‘Demokratie. Der Gott, Der Keiner Ist'
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Translation of the preface to the just-published German edition [Leipzig: Manuscriptum] of Democracy. The God That Failed.
It gives me great satisfaction and confidence to see my most recent book published in Germany.
That is not quite as obvious as it may appear, for Germany is not a free country. Not even freedom of speech exists in Germany. Here, whoever publicly contradicts certain governmentally approved pronouncements will be jailed, and whoever expresses "politically incorrect" ideas will be neutralized and silenced.
In recent years, for the first time noticeable resistance against this saddening state of affairs has surfaced.1
"Politically incorrect" is what the rulers and in particular the victors among the rulers proclaim. The great victor of the 20th century, in particular as far as Germany is concerned, is the USA. Hence, the USA has determined the "correct" interpretation especially of recent history. Defeated Germany was not only occupied, but also reeducated. Germany's schools and universities, under almost complete government control, and the governmentally licensed mass media, have proclaimed to this day the official American view of history and in particular of the 20th century as a triumph of good over evil.
Yet after more than 50 years of occupation and reeducation, themes and subjects are publicly discussed again in Germany, which do not easily fit the American world view and hence were taboo for a long time (even more so in defeated Germany than in the victorious USA): the bloodthirsty beginning of the modern USA with the military conquest, devastation, and lasting occupation of the secessionist South by the Union government in the second American War of Independence), the intentional entanglement of the USA in World War I, the fall of the Czar, the German and Austrian Kaiser and the Versailles peace dictate, the extent of the crimes of Lenin and Stalin and their role in the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, the friendly association between Roosevelt and Stalin and the decades-long communist takeover of all of Eastern and Middle Europe that resulted from it, the Allied terror bombing of German civilians and the American mistreatment of German prisoners of war, the delivery of Western prisoners of war to Stalin for execution, and the expulsion of millions of Germans.
My investigations presented here are also "politically incorrect." Thus, they fit into an intellectual landscape that is characterized by an increasingly "revisionist" receptivity, and it can be hoped (at least I hope so) that it may fall on fertile ground and have a liberating effect especially in Germany.
Indeed, my theses are more "incorrect" and my proposed revisions of the orthodox view of history more fundamental and far-reaching than anything heard on the subject heretofore. Notwithstanding my critical stance vis-à-vis America, however, my work provides little consolation for Germany and the Germans (is not the German political system merely a copy of the American?).
The central subject of the following studies is the modern American system of a constitutional democratic state. Almost all Americans are convinced of the superiority of their political system. The American neo-conservatives, that group of formerly extreme left and now social-democratic intellectuals who first came to fame and influence during the Reagan administration and who presently exercise a dominating influence on the Bush administration, go even further. They believe that the constitutional democratic state, exemplified by the USA, represents the highest, unsurpassable form of social organization. To them, no social system is conceivable that is principally superior to a constitutional democratic state. With the acceptance of the American system, then, the "end of history" is reached, constitutionally and ideologically. (It is no wonder that the neo-conservatives are always at the forefront of American warmongers: democracy must be exported, if need be by military might, into misbehaving, un-American regions. This is what the Weltgeist demands.)
This widely accepted thesis (especially also in Germany) is examined and refuted in my studies. The full theoretical and historical case for my contrary claim is to be found in my following investigations. Here, the result can only be sketched, historically and in particular theoretically truncated and abridged.
The American model — democracy — must be regarded as a historical error, economically as well as morally. Democracy promotes shortsightedness, capital waste, irresponsibility, and moral relativism. It leads to permanent compulsory income and wealth redistribution and legal uncertainty. It is counterproductive. It promotes demagoguery and egalitarianism. It is aggressive and potentially totalitarian internally, vis-à-vis its own population, as well as externally. In sum, it leads to a dramatic growth of state power, as manifested by the amount of parasitically — by means of taxation and expropriation — appropriated government income and wealth in relation to the amount of productively — through market exchange — acquired private income and wealth, and by the range and invasiveness of state legislation. Democracy is doomed to collapse, just as Soviet communism was doomed to collapse.
Classical (pre-revolutionary) monarchy appears in a far more favorable light than democracy. It is part of the dominant, American-influenced world view that the process, beginning with the American and French revolution and essentially concluding with the end of World War I, of the substitution of presidents and prime ministers for kings represents historical progress. The following investigations show that the opposite is the case. The transition from a monarchical world to a democratic one must be regarded as de-civilizing retrogression. In other words, we would be better off today as far as living standards and liberty are concerned than we actually are, if we had never adopted the American system.
Unlike democratic "caretakers" of "public goods," kings, as proprietors of these same goods, take a long-run view and are interested in the preservation or enhancement of capital values. They are considered personally responsible for their actions and bound by pre-existing laws. They are not the makers of law; they apply old and eternal law. Independent of popular elections, they have little need for demagoguery, redistribution and egalitarianism (the lack of which is all good for economic development). In sum, the monarchical state is comparatively moderate and mild: with low tax revenue and little invasive and oppressive.
Notwithstanding some clear sympathy for classical monarchy, I am not a monarchist, however.
Both classical monarchy and modern democracy are state forms. That is, each claims for itself a monopoly of ultimate judgeship and of taxation regarding the inhabitants of a given territory: I, and I alone, that is their credo, am the final judge in cases of social conflict, and I alone can appropriate the property of others' without their consent. In light of this incentive structure, it is to be expected of every statist social order that the price of law and order always rises, while its quality falls. The higher the tax revenue and the lower one's own productive efforts, the better off the state's occupants are.
On the one hand, the existence of a state thus leads to the development and promotion of parasitism. As tax-receivers, it is possible for the occupants of the state to live without working, i.e., without having to give the tax-payers something they consider worthwhile in return. Contrary to still wide-spread Marxist mythology, it is not the entrepreneurs who exploit their workers. Rather, it is the occupants of the state — the king and his court in the case of monarchy; the president, the parliament, and the so-called public service in the case of democracy, i.e., those who most vocally claim to work for the public good — who actually live exploitatively and parasitically at the expense of others. The higher the state revenue, the better off the parasites are and/or the more parasites there are.
Worse still, as final judge in all matters of conflict, the occupants of the state are in a position not only to arbitrate conflicts expensively and miserably, but to actually cause and to provoke conflict in order to then "solve" it to their own advantage. That is, a statist order not only produces low quality goods at excessive prices and thus promotes parasitism, but it produces evil and injustice, and it promotes, especially under democratic conditions (when entry into the state apparatus is open to everyone), the development of evil characters and evil character traits.
My historical revisionism goes further, then. Not only was the transition from monarchy to democracy a historical error; the institution of the modern, post-medieval state itself represents an error of great consequence. However, contrary to neo-conservative assertions, a morally as well as economically superior alternative to both democracy and monarchy is always available: a natural order (a term consciously chosen for its pre-monarchic medieval-scholastic connotations).
In a natural order, all goods are the private property of some person or group of persons. Streets, airports, waterways, all land and every structure — everything is someone's private property. There exists no state, no taxation, no judicial monopoly and no public property. Security — property protection, law and order — like other goods and services is provided by means of self-help, in neighborly cooperation, and in association with freely financed specialized security firms. Along with individual or neighborly efforts such as fences, walls, bars, locks, warning devices, knives and revolvers, contractually agreed upon security provisions of all kinds are offered by freely competing (unregulated) property and life-insurers, who work in cooperation with independent and mutually competing arbiters and judges and independent or associated enforcement agencies and police forces. As a result (and in complete contrast to the outcome under statist conditions), the price of security falls, while its quality increases.
Several chapters of the following investigations deal with the description, the theoretical explanation, and the historic-sociological illustration of the legal-institutional and economic workings of a natural order, with its moral and economic advantages over a statist order, and with the strategic means of achieving it under current conditions.
German and American reviewers of the English original of this book have noted that it is more, and wants to be more, than cool analysis and explanation. It is written with a practical purpose. It is intended to define, to motivate, and to shape a political movement. It wants to mold classical (old) conservatives and libertarian free market advocates ideologically together in a unified bourgeois fundamental opposition to the democratic central state and its inherent parasitism and injustice (and even more so against a super- or world-state), and to generate excitement for the old idea of a natural order and (as a means to this end) of secession.
The USA has always had a fundamental anti-statist opposition (and it is this fact alone, and the moderating or rather radicalizing intellectual influence of this opposition on American public opinion which lets America to this day stay ahead of European countries and in particular Germany). However, this opposition was faced with steady statist temptations and threats, and confronted with the Soviet Union and the Cold War it was increasingly confused, splintered and decimated.
At the end of the 1980s, to counteract this decline and to again lend expression to a fundamental conservative-libertarian opposition, intellectuals associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the Center for Libertarian Studies, and the political-cultural monthly Chronicles met during several years for regular open private conferences. The moment was favorable. The communist Soviet Empire had collapsed at the end of the 1980s; and as a consequence, the ideological receptivity of the public had risen and was higher than it had been in decades.
Initiator and spiritus rector of this intellectual endeavor until his death in 1995 was Murray N. Rothbard, the outstanding American student of the Austrian economist and social theorist Ludwig von Mises and the founder of the American libertarian movement. Next to Rothbard, it was in particular Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., founder and president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles editor, the intellectual historian and political philosopher Paul Gottfried, the historians Clyde Wilson and Ralph Raico, the writers and columnists Samuel Francis and Joseph Sobran, and the author of these lines, who made fundamental and programmatic contributions at these occasions. Self-ironically one referred to oneself as the Paleos, and under this name one was quickly also officially registered (and infamously-famous).
Meanwhile, facilitated by the Internet, the Paleos have become a flourishing and rapidly growing intellectual movement. The first and foremost Paleo address, LewRockwell.com, with daily changing political, economic, and cultural analysis and commentary, ranks among the most widely read websites of its kind. It has more daily readers than the websites of the White House, the Washington Times, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Forbes, the Economist, the Spiegel, the FAZ, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the Handelsblatt, and the Bildzeitung (and nearly as many as the Wall Street Journal).
This book, now in its fifth printing, is my personal, specifically theoretical and European contribution to the construction of an ideological identity for this conservative-libertarian Paleo-movement.
Today, in Germany no fundamentally anti-statist bourgeois opposition exists. In many circles, Germany and anti-statism are simply considered antonyms. As the American historian Raico has shown, however, until the beginning of the 20th century such an opposition did exist in Germany.2 Its disappearance is another sorry result of democracy. With my intellectual dismantling of democracy I hark back to this radical liberal German tradition and hope to contribute to its revival. Germany truly needs such a revival; and as someone who has always acknowledged his German roots with self-assuredness and who never surrendered his status as German citizen, I permit myself to say that Germany is also truly deserving of such a rebirth.
- On the state of "political incorrectness" in Germany — and as its bravest German critic — see Gerard Radnitzky, "Die 'Politische Korrektheit' gefaehrdet die Meinungsfreiheit. Totalitaere Tendenzen im Rechtsstaat," in: Schrenck-Notzing, R. (ed.), Freiheit braucht Mut (Muenchen: Herbig, 1997); and "'Politische Korrektheit' in Deutschland," in: Kappel, H. und Stahl, A.v. (eds.), Fuer die Freiheit (Berlin: Ullstein, 1996); for dozens of other contributions of his on this and related themes see Radnitzky's website www.Radnitzky.de. See also in particular the works of Roland Baader, especially Totgedacht. Wie Intellektuelle unsere Welt zerstoeren (Graefelfing: Resch, 2002).
- Ralph Raico, Die Partei der Freiheit. Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Liberalismus (Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius, 1999).
December 5, 2003
Hans-Hermann Hoppe [send him mail], whom Lew Rockwell calls "an international treasure," is senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and editor of The Journal of Libertarian Studies. Democracy: The God That Failed is his eighth book. Visit his website.
Copyright © 2003 by LewRockwell.com