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Hoppe: On the Impossibility of Limited Government and the Prospects for a Second American Revolution

This article by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, published last year by the Mises Institute, On the Impossibility of Limited Government and the Prospects for a Second American Revolution, is a very important albeit somewhat lengthy analysis and criticism of our Constitutional form of government, with suggestions on alternatives towards improving our society.

Hoppe views the Constitution itself as in error, and notes economists Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises on the subject of the government’s monopoly in the business of protecting the citizens:

According to Mises and Rothbard, once there is no longer free entry into the business of the production of protection and adjudication, the price of protection and justice will rise and their quality will fall. Rather than being a protector and judge, a compulsory monopolist will become a protection racketeer — the destroyer and invader of the people and property that he is supposed to protect, a warmonger, and an imperialist.

Hoppe notes:

Instead of a king who regarded colonial America as his private property and the colonists as his tenants, the Constitution put temporary and interchangeable caretakers in charge of the country’s monopoly of justice and protection.These caretakers did not own the country, but as long as they were in office, they could make use of it and its residents to their own and their protégés’ advantage. However, as elementary economic theory predicts, this institutional setup will not eliminate the self-interest-driven tendency of a monopolist of law and order toward increased exploitation.

Hoppe quotes from Rothbard’s book, Power and Market: Government and the Economy:

…while a private owner, secure in his property and owning its capital value, plans the use of his resource over a long period of time, the government official must milk the property as quickly as he can, since he has no security of ownership. … [G]overnment officials own the use of resources but not their capital value (except in the case of the “private property” of a hereditary monarch). When only the current use can be owned, but not the resource itself, there will quickly ensue uneconomic exhaustion of the resources, since it will be to no one’s benefit to conserve it over a period of time and to every owner’s advantage to use it up as quickly as possible. … The private individual, secure in his property and in his capital resource, can take the long view, for he wants to maintain the capital value of his resource. It is the government official who must take and run, who must plunder the property while he is still in command.

The constitution provides that “anyone” can work as government officials, from the president down to lower bureaucrats, and, over more than 200 years now, the moral objection to state-committed property theft by those government officials has declined, and because of that the society in general has degenerated. As Hoppe notes:

That is, open political competition favors aggressive, hence dangerous, rather than defensive, hence harmless, political talents and will thus lead to the cultivation and perfection of the peculiar skills of demagoguery, deception, lying, opportunism, corruption, and bribery. Therefore, entrance into and success within government will become increasingly impossible for anyone hampered by moral scruples against lying and stealing….As the Declaration of Independence noted, government is supposed to protect life, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet in granting government the power to tax and legislate without consent, the Constitution cannot possibly assure this goal but is instead the very instrument for invading and destroying the right to life, property, and liberty. It is absurd to believe that an agency that may tax without consent can be a property protector. Likewise, it is absurd to believe that an agency with legislative powers can preserve law and order….Indeed, no one in his right mind would agree to a contract that allowed one’s alleged protector to determine unilaterally, without one’s consent, and irrevocably, without the possibility of exit, how much to charge for protection; and no one in his right mind would agree to an irrevocable contract which granted one’s alleged protector the right to ultimate decision making regarding one’s own person and property…In fact, any such protection contract is not only empirically unlikely, but praxeologically impossible. By “agreeing to be taxed and legislated in order to be protected,” a person would in effect surrender, or alienate, all of his property to the taxing authority and submit himself into permanent slavery to the legislative agency.

Hoppe comprehensively explains his alternative to the status quo of the reliance on the state’s property and liberty protection monopoly: Insurance. Among the many aspects of this “protection insurance” discussion, Hoppe notes an important difference in the context of arms possession:

Because they are not subject to and bound by contracts, states typically outlaw the ownership of weapons by their “clients,” thus increasing their own security at the expense of rendering their alleged clients defenseless. In contrast, no voluntary buyer of protection insurance would agree to a contract that required him to surrender his right to self-defense and be unarmed or otherwise defenseless. To the contrary, insurance agencies would encourage the ownership of guns and other protective devices among their clients by means of selective price cuts, because the better the private protection of their clients, the lower the insurers’ protection and indemnification costs would be.

The article suggests a book worth reading on the subject: The Market For Liberty by Linda and Morris Tannehill.  Hoppe’s article, Private Law Society, expands on these concepts.

In my opinion, the one major contributor to the self-destruction of our society has been taxation. It has made possible our government’s immoral occupations and atrocities abroad. While most reasonable citizens would voluntarily pay to fund the means towards their own protection, they probably wouldn’t voluntarily pay for (or, do more labor for) the “democratizing,” protection of, or “nation-building” for people in other countries, unless they are masochists. Being forced to do so at the force of gunpoint is immoral.

Those who really consider themselves open-minded will probably seriously consider these alternatives. Hoppe also gives suggestions on how to make these changes in our society. I think it naive at best to believe that we will ever be more secure or more free or prosperous with the continuation of our system, as guided by the United States Constitution. It is not pessimistic but only realistic to believe that under the status quo the society will continue to decline, and we might have to start learning to speak Chinese.

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