Re: Down With Democracy?

From: Miriam English (
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 23:56:57 MDT

At 12:55 PM 04/10/2001, Technotranscendence wrote:
>On or about Tue Oct 02 2001 - 17:57:27 MDT Miriam English
> wrote:
> >>Down With Democracy by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
> >
> ><snipped an astonishingly muddy example of fascist thinking>
>Can you be more specific? What, in particular, did you find "muddy" and
>"fascist" about Hoppe's views in the article?

Darn, I was hoping nobody would ask. I have work up to my armpits.

The thing that annoys me most about what he writes is that he appeals to
people's preconceptions and prejudices then gives them just enough to make
them think he has justified their biases.

>Imagine a world government, democratically elected according to the
>principle of one-man-one-vote on a world wide scale. What would the probable
>outcome of an election be? Most likely, we would get a Chinese-Indian
>coalition government.

This is an appeal to xenophobia. In his eyes the worst we could do is give
"them" any power over "us". Of course if the logic of his statement is
followed properly, when "they" have democratic societies then "they" are
"us" and we share responsibility in a world together, but he has no
interest in this. He wants to divide people and use xenophobia to make
democracy look like a bad idea: "they" can't possibly use votes sensibly,
so should never be allowed.

>And what would this government most likely decide to
>do in order to satisfy its supporters and be reelected? The government would
>probably find that the so-called Western world had far too much wealth and
>the rest of the world, in particular China and India, had far too little,
>and hence, that a systematic wealth and income redistribution would be
>called for.

There are very good arguments for wealth redistribution. He is not
interested in them. He wants to scare people into thinking that democracy
is somehow equated with the idea that "they" could come and take "our"
wealth away. In actual fact raising the rest of the world towards the level
of wealth of the developed world would more likely make the developed world
even richer. I won't go into those arguments here.

>Or imagine, for your own country, that the right to vote were
>expanded to seven year olds. While the government would not likely be made
>up of children, its policies would most definitely reflect the 'legitimate
>concerns' of children to have 'adaequate' and 'equal' access to 'free'
>hamburgers, lemonade, and videos.

Here he uses an absurd scenario to bolster his argument. It draws upon
people's biases again. Many people automatically think that children are
totally irresponsible (the Lord Of The Flies syndrome). I am continually
amazed at how quickly people forget how they thought when they were
children. For a year I managed Awaba, a virtual world for Australian kids.
I decided to make it an experiment in anarchy and laid out the ground rules
early on that there be no laws. There was only one guiding principle: that
people try not to upset each other. What I found was that the kids were
very responsible, helpful, and mature. We had kids as young as 5 years old
coming into the world and building and interacting with other kids.
Problems were extremely rare.

Hoppe's sneering attitude to kids and other groups underlines much of what
he says in his article.

>One-man-one-vote combined with 'free entry' into government - democracy -
>implies that every person and his personal property comes within reach of -
>and is up for grabs by - everyone else.

Leaving aside the fact that very few places in the world have
one-man-one-vote -- most have some kind of inequitable vote distribution
built into the system. (But it is better than no vote... and I firmly
believe getting better.)

Anyway, leaving that aside, he never really shows how democracy has
anything to do with his demon of "them" grabbing what "we" have. He thinks
that by giving people the chance to vote for self-determination the first
thing that they will do is steal from their neighbor. He has a very low
opinion of people, and he shows that time and time again throughout the

Democracy is not the same thing as socialism, and neither of those are the
same as communism. Giving people the right to have a say in their own
future instead of being ruled by "those that know better" doesn't mean that
the world reverts to pure communism. To equate democracy and communism is
either sloppy or intentionally deceptive.

>A 'tragedy of the commons' is
>created. It can be expected that majorities of 'have-nots' will relentlessly
>try to enrich themselves at the expense of minorities of 'haves'.

Gee, he is *sooo* paranoid. He really has a fixation that the poor will
come and take away his goodies and keeps harping on this.

In the past, the only time such uprisings have happened is when the rich
have put the bulk of people into servitude and turned themselves into
wealthy parasites. However it sounds just like the sort of system he wants,
so in a funny way he would be correct in his paranoia that they would
rebel, and come and take his stuff away.

>...the 'permanently' rich and the 'permanently' poor
>are usually rich or poor for a reason. The rich are characteristically
>bright and industrious, and the poor typically dull, lazy, or both. It is
>not very likely that dullards, even if they make up a majority, will
>systematically outsmart and enrich themselves at the expense of a minority
>of bright and energetic individuals.

I am continually blown away by his contempt for the human race.

I have friends who are poor and are the hardest workers I have known. I
also have friends who are rich and lethargic. And I have friends who are
rich and diligent and work themselves into an early grave. I have friends
who are poor and are the most hopeless slobs. But each of those people is a
good person and I am honored to be able to call them all friends. I can't
think of any who would enrich themselves at the expense of their fellows.

But even if he was right in his low estimation of people, given his point
that the smarties will always cream off the best stuff and leave the whey
for the dummies, what is his problem? I know what his problem is. He needs
total assurance that "they" could never hope to gain *any* of his
advantages. This is why I called him a fascist. He needs total power over
the poor, that they could never hope to rise beyond their natural station
in life. Only the rich should have the right to "systematically outsmart
and enrich themselves at the expense" of others.

>Rather, most redistribution will take
>place within the group of the 'non-poor', and frequently it will actually be
>the better-off who succeed in having themselves subsidized by the worse-off.
>Just think of the almost universal practice of offering a 'free' university
>education, whereby the working class, whose children rarely attend
>universities, is made to pay for the education of middle-class children!

This is weird jump in logic! He would have you believe that free university
education would be disadvantageous to the poor!!! Leave aside the fact that
free university education is far from universal these days, the only way he
can conclude that a free uni education is bad for the poor is if they never
use it. But the fact is they *do* use it! Many poor individuals and
families still put themselves through hell to get themselves or their kids
through uni even now when it costs.

>Moreover, it can be expected that there will be many competing groups and
>coalitions trying to gain at the expense of others. There will be various
>changing criteria defining what it is that makes one person a 'have'
>(deserving to be looted) and another a 'have-not' (deserving to receive the
>loot). At the same time, individuals will be members of a multitude of
>groups of 'haves' and/or 'have-nots', losing on account of one of their
>characteristic and gaining on account of another, with some individuals
>ending up net-losers and others net-winners of redistribution.

It is strange that he sees all social life as a battle of one group against
another, each trying to rob the other. In his universe each individual
seems to lie awake at night trying to work out ways to rob their neighbor
blind. But that isn't how the bulk of humanity works at all.

In reality many people enjoy collaborating on worthy projects. Many people
pursue ideals that relate little to money at all. Most people want to
ensure their family are comfortable and well provided for. For very few
people that involves stabbing others in the back in order to get it.

While his article tells us little about real society, it speaks volumes
about his own psyche.

>All redistribution, regardless of the criterion on which it is based,
>involves 'taking' from the original owners and/or producers (the 'havers' of
>something) and 'giving' to non-owners and non-producers (the 'non-havers' of
>something). The incentive to be an original owner or producer of the thing
>in question is reduced, and the incentive to be a non-owner and non-producer
>is raised. Accordingly, as a result of subsidizing individuals because they
>are poor, there will be more poverty. In subsidizing people because they are
>unemployed, more unemployment will be created. Supporting single mothers out
>of tax funds will lead to an increase in single motherhood, 'illegitimacy',
>and divorce. In outlawing child labor, income is transfered from families
>with children to childless persons (as a result of the legal restriction on
>the supply of labor, wage rates will rise). Accordingly, the birthrate will
>fall. On the other hand, by subsidizing the education of children, the
>opposite effect is created. Income is transfered from the childless and
>those with few children to those with many children. As a result the
>birthrate will increase. Yet then the value of children will again fall, and
>birthrates will decline as a result of the so-called Social Security System,
>for in subsidizing retirees (the old) out of taxes imposed on current income
>earners (the young), the institution of a family - the intergenerational
>bond between parents, grandparents, and children - is systematically
>weakened. The old need no longer rely on the assistance of their children if
>they have made no provision for their own old age, and the young (with
>typically less accumulated wealth) must support the old (with typically more
>accumulated wealth) rather than the other way around, as is typical within
>families. Parents' wish for children, and children's wish for parents will
>decline, family breakups and dysfunctional families will increase, and
>provisionary action - saving and capital formation - will fall, while
>consumption rises.

This long-winded rave is so screwy I am reluctant to even comment upon it.

He starts by saying that all redistribution is a taking and giving
involving takers and givers. This is such a simplistic statement that I
almost feel inclined to let it go... but I can't, because it is so easy to
think of ways to redistribute wealth with the rich investing in some group
of poor, helping them to develop ways to create wealth, and at the same
time returning more wealth to the rich person who provided the initial seed

Then he gets onto that favorite taboo of many paranoid money-lovers:
subsidising. He makes the nutty assertion that by subsidising people you
take away their desire and you spread poverty. This runs completely counter
to reality. I know many libertarians believe so strongly in it that it
amounts almost to fanaticism, but it is one thing to believe something
based on Hollywood stereotypes, and quite another thing to have experience
with such people.

He gets fairly muddled at a few points in the above paragraph talking about
subsidised single parents, child labor, subsidised child education, and
retirees all having direct effects upon the birth rate. But that is just
trite nonsense and not even worth my time. He waves his arms airily
appealing again to people's prejudices.

>In subsidizing the malingerers, the neurotics, the careless, the alcoholics,
>the drug addicts, the Aids-infected, and the physically and mentally
>'challenged' through insurance regulation and compulsory health insurance,
>there will be more illness, malingering, neuroticism, carelessness,
>alcoholism, drug addiction, Aids infection, and physical and mental
>retardation. By forcing non-criminals, including the victims of crime, to
>pay for the imprisonment of criminals (rather than making criminals
>compensate their victims and pay the full cost of their own apprehension and
>incarceration), crime will increase. By forcing businessmen, through
>'affirmative action' ('non-discrimination') programs, to employ more women,
>homosexuals, blacks, or other 'minorities' than they would like to, there
>will be more employed minorities, and fewer employers and fewer male,
>heterosexual, and white employment. By compelling private land owners to
>subsidize ('protect') 'endangered species' residing on their land through
>environmental legislation, there will be more and better-off animals, and
>fewer and worse-off humans.

Wow! He not only hates most people but animals too.
I don't see why he doesn't just kill himself and be done with it.
He should at least get some therapy.

I just couldn't be bothered arguing with this. Anybody who can't see the
holes in this has already embraced such warped philosophies so tightly that
anything I say here is not going to change them.

Grrr... darn. I can't let it go.
If he thinks that people will get ill (he especially singles out AIDS)
because there is insurance, then is is an idiot.

He plays the same old tunes over and over to make his listener dance if
they share some of his prejudices. Yes folks, "we" goodies shouldn't be
paying for those dirty criminals. They should pay for their crimes. (Well,
we do have that arrangement already, or hasn't he noticed?) But, he says,
if the "criminal" is one of "us" then they shouldn't have to pay -- they
should, for example, be able to wipe out endangered species with impunity.

His rants are jumping all over the place. The only common thread is the
thick, smelly vein of prejudice and hate that runs through it all.

>Most importantly, by compelling private property owners and/or market income
>earners (producers) to subsidize 'politicians', 'political parties', and
>'civil servants' (politicians and government employees do not pay taxes but
>are paid out of taxes), there will be less wealth formation, fewer producers
>and less productivity, and ever more waste, 'parasites' and parasitism.

As Charlie mentioned, very few people today are primary producers. If civil
servants are seen as parasites then a good case can be made for Hoppe being
a parasite too, and me, and most of you reading this. But of course we are
not parasites (well, maybe Hoppe is) we weave thoughts and concepts
together that add value to other things... whether it is making a computer
out of manufactured chips, refined metal and synthesised plastic, or
whether it is rearranging light on a screen to create virtual worlds for
people to meet and play in, or whether it is teaching other people so that
they are capable of doing these things, or whether it is organising the
monetary accounts for someone else to give them the time to do these things.

Also, as Charlie mentioned, the civil servants are workers who, like the
rest of us spend their wages and facilitate movement of money which helps
to make for a healthy economy.

Contrast this point with what Hoppe wants: a world where all wealth resides
permanently in a static rich class with a moribund economy. The poor have
little to spend so the wealthy get richer mainly by feeding off each other.
The economy would stagnate and the whole system would get more and more
unstable and top-heavy till it came crashing down in social upheaval and
rebellion. Yeah, sounds like such a great future.

>Businessmen (capitalists) and their employees cannot earn an income unless
>they produce goods or services which are sold in markets. The buyers'
>purchases are voluntary.

Except when it is necessary for life... or when it is a monopoly... or
where fashion-brainwashing is involved...
Hoppe loves simplistic ideas. They make his wonky arguments look as if they
actually mean something.

>By buying a good or service, the buyers (consumers)
>demonstrate that they prefer this good or service over the sum of money that
>they must surrender in order to acquire it. In contrast, politicians,
>parties, and civil servants produce nothing which is sold in markets. No one
>buys government 'goods' or 'services'. They are produced, and costs are
>incurred to produce them, but they are not sold and bought. On the one hand,
>this implies that it is impossible to determine their value and find out
>whether or not this value justifies their costs. Because no one buys them,
>no one actually demonstrates that he considers government goods and services
>worth their costs, and indeed, whether or not anyone attaches any value to
>them at all. From the viewpoint of economic theory, it is thus entirely
>illegitimate to assume, as is always done in national income accounting,
>that government goods and services are worth what it costs to produce them,
>and then to simply add this value to that of the 'normal', privately
>produced (bought and sold) goods and services to arrive at gross domestic
>(or national) product, for instance. It might as well be assumed that
>government goods and services are worth nothing, or even that they are not
>"goods" at all but "bads"; hence, that the cost of politicians and the
>entire civil service should be subtracted from the total value of privately
>produced goods and services. Indeed, to assume this would be far more
>justified. For on the other hand, as to its practical implications, the
>subsidizing of politicians and civil servants amounts to a subsidy to
>'produce' with little or no regard for the well-being of one's alleged
>consumers, and with much or sole regard instead for the well-being of the
>'producers', i.e., the politicians and civil servants. Their salaries remain
>the same, whether their output satisfies consumers or not. Accordingly, as a
>result of the expansion of 'public' sector employment, there will be
>increasing laziness, carelessness, incompeence, disservice, maltreatment,
>waste, and even destruction - and at the same time ever more arrogance,
>demagogery, and lies ('we work for the public good').

Well, as we can see from the above Hoppe knows a lot about arrogance,
demagogery, and lies.

In Australia 2 of our TV channels are government subsidised. It is often
mentioned by them and others that we pay just a few cents a day for them (I
think it is 12c... my bad memory for numbers comes out again). They are far
better value than the crappy, cloned, lowest-common-denominator, commercial
channels. This is even more evident with the radio stations. Commercial
radio survives on regurgitating music from the past few decades and running
low-brow talkback. Government-subsidised stations run documentaries on
important topics (often angering the politicians and big businesses in
their exposes) and one government-subsidised, Australia-wide station in
particular -- Triple J -- plays cool music for kids that no commercial
station will touch.

Basically, just because it may be difficult to place a $$ value on
something it doesn't mean it is worthless or has a negative value.

>After less than one hundred years of democracy and redistribution, the
>predictable results are in. The 'reserve fund' that was inherited from the
>past is apparently exhausted.

Oh boy... he sounds like a religious fundamentalist. They want people to
think things are getting worse too. Unfortunately for them, we are better
off than ever before and it is getting better. There doesn't look to be a
limit to how well-off we can all become.

>For several decades (since the late 1960s or
>the early 1970s), real standards of living have stagnated or even fallen in
>the West.

He says while typing on his amazingly powerful computer connected to the
internet. He sits in his air-conditioned office, wearing a cotton underwear
and immaculate, inexpensive shoes and clothes, probably munching on a
microwaved frozen snack, with these standards available now to more people
than ever before. Today he has the ability to learn almost anything he
wants at almost no cost... if he chooses to open his eyes.

>The 'public' debt and the cost of the existing social security and
>health care system have brought on the prospect of an imminent economic

Reagan and his right-wing reaganomics ruined USA's wealth. Didn't he take
USA from being the biggest creditor nation to the biggest debtor nation in
the western world? Thatcher did the same thing to UK.

More recent redeployment of the safety net has helped to undo some of that
and give people the ability to take risks again, however I don't wish to
oversimplify -- obviously much more is involved than just re-establishment
of a safety net.

>At the same time, almost every form of undesirable behavior -
>unemployment, welfare dependency, negligence, recklessness, uncivility,
>psychopathy, hedonism and crime - has increased, and social conflict and
>societal breakdown have risen to dangerous heights. If current trends
>continue, it is safe to say that the Western welfare state (social
>democracy) will collapse just as Eastern (Russian-style) socialism collapsed
>in the late 1980s.

Actually many of those indicators have been lessening.
Property crimes have lifted a little sometimes during periods of less
money, but on the whole they, along with other criminal activity seem to be
declining. Ask any criminologist.

Hoppe doesn't need to ask anyone -- he "knows".

Oh, I couldn't be bothered with the rest of this. He continues with his
familiar hate-rant. It will achieve nothing to rebuke it further.

I have work to do and bills to pay.


         - Miriam

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
Virtual Reality Association

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