The Hoppean Manifesto

Andy Duncan over at Samizdata has an excellent book report on Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed, detailing a radical view that blames democracy for the rise of collectivism & state power, and ranks monarchy higher (with only a libertarian (read: Anarcho-capitalist) state being better), and attempts to "form the bridge between Austrian anarchic libertarianism and true natural order conservatism".

As Andy says, its heady stuff. I have to agree with Hoppe's condemnation of democracy in the sense that it enables the worst aspects of government (A la the saying "war is the health of the state", it is likewise true (perhaps truer) that "democracy is the health of the state"). I'm not so sure about the approving nods to monarchism and elitist rule. As one model (apparently) cited approvingly in the book is the Austro-Hungarian Empire (or of the Hapsburg dynasty in particular), I have to say I'm rather less than impressed at the ability of a rigid, heirarchical, family-based, intolerant, & elitist governing/social ethos in expanding the division of labor, developing the capital base, and expanding prosperity and liberty to people. The Northwest of Europe developed the fastest, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the social ethics that predominated in these areas were individualist rather than elitist, and where power was diffuse and local. It is the (apparently) maligned anarchic individualist temperament that generates the resistance to the crown & authority praised by Hoppe, not a general social principle (such as collective alienation from power) or biological impulse.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that elites care any more about the long run than democrats do (and history seems to indicate that they do not, especially the further east from the Atlantic coast one goes), and certainly the "creative destruction" wrought by a free market is opposed not only by peasants and artisans rendered irrelevant by new developments, but by entrenched elites and families who stand to lose if their traditional arrangements are disrupted. It is not a surprise to me that the Democratic party is ruled by rich white men while commanding the allegiance of the poor and minorities. Such is the traditional alliance of the forces of Stasis and Reaction to entrepreneurs, dynamic individualists, and others who invent & innovate.

Of course, all of this may be tilting at windmills and straw men, since my objections are at best meta-commentary (a comment on a review of Hoppe) since I haven't read his book (yet). And even if I am correct, the basic thesis regarding the failure of democracy is both correct (IMO) and worth serious consideration.

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I agree with Hoppe that

I agree with Hoppe that democracy is one of the worst forms of govt possible, although govt education fosters the belief that democracy is somehow not simply another form of collective coercion.

His main argument for preferring monarchy over democracy is also one of the most fascinating aspects of the book. It is an economic argument that Andy briefly touched on that essentially states that civilization advances through a secular decrease in time preference over the long term. However, in this Age of Democracy which only one or two hundred years young has violated the long term trend, and time preference in general has increased, as reflected by, among other things, interest rates.

The source of this increase in time preference is the democratic system itself - in which there is tremendous incentive for elected officials to take a short-term here and now approach to public property, whereas the monarch took a longer term approach to the King's (or Queen's) property. This results in a subsidization of 'uncivilized' behavior.

A key part of Andy's post is this:

He states that they are right to be proud of their not-so-distant past as a land of pioneers, in an anarcho-capitalist order of natural liberty. He also thinks they should be proud of the American Revolution, where they threw off the yoke of European government, but that they are fundamentally flawed when it comes to being proud of the American Constitution. A sharp intake of breath, perhaps?

This is something I agree with wholeheartedly. The original Americans were frontierists who created a real-life society based on the ideals of the Enlightenment, although as all things in life, perfection was not reached (slavery yada yada yada...) The American "Revolution", which would be better described as a secession, was a just action, and something modern day Americans should be proud of. However, a major setback was the Federalists defeating the Anti-Federalists by enacting a Constitution. I realize that most people will find my views as radical, but I disagree vehemently with libertarians who wish that "if only govt went back to its limited role in the Constitution" etc. The Constitution is a highly flawed document that put the Republic on an ever centralizing path towards the inevitable Leviathan.

I think that a historical

I think that a historical analysis of this kind is confounded by the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution, which sped up production in an unpredecented manner, allowing for an exponential rise in goods produced (and subsequently allowing for an exponential rise in consumption).

The technological coincidence of the Age of Democracy could also explain why time preference has shrunk (as well as the exponential increase in ease of travel, and decrease in time to do things- when one can do more, one often wants to do more).

Not that the mechanism Hoppe describes isn't relevant- I think it is an important insight. But I don't think its the definitive explanation or causative agent in reversing the trend.

The technological

The technological coincidence of the Age of Democracy could also explain why time preference has shrunk (as well as the exponential increase in ease of travel, and decrease in time to do things- when one can do more, one often wants to do more).

Actually, his argument is that time preferences have increased in recent times.

Er, let me 'revise and

Er, let me 'revise and extend'.

I meant that with extra production that fuels extra consumption very quickly, it would tend to make people favor current consumption over future consumption. This is also what Hoppe says democracy does.

If one thinks of long or short term planning horizons for consumption, then preferring current consumption over future will lead to a shortening of production processes (the 'round-about' process). The less one prefers current to future consumption, the longer acceptable production processes become.

Hence my use of "shrunken" time preference.

In the sense that preferring current over future production is an increase in preference for the here-and-now, then I used the wrong term. Not sure what the term of art is for adjectival description of time preference changes.

"There can be no tolerance

"There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They ? the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centred lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism ? will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order."
-Hoppe

urrgh. Enough said, I think.

Yeah, that does seem

Yeah, that does seem contradictory to a truly libertarian society. As Andy put it, Hoppe is trying to bridge the gap between Austrian anarchic liberalism and natural order conservatism, the latter of course accepting all sorts of brute force relations in society (to protect society's betters from anyone who threaten's Their order).

Of course, if one rejects the Hoppean manifesto and its logical conclusion of an returned to a re-imagined enlightened 19th century (monarchism & private property-based absolutism), then it stands to reason that if there are limits to what goes on on private property, that there is still a niche for the state, for good or ill. (of course, I'm a minarchist, so I accept that as a matter of course).

Can I see a page citation

Can I see a page citation for the comment on covenants? I have the book here and I see where he discusses the voluntary nature of covenants and the entrepreneurial nature of their rules (for example, on my property, I'm not permitted to place a storage shed, much to my alarm--but it is not aggression) but I don't find the precise words cited above. Please help.

Found it on page 218. By

Found it on page 218. By "society" he means the aggregate of covenantally protected and voluntarily agreed upon human relationships in a given geographic area. I'm assuming that my home owners association would have something to say if I started advocating the overthrow of the covenant. I recall one home-owners meeting where a person who advocated a vote on whether there should be bushes in front of electrical units was shouted down and shut up. It all happened very rapidly. She never suggested this idea again. On another occasion, a man threatened to move rather than dismantle his street-visible trampoline. People yelled: "Move!"

Jeffrey and other visitors

Jeffrey and other visitors from LRC:

The "rejection" of Hoppe's book was made by matt, a left-leaning frequent commenter, not by one of the Catallarchy bloggers, as it appears to be claimed on the LRC blog.

I actually enjoyed the book and would throw a commie off my property without hesitation. :)

Jeffrey, if we reached a

Jeffrey, if we reached a Hoppean (stateless) world, it seems to me that homeowners' associations could become states if the association members are not careful. If it can both raise homeowners dues and impose new rules unilaterally (and perhaps even patrol the neighborhood to provide protection), then what distinguishes them from states?

Saying you can just move is an insufficient response, because that's true today (in most parts of the world, excluding places such as Cuba or the old USSR) -- someone can say, hey, if you don't like the taxes and regulations here, then move!

St. Thomas on Economics Some

St. Thomas on Economics
Some quick ruminations on medieval and Thomist economic thought. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas is one of the world's most reknowned masterpieces of intellectual thought. The medieval intellectuals prohibited the taking if interest, a philosophy f...

St. Thomas on Economics Some

St. Thomas on Economics
Some quick ruminations on medieval and Thomist economic thought. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas is one of the world's most reknowned masterpieces of intellectual thought. The medieval intellectuals prohibited the taking if interest, a philosophy f...

St. Thomas on Economics Some

St. Thomas on Economics
Some quick ruminations on medieval and Thomist economic thought. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas is one of the world's most reknowned masterpieces of intellectual thought. The medieval intellectuals prohibited the taking of interest, a philosophy f...

Jeffrey, if we reached a

Jeffrey, if we reached a Hoppean (stateless) world, it seems to me that homeownersâ?? associations could become states if the association members are not careful. If it can both raise homeowners dues and impose new rules unilaterally (and perhaps even patrol the neighborhood to provide protection), then what distinguishes them from states?

Your "If" is precisely the thing -- If it can do those things, it's not distinguishable from a state. But it can't, so it is. Where did you get the idea that it could? Any such association only exists as a contract between the people concerned -- if you voluntarily agree, going in, to let "them" raise rates, etc. (by majority vote, or whatever), then you've (foolishly) agreed to it, but there's no reason why you should. Basically, homeowners agree to join the association and turn over a subset of their property rights to the association. The association can then exercise those rights according to the agreement. If you sell your house, you sell it without those rights that have already been ceded to the association. But the association can't just take other rights that owners don't freely give it.