I got a lot of interesting ideas from this book. The book is divided into thirteen stand-alone chapters. Much of the book is redundant, but not fatally so. Hoppe provides his own summary of the first major ideas in the book:
Monarchical government is reconstructed theoretically as privately-owned government, which in turn is explained as promoting future-orientiedness and a concern for capital values and economic calculation by the government ruler. . . . Democratic government is reconstructed as publicly-owned government, which is explained as leading to present-orientedness and a disregard or neglect of capital values in government rulers, and the transition from monarchy to democracy is interpreted accordingly as civilizational decline.
Hoppe shows that limiting a public (i.e. democratic) government is impossible. Private government will inherently be limited. The owner (e.g. king) won’t tax beyond the point that lowers the value of the country. The owner will protect property, since he wants his own property protected. He will want to reduce crime, as crime negatively impacts the overall value of the country. The people who are ruled have no chance of becoming rulers and are therefore more on-guard against abuse of rulers. Wars are seen as the rulers wars, and not the people’s war (total war is a 20th Century, democratic concept). Finally, a private owner will not undertake too much debt, as it is his (and his family’s) debt to re-pay. So we see:
From the viewpoint of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value farsightedness and individual responsibility above short-sightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.
I enjoyed Hoppe’s dismissal of the argument that hereditary rules are not always good rulers. Here’s Hoppe:
The selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it practically impossible that any 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 the result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals . . .
Or, more tersely:
Competition in the production of goods is good, but competition in the production of bads is not. Free competition in killing, stealing, counterfeiting, or swindling, for instance, is not good; it is worse than bad. Yet this is precisely what is instituted by open political competition, i.e., democracy.
Hoppe defines civilization as a fall in the rate of time preference. Government actions against property, unlike crime, permanently increase future risk and lower expectations of the rate of return on future investment. Welfare state subsidizes bad behavior, leading to more of it. These factors combine as the argument against government – it leads to less civilization. State cannot be economically for these reasons or ethically justified, since it must engage in criminal-type behavior. At least that is Hoppe’s take.
Instead of government, Hoppe proposes that we live under the natural order, which would be a series of city-states ruled by the natural aristocracy. Hoppe is somewhat thin on exactly how this would work. Unfortunately he doesn’t consider other forms of private states, besides sole proprietorships (monarchy) and perhaps partnerships (monarchies with strong aristocracies). Why not consider the most successful type of private ownership, joint-stock companies?
Hoppe has a very interesting chapter on libertarianism and conservatism that gets to the heart of my neofusionism. Conservatism and libertarianism in the US are confused and the confusion is due to democracy. Hoppe picks on Buchanan on the conservative side. Buchanan’s program is described as national socialism (which is what it is). Buchanan does not recognize that the cultural deterioration he decries is a consequence of the welfare state. Conservatives cannot accept the welfare, as they do, and expect a reversal of recent cultural trends. As Hoppe concludes:
Thus, if one is indeed concerned about America’s moral decay and wants to restore normalcy to society and culture, one must oppose all aspects of the modern social-welfare state. A return to normalcy requires no less than the complete elimination of the present social security system: of unemployment insurance, social security, medicare, medicaid, public education, etc.—and thus the near complete dissolution and deconstruction of the current state apparatus and government power. If one is ever to restore normalcy, government funds and power must dwindle to or even fall below their nineteenth century levels. Hence, true conservatives must be hard-line libertarians (antistatists).
Hoppe then turns to libertarianism to show why it is conservative. He believes libertarianism was initially misunderstood and hijacked by those who misunderstood it. The movement was taken over by people who believed libertarianism was a philosophy that justified and allowed all behavior. Instead as Hoppe puts it:
The restoration of private property rights and laissez-faire economics implies a sharp and drastic increase in social “discrimination” and will swiftly eliminate most if not all of the multicultural-egalitarian life style experiments so close to the heart of the left libertarians. In other words, libertarians must be radical and uncompromising conservatives.
Private property, for Hoppe, means discrimination.
Finally, as a brief aside, here’s Hoppe’s indictment of policy libertarianism:
In fact, there must never be even the slightest wavering in one’s commitment to uncompromising ideological radicalism (“extremism”). Not only would anything less be counterproductive, but more importantly, only radical—indeed, radically simple—ideas can possibly stir the emotions of the dull and indolent masses. And nothing is more effective in persuading the masses to cease cooperating with government than the constant and relentless exposure, desanctification, and ridicule of government and its representatives as moral and economic frauds and imposters: as emperors without clothes subject to contempt and the butt of all jokes.