King Trudeau?

king-trudea-sized

 

I recently reread an old Hans-Hermann Hoppe essay entitled “On Theory and History. Reply to Benegas-Lynch, Jr.”

To summarize briefly, it responds to criticisms leveled against Hoppe’s innovative argument that absolute monarchy should, all things being equal, be less exploitative than democracy. The original paper in which this argument appeared and to which B-L directs his response is quite brilliant and is enough to make most people at least contemplate their long held prejudices (“democracy is bad but everything else is worse”). That paper is available here — it was used as the first chapter of Democracy: The God That Failed. 

Hoppe’s reply is very worth reading as it provides a helpful overview of how one should use economic or ‘praxeologic’ theorems to analyze history — and how one must take care when using history to evaluate such theorems.

It’s a shame this reply was not included as an appendix to Democracy: The God That Failed like Hoppe’s “Four Replies”  in The Economics and Ethics of Private Property.  It is classic Hoppe.

In his original critique, B-L attempts to score a rhetorical headshot against Hoppe by asking, basically, what would happen if Bill Clinton became King of America (remember, this exchange is from the 90s). Clearly, he thinks, that would be much worse than the status quo of America’s democratic system.

Unfazed, Hoppe describes why this would represent a huge improvement.

Just for fun, I thought I would adapt this section of Hoppe’s response to political milieu of the True North. Read on:

What if Justin Trudeau were to become hereditary king of Canada; wouldn’t this make matters worse than they are now with him as prime minister? The answer is a decisive No. First off, given Trudeau’s obviously high degree of time preference, by making him owner rather than caretaker of Canada, his effective rate of time preference would fall (as high as it might still be). More profoundly and importantly, however, the transition from a Trudeau prime ministership to Trudeau kingship would require substantial institutional changes (for instance, the abolition of Parliament and parliamentary elections, the elimination of the Supreme Court, and the abandonment of the Constitution), and these changes could not possibly be implemented without King Trudeau losing thereby most of his current power as prime minister. For with everyone except Trudeau and the Trudeaupians barred from politics and political participation, and with Trudeau installed as the personal owner of all formerly public (federal) lands and properties as well as the ultimate judge and legislator for the entire territory of Canada, popular opposition against his and his clan’s excessive wealth and power would bring his kingship to an end before it had even begun. Thus, if Trudeau really wanted to hold onto his royal position, he would d have to give up most of the current – democratic-republican – government’s property, tax revenue, and legislative powers. Even then, in light of Trudeau’s less than exemplary and shining personal history and family background, his United Kingdom of Canada would almost certainly be faced with an immediate upsurge of secessionist forces all across the country and quickly disintegrate, and Trudeau, at the very best, would end up as King Justin of Ottawa.

 

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Election 2015: How Bad Are The Liberals?

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 (current article)
PART III: The Conservatives

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, we looked at the NDP. Their platform is awful, but in all fairness they had a couple of good policies related, including the repeal of Bill C-51 and ending the military campaign against ISIS. On economic issues, they were entirely dreadful other than their teeny tiny tax cut for small business. They earned a score of D-. Let’s see if the Liberals can fare better.

As Canada’s center-left party, one would expect them to be a little less stupid more moderate than the NDP, which is the party of the far left. Practically speaking, they might be closer to the Conservatives (center-right) when it comes to governance.

Economy

– Cut middle-class income-tax bracket to 20.5 per cent from current 22 per cent; create a new tax bracket of 33 per cent for annual incomes of more than $200,000.

Right on, tax cut! For some people, anyway. But it is an incredibly small tax cut. A lousy 1.5%? Come on, Canadians deserve better. Most people won’t even notice this. But they want to increase taxes on the ‘rich’ (though I hesitate to classify someone as rich for earning over $200K per year). This which is politically appealing but does absolutely nothing positive for the economy (it merely shifts money from productive people to the government).

This would probably increase taxation on net, therefore this policy is bad. They should drop the tax increase and keep the tax cut, then at least this policy would be stingy and lame but not bad.

If the Liberals said they were eliminating income tax on anyone in the middle class, then that would be something to get excited about, even if they were increasing taxes on the wealthier brackets. Better yet would be to cut everyone’s taxes.

Heck, even the NDP said they would keep the income tax rates the same! Well, they are probably lying but it’s funny that the NDP is arguably better than the Liberals on federal income taxes.

– Cancel income-splitting for families; party calls it “a $2-billion tax break to the top 15 per cent of Canadians.”

We can say the same thing we said about the NDP wanting to cancel income-splitting: “This would increase the tax burden on any family to which it applies, and is therefore bad. That it applies mostly to the “wealthiest” is true depending on how you define “wealthy,” but it also applies only to those who have someone with whom they can split their income. So it is rather selective and narrow in its tax relief. This is an interesting matter on its own, and of course tax relief for everyone would be better. But regardless of the fairness issue, added tax relief for some is better than added tax relief for none.”

– Introduce a new income-tested, tax-free monthly Canada Child Benefit that would boost payments to all families with children and annual income below $150,000.

As we said in our discussion of the NDP, the Child Tax Benefit is effectively a tax cut to net taxpayers with children, and welfare for net tax-consumers with children. Essentially, this Liberal policy says families with annual income >$150K should pay more. It’s not clear whether lower income folks would get more or less out of the deal versus the status quo.

Overall, this policy is essentially just dumb because it fiddles with something that shouldn’t exist. A better solution would be to just give families income tax cuts. Fiddling around with these tax credits is annoying and a roundabout way to give tax cuts to some and welfare to others. Meanwhile, net taxpayers with no children don’t get squat. The whole Child Benefit system is unfair and stupid.

– Cancel TFSA increase to $10,000, saying it helps well-off Canadians who need it the least.

As we said in our NDP platform review: “The TFSA is one of the only good things the Harper Conservatives have ever done. Reducing the contribution limits means more taxable income and therefore this is an evil NDP policy.” So we can say the same thing here: Evil Liberal policy. Don’t you love the government deciding who is needy and who is not? Plus, not that it should matter, but it’s questionable whether these claims about the TFSA mostly benefiting rich people are true in the first place. Evidence suggests that people at a broad range of income levels benefit from the TFSA.

– Retain tax breaks for small businesses but want to ensure this doesn’t primarily benefit the wealthy.

This doesn’t really mean anything. Small business gets “tax breaks” i.e. lower tax rates if business income is under a certain threshold. Most small business owners are not rich, and even if they were, so what? In small privately held businesses, income flows through to the owner, who gets taxed at his marginal rate. If he is rich, that tax rate is higher.

Side note: You learn a lot about people’s underlying philosophy when they say “less tax” is a “tax break.” In other words, anything less than having 100% of income taxed is a tax break. These disgusting people are basically saying all your income belongs to the state, and anything you are allowed to keep is a “tax break.” Yuck.

– Balance the budget in 2016.

I really hate when politicians say they are going to “balance the budget” and leave out the important part of HOW THEY ARE GOING TO DO THAT. Raising taxes, or cutting spending? Raising taxes is bad and cutting spending is good.

I would argue that if the government is not going to cut spending, running deficits is better than raising taxes, although both are bad. But there is a difference: you really don’t have a choice as to whether you pay taxes or not. You do have a choice about whether you lend the government money. Governments racking up debts is still bad, because it absorbs private capital and pumps it into wasteful government spending, but at least the taxpayer is less directly affected.

– Cancel Conservative plan to increase OAS eligibility age to 67.

Same thing we said about the NDP proposal applies here: “Evaluating this is a little more complicated than most proposals. On the one hand, OAS is welfare for old folks. This involves subsidizing old folks (who tend to have more accumulated wealth) by taxing younger people (who tend to have less accumulated wealth). Taking money from poorer people and giving it to wealthier people is a weird policy. On the other hand, old folks who are/were net taxpayers deserve to get all their money back, so the OAS could be considered on the same terms as taking a tax credit. Overall, the OAS is bad and should just be eliminated, and with that in mind increasing the age limit is probably better because the best result would be increasing the age limit to 1000 so no one could get it.”

– Increase Canada Pension Plan contributions and benefits for Canadians.

No. The CPP is a disgrace to humanity. If people want to put more money into the CPP, I guess that’s their choice, and they should be allowed to do that. In general, however, people should be allowed to opt out of the CPP and take responsibility for their own retirement. The younger generation will be lucky to get anything out of the CPP. Forcing people — at gunpoint, if necessary — to put money into the CPP is a moral and economic atrocity.

Security and Terrorism

 – End the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria but keep military trainers in Iraq and boost humanitarian aid to help refugees; allow more refugees into the country from Iraq and Syria.

You see, the Liberals start here with something good and then dilute it with something bad. Ending the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria is a good idea. Entangling ourselves in brutal foreign conflicts is senseless. But the Liberals want to keep military trainers in Iraq — in other words, they want to support one evil faction against another evil faction. The correct choice is actually to not choose an evil faction at all, and stay out.

There should be no humanitarian aid from Ottawa — Canadians should send their own humanitarian aid if they want, and the government should have nothing to do with it. Likewise, dealing with refugees should not be a government issue at all — if people and private organizations want to help refugees by giving them a place to stay and money and such, they should be allowed to do so.

– Make amendments to anti-terrorism Bill C-51 by: limiting the sharing of personal data to 17 government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities; eliminating CSIS’s new power to obtain court warrants to break the law in some cases to disrupt suspected terrorists; adding a three-year sunset provisions on some parts of the law and mandatory parliamentary reviews of the extraordinary security measures.

The Liberals supported C-51, and these amendments are simply a joke. Oh, so personal data will be shared with only 17 departments and agencies with national security responsibilities. (How do we have that many bureaucracies with national security responsibilities? How do we have that many government agencies at all?)

How nice to eliminate CSIS’s power to break the law — after you gave it to them. Give me a break. They routinely break the law anyway so nothing will change without defunding CSIS and prosecuting lawbreakers.

Sunset provisions at least create the possibility that a bad law will go away, so that’s not a terrible idea because laws are virtually never repealed. But notice how politicians only propose sunset provisions on bad laws. Wouldn’t it just be better to not pass the law, and if it’s already passed, just repeal and try again? Don’t say, “Hey, this law is bad but we will keep it for a few years and then decide whether we still want it, By the way, we probably will.”

The NDP, which says they would repeal C-51, has the Liberals and Conservatives beat when it comes to this awful law.

– Create an all-party national security oversight committee to oversee the 17 government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities.

Committees. The solution is always committees. News flash: Committees are dumb and if you think we need more committees you are quite likely also dumb. They are routinely stacked with members favorable to whoever is setting up the committees in the first place, and inevitably create giant reports no one reads then everything just continues as it was, if not worse.

Government oversight doesn’t fix anything. It just changes the way the government wastes money. Furthermore, it usually doesn’t work as intended, because rather than restricting government activity, it tends to add legitimacy to functions that are bad in the first place. It does this by creating the illusion of “checks and balances” while it white washes bad things.

The only way to reign in abusive government agencies is to cut their budgets or get rid of them.

And again: how do we have 17 government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities? That is way too many. The bureaucratic nightmare in dealing with “national security” must be suffocating.

If the Liberals weren’t clueless and/or dishonest, they would be getting rid of agencies rather than setting up committees.

Environment

– Continue to oppose proposed Northern Gateway pipeline; support Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines.

Frankly, the federal government should have no influence whatsoever in the Northern Gateway pipeline, which is an Alberta/BC issue.

It’s nice that they support Energy East and Keystone XL, in the sense that “supporting” means “not opposing.” The government shouldn’t be advocating for special industry projects one way or another. They should let these issues resolve themselves among legitimate stakeholders.

– Put a price on carbon pollution that allows provinces to design their own carbon pricing policies.

This seems contradictory. If you put a price on carbon pollution, you preclude the provinces from deciding how carbon pollution should be priced — or whether it should be priced at all.

Carbon pricing creates a weird managed market that benefits the most richest, most powerful carbon pollution generators and financial institutions while hurting everyone else. This policy is terrible.

– Partner with provinces and territories to establish national emissions-reduction targets.

Sorry, no. There should be no national emissions-reduction targets.

– Invest millions in clean technologies and enhance tax measures to create more green jobs.

No. We should not have the government pouring taxpayer money into politically connected businesses, destroying jobs in some sectors and to subsidize wasteful jobs in other sectors. However, we should not be opposed to cutting taxes, even if only for certain sectors of the economy. Although a tax cut for all industries is better, selective tax cuts are relative improvements. If they want to have “green” companies pay less tax, sure, I can get on board.

– Introduce an environmental review process with more “teeth.”

Virtually all the worst pollution takes place on government land. The problem isn’t an environmental review process that lacks enough “teeth,” but instead the fact that the government allows pollution on its land at all. Government land should be desocialized and laws of tort and trespass should be enforced. Adding more teeth just means a few more boxes need to be checked before the government will let someone dump toxic waste in publicly owned rivers. Ultimately, they are still letting someone pollute.

– Hold First Ministers’ meeting with premiers within 90 days of the Paris UN climate change conference this December to establish a framework for reducing Canada’s carbon footprint.

Canada doesn’t need to reduce its carbon footprint. Like, at all. So establishing a framework for doing so is dumb.

This proposal is completely moronic. Who cares what the climate change conference in Paris says? It is a conference of goons and fools. Reducing our carbon footprint hurts us and helps countries like India and China. We should be trying to increase our carbon footprint, so that we are wealthier and healthier.

– Increase the amount of Canada’s protected marine and coastal areas to five per cent by 2017 and 10 per cent by 2020.

No. All the marine and coastal areas should be desocialized. The end.

– Phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Well, yes, absolutely! Now this probably wouldn’t result in any less spending overall, because the subsidies cut from A would just go to B, but in and of itself this is a good policy. The government should not subsidize any industries.

– Along with the U.S. and Mexico, develop a North American clean energy and environmental agreement.

ABSOLUTELY NOT! These kinds of agreement, whether they are ‘free trade’ agreements or ‘environmental’ agreements, result in harmful political integration and a surrender of sovereignty. We have less than 10% the population of the rest of North America. Canada would be surrendering power to other countries that don’t share our values. The agreement would harmonize regulations and benefit the most powerful and politically connected special interests.

Infrastructure and Transport

– Boost infrastructure funding through “alternative sources of capital” such as having large pension funds invest in major infrastructure projects in urban and rural communities.

The details are very fuzzy on what the Liberals intend for this. They have not given any concrete plan. They say they want to entice investment from private pension funds to invest in Canadian infrastructure projects. That could mean all sorts of things. In all fairness, we cannot judge this policy (but it will probably be bad).

– Provide infrastructure funding for affordable housing, public transit, transportation, climate change and “smart cities.”

NO!!! I mean, this is just dreadful. The federal government should not fund any of these things. The fact it extracts money from the provinces, takes a huge cut for itself, and then parcels out the rest based on political influence makes things worse. It would be far better to just cut that part of Ottawa’s budget and leave all infrastructure decisions in the hands of the provinces.

And don’t you shudder to think what happens when the government starts dishing out cash for “smart cities”? Smart to whom? Ottawa? All the stupidest possible public infrastructure fantasies will have their crazy advocates fighting over the federal money that’s up for grabs. Someone please save us.

– Hold a big city mayors’ meeting in Ottawa annually to discuss pressing infrastructure issues facing cities.

This is completely useless. A bunch of big city tax-devouring beggars rack up a big bill on a fancy trip to Ottawa so they can hang around with Justin Trudeau and talk about how much federal money they need, without which their cities will be lousy. Waste of time and money, and surely leading to nothing positive in the future.

Foreign Affairs and Defense

– Make Canada a “world leader” at multinational institutions.

National Post could have left it out of the article. This doesn’t mean anything. I am sure Justin Trudeau would like to give lots of speeches at the United Nations or something, but that doesn’t help anybody.

Realistically speaking, Canada probably shouldn’t even be in most of these “multinational institutions.” They do not represent Canada’s interests and tend to be counterproductive regarding the goals of prosperity and justice throughout the world.

Canada can be a “world leader” by advocating for peace and free markets, and be demonstrating those values to the world with its own domestic policies. This is not what the Liberals are offering.

– Reopen nine Veterans Affairs regional offices closed by the Conservative government.

I understand why this riles people up. The government treats veterans very poorly. But these are fake cuts. Veteran Affairs spends more money in total each year, so even if some regional offices close and a bunch of bureaucrats get fired in one place, the money is being spent elsewhere in Veteran Affairs. Are the veterans better or worse off than before? It’s impossible to say for sure. That is the problem with government spending.

You’d be better off just getting eliminating all tax on military families and getting rid of Veteran Affairs Canada. Any money that Ottawa would otherwise tax and spend would just stay in the provinces and their health care systems could deal with sick and injured people.

– Create a cabinet committee to oversee and manage Canada’s relationship with the United States.

One of the worst ideas I have ever heard.

– Host a new trilateral summit with the United States and Mexico.

No.

Social Issues

– Strengthen the federal government’s role in safeguarding the national health-care system; meet with the premiers on how to improve the system in areas such as wait times, affordability of prescription drugs, and availability of homecare.

What is it with the Liberals and having all these meetings and committees?

Anyway, we really need to rethink our heath care system. We should leave the money in the provinces and let them figure it out. When something is as important as health care, you want your influence to be closer to home. Therefore, the Liberal desire to strengthen Ottawa’s role in “safeguarding” the health care system is the exact opposite direction we should go.

– Restore door-to-door home mail delivery by Canada Post.

Whatever. This basically just subsidizes Amazon. Mail delivery should be entirely privatized.

– Reinstate the long-form census and make Statistics Canada independent.

The long-form census is ridiculous and it’s insane that some think the government should threaten people with imprisonment if they don’t want to fill it out. What is wrong with people?

Democratic Reform and Governance

– Introduce changes to strengthen the Access to Information system and ensure this applies to the Prime Minister’s Office and ministers’ offices.

Supposedly they want to make all government data open by default otherwise the government must provide written response in 30 days blah blah blah. I think the people should have access to all the government’s data without restriction, but I don’t necessarily think the Liberals would help with this. The changes to the Access to Information Act, written by government lawyers, would probably just add more ways to avoid producing information.

Government agencies have secrets because they exist. You wouldn’t care about the Access to Information Act if the government didn’t have so much power.

– Create a quarterly, more detailed parliamentary expense report, and open up the secretive House of Commons Board of Internal Economy.

Theoretically we could get some entertainment and scandals out of this. Ultimately it wouldn’t matter much. So Ottawa would hire a few more bureaucrats to provide more detailed accounting of how parliament wastes money. Big deal. Why don’t we just… cut their budgets? Members of Parliament shouldn’t even get a salary.

– Create a non-partisan, independent process for advising the prime minister on Senate appointments.

Lame. No one cares. No one likes the Senate.

– Allow more time for questions and answers during question period, and introduce a prime minister’s question period.

Might occasionally be good for theatre, but otherwise has no meaningful impact on anything. The money will still be spent. At best it might slow things down — fewer laws, fewer ways to hurt Canadians. That would be good.

– Ban partisan government ads and appoint an Advertising Commissioner to help the Auditor General provide oversight on government advertising.

Lame. Why can’t we just ban all government advertising?

– Revamp the electoral process by eliminating the first-past-the-post voting system; will study measures such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting.

All of the different electoral approaches to democratic majoritarianism are varieties of bad, and I’m not sure how they would rank. But one thing is for sure — mandatory voting is evil. Threatening people with fines and violence if they don’t pick one gangs of jerks or another is just cruel. The Liberals are evil just for considering mandatory voting. If anything, the ability to vote needs to be restricted. Anyone who works for the government or gets the majority of their income from the government should be prohibited from voting.

Justice

– Legalize pot and allow it to be sold – and taxed – in approved outlets. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he expects people would not be allowed to buy the drug until they turn 18 or 19, depending on the province in which they live.

This is an improvement over the status quo. Putting sin taxes on it and allowing only “approved outlets” are bad ideas but this would lead to fewer injustices related to the drug war. The drug war is a complete failure. Surely the money would be spent elsewhere, maybe just allocating more resources to other parts of the drug war. Nonetheless, this would probably result in less state aggression against people overall.

  – Consider reviewing mandatory minimum sentences.

Depends on the crime, I guess.

– Require judicial nominees to the Supreme Court of Canada to speak both official languages.

Yawn. No one cares.

Aboriginal Issues

– Rebuild the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

This doesn’t tell us anything. There is only one right way to do this: abolish the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and desocialize all First Nations, Inuit, and Metis land.

– Call a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.

Inquiries, committees, meetings…

– Implement all 94 recommendations from Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Has anyone read all of these? Mostly they just feed into the problem — demanding meaningless gestures, money, and more interference from the Canadian state, which has done such damage to the indigenous Canadians. They should be demanding freedom. They should be trying to get the federal government out of their lives completely.

– Create more transparency and accountability with First Nations; pass legislation in consultation with First Nations people on implementing the reforms.

– Provide stable, predictable funding for First Nations education to close the “unacceptable gap” in learning outcomes for First Nations students.

With funding comes control. More federal control over First Nations. This is more the same. First Nations need sovereignty and property rights, not more ‘help’ from Ottawa.

Conclusion

That was quite the slog. After all that, there can be no doubt the Liberal Party’s platform is genuinely wretched — a tissue of economic stupidity and amazingly pointless proposals. Their tax cuts are pathetic. You wouldn’t even notice. They definitely want to increase taxes and the burden of government in various ways. The aboriginal policies were a joke. Overall the Liberals only had a few things that were actually good, particularly their scaling down of the drug war and not bombing countries that haven’t attacked us.

Compared to the NDP, the Liberals had more completely pointless proposals and they seem to like committees a lot more. Both are dedicated to economically disastrous climate change issues and neither will do anything to make Canada better overall. The NDP was definitely better on C-51, but worse on the drug war.

Overall score:

D-

Next time: We look at the platform of the ruling party — the Conservatives! You know it will be awful, but can they score higher than the NDP or Liberals? 

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed.”

I recently reread Étienne de la Boétie’s The Politics of Obedience: A Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. By far it is one of the greatest pieces of political theory ever written. It was composed in the 16th century but it speaks to the prevailing struggle in all eras of human civilization. It’s good Sunday reading to go with your coffee or your scotch.

How does the state, a tiny minority of people, achieve domination over the far more powerful majority? La Boétie argues that rulers depend upon the consent of the ruled — the tyrant has “nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you.” This consent can be withdrawn to end the oppression without violence.

Excerpt from Part I:

Poor, wretched, and stupid peoples, nations determined on your own misfortune and blind to your own good! You let yourselves be deprived before your own eyes of the best part of your revenues; your fields are plundered, your homes robbed, your family heirlooms taken away. You live in such a way that you cannot claim a single thing as your own; and it would seem that you consider yourselves lucky to be loaned your property, your families, and your very lives.

All this havoc, this misfortune, this ruin, descends upon you not from alien foes, but from the one enemy whom you yourselves render as powerful as he is, for whom you go bravely to war, for whose greatness you do not refuse to offer your own bodies unto death. He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you.

Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you? How would he dare assail you if he had not cooperation from you? What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves?

You sow your crops in order that he may ravage them; you install and furnish your homes to give him goods to pillage; you rear your daughters that he may gratify his lust; you bring up your children in order that he may confer upon them the greatest privilege he knows — to be led into his battles, to be delivered to butchery, to be made the servants of his greed and the instruments of his vengeance; you yield your bodies unto hard labor in order that he may indulge in his delights and wallow in his filthy pleasures; you weaken yourselves in order to make him the stronger and the mightier to hold you in check. From all these indignities, such as the very beasts of the field would not endure, you can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free.

Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.

Once you grasp the power of la Boétie’s argument, there is a visceral moment of realization that has almost a mystical quality. Suddenly the world makes more sense, the same way it did when you really “got” how the free market works, or how you “got” why liberty is just.

— Read the rest of the book — 

Politicians are “Obsessive Megalomaniacal Do-gooders”

The following interview with Hans-Hermann Hoppe first appeared in the German weekly Junge Freiheit on November 2, 2012, and was conducted by Moritz Schwarz. It has been translated here into English by Robert Groezinger.

—————–

Are taxes nothing but protection money? The state a kind of mafia? Democracy a fraud? Philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe is not only considered one of the most prominent pioneering intellectuals of the libertarian movement, but also perhaps the sharpest critic of the Western political system.

Professor Hoppe, in your essay collection “Der Wettbewerb der Gauner” (“The Competition of Crooks“) you write that “99 percent of citizens, asked if the state was necessary, would answer yes.” Me too! Why am I wrong?

Hoppe : All of us, from childhood, have been moulded by state or state-licensed institutions—preschools, schools, universities. So the result you quoted is not surprising. However, if I asked you whether you said yes to an institution having the last word in each conflict, even in those it is itself involved in, you would certainly say no—unless you hoped to be in charge of this institution yourself.

Er … correct .

Hoppe : Of course, because you know that such an institution cannot only mediate in conflicts but also cause them, you can recognize that it can then resolve them to its own advantage. In the face of this I, for one, would live in fear of my life and property. However, it is precisely this, the ultimate power of judicial decision-making, that is the specific characteristic of the institution known as the state.

Correct, but on the other hand the state is based on a social contract, which provides the individual with protection and space for personal fulfilment, which without the state he would not have—in a struggle of all against all.

Hoppe : No, the state is anything but the result of a contract! No one with even just an ounce of common sense would agree to such a contract. I have a lot of contracts in my files, but nowhere is there one like this. The state is the result of aggressive force and subjugation. It has evolved without contractual foundation, just like a gang of protection racketeers. And concerning the struggle of all against all: that is a myth. Of course the racketeer protects his victims on “his” territory from other racketeers, but only so he can conduct his own racket more successfully. Moreover, it is states that are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people and immeasurable destruction in the 20th century alone. Compared to that, the victims of private crimes are almost negligible. And do you seriously believe that conflicts between the inhabitants of the tri-border region [of France, Germany and Switzerland] near Basle, who are living together in a condition of anarchy, are more numerous than conflicts between the inhabitants of Dortmund and Düsseldorf, who are citizens of one and the same state [Germany]? Not that I know of.

Why in your view is democracy just a “competition of crooks”?

Hoppe : All highly-developed forms of religion forbid the coveting of someone else’s property. This prohibition is the foundation of peaceful cooperation. In a democracy, on the other hand, anyone can covet anybody else’s property and act according to his desire—the only precondition being that he can gain access to the corridors of power. Thus, under democratic conditions, everybody becomes a potential threat. And during mass elections what tends to happen is that the members of society who attempt to access the corridors of power and rise to the highest positions are those who have no moral inhibitions about misappropriating other people’s property: habitual amoralists who are particularly talented in forging majorities out of a multitude of unbridled and mutually exclusive demands.

“Politicians: lazy and spongers!” Aren’t you afraid you might be reproached for complaining on the level of the “Bild” tabloid newspaper?

Hoppe: So what? Up until the 20th century there was hardly an important political thinker who didn’t speak disparagingly about democracy. The key word was: “mob rule.” The populist criticism of democracy, as can be found in Bild or at the water cooler, is all very well. But it is not fundamental enough, nor does it go far enough—to date Bild hasn’t asked me for an interview either. Of course politicians are spongers; they live off money extorted from other people with the threat of violence—which is called “taxation.” But unfortunately, politicians are not lazy. It would be nice if all they did was squander their booty. Instead they are obsessive megalomaniacal do-gooders, who in addition make life difficult for their victims with thousands of laws and regulations.

Democracy is only one possible variety of statehood. Would a different form of state be more acceptable to you?

Hoppe: In a monarchist state everyone knows who the ruler is and who the ruled are, and accordingly there is resistance against any attempt to increase state power. In a democratic state this distinction becomes blurred, and it becomes all the easier to expand state power.

Just a moment: that’s what courts, laws and the constitution are for, to limit and control the state—government as well as parliament.

Hoppe : The mafia also has “executive”, “legislative” and “judicial” branches. Just go and watch the movie “The Godfather” again!

Another objection: What about the new internet-based detractors of the state, such as “Occupy” or the “Pirates,” who demand transparency and participation, without immediately condemning the state and democracy in their entirety?

Hoppe : The “Occupy” movement consists of economic ignoramuses who fail to understand that the banks’ dirty tricks, which they rightly deplore, are possible only because there is a state-licensed central bank that acts as a “lender of last resort,” and that the current financial crisis therefore is not a crisis of capitalism but a crisis of statism. The “Pirates,” with their demand for an unconditional basic income, are well on the way to becoming another “free beer for all” party. They have a single issue: criticism of “intellectual property rights” (IP rights), which could make them very popular—and earn them the enmity in particular of the music, film and pharmaceutical industries. But even there they are clueless wimps. They just need to google Stephan Kinsella. Then they’d see that IP has nothing to do with property, but rather with state privileges. IP allows the inventor (I) or ‘first maker’ of a product—a text, picture, song or whatever—to forbid all other people to replicate this product, or to charge them license fees, even if the replicator (R) thereby uses his own property only (and does not take away any of I’s property). This way, I is elevated to the status of co-owner of R’s property. This shows: IP rights are not property but, on the contrary, are an attack on property and therefore completely illegitimate.

In “The Competition of Crooks” you outline as an alternative the model of a “private law society.” How does it work?

Hoppe: The basic concept is simple. The idea of a monopolistic property protector and law keeper is self-contradictory. This monopolist, whether king or president, will always be an expropriating property protector and a law-breaking law keeper—who will characterize his actions as being in “the public interest.” In order to guarantee the protection of property and safeguard the law there has to be free competition in the area of law as well. Other institutions apart from the state must be allowed to provide property and law protection services. The state then becomes a normal subject of private law, on an equal footing with all other people. It can’t raise taxes any more or unilaterally enact laws. Its employees will have to finance themselves just the same as everybody else does: by producing and offering something that freely engaging customers consider value for money.

Wouldn’t that quickly lead to a war between these “providers?”

Hoppe: War and aggression are costly. States go to war because they can, via taxes, pass on the cost to third parties who are not directly involved. By contrast, for voluntarily-financed companies, war is economic suicide. As a private law subject the state too will, like all other security providers, have to offer its customers contracts that can only be changed by mutual agreement, and which in particular regulate what is to be done in the case of a conflict between itself and its customers, or between itself and the customers of other, competing security providers. And for that there is only one solution acceptable to everyone: that in these sorts of conflicts not the state, but an independent third party decides—arbitrators and judges who in turn compete with each other, whose most important asset is their reputation as keepers of the law, and whose actions and judgments can be challenged and, if need be, revised, just as anyone else’s can be.

Who should be such a “third party?” And with what instruments of power should it assert the interests of an individual citizen against his contractual partner—the private state, which of course is much more powerful?

Hoppe: In local conflicts, in a village or a small town, these will very often be universally respected “natural aristocrats.” Or else, arbitrating organisations and courts of appeal, which insurers and insured have contractually agreed on from the start. Whoever then does not abide by the judgments will not only be defaulting, he will become a pariah in the world of business. Nobody will want to have anything to do with him, and he will immediately lose all his customers. This is no utopian idea. This is already the usual practice in international—anarchical—business transactions today. And another question for you: How should the individual citizen assert his interests in the face of a monopolistic tax-state? It is much more powerful—and always has the last word!

Do you understand the continuing scepticism with regard to your proposition?

Hoppe : Of course, as most people have never heard of this idea, let alone thought about it seriously. I am only unsympathetic towards those who yell out at the top of their voices when they hear this idea and demand the condemnation of its representatives, without having the least knowledge of economics and political philosophy.

It is hardly likely that a majority of citizens will ever support such an unfamiliar model. But what parts of it at least could be adopted, in order to achieve at least partial improvements of our current system, without a complete abandonment of state and democracy?

Hoppe : There is an interim solution. It’s called secession and political decentralization. Small states must be libertarian, otherwise the productive people will desert them. Desirable therefore is a world made up of thousands of Liechtensteins, Singapores and Hong Kongs. In contrast, a European central government—and even more so a world government—with a “harmonized” tax and regulation policy, is the gravest threat to freedom.

For that too you will probably not find a majority. Therefore how will state and democracy develop in future? Where will we finally end up?

Hoppe : The Western “welfare state model,” “socialism light,” will collapse just like “classical” socialism—of course, I can’t say whether in five, ten or 15 years. The key words are: state bankruptcy, hyperinflation, currency reform and violent distribution battles. Then it will either come to a call for a “strong man” or—hopefully—a massive secession movement.

— From Mises.org

What the Middle East Really Needs

The West likes to say it stands with the Egyptians and the Syrians and so forth in their “fight for democracy.”

The conventional wisdom which says the Middle East needs more “democracy” is, like a lot of conventional wisdom, nothing but nonsense.

Democracy is not freedom.

What the 380 million Arabs need are property rights, not the right to cast a useless ballot every four or so years. If America and Europe insisted on only this, it would make millions of Arabs who hate us today love us overnight.

Read more at Taki’s Magazine

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