Countering the Abuse of Power

Hans Hoppe has delivered a wonderful essay and lecture, The Idea of a Private Law Society: The Case of Karl Ludwig von Haller.  Who is von Haller?

Karl Ludwig von Haller (1 August 1768 – 20 May 1854) was a Swiss jurist, statesman and political philosopher. He was the author of Restauration der Staatswissenschaft (Restoration of Political Science, 1816–1834), a book which gave its namesake to the Restoration period after the Congress of Vienna, and which Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel strongly criticized in §258 of Elements of the Philosophy of Right.

Von Haller’s work, which was burnt during the Wartburg Festival, was a highly systematic defense both of the principles of dynastic legitimacy and monarchy founded on territorial lordship, as well as of pre-modern republics like those of the Swiss city-states, and the most consistent rejection of modern political ideas of the social contract, public law, and state sovereignty.

His books burned because he rejected the social contract, public law and state sovereignty.  Already sounds like a great guy.

In [Restauration der Staatswissenschaft] he uncompromisingly rejected the revolutionary conception of the State, and developed a natural and juridical system of government, arguing at the same time that a commonwealth can endure and prosper without being founded on the omnipotence of the state and official bureaucracy.

Sounds almost Hoppean.  Unfortunately, it seems the book is only available in German; and this, among countless other reasons, is why we have been blessed to have Hoppe in our number.  And, as I could never do justice to depths of Hoppe’s examination of the work, I will only focus on one specific point raised by Hoppe:

The stability of every society, i.e., the peaceful, tranquil and convivial association of men, is always threatened from two sides. On the one hand by the envy of the have-nots vis-a-vis the haves, and on the other hand by the abuse of power by the powerful.

We know very well the envy of the have-nots.  Envy, worse than jealousy, wants to destroy.  One can use the term “envy” to describe all of Critical Theory, the process of tearing down with nothing offered as replacement.  It is destruction solely for the sake of destruction – seeing something or someone better, with more (wealth, happiness, stability, generosity, whatever) as nothing more than a target to destroy.  Taking traditional western culture and ripping it apart.

But it is on the second concern that I wish to comment, regarding the only protection against the abuse of power by the powerful.  Ultimately, it is the Golden Rule, or, to put it in terms that work in an Aristotelian-Thomistic framework of man’s highest purpose: fulfillment through other-regarding action, or love.  As long as any other value is seen as man’s highest purpose, there will be abuse of power by the powerful.

What does this mean?  If “power” is attained by love, because love is the highest purpose or value held by man, then those who best excel at love will be the most powerful.  Those who most excel at love will be the least likely to abuse power.  As the archetypal example…Jesus Christ.  Our most impactful stories tell of one man laying down his life for another.

I have previously written several posts on this issue, prompted by a question offered by Ira Katz.  His question:

Is it inherent in the nature of free market capitalism for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power?

My answer, in short: yes.  If you want the long version, here are the posts that examine this:

–          One Answer to An Important Social / Political / Economic Question of Our Time

–          Free Market Capitalism as the Highest Value (Part Two)

–          The Way Out and the Way To (Part Three)

–          Virtuous Governance

But here is the condensed response.  Hoppe himself offers the answer (big surprise, I know….).  Regarding Haller’s examination of the social contract theory, Hoppe writes:

A theory, as he notes exasperatedly, so patently false, from beginning to end, as to be almost risible; a chimera so devoid of common sense and detached from reality that only an “intellectual”—a “sophist” in Haller’s terminology—could invent it. And yet a theory that would literally turn the world upside down. That would transform lowly servants into rulers of princes and children into masters of parents (chap. 4, esp. p. 25n6, and also p. 284), and that would be destructive of all human liberties (p. 335 f.).

The social contract theory is grounded in four propositions, as summarized by Haller:

  1. Originally, in the state of nature, mankind had lived outside of any social relations, i.e., in exclusively extrasocial relations, side by side with each other and in a state of complete freedom and equality.
  2. However, in this state of affairs the natural human rights and liberties were not secure.
  3. Hence, people associated with each other and delegated the power to arrange for and assure general, all-around protection and security to one or several people among them.
  4. Through this institution of a state, then, the freedom of each individual would be better and more securely safeguarded and protected than before.

Hoppe then examines each, and finds each one wanting: “mere fiction or fake, without any factual basis whatsoever”; “the very height of absurdity.”  It is to Hoppe’s critique of the second of the four propositions where Hoppe touches on the question posed by Katz – and does so far more effectively and in far fewer words than I was able.

Even critics of the social contracts theory let this [second] proposition often slide by uncommented.

Hoppe does not:

True enough, the potential danger emanating from some person C or the fear of an attack by C may help tie A and B together. But the association of A and B is not itself based on insecurity or fear. Rather, it is the result of mutual trust or even love. A and B do not fear each other or believe their rights to be endangered or infringed upon by their association, but to the contrary, A and B trust or love each other and associate for this reason.

Would A and B band together if they did not trust each other, did not love each other?  How does A know that B is not also in league with C unless A trusts him?  Why would A risk his life in support of B unless he loves him?

Fear and mistrust are reasons not to associate, but to distance and separate oneself from others. To assert instead, as Hobbes does, for instance, that social relations emerge out of a state of affairs of universal fear, out of a bellum omnium contra omnes, is simply absurd, then.

If it was a “war of all against all,” why would A and B band together?  It is, as Hoppe says, simply absurd.

As well, contra all social contract theorists, as in particular the natural mutual attraction and association of the sexes demonstrates once again, human cooperation based on trust and love precedes all conflict and war, and human cooperation is always available and capable (again: not unfailingly, but as satisfactorily as humanly possible!) of dealing also with such extraordinary, extra- or antisocial events (see pp. 303–05).

It is love that joins people together; it is love that allows one man to trust another, knowing that each love their neighbor.  Is it unfailing, a promise of utopia?  Of course not.  We are human, we are fallen, there is corruption in us all (albeit some far more than others – the “some” being those who have assumed the position of leviathan, heads of the so-called social contract).


As Hoppe will often do, he turns a light on a point too often ignored.  In this case, and specifically in deconstructing the nonsensical social contract theory, he demonstrates that it is through bonds based on love that we find peace.  Bonds based on fear or a false sense of security (as the social contract crowd claims) will be subject to abuse of power by the powerful.

And, therefore, we return to man’s purpose: beatitudo, fulfillment through other-regarding action.  Love.  It is the basis for the natural law ethic that provides the possibility for a natural rights-based non-aggression principle law regime to develop and thrive.

Absent this natural law ethic grounded on love, there is no hope for a natural rights law regime of the non-aggression principle.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.

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