Liberty and the State: Can Tax-Man-Voting Tame the Tiger?

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The strategy
outlined here deals with transforming state according to
well-established values like democracy and justice into a society
with a threefold voting procedure: The man-vote (one
man, one vote) applies to all issues that are not property-invasive
or property-dependent. The tax-vote (one dollar, one vote)
applies to all subjects concerning taxation and expenditure. And
third, a meta-decider-institution, provisionally named u201Cconstitutional
filteru201D is constituted by few members, every single one elected
by double tax- and man-vote-majority to decide for each concern
to be decided upon: Does it need man-vote majority, tax-vote majority
or double man- and tax-vote majority? This mechanism prevents a
structural majority of redistribution-winners, putatively or factually,
and turns whatever remainder of public sector into a consensually
driven enterprise.

In general
public post-world-war opinion the question whether or not state
is a u201Cnatural conditionu201D has not even arisen. It is simply felt
to be there like the air we breathe although it feels quite different
to healthy breathing, perhaps more like an asthmatic attack. In
contrast, within the libertarian world it is widely agreed that
policy and hence welfare-warfare state
[1]
rather is the problem than being the solution to problems.

Following the
Austrian School of Economy, Hans-Hermann Hoppe [2] like many before stated that the cardinal
sin of classical liberalism was the acknowledgment of the state
as an enforcer of property rights. In his 1927 treatise Liberalismus
[3] Ludwig von
Mises found the central fallacy of liberalism in the wrong consequence
from the right assumption: The need for compulsive action against
intruders of foreign property rights does not mean that this is
the unequalled and original business of government. [4] In contrary it has been shown
that this job can not be effectively done by government as the territorial
monopolist of (positive) legislation and taxation, the so-called
expropriating property protector.
[5]
Thus it must be said that this widely accepted fallacy
of liberalism perpetrates its own deterioration and that
the hegemony of socialism and democracy as tyranny of the morally
hazarded majority basically is an intellectual failure. Otherwise
it is difficult to understand why libertarianism failed to take
over opinion leadership after worldwide bankruptcy of hard-core
socialism by the end of the past century.

So what? On
the one hand libertarians agree in disapproval of most of the traditional
fields of u201Cpublic services,u201D but on the other hand there is still
no clear line to be seen whether state eo ipso is a model to be
of potential benefit to a free society.
[6]
Irrespective of Rothbard’s statement, that u201Cin a truly
free society, where individual rights of person and property are
maintained, the state, then, would necessarily cease to exist,u201D
[7] it is still true that there is no established
hegemony of anarcho-capitalism, let alone a realistic strategy to
implement those ideas into democratic reality. So willy nilly we'll
have to deal with the u201Cmonopolist of crime,u201D as Albert J. Nock [8] put it, for one more decade or century, before
he loses the majority support, the essential prerequisite of its
very existence. [9]

Strategies
proposed to surmount the state in favour of a free society are manifold,
some of them being education, private (gold-) money, secession and
constitutional limitation of power. Let me face the latter.

It seems
to be a widely consensual opinion, based on historic apperception
that every effort to constitutionally limit state activity to providing
justice and safety failed and cannot but fail, since power to prevent
evil at the same time must be coercive power over free individuals
and the monopolist of taxation and decision-making will overcome
any legal limit by its power of interpretation.
[10]
And Rothbard may have been too optimistic in concluding
u201CThe wry coupling of the twin certainties in the popular motto u201Cdeath
and taxesu201D demonstrates that the public has resigned itself to the
existence of the State as an evil but inescapable force of nature.u201D
[11] For the increase of wealth
experienced in daily life obviously has created a cognitive disaster
in most minds, at least an obstinate misinterpretation by being
associated with democracy and wise policy of social engineering
rather than with its true conditions like progress of technology
managed by what is left of capitalism and Greenspam-policy [12] at the same time. So despite taxation the
state isn't even widely regarded as a torment.

Perhaps
the most profound reason for common belief in the need for a (democratic)
state is the same as for the belief in some sort of a personal creator
behind all that immense complexity of the physical world and can
be addressed as atavistic regression, a withdrawal into pre-enlightenment
states of consciousness. Development of space and species by physical
order and natural selection of accidental mutations respectively
is a process grossly exceeding one's personal experience in time
as well as in capacity of observation, at the same time requiring
a reflection in mind due to their massive impact in real life experience.
Very much alike is the u201Cinvisible handu201D of spontaneous social order
an instrument far too complex to be sensually understood and u201Cbelieved.u201D
It seems to be more appropriate for human experience to think of
some big brother or father or king or honourable committee of experts
rather than of an abstract order to regulate what one cannot retrace.
Mises finds u201Cthe belief that the rulers are wiser and loftier than
their subjectsu201D u201Cat the bottom of all totalitarian doctrines.u201D [13]

Being a layman
in history, economy as well as in philosophy I cannot sort out ideas
discussed or refuted so far. In contrast to Rothbard [14] it seems to me that there is — in theory
— a way to institutionally limit state activity and thus maybe find
a closer way to more general acceptance of libertarian ideas by
avoiding resisting prejudices.

Given the necessity
of common decision-making the democratic principle of ruling by
majority of electors is only legitimate where it does not
conflict with property rights of citizens. This may be the case
when choosing the colours of the national flag. In addition it is
valid if only the universally held and unalienable property right
of ones own body is concerned. As long as states exist, this might
involve foreign affairs, alliances and terms of freedom of contract
insofar as they really have to be established uniformly.

These and other
conceivable limitations to legitimate majority-ruling originate
in the fact that the democratic procedure itself is intrinsically
immoral. [15]
Hence the concept presented here has lost innocence from the very
beginning; this may on the one hand be an essential precondition
of public acceptance, on the other hand be balanced by the third
level of meta-decision described below.

As long
as the state exists taxes must be raised from alienable property
to enable minimal activities. According to preservation of property
rights, the number of electors, in particular the number of potential
tax-consumers has to be neglected in this decision process. Instead
the weight of the vote results from the amount of taxes and voluntary
donations paid over the preceding period. Let us call this the
tax-vote (one dollar, one vote) as opposed to the man-vote
(one man, one vote). Paying taxes does not necessarily mean to unconditionally
transfer titles; instead it means to invest in an enterprise that
has to be performed consensually.

This construction
of letting the tax-payer decide upon taxation and expenditure hereby
financed prevents majority-power to reduce its own burden of taxes
at the cost of the minority, for then, in the next period, the minority's
power of votes would prevail and turn things around again. The objection
that the richest could be exploited by a broad middle income class
by progressive tax rates just being flat enough to prevent the tax-vote
majority of the super-affluent [16] are not really convincing, at least as long as taxing competition
between more than one unified world-state prevents confiscatory
taxation.

A tricky
question would be whether or not some sort of minimal social welfare
is necessary and possible in this donor-oriented model without initiating
the well-known moral downward-helix with ballooning redistribution
and without abolishment of personal responsibility. Furthermore
no measure of government could be made when interfering with a poll
of direct democracy on the subject. Maybe studying Switzerland,
the oldest direct democracy, could be beneficial in this concern.

The pivotal
question is: Whatever the concern of whomsoever may be, directed
to whichsoever public institution, there must be a constitutional
filter to decide upon the way of decision-making. Decision upon
deciding may be called meta-decision. The subject in question
is to be decided either by majority of man-votes or majority of
tax-votes or by majority of both man-votes and tax-votes, corresponding
to its nature of potentially being property-invasive and / or property-dependant
concerning alienable property and / or unalienable property. So
this constitutional filter has to separate the realm of traditional
democracy from the sphere of taxation and disbursement. Predominance
of this institution could safely be prevented by direct election
of say one third of the members at a time for short periods, requiring
both man-vote and tax-vote majority for each single candidate.

This u201Ctax-man-votingu201D
constitution with its central and historically unprecedented institution
of a meta-decider, the constitutional filter would well match the
virtue of democracy without perverting ethics by having two wolves
and one lamb discussing the next meal, as Benjamin Franklin put
it.

Does this sound
utopian? Yes, compared to humans landing on some neighbouring planet
some day. But compared to social justice in redistribution of abundance
of miraculously originated goods? After having experienced worldwide
failure of this concept, the interested public should be well prepared
to hear about concepts in accordance with natural law and ethics
of liberty, because it is about a combination of the well-established
virtues liberty, democracy and justice. Unfortunately it must
be said that Rothbard’s optimism
[17]
remained unfulfilled so far. His analysis of long-term
indications for a free society is obviously right, but his optimistic
short-term analysis seems to fail to realize that the enemy is not
sleeping. How deeply, virtually inextinguishably statism [18] and belief in u201Csocial justiceu201D are embedded
at least in German minds has been trenchantly shown by Roland Baader.
[19] In complete contrast to expectations,
breakdown of Eastern-German collectivism has in no way evoked a
renaissance of ideas of liberty. And even if one concedes that liberty
has never been a German word, it sure is an Anglo-American one,
in current time being perverted by New Labour's u201Cspin doctors.u201D
The same phenomenon of permanence of the socialistic paradigm can
be seen in Eastern Europe where socialistic governments result from
free elections.

The limiting
factor then in a strategy towards liberty is the subjective condition
of public consciousness. So I presume that changing the constitution
of state is high enough an obstacle for a change of paradigm towards
free society. Abolition of state, sweet as it sounds to libertarian
ears, may be too much of an imposition on general public opinion.
And since state constituted as outlined here, wouldn't be much of
what it is today — except the golden calves u201Cstateu201D and u201Cdemocracyu201D
have been taken care of — this speculation can bear the blame of
gradualism in theory as being perpetuity in practice, as William
Lloyd Garrison [20] stated in demand of abolition
of slavery.

The challenge
is an intellectual one.

Does u201Ctax-man-votingu201D
sound more utopian than having gold coins in the wallet or secession
of every other small community from the given state or hearing the
government just saying goodbye to society by enlightenment? Who
knows. Maybe it's the combination of all that by and by — or yet
after global economic breakdown? [21] — makes the race.

Notes

[1] u201CWelfare-warfare state, empirically speaking,
is a unified beast.u201D Erich Mattei, Michael
Moore and Freedom
.

[2] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy,
the God that Failed
(in German, Waltrop: Manuskriptum,
2003), p. 417 ff.

[3] Ludwig von Mises, Liberalismus (Jena: Fischer,
1927 / Sankt Augustin: Academia, 1993) p. 33

[4] In demarcating liberalism from etatism and anarchy
he 17 years later stresses to our surprise: u201CWith human nature
as it is, the state is a necessary and indispensable institution.u201D
Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent
Government. The Rise of the Total State and Total War

(Yale University Press, 1944 / Grove City: Libertarian Press),
p. 49

[5] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy, the God that
Failed (in German), p. 178

[6] Even Hoppe cannot quite do without thinking of
some public structure like state or communities, when he states,
that an immigrant to let's say Switzerland has to compensate for
existing major investments like hospitals and schools. Hans-Hermann
Hoppe, Radio
Interview Philipp Dru
.

[7] Murray N. Rothbard, The
Ethics of Liberty
(New York University Press, 2002), p.
173

[8] Albert Jay Nock, On Doing the Right Thing,
and Other Essays (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1928), p.
143, quoted in Murray N. Rothbard The Ethics of Liberty
p. 173

[9] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy, the God that
Failed (in German), p. 487

[10] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy, the God that
Failed (in German), p. 426,

[11] Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
p. 175

[12] Mark Thornton, Housing: Too Good to be True,
(Mises Daily Articles June 4, 2004)

[13] Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government.
The Rise of the Total State and Total War p. xi

[14] Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
p. 176

[15] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Personal communication
August 28, 2004

[16] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Personal communication
August 28, 2004

[17] Murray N. Rothbard, The
Ethics of Liberty
p. 269

[18] Mises prefers the French-derived term u201Cetatism,u201D
clearly expressing the fact that etatism did not originate in
the Anglo-Saxon countries and has only lately (1944! (year and
emphasis added)) got hold of the Anglo-Saxon mind. Ludwig von
Mises, Omnipotent Government. The Rise of the Total State and
Total War p. 5

[19] Roland Baader Chalk for the Wolf — the Deadly
Illusion of Defeated Socialism (in German) (Boeblingen, Anita
Tykve Verlag, 1991)

[20] Quoted in Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics
of Liberty, p. 260

[21] Roland Baader, Money, Gold and God-Actors
(in German) (Graefeling, Verlag Dr. Ingo Resch, 2004)

February
8, 2005

Peter
J. Preusse, DDS, [send him mail]
is a libertarian activist in Germany.

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