Monday, September 28, 2009

Democracy or monarchy?

Dr Hans-Herman Hoppe is an Austrian school economist and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosopher, Distinguished Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, founder and president of The Property and Freedom Society, and editor-at-large of the Journal of Libertarian Studies. He taught economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and at John Hopkins University in Bologna.

Lew Rockwell: Dr. Hoppe, tell us a little bit about democracy and monarchy?

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The first point that needs to be made is that states, whether monarchical or democratic, are not firms. They do not produce anything that is sold in the market and receive payment for the goods that are produced, but they live off taxes which are course of payment made to them. So, I will neither advocate monarchies, nor am I advocate of democracies, but if one has to choose between two evils, monarchical state and democratic state, then monarchies have certain advantages. The reason is that kings were generally perceived by the public for what they are, that is, privileged individuals who could tax their subjects, and because everybody knew „I cannot become a king“, there was resistance against attempts on the part of kings to increase taxes into increased exploitation of their subjects.

Under democracy, the illusion rises that we all rule ourselves, even though it should be perfectly clear, of course, that also under a democracy there exist rulers and people who are ruled, but, because of the fact that everybody can potentially become a public employee, the illusion of „we rule ourselves“ arises, and this then leads to reduction of the resistance that existed vis-à-vis kings when it came to attempt of increasing tax revenue.

But there is an even more important disadvantage of democracy as compared to monarchy. One can imagine a king to be person who regards a country as his private property and the people living in his country as his tenants who pay some sort of rent to the king. On the other hand, if we have democratic politicians, they do not own the country as a king does, they are temporary caretakers of the country for four years, eight years and so forth, and the role of an owner versus a role of a caretaker is very, very different. One can imagine, for instance, that I make somebody owner of the house, so that he can sell the house in the market, that he can determine who will be his successor, who will be his heir, and, on the other hand, I give a house, the same kind, to somebody and make him for four years the caretaker of this house. That is, he can not sell the house, he can not determine who will be the heir, but he can make as much income out of using the house for a temporary period of time. And this will imply that temporary caretaker will use up the capital value embodied in the country in as fast time as possible, because, after all, he does not have to bear the cost of capital consumption, after all, the house is not his. Whereas a king, being the owner of the house, has a longer-term perspective, he will not want to use up the value embodied in the house as quickly as possible, after all, that would be reflected in a lower price of the house or of the country, and it would be reflected, of course, in the lower value of property being passed on to the next generation. So, a king has a long-run perspective, wants to preserve, and possibly, enhance the value of the country, whereas a democratic politician has a short-run orientation and wants to maximize his income as quickly as possible at the expense of losses in capital value.

Lew Rockwell: One of the points that you made in your book, Democracy: God that failed, that most impressed me, was the difference in wars waged under monarchs and under democracies, that there’s a reason why monarchical wars tended to be, what Mises described as “soldiers of wars”, whereas the democratic wars involved mass murders of civilians on a scale, of course, never before seen in human history.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: And that began with something to do with the fact that monarchs considered countries as their property, and the reason for going to war, were typically, property disputes. Do I own this castle or somebody else owns this castle? Do I own this province or does somebody else? The objective was always limited, whereas democratic wars tend to be ideological wars. You want to liberate a country, you want to convert them to a different ideology and it is difficult to determine when you have actually achieved this goal. The only sure way to determine it is to kill the entire population of the country that you tried to invade or occupy, whereas a monarch, of course, would never have this interest, after all, he wants to add a certain province, a certain town, a certain castle to his own private estate, and wants to cause as little damage as possible. So, for monarchs, it was easy to begin a war, but it was always also very easy to determine when the objective had been reached, and the war came to an end. There was never any ideological motivation why different kings went to war against each other, whereas under democracies, in civil or religious wars, it is a clash of civilizations, a clash of value systems, and that makes it almost impossible to ever come to an end in wars and, in addition, kings’ wars were considered to be king’s by the public. Kings had to rely, by and large, on volunteers fighting their wars, whereas under democracies the entire country goes to war and all the resources of the entire country than can be dedicated to the war, and typically, with democracy, came also the draft. In the US nowadays we do not have a draft, but the typical situation for democracies is of course, that we do have a draft, people can be drawn into a war and forced into a war with the argument that “now you have a stake in the war, under democracy, now that you have a stake in the state, you must also fight the wars of the state", whereas under monarchy people did not have a stake in the state, it was considered to be the king’s affair, the public was entirely different entity from the state, and because of that their involvement in the war was very limited.

Lew Rockwell: The late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, whom we both had the honor of knowing, used to point out that one of the things he liked about monarchical government was that there was much less nationalism, which is a feature of the 20th century and the 21st century, and that nobody thought there was anything wrong with, say, a German nobleman going into the employ of the Tsarina of Russia, nor people fighting on various sides were considered „traitors“. Of course, with the rise of democracy, we had the rise of this belligerent and unfortunate philosophy of nationalism.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: The high aristocracy is, so to speak, the most international group of people. Almost all high noblemen are intermarried, interrelated with noblemen in other countries. The German Kaiser was related to the British rulers and to the Russian rulers, Kuehnelt-Leddihn even pointed out that all ruling houses in Europe were also related in some indirect way to Muhammad, through Islamic countries, and because those were family feuds, so to speak, feeling of nationalism was something impossible for them to arise, because they themselves were the most international class of people around, so nationalistic feelings were entirely strange and unusual for a class such as that.


No comments: