We are taught that the change from monarchy to democracy is progress;
that is, a change from servitude to liberty. Yet no monarchy in Western
history ever taxed its subjects as heavily as every modern democracy
taxes its citizens.
But we are taught that this condition is liberty, because “we” are — freely — taxing “ourselves.” The
individual, as a member of a democracy, is presumed to consent to being
taxed and otherwise forced to do countless things he hasn’t chosen
to do (or forbidden to do things he would prefer not to do).
Whence arises the right of a ruler to compel? This is a tough one,
but modern rulers have discovered that a plausible answer can be found
in the idea of majority rule. If the people rule themselves by collective
decision, they can’t complain that the government is oppressing
them. This notion is summed up in the magic word democracy.
It’s nonsense. “We” are not doing it to “ourselves.” Some
people are still ruling other people. Democracy is merely the pretext
for authorizing this process and legitimizing it in the minds of the
ruled. Since outright slavery has been discredited, democracy is the
only remaining rationale for state compulsion that most people will
Now comes Hans-Hermann Hoppe, of the University of Nevada (Las Vegas),
to explode the whole idea that there can ever be a just state. And
he thinks democracy is worse than many other forms of government. He
makes his case in his new book Democracy — The
God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy,
and Natural Order (Transaction Publishers).
Hoppe is often described as a libertarian, but it might be more accurate
to call him a conservative anarchist. He thinks the state — “a
territorial monopoly of compulsion” — is inherently subversive
of social health and order, which can thrive only when men are free.
As soon as you grant the state anything, Hoppe argues, you have given
it everything. There can be no such thing as “limited government,” because
there is no way to control an entity that in principle enjoys a monopoly
of power (and can simply expand its own power).
We’ve tried. We adopted a Constitution that authorized the
Federal Government to exercise only a few specific powers, reserving
all other powers to the states and the people. It didn’t work.
Over time the government claimed the sole authority to interpret the
Constitution, then proceeded to broaden its own powers ad infinitum
and to strip the states of their original powers — while claiming
that its self-aggrandizement was the fulfillment of the “living” Constitution.
So the Constitution has become an instrument of the very power it was
intended to limit!
The growth of the Federal Government might have been slowed if the
states had retained the power to withdraw from the confederation. But
the Civil War established the fatal principle that no state could withdraw,
for any reason. So the states and the people lost their ultimate defense
against Federal tyranny. (And if they hadn’t, there would still
have been the problem of the tyranny of individual states.) But today
Americans have learned to view the victory of the Union over the states,
which meant an enormous increase in the centralization of power, as
a triumph of “democracy.”
Hoppe goes so far as to say that democracy is positively “immoral,” because “it
allows for A and B to band together to rip off C.” He argues
that monarchy is actually preferable, because a king has a personal
interest in leaving his kingdom in good condition for his heirs; whereas
democratic rulers, holding power only briefly, have an incentive to
rob the public while they can, caring little for what comes afterward.
(The name Clinton may ring a bell here.)
And historically, kings showed no desire to invade family life; but
modern democracies want to “protect” children from their
parents. By comparison with the rule of our alleged equals, most kings
displayed remarkably little ambition for power. And compared with modern
war, the wars of kings were mere scuffles.
Democracy has proved only that the best way to gain power over people
is to assure the people that they are ruling themselves. Once they
believe that, they make wonderfully submissive slaves.
Copyright © 2012 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on December 20, 2001.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
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during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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