Why Do We Get Such Bad Leaders?

Why Bad Men Rule
By Hans-Hermann Hoppe

trump-vs-clinton

One of the most widely accepted propositions among political economists is the following: Every monopoly is bad from the viewpoint of consumers. Monopoly is understood in its classical sense to be an exclusive privilege granted to a single producer of a commodity or service, i.e., as the absence of free entry into a particular line of production. In other words, only one agency, A, may produce a given good, x. Any such monopolist is bad for consumers because, shielded from potential new entrants into his area of production, the price of the monopolist’s product x will be higher and the quality of x lower than otherwise.

This elementary truth has frequently been invoked as an argument in favor of democratic government as opposed to classical, monarchical or princely government. This is because under democracy entry into the governmental apparatus is free — anyone can become prime minister or president — whereas under monarchy it is restricted to the king and his heir.

However, this argument in favor of democracy is fatally flawed. Free entry is not always good. Free entry and competition in the production of goods is good, but free competition in the production of bads is not. Free entry into the business of torturing and killing innocents, or free competition in counterfeiting or swindling, for instance, is not good; it is worse than bad. So what sort of “business” is government? Answer: it is not a customary producer of goods sold to voluntary consumers. Rather, it is a “business” engaged in theft and expropriation — by means of taxes and counterfeiting — and the fencing of stolen goods. Hence, free entry into government does not improve something good. Indeed, it makes matters worse than bad, i.e., it improves evil.

Since man is as man is, in every society people who covet others’ property exist. Some people are more afflicted by this sentiment than others, but individuals usually learn not to act on such feelings or even feel ashamed for entertaining them. Generally only a few individuals are unable to successfully suppress their desire for others’ property, and they are treated as criminals by their fellow men and repressed by the threat of physical punishment. Under princely government, only one single person — the prince — can legally act on the desire for another man’s property, and it is this which makes him a potential danger and a “bad.”

However, a prince is restricted in his redistributive desires because all members of society have learned to regard the taking and redistributing of another man’s property as shameful and immoral. Accordingly, they watch a prince’s every action with utmost suspicion. In distinct contrast, by opening entry into government, anyone is permitted to freely express his desire for others’ property. What formerly was regarded as immoral and accordingly was suppressed is now considered a legitimate sentiment. Everyone may openly covet everyone else’s property in the name of democracy; and everyone may act on this desire for another’s property, provided that he finds entrance into government. Hence, under democracy everyone becomes a threat.

Consequently, under democratic conditions the popular though immoral and anti-social desire for another man’s property is systematically strengthened. Every demand is legitimate if it is proclaimed publicly under the special protection of “freedom of speech.” Everything can be said and claimed, and everything is up for grabs. Not even the seemingly most secure private property right is exempt from redistributive demands. Worse, subject to mass elections, those members of society with little or no inhibitions against taking another man’s property, that is, habitual a-moralists who are most talented in assembling majorities from a multitude of morally uninhibited and mutually incompatible popular demands (efficient demagogues) will tend to gain entrance in and rise to the top of government. Hence, a bad situation becomes even worse.

Historically, the selection of a prince was through the accident of his noble birth, and his only personal qualification was typically his upbringing as a future prince and preserver of the dynasty, its status, and its possessions. This did not assure that a prince would not be bad and dangerous, of course. However, it is worth remembering that any prince who failed in his primary duty of preserving the dynasty — who ruined the country, caused civil unrest, turmoil and strife, or otherwise endangered the position of the dynasty — faced the immediate risk either of being neutralized or assassinated by another member of his own family. In any case, however, even if the accident of birth and his upbringing did not preclude that a prince might be bad and dangerous, at the same time the accident of a noble birth and a princely education also did not preclude that he might be a harmless dilettante or even a good and moral person.

In contrast, the selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it nearly impossible that a good or harmless person could ever rise to the top. Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues. Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government. Indeed, as a result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals, yet as temporary and interchangeable caretakers they will only rarely be assassinated.

One can do no better than quote H.L. Mencken in this connection. “Politicians,” he notes with his characteristic wit, “seldom if ever get [into public office] by merit alone, at least in democratic states. Sometimes, to be sure, it happens, but only by a kind of miracle. They are chosen normally for quite different reasons, the chief of which is simply their power to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged….Will any of them venture to tell the plain truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the situation of the country, foreign or domestic? Will any of them refrain from promises that he knows he can’t fulfill — that no human being could fulfill? Will any of them utter a word, however obvious, that will alarm or alienate any of the huge pack of morons who cluster at the public trough, wallowing in the pap that grows thinner and thinner, hoping against hope? Answer: may be for a few weeks at the start…. But not after the issue is fairly joined, and the struggle is on in earnest…. They will all promise every man, woman and child in the country whatever he, she or it wants. They’ll all be roving the land looking for chances to make the rich poor, to remedy the irremediable, to succor the unsuccorable, to unscramble the unscrambleable, to dephlogisticate the undephlogisticable. They will all be curing warts by saying words over them, and paying off the national debt with money no one will have to earn. When one of them demonstrates that twice two is five, another will prove that it is six, six and a half, ten, twenty, n. In brief, they will divest themselves from their character as sensible, candid and truthful men, and simply become candidates for office, bent only on collaring votes. They will all know by then, even supposing that some of them don’t know it now, that votes are collared under democracy, not by talking sense but by talking nonsense, and they will apply themselves to the job with a hearty yo-heave-ho. Most of them, before the uproar is over, will actually convince themselves. The winner will be whoever promises the most with the least probability of delivering anything.”

— Thanks to LRC — 

Election 2015: How Bad Are the Conservatives?

In this series CMR will examine the policy proposals set forth by the top three parties in Canada’s 2015 federal election.

PART I: The NDP
PART II: The Liberals
PART III: The Conservatives (current article)

Obviously these parties are all terrible. So the question is simply this: which party will beat you with the biggest stick?

We will refer to the helpful National Post article “Everything you need to know about the parties’ platforms, from taxes to terrorism to the environment.”

In Part I and Part II, we reviewed the NDP and Liberal platforms. It enough to make any reasonable man fear for Canada. We have saved the current ruling party for last. Can we expect the Conservatives to be any better?

Those who prefer smaller government will usually assume the so-called ‘conservative’ party is the best choice. But the CPC is Canada’s neocon party, so — despite over-the-top proclamations from the opposition during election season –they offer only a different variety of socialism.

The issue then becomes whether the socialism of the Cons will cause less suffering than the socialism of the somwhat more leftist centrists, the Liberals, or the somewhat more radical leftists in the NDP.

The Cons have been leading the government since 2006, and they have had a majority since 2011. In all that time, they haven’t done much that is “conservative”: tax cuts have been cruelly parsimonious and offset by higher and higher spending as well as the overall expansion of Ottawa’s interventionary powers. Just look at the numbers. In 2006, the Conservative’s budget was $220 million of expenditures. In 2015, government spending will be $290 million. Meanwhile, our GDP has gone from $1.3 trillion to $1.8 trillion in that time.

If we are to be charitable, when you think of what we’ve seen around the world post-2008 financial crisis, Harper’s Cons have presided over a government that is growing relatively slowly. The other parties might grow the government at a far more accelerated rate.

Change for the sake of change is not good. We can see that in Alberta. The incumbent party is usually corrupt and lazy but less dangerous than a party aggressively campaigning to bring “change” and “fix things.” Anyone with a modicum of political wisdom knows “fixing things” in political speech translates as “bigger government, more spending, more taxes, more interference.”

So here we go: the Conservative Platform and parts of their record.

Economy, Taxes, and Pocketbook Issues

– Introduced a “family tax cut” that allows couples with children under age 18 to split up to $50,000 of income; caps non-refundable benefit at $2,000.

This is relatively good because it leads to less tax paid. It is somewhat unfair in the sense that it only applies to certain people, while others get nothing. What about couples with no children? What about single people? Relatively good, but every other taxpayer needs more relief as well.

– Increased annual contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) to $10,000 from $5,500.

The TFSA is a useful tool for getting more tax free investment income. The TFSA is better than the RRSP and here at CMR we are happy it exists. Increasing the contribution limit is good. Too bad they didn’t make the contribution limit even higher, or just eliminate it. Imagine — no tax on investment income! Canada economy would be the envy of the world within two years.

– Increased Universal Child Care Benefit to $160 a month for children under age six, up from $100; added new monthly benefit of $60 for children age six to 17.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you are a net taxpayer and you get the Child Care Benefit, it’s just like taking a regular old tax credit and reducing your overall level of taxation. If you are a tax-consumer (like a welfare recipient or an employee of the government), this is just extra welfare. The policy is a mixed bag in the first place, and increasing is kind of here nor there.

– Reduced small-business tax rate to nine per cent from current 11 per cent by 2019; have reduced corporate tax rate from about 22 per cent to 15 per cent.

Very good. They should have cut it further. Even to zero. All corporate taxes should be called “shareholder taxes,” because that’s who pays for them. These corporate and small business taxes are sinister forms of double-dip income taxation and should be abolished.

– Promise to balance the budget this fiscal year.

It appears they have accomplished this. But as we have said before, balancing the budget is only good if balanced by means of spending reductions.

– Increased eligibility age for receiving Old Age Security benefits to 67 from 65.

Probably good overall, since the Old Age Security benefit shouldn’t exist and therefore it would be a good policy to increase the eligibility age to 500. For some, however, it is a way of getting back money that has been previously plundered from them in the form of taxation.

– Are examining ways for Canadians to voluntarily contribute more to the Canada Pension Plan.

The CPP is dreadful but at least the policy under consideration is more voluntary contributions. None of the contributions now are voluntary. A real improvement would be making the entire CPP voluntary — let people opt out if want.

However, putting more money in the CPP is economically harmful, even if it is voluntary. It gives more capital to the government’s portfolio managers, who then allocate vast sums of money with inauthentic investment theses and have a considerable impact on economic activity. The CPP is not a natural institution and giving it more money and power hurts the entire world. It is inherently incapable of making economical investments. Its assets should all handed over to taxpayers.

And… that’s it? That’s the Economy and Taxes part of the Conservatives’ program? Where are the income tax cuts? Where is the elimination of the GST? Where are the brutal cuts to government spending? Maybe they will throw us a bone elsewhere in the platform, but so far this ‘right wing’ and ‘conservative’ party is extremely lame. They clearly are neocons — leftist liberals who crave large government that provides mountains of resources for welfare and warfare.

Security and Terrorism

– Committed Canada to a military mission against ISIL, sending CF-18 fighter jets to Iraq and Syria.

Harper wants to be a War Prime Minister. He regrets that Canada didn’t participate more in the disgraceful Iraq War. He is excited to participate in the noble crusade against the evil Islamic State, as he was eager to participate in the war on Libya (which, by the way, has made that country far worse than before, and directly contributed to the rise of ISIS in the first place).

Putting aside the rather important fact that dropping bombs in civilized areas always kills civilians, in a purely realist sense intervening militarily in this conflict is extremely dumb. ISIS is brutal and vile, but it is not a threat to Canada, and Ottawa has no business forking over our resources to help evil governments in other parts of the world other evil people they don’t like. The only hope for resolution is for regional stakeholders to figure it out. Turkey or Jordan could crush ISIS in a month if they wanted to. No one wants to act decisively though, because they expect the US and its allies to do the dirty work for them. Crowding out local solutions by picking one side and bombing the other will ultimately make things worse, as it always does — like government spending crowds out good investment. Every time the Western military-democracies topple a dictator in the Middle East, the outcome is worse than before. Why can’t we learn?

And now that Russia is intervening to fight against ISIS and anti-Assad rebels in Syria, there is even less imaginable justification for Harper to participate in the intervention there. Russia is making a mistake, but we all need to let them make that mistake.

The war issue is one of Harper’s biggest weaknesses — Liberals and NDP have him beat on this.

– Passed Bill C-51, with broad new powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to expand surveillance and actively disrupt threats to national security. The bill makes it illegal to promote terrorism; lowers the legal threshold required for police to arrest and detain suspected extremists without charge; and allows more than 100 government entities to exchange Canadians’ confidential information if it is “relevant” to a potential or suspected national security threat.

This bill is an assault on the civil liberties that help protect innocent people from the government’s power and expands the surveillance powers of the state. Bill C-51 is an abomination.

– Committed $292 million over five years to help RCMP, CSIS and the Canada Border Services Agency combat terrorism.

We need to cut the budgets of the RCMP, CSIS, and Canada Border Services Agency, so this is a bad policy.

– Created a new parliamentary police force by integrating the former, separate House and Senate security staffs into the Parliamentary Protective Service, while also committing $39 million in additional funding for operational security measures in the Parliamentary precinct.

Right… just what we need, bigger bureaucracies with more money.

Energy and Environment

– Approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline that would run from Alberta to the coast of Kitimat, B.C.; support the proposed TransCanada Energy East project, a west-to-east oil pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick; support proposed TransCanada Keystone XL oilsands pipeline from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast.

Basically they don’t oppose these, which is fine. They should not be opposed so long as the projects respect property rights.

– Committed to reducing Canada’s emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, largely relying on provincial measures to meet that goal.

This is a dreadful policy and needs to be reexamined. “Carbon emissions” should not be the subject of government policy. Relying on provincial measures is better than having Ottawa dictate everything though.

– Agreed with other G7 nations to move to a low-carbon economy by 2050 and eliminate use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.

A foolhardy and destructive policy, but in a lot of ways these kinds of agreements are meaningless. Just look at Kyoto. We should probably be using MORE carbon in our economy.

Infrastructure and Transport

– $5.3 billion a year, on average, for provincial and municipal infrastructure under the New Building Canada Plan.

This is a terrible policy. Infrastructure spending should be left to the provinces.

– A New Public Transit Fund committing the federal government to spend $250 million in 2017, $500 million in 2018 and $1 billion a year after 2019.

We don’t need everyone in the country subsidizing people who live in big cities. Ottawa should completely stay out of public transit issues.

– $150 million for Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program to fund community and cultural infrastructure projects across the country as a way to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017.

This makes the CMR editors cry. What a waste of money.

Foreign Affairs and Defense

– Increase Department of National Defence’s budget to three per cent starting in 2017-18, totalling an additional $11.8 billion over 10 years.

I’m afraid that the Department of National Defence’s budget is far too large already ($20 billion). Harper should be cutting the military budget.

– Commit an additional $3.5 billion over five years toward maternal, newborn and child health initiative, on top of $2.8-billion commitment at G8 summit in 2010.

Great, more money for government health care. What a disgrace.

Social Issues

– Beginning in 2017–18, increase annual health funding to provinces to grow in line with nominal GDP, guaranteed to increase three per cent each year (current increases are six per cent annually).

This is a terrible idea, the exact opposite of what is needed. The only way we are going to make health care better in this country is to get Ottawa out of it. We do not need to spend more federal money on health care.

– Retool $2-billion-per-year Labour Market Development Agreements with provinces to reorient training towards needs of employers and job seekers.

So they aren’t going to spend more, they aren’t going to spend less, they are going to “retool.” Well, since the current system basically just pumps money into provincial governments and subsidizes the unemployed, it’s hard to imagine how “retooling” it would make it worse but obviously the policy is awful and this entire program has got to go.

– Provide $65 million over four years, starting in 2016–17, to business and industry associations to allow them to work with post-secondary institutions to better align curricula with needs of employers.

We don’t need to spend government money on this at all. It doesn’t do anything about the problem of government universities churning out economically unproductive graduates.

Democratic Reform and Governance

– Place a moratorium on new Senate appointments in an effort to pressure the provinces to accept reforms to the upper chamber or abolish it.

This seems relatively harmless. It doesn’t matter much. Basically everyone except the Senators think the Senate is dumb.

– Introduce legislation that would require Canadians’ approval in national referendum before first-past-the-post electoral system could be changed.

While we should generally oppose new laws, no one cares about this.

Justice

– NOT decriminalize or legalize possession of marijuana.

The drug war is a complete failure and it should end. It doesn’t matter if marijuana is good or bad. The Conservatives are terrible on this issue.

– Consider Canadian police chiefs’ call for ticketing system for people possessing 30 grams of pot or less.

This is better than putting kidnapping people and putting them in jail, but come on. Just legalize all drugs already. Alcohol is legal and the world hasn’t fallen apart.

– Re-introduce previously tabled legislation to imprison the most brutal criminals for the rest of their natural lives and quickly deport hardcore foreign criminals. Also, to enact an amended version of the government’s previous mandatory-minimum sentencing law for gun crimes, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Deporting “hardcore” foreign criminals is a good idea. But if we can’t deport a brutal criminal to another country, we should send them to a deserted island or Antartica or the Sahara Desert or some other place where we don’t have to take care of them and they are far away from society. Minimum sentencing laws for gun crimes is a dumb idea, because it creates a greater possibility of disproportionate punishments.

Aboriginal Issues

– Review the 94 recommendations released in June by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which the Tory government established as part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The 94 recommendations are mostly bad, by the way. But simply “reviewing” them? That sounds fine, it will probably keep a few legislators and bureaucrats out of trouble for 15 minutes.

– Provide $500 million to building and renovating schools on reserves.

The government needs to stop making reserves worse.

– Commit $567 million over five years for Aboriginal people and northerners to help build “stronger communities.”

What? What does this mean? You can be assured when the government starts talking about building “stronger communities,” your communities will soon be less strong. We can all see how Ottawa’s efforts to create strong Aboriginal communities has been such a success so far (cough cough). This policy will inflict more damage on Canada’s aboriginals and northerners.

– Budget promises include $215 to provide skills development and training for aboriginal peoples; $200 million to improve First Nations education and outcomes in schools; and $30.3 million to expand a plan that helps communities create their own land management laws to improve economic development on reserve lands.

Stop. Please stop. Hasn’t Ottawa done enough to hurt First Nations?

Conclusion

Well, that was dreadful. While it has a few policies that help people pay less tax, the Conservative platform is full of economic destruction, while gleefully interfering in insane Middle Eastern civil wars and systematically spying on every Canadian. Truly Harper and his Cons are some of the worst ‘conservatives’ we have ever seen.

Final score:

D-

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