For those libertarians who think "anarcho-capitalism" is the preferred and less abusive form of self-governance, Hoppe acknowledges that libertarian "order" is maintained via violence, just like order in any other hierarchical, statist enterprise:
"...in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They - the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism - will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order."
Moving to economics, Hoppe criticizes democratic government in its production of goods that no one buys. Thus, he says, it is impossible to attach any sort of value to them. What Hoppe neglects, though, is that people are not unaware they are paying taxes for various public goods, and their inaction (as most people do not contact their representatives to voice their opinions), effectively acts as a consent, of getting strung along in the government's sales pitch. He further states that the subsidizing of government encourages production "with little or no regard for the well-being of one's alleged consumers, and with much or sole regard instead for the well-being of the 'producers'." One could easily rank any number of examples in the capitalist business world as well. Many resource-extractive or producing industries, particularly coal, oil, and chemicals, have poisoned and/or killed any number of their supposed customers with little to no concern other than their own profit-taking.
The general understanding of labor is poor and rooted in non-historical thinking. Hoppe treats the problem of labor as if people had only ever been working under industrial conditions, when in reality historical behavior of laborers is quite different from their industrial brethren, as evidenced in Hugh Cunningham's _Leisure in the Industrial Revolution_. Before industrialism, the development of the factory and the threat of permanent layoff if one did not continue working, people worked as much or as little as they needed to. An individual typically worked to earn enough money to meet current needs, and then used his or her savings until depletion. The distinction between "leisure" and "work" was virtually nonexistent. One must also not forget that through the middle ages the concept of usury (and thus interest) was considered irreligious and immoral, and thus earning a return on hoarded capital was anathema. Hoppe chooses to ignore all this and instead glorify the capitalist-traditionalist-hoarder above all else.
Claiming that all those in government are "rogues and loafers," Hoppe never seems to have spent any time in a company of any particular size and noted the various character structures within it. In government, as in business, you will find a mixture of lazy, unintelligent, active, and knowledgeable people, the first two adjectives usually describing those who are at the top of the hierarchy. Regardless of what Hoppe thinks, it is not particularly difficult for a company to get rid of an unwanted employee. There are any number of daily infractions that can be used to justify one's termination (using the internet for non-business purposes being a simple one) regardless of the actual reason.
Politically, Hoppe's thinking is also incorrect as he continually considers democracy to only be a function of the executive branch and always claims that democracy pursues short-term interests due to the limited nature of any politician's reign. Such thinking is incorrect, as while the politician may leave its office, it still has to reside in the country that it formerly governed. Unless the politician suffers from a desire to live in an impoverished, declining "civlization" (as Hoppe calls it), it would be in its best interest to at least maintain the current level of affairs, would it not?
Having finished the so-called general political and economic "intellectual destruction" of democracy, Hoppe generally abandons that intellectual line of thinking and concerns himself in the latter half of the book discussing how the libertarian movement has partly been co-opted by "immature leftists," how classical liberalism necessarily evolves into allowing an overbearing state to occur, and a libertarian notion of how domestic defense would be handled. There is little I can say regarding the correctness of Hoppe's account of the infiltration of the libertarian movement by supposed poseurs; I haven't cared to read on the topic at all.
More humorous is Hoppe's belief that insurance companies can move in and provide, in the absence of the state, an effective means of large-scale defense. As if defense technology was instantaneously hot-swappable like a drive from a computer, such that if I wanted to change my defense provider, I could expect new service to begin the next morning, or even next week.
Contradicting himself, Hoppe criticizes the idea of a single world government, but finds it quite agreeable that there could be a single or few large international insurance agencies that have massive amounts of capital to support themselves and vast quantities of information to base their premiums off of. I wonder who will be making global policies in such a world. The individuals? no, they will do as their insurers tell them, lest a higher rate be imposed.
Hoppe adds that under a privatized insurance scheme, aggressors will be selective in their targets as one never knows which of a vast number of powerful insurance agencies is supporting a property, if any at all. What Hoppe doesn't mention is that there will always be one sure group not to have insurance: the poor or otherwise troubled. What Hoppe is asking us to do, essentially, is to secure ourselves while damning those who, for whatever reason, aren't able to afford their defense insurance. It would be nice if all poor people were as subhuman as Hoppe paints them to be, then we could easily forget about and condemn them without worry. However, all of us are not the bigots and racists that Hoppe is (a cursory read through the text will reveal this, as will an examination of some of his sources) and not willing to simply condemn our fellow men to their arbitrarily poor lots in life.
The book ends with the continuing refrain to secede wherever and whenever possible and to do as little with any government as necessary. This is, perhaps, sound advice for those who distrust government (and after examining the events of Hurricane Katrina, we should all know to expect nothing from our government); unfortunately, the poorly reasoned and intellectually suspect pages between Hoppe's thesis and conclusion reveal little reason to feel his anarcho-capitalist "natural order" will provide a better way of life.
As one of the reviewers here notes, such is the power and methodology of the gud Herr Professor Hoppe that "...it is important to recognize that his argument cannot be proven or refuted on empirical grounds."
Wow! What an amazing theory. Sounds a bit like a kinda cult maybe or a religion?!?
Poor Loonytarians - wasting their money and getting REALLY ANGRY when their madness is challenged in a humourous way.
Watch out for the gud Herr Professor's forthcoming books "The Gravity Myth" and "Do you Really Need Oxygen?"